Assurance

Big, bigger, bollocks . . . does size really matter?

By Michael Reiss von Filski, GGI

Whilst in the accounting profession, global networks and associations are ranked according to their (financial) size, it is not always evident what this means for the quality of services provided. At least, and this is the advantage of the accounting profession, the figures available to compare different networks and associations are a rather reliable and measurable way of accountability. It is generally accepted that a larger entity, organisation or alliance cannot be that bad. Some even go even as far as to preach that the bigger the better.

I have always wondered why this concept of supremacy of the biggest is not applied to restaurants, hotels, shopping malls or nurses. Imagine a business partner refusing to dine in one restaurant because it only had 12 tables, or to stay in a hotel because it only had 50 rooms. Is a shopping mall better if it is larger? Or a nurse, because she is taller?

The legal profession tries to jump on the band wagon of rankings too, although often enough, no reliable data is public – iudex non calculat. We are pretty sure which are the four biggest accounting networks in the world, but which are the biggest law firms in the world? When we try to identify the biggest law firm networks in the world, the data becomes more esoteric. In the last couple of months, the prestigious chambers of Dentons, who claim to be the largest law firm in the world despite their structure as a Swiss Verein, have avidly promoted their own law firm network Nextlaw. Soon thereafter, they self-proclaimed it as the biggest referral network in the world, without the accountability required for this. Or if you prefer a more legalistic expression: without any clear evidence. Recently, Nextlaw has even deleted the directory from its website and now its member firms are invisible. This made it more difficult to substantiate the label as the biggest law referral network, but it shows that lawyers take professional secrecy very serious.

Having just returned from a trip to London, I confess to having thoroughly enjoyed a steak tartare in a restaurant in Mayfair. Neither the tartare nor the restaurant were among the biggest in London, or even in Mayfair, but I believe that my dinner was among the best I ever had. Size is not as important as quality, at least when it comes to tartare.

This comment piece was previously published in the February edition of the IAB International Accounting Bulletin.


 

Michael Reiss von Filski

Michael Reiss von Filski

GGI, Zurich, Switzerland
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Published: Feburary 2017 l Photo: Grecaud Paul - Fotolia.com

 

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