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Post-revamp, E&Y targets new sectors to power growth
June, 18th 2008

Close on the heels of its global integration programme that merged practices across continents into a single unit, global consulting major Ernst & Young is now finalising a move that will bring in more sectoral focus and expand its existing leadership structure. The shift to a sectoral overlay will enable the consulting major to focus on industries and sectors, bring in more specialisation and also increase the number of potential clients.

The move by the largest among the Big Four consulting firms indicates an acceptance of a changing business environment where steep input costs and slowing demand have contracted margins among companies and also forced some to shift audit mandates to smaller firms. The Big Four includes PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte.

Earlier this month, Ernst & Young completed a global integration programme that merged 87 practices across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa into a single unit, a move the consulting major claims, will enable them to offer their clients uniform service and also share profits and liabilities.

Ernst & Young, that closes its financial year in June, is busy giving finishing touches to the restructuring programme. While the existing leadership structure for sectors Farokh Balsara for media, Prashant Singhal for telecom, Jayesh Desai for infrastructure and Ganesh Raj for real estate will continue, more sectors are likely to be added, according to sources. It is an attempt to increase focus on industries, compared to earlier emphasis on services, said a senior executive, adding that in addition to the earlier method of having a single auditor, there will now be a national auditor who will oversee various regional auditors.

An Ernst & Young spokesperson was unavailable for comment on the issue. The move is learnt to have been guided by demands from clients to build expertise on sectors. Consulting firms these days are increasing their presence in various sectors with many also coming out with periodic reports on the outlook for different industries.

Also, with companies hit hard by the rising oil prices and slow demand, there have been instances of several companies shifting their mandates to smaller firms to save on costs, which is sometimes more than 50-60% of what is usually paid to a Big Four firm.

The slowdown has led some large companies to shift their peripheral requirements such as tax audit, internal audit to smaller accounting firms, while retaining the main audit mandate with one of the Big Four.

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