GRANT Thornton is eyeing an expansion into Cork either through a merger or by setting up a practice in the city for the first time.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, managing partner Paul McCann said the country's fifth biggest accountancy and professional-services firm is actively looking at further expansion – including opening in Cork for the first time.
"We are becoming more national and are looking to grow, but grow clever. We are looking at Cork to see how we would enter the market – whether by a merger with a Cork firm or by opening an office," he said.
A move into Cork is the obvious next step for the business, which currently has offices in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Newbridge in Co Kildare.
Grant Thornton has grown from a staff of 30 in 1998 to 480 today and is looking to expand, including by taking market share from the so-called "Big Four" firms of Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PWC.
Much of the expansion over the past decade and a half has included a mix of mergers – including with John Woods in 2000 and later with PKF, Robson Rhodes and Foster McAteer.
Previous mergers have focused on bolting on specialist services to the business.
"It becomes harder to merge the larger we become, because there are fewer obvious merger candidates," Paul McCann said.
The alternative to a merger with a Cork firm would be to open a new office from scratch.
In a wide-ranging interview, Paul McCann said Grant Thornton is taking on its larger rivals with a mix of increased scale and through specialisation.
The firm is the market leader in Ireland in terms of forensic accountancy services, including asset tracing for corporate restructuring, and in the specialist work of advising credit unions, he said.
This is in addition to traditional tax, auditing and business advice work done by the firm, he said.
Grant Thornton is planning a major push into the new work of Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP), acting as mediator between banks and debtors using the new personal-insolvency regime
Its affiliate in Belfast means Grant Thornton is already a significant player acting on personal insolvency cases in the North.
Banks will not have it all their own way under the new rules here, says Mr McCann.
That's despite fears that in most personal insolvency cases mortgage lenders will have an effective veto over debt-restructuring deals.
"The rules state that banks cannot vote against a (personal insolvency) scheme if it is fair," he says.
If banks try to shoot down a deal that a PIP supports it will be appealed to the head of the insolvency service, he adds.
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