INSIDE Public Accounting announces its 100 top firms list

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) has published its 18th annual report on the nation's Top 100 accounting firms. The IPA annual ranking is one of the longest-running reports of accounting firms' operations and management, and the resulting IPA National Benchmarking Report has received national honors as the award-winning Best Single Topic Product by the Specialized Information Publishers Association.

IPA Top 100 Analysis: The IPA Top 100 firms enjoyed their fourth straight year of double-digit growth, with an impressive 14 percent jump in net fees. Growth in net income was up 14.6 percent for these firms, also the fourth year in a row for double-digit growth. Firms in the western U.S. continued their impressive run and charged forward at a clip of almost 20 percent, down from 25 percent growth last year but still exceptionally strong.

"IPA Top 100 firms continue to show strong metrics, continuing the red-hot run of the profession," said Michael Platt, consultant and publisher of IPA. "Average net income per partner has topped the half-million dollar mark for the first time in history," he added.

Some key metrics to consider among the INSIDE Public Accounting Top 100:

  • 14.04% – Average revenue growth (not including mergers)
  • $167.61 – Average net revenue per charge hour (effective billing rate)
  • $1,643,837 – Average net revenue per partner
  • $485,133 – Average partner compensation (does not include Big Four)
  • $580,714 – Average equity partner compensation (does not include Big Four)
  • $359 – Average partner billing rate
  • 15.4% – Average turnover in Top 100 firms

Early warning signs amid strong growth: Amid all the good news are small signs that the sizzling growth over the past four years is beginning to slow. This year, 10 IPA Top 100 firms reported a loss in net income and four firms reported a loss in net revenue, mainly due to divestitures of business service lines and losses of larger clients due to mergers, acquisitions, and so on. Net income as a percent of revenue (profit margin) has dropped for the first time in four years, to 31.9 percent. Growth in net income per partner has almost stalled ($501,633) after three years of double digit growth. Firms with a year-end in 2008 are reporting lower growth rates on average than their counterparts with a 2007 year-end, indicating the impact of an economic slowdown in 2008.

Not surprisingly, succession planning, staffing, retention of staff, training, and growth remain top challenges in 2008. IPA notes a few additional items of concern uncovered in this year's survey: the economy, the waning impact of Sarbanes-Oxley, and the ever-increasing requirements of industry standards.

"IPA Top 100 firms have made strong management decisions in the last couple of years to guide them to future success," said Platt. "But with new challenges ahead, we won't be surprised at all to see additional mergers among the top firms to ensure that they have the capital and the resources needed to continue to grow."

You can see the complete list of the INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) Top 100 Firms.

About INSIDE Public Accounting

INSIDE Public Accounting, founded in 1987, is published by The Platt Consulting Group. It reports and analyzes the news, trends, strategies, and politics that affect the nation's public accounting firms, providing them with the information and resources they need to compete and operate more profitably. Michael Platt and Kelly Platt are the principals of The Platt Consulting Group and the publishers of INSIDE Public Accounting. Subscriptions: (317) 733-1920.

For copies of the IPA Top 100 Firm issue, reprint information and pricing information, please contact (317) 733-1920; info@plattgroupllc.com. For more information on the INSIDE Public Accounting National Benchmarking Report, visit: plattgroupllc.com/benchmark.html.

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