Irish examiner

Grant Thornton: The fastest-growing firm in the fastest-growing region

The landscape for the provision of audit and assurance related services is rapidly changing, driven by constant regulatory changes and the continuing changing needs of clients and regulators, according to Michael Nolan, Partner In Charge, Grant Thornton, Cork.

As a result of this, Grant Thornton’s audit and assurance offering has changed dramatically over the past few years, all of which has been mirrored locally to enhance not just the provision of core audit services but also financial services audit, operational risk, financial reporting advisory. Nolan believes that in order to properly service clients in a rapidly changing business environment firms need to be adaptive and move quickly depending on client need.

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Michael Nolan said: “With Brexit looming, there has been a surge in demand for Irish companies setting up in the UK which brings with it additional regulatory and tax requirements. In most cases, a client will revert to their Auditor for advice on how this all needs to be executed efficiently and correctly. Clients are surprised that most Irish Auditors have UK registrations so their point of contact remains the same and we can co-ordinate compliance requirements.

"With Cork and specifically ‘Connecting Cork’s’ drive to substantially grow the financial services cluster already established in the city, Grant Thornton's team see themselves as being part of the drive and are committing significant investment in the area."

“Similarly in the financial services market, we are seeing a move in the opposite direction with funds and asset managers locating in Ireland for reasons both related and unrelated to Brexit”. In order to meet that demand, Grant Thornton have recently established a Financial Services Audit and Assurance team locally headed by Audit Director, Maura Cronin. With Cork and specifically ‘Connecting Cork’s’ drive to substantially grow the financial services cluster already established in the city, the firm very much see themselves as being part of the drive and are committing significant investment in the area.

Commenting on this investment, Ms Cronin said: “Our commitment to Cork is substantial, our FS team started last year with three, and has expanded during 2019 and we are hoping to hire another 10 people in the next six months, many of which are experienced hire roles.”

Cronin adds: “The ‘Connecting Cork’ initiative started by the Cork Chamber has been exceptional. Everyone knows locally the capability and reach of the city but only when it’s put together on a more formal basis do people realise the depth and breadth of what is being done in the FS industry here.”

By bringing all the stakeholders in the financial services space under one umbrella organisation and marketing the city as a “second city location” the overall impact of this approach sends a very strong signal that the business community is committed to creating a vibrant and enduring FS industry based in Cork.

The core capability of the Cork practice, however, remains in its corporate audit service provided to locally based indigenous businesses and multinational clients. Headed by Audit Director John Murphy the division acts for clients across the full range of businesses, from small owner-managed to large global multinationals the team in Cork tailors its audit approach depending on client requirements. Audit regulations have changed dramatically in the past few years and clients require a technically proficient audit service together with a practical audit approach, this Nolan believes has been the key to the growth of the practice in the city and region. “We offer a client-centric audit service that many of our competitors are unable to, because of our size and culture, no engagement is too small or too large for a firm like ours.”

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According to Murphy: “Audit, while previously considered a pure compliance-related activity, has changed now to become a more comprehensive governance exercise, providing both directors and shareholders comfort with regard to the entire business and not simply the financials.”

With the firm’s expansion and move to the penthouse floor of Penrose One, scheduled to be in the third quarter of next year, Nolan adds that with the additional space capacity the audit offering will continue to expand, encompassing and expanding many of the specialist services the firm currently provides out of their Dublin office. Cyber, forensics, operational change and people and culture are all requirements that many of our audit clients both need now and more so in the future. We currently have specialists in all of these areas and will be adding to the teams, locally in the coming 12 months to meet client demands.

“All of this is hard to imagine from when the office opened in a small office in the South Mall in 2013, but it is reflective of how well Cork has recovered from the last recession.”