If you use the 100 largest firms in the nation as a barometer of how the profession fared in 2003, you get some interesting results. As they grappled with the profession’s changing landscape and the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley and the stalled economy in 2003 (the two factors the Top 100 cited most often as having the greatest impact on their businesses during the year), the profession’s top-ranked firms produced some pretty impressive results.

While I can’t reveal which firms the Top 100 Firms are (for that, you’ll have to check out the March 15 issue of Accounting Today), I can tell you this:
Overall, the 100 largest firms in the U.S. ranked by revenue registered impressive overall growth of 9.47 percent, raking in combined revenues in 2003 of about $30.64 billion. Of that, the Big Four accounted for $20.41 billion, a whopping 10 percent gain over last year. Add in the fifth largest firm, and those figures jump to $24.11 billion and 10.26 percent growth.

The 13 firms on the list that are below the top five but that have revenues of more than $100 million accounted for roughly $3.77 billion in revenue, climbing 6.04 percent over the prior year, while the remaining 82 firms on the list with revenues of less than $100 million accounted for a combined $2.76 billion, up 7.49 percent. In all, seven firms joined the ranks of the Top 100 for the first time in 2004. And, as always, there was plenty of movement within the ranks among the returning 93 firms, with firms climbing as many as 23 spots from their last year ranking (which, as always, are revised to reflect firms’ revisions to their prior-year revenues) and falling as many as 15 places.

In all, more than one-third of the Top 100 (36 firms) posted double-digit gains in 2003, while 14 firms had flat or negative year-over-year growth. The firm that grew the fastest increased revenue by 70.25 percent, while the firm that saw the biggest decline in revenue dropped 31.47 percent. The average growth rate among the Top 100 firms was 8.57 percent.

Among the 84 regional firms (excluding the Big Four and the national firms), firms in the New York metro region led the country in terms of growth -- 13.13 percent — while the firms in the West and Southwest saw the smallest gain -- 3.87 percent.

Real estate, midsized businesses, professional services firms, manufacturers and nonprofit organizations were cited most often as the client categories in which firms are increasing business. Most firms said they were increasing business in specialty services such as litigation support, business valuations, estate planning, SOX compliance and forensics/fraud.

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