Chicago (April 28, 2003) — Grant Thornton, accounting's seventh largest firm, plans to recruit smaller CPA firms for a national service network in which it makes its internal practice programs, specialized skills, and expertise available for those firms to use in serving their clients.

"Firms across the country want to be more competitive, and tapping into our national and international infrastructure will provide them a wealth of knowledge they would not have locally," said Mike Hartley, Grant's senior manager of mergers and practice integration. Chicago-based Grant's program would be similar to networks already operated by its national/international firm rivals, BDO Seidman, also in Chicago, and RSM McGladrey, of Bloomington, Minn.

Similar to the BDO and RSM networks, Grant will recruit firms with about $5 million and more in annual revenue in markets across the country, and charge them fees for access to its offerings. Hartley foresees an early 2004 launch for the network, which is still subject to approval by Grant's management

According to the preliminary planning, Grant network members will have access to Grant's national training services and many of the company's methodologies and software developed for internal use. The network will focus on small firms' audit service capabilities with offerings such as Grant's audit methodology, its "Grant Explorer" paperless audit software, and access to its internal audit practice professionals. The proposed alliance would be a vast enhancement over Grant's existing "subscriber" program in which it sells some of its internal programs and expertise to about 82 local member firms, according to Hartley.

Daniel Brooks, executive director of the RSM McGladrey Network, said that many local firms have a great demand for the "big brother' assistance that his group and Grant's proposed one could provide, but, he added, "I question whether they're getting into this a little late." In addition to the BDO and RSM networks, Ernst & Young has a similar program and there are at least 25 national and international alliances that provide business-enhancement services to their CPA firm members.

-- John M. Covaleski

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