Grant Thornton’s new chief operating officer, Jim Brady, plans to execute the firm’s strategy and expand its presence in advisory services such as cybersecurity and strategic consulting.
“We want to be in the Russell 2000 space, servicing large dynamic private companies,” Brady told Accounting Today. “That’s the segment we’re targeting. By targeting segments of clients, we’re not trying to play with local and regional firms on the low end of a client portfolio. Let the local firms have tiny businesses that belong with local CPA firms for reviews and compilations, maybe audits of private companies and tax work.”
Grant Thornton needs to compete with firms both large and small for talent. “Obviously you have limited resources,” said Brady. “There’s a shortage of CPAs in the United States and a shortage of chartered accountants across the world, so we’ve got to pick our spots and that’s our bet. We’re putting in our chips—we call them purple chips at Grant Thornton because purple’s our color—in the Russell 2000 and dynamic high growth private companies. That’s where we’re going to spend our time, energy and effort to build our brand.”
Brady’s appointment took effect on August 1. He joined Grant Thornton only a little over a year ago from Deloitte as the Central region managing partner and a member of GT’s Senior Leadership Team. He will be based in the firm’s Chicago headquarters.
Brady plans to expand the firm in several other cities. “We built up a few new offices, most recently in Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, and we’re always looking at any point in time at two or three cities on our list in terms of expanding,” he said.
Grant Thornton currently has 59 offices across the U.S. Brady would also like to expand the firm in several niches.
“We clearly are not just a tax firm,” he said. “Our audit practice is quality first. That’s the foundation of our national brand.”
However, he is also looking to expand the firm’s advisory practice with experts who have skills servicing industries such as consumer products, manufacturing, financial services, banking, retail and technology.
“Audit is obviously a mature business, having been in the United States for approximately a hundred years,” said Brady. “Advisory is a high-growth business, so a core part of our strategy is the audit quality foundation first and foremost. That’s the initial brand, and building an advisory practice with a suite of professional services that goes to market by industry. For example we’re building a United States cybersecurity practice. There’s enormous demand for cyber, and we want to be a part of supplying that demand.”
Other areas targeted for expansion include data analytics, enterprise risk advisory services, internal audit and strategic consulting in supply chain management.
“We’re now taking our advisory practice and brand and moving it beyond the fundamentals of enterprise risk and controls or internal audit and we’re now going upstream into services like supply chain and cyber and data analytics,” said Brady.
GT has also been growing its transaction services practice in recent years, advising companies on mergers and acquisitions.
“We have a very fast-growing transaction services practice, both buy side and sell side,” said Brady. “The growth of that practice has exceeded our expectations for the past few years in a rather benign economy. That’s a real part of our strategy going forward.”
Grant Thornton plans to do some acquisitions of its own that fit in with its strategy. In April, it acquired Arryve, a Bellevue, Wash.-based business consulting firm (see Grant Thornton Acquires Arryve).
“That really ties into the more sophisticated consulting services that we’re looking to grow and expand,” said Brady.
Before joining GT last year, Brady was national managing partner of U.S. government affairs and public policy at Deloitte. Prior to that, he was CEO of Deloitte’s U.S.-India audit and advisory joint venture. He worked at Deloitte for three decades.
“I think there are maybe half a dozen exceptional accounting, auditing and tax firms in the United States, Deloitte being one of them and Grant Thornton being one of them,” he said. “I was very happy at Deloitte, and in my one year at Grant Thornton I am very happy. My expectations were high, and after one year they have been exceeded.”
In his new job, Brady will continue to report to Grant Thornton CEO Mike McGuire, who previously served as COO. He will be involved in all of GT’s office operations both nationally and for the firm’s Central and East regions. In addition, Brady will lead Grant Thornton’s Public Policy team.
“Mike’s the CEO and sets the strategic direction for Grant Thornton, and as his COO I’ll help him execute, whether it’s the go to market strategy, branding, and building our people culture, which has been an exceptional journey,” said Brady. “It’s really to take the strategy of the firm set forth by Mike as the CEO, and in a nutshell help him execute the Grant Thornton strategy that was in place before I even arrived. In fact the strategy of the firm was a big part of attracting me to Grant Thornton. The overarching notion is quality and client service."
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be the COO at Grant Thornton, one of the half dozen excellent accountancy firms in the United States,” he added. “I cannot be more pleased than to serve as Mike McGuire’s lieutenant.”
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