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Franz Schweiger  | 

In the international marketplace for accounting and advisory services, the large international firms have dominated; smaller firms were not traditionally considered when a company grew and its needs changed. At least until recently.

Over the last 20 years, the emergence of international accounting associations have created a “global firm” for small-, medium-, and large-sized firms, allowing them to be competitive with international firms and serve their clients when they transition from local to regional or global.

In the past, when a company grew beyond its national borders, it was likely that the company would leave their local accounting firm and select an international firm to meet their needs. Until the creation and growth of international accounting associations, this was, for the most part, the only option. But no more. Companies of all sizes are now served by local firms with offices throughout the world because they are members of an international association.

International associations are comprised of independently owned accounting firms who work collaboratively to serve clients. The benefits of membership include:

  • Exchange of knowledge: sharing country specific accounting, tax, auditing, and advisory services and knowledge.
  • Firm management: best practices for firm management in hiring, training, and succession planning.
  • Referral services: the ability to refer clients to other non-competitor firms that offer specific niche services without the fear of losing your client to a national or international firm.
  • Networking: a firms’ international clients may spread the word to other entrepreneurs that they use a firm with a worldwide presence and word of mouth referrals can turn into new clients.
  • Multi-firm engagements: working with multiple firms across the world to serve clients and provide the services they need for all of their operations.
  • Ability to bid on international jobs: as a member of the association, a firm can bid on work they were not previously able to because they did not have the support of other firms.
  • Personalized attention, locally and internationally: clients are referred to a firm’s partner who takes special care of the needs of the client referred; this detail to personal attention makes clients feel comfortable, well cared for, and safe while in a foreign country all while receiving exceptional services.
  • Camaraderie and support: because associations hold meetings and conferences for members, there is an opportunity to meet and establish relationships with other accountants prior to doing business together, which can help a firm trust that they are referring their client to another firm that will care for, but not steal, the client. Additionally, firms are able to contact peers in other countries with questions.
  • Exclusivity: some accounting associations, like Integra International, offer exclusivity of membership with only one firm in a specific geographic area. The firm has control of the specific marketplace and only with their approval will another firm in the same area be accepted.
  • Meeting global requirements: a client will often not hire a firm unless they belong to an international association. Even if they client does not have international operations, they want to work with a firm that will support them in future growth.

There are more than 50 international accounting associations. Not all provide the same services and benefits. Check carefully to make sure you find the one the best fits your firm and the needs of your clients. 

For more information about Integra International, contact CEO Maria Nazario.

You may also be interested in reading Is it Time to Make Your Rival and Ally? This discussion explores how accounting practices might learn something by looking outside the profession when forming or joining alliances. 

Franz Schweiger

Managing Director and Partner, BF Consulting

Franz Schweiger is the Global Chair of Integra International, a UK-registered international accounting association, and managing partner of BF Consulting in Vienna, Austria. To contact Mr. Schweiger, please click here.