Interview: Robert Ross, RSM managing partner Scotland

Robert Ross with the new logo for the firm, whose roots stretch back to the 1860s. Picture: Contributed

Robert Ross with the new logo for the firm, whose roots stretch back to the 1860s. Picture: Contributed

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FROM Lerwick to the Bric nations, a new accountancy name emerges today to serve the global ‘middle market’

Today is D-Day for Baker Tilly. Or should that be RSM, as 26 October marks the date when the former – one of the UK’s biggest accountancy practices with roots stretching back to the 1860s – becomes the latter.

The change of name, which was flagged back in June, forms part of a major image overhaul aimed at extending the firm’s global reach.

With almost 3,500 partners and staff across more than 30 locations, including five in Scotland, Baker Tilly is hardly a tiddler. It ranks as one of the three principal mid-market accountancy firms in the UK, pitching just below the so-called “big four” grouping of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC.

RSM International, as the full name would imply, is a vast concern. Operating in more than 110 territories, the operation encompasses in excess of 730 offices and 37,500 people.

Baker Tilly joined the RSM network in 2014 following the acquisition of Tenon the year before and up until this summer there had been speculation surrounding the future of the Baker Tilly brand.

Robert Ross, the firm’s regional managing partner for Scotland, stresses there is more to the change of name than some new letterheads and website as the new-look practice adapts to the accounting profession’s shifting sands.

“It’s not just a fancy new logo,” he insists. “Our brand positioning is going to be consistent around the world.
“There is a huge amount of excitement because there is a new brand messaging and profile. Every firm is going to feel the same and have the same outlook and target market. Most of our clients these days, large and small, are doing more and more international work, and having the familiar name there gives them comfort.

“It is a major achievement for the firm and it is tremendous to be uniting under a single common brand with RSM audit, tax and consulting firms across the world.” There are already some 200 staff and 23 partners working out of the Scottish offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grangemouth and far-flung Lerwick, but Ross sees plenty of scope for continued growth as the profession grapples with increased regulation, technological change and consolidation.

He also talks of the firm’s “sweet spot” through its focus on tax, auditing and consulting services to the middle market.

“There will definitely be more consolidation within the industry but we don’t want to grow for top-line vanity sake,” says Ross, who also holds a national consulting leader role at the practice.

“We want to go for profitable growth and make that sustainable. The firm has most of the main geography covered but we are becoming much more focused going to market on a sector-led basis.

“There is scope to look at growing organically and in advisory areas – bringing in lateral hires and specialists in these areas. We also continue to look for merger growth.”

Ross, who has already met “a fair few partners” from different offices around the world as part of RSM, is enthusiastic about the networking avenues that the rebranding opens up.

While the Bric nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – offer massive opportunities, he highlights the ongoing importance of the core UK and US professional services markets, together estimated to generate some 80 per cent of the industry’s value.

“It would be silly to ignore the US,” he cautions.

The firm will tap into its global brand to “recruit, train and retain the best talent,” says Ross.

“Our aim is to provide staff with the career opportunities to match their ambition and talent. Already, through the RSM network, we have been able to arrange numerous overseas secondments and we plan to expand this programme.

“We have already opened our recruitment programme for 2016 and we are keen to hear from high calibre graduates and school leavers in Scotland who want to play a role in RSM’s future,” he adds.

In a fluid marketplace, which has seen a raft of tie-ups – Baker Tilly entered Aberdeen last year following its merger with Simpson Forsyth – Ross has a straightforward message to existing and potential clients.

“We are the same firm with a different name and we are staying true to our roots with an ongoing objective of providing a consistently high level of service.

“A recognisable, global brand will give clients, from the smallest to the largest, greater confidence in choosing RSM as their service provider.”

30-SECOND CV

Job: Regional managing partner, Scotland. National consulting leader UK

Born: Glasgow

Education: Clydebank High School, University of Glasgow

First job: Parks and recreation department at Clydebank District Council, possibly should be included under education!

What car do you drive: A 4x4 to transport two teenagers, their friends and a dog

Favourite mode of transport: Golf buggy

Music: Stone Roses, Stereophonics, Oasis, Blur, Embrace… “Indie” I guess

Reading material: Varied. Loads of biographies, James Lee-Burke in terms of crime novels and enjoying John Niven’s books just now though embarrassing when you burst out laughing on the red-eye to London City

Can’t live without: Sadly my iPhone 6

What makes you angry: Forgetting to pack the charger for my iPhone

Favourite place: St Andrews. Terrible but hugely enthusiastic golfer, but it also has one of the best beaches in the world to walk the dog!

Best thing about your job: Being a part of the change and growth in the firm particularly in the last few years, and having the benefit of working with some brilliant people, colleagues and clients

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