CPA firm association CEO featured in Inside Public Accounting feature
CPA firm association CEO James Hickey (Alliott Group) was interviewed by INSIDE Public Accounting
- James Hickey has been CEO of Alliott Group since 2010 (joined Alliott Group 2008)
- 20 years’ experience in the management of international associations/alliances of independent, owner-managed professional firms
- Specialist in advising owner-managed accounting and law firms on how to grow their client business organically into new markets through developing reputation and visibility
- Recruited 100+ professional services firms into two leading international associations over the last two decades.
Alliott Group was one of the first international groups to adopt an interdisciplinary approach – what advantages does that scope provide?
Having both sets of professionals available in key commercial hubs around the world is viewed as strategically important because tax, accountancy and legal services are the key services needed by organizations (or high-net-worth individuals) entering or operating in locations where the rules and requirements are different. Although independent, Alliott Group members work together to provide an integrated service approach for the client. A multidisciplinary offering also makes our ‘product’ attractive to any firm considering membership. Firms are restricted to providing either legal or accountancy-related services in the majority of counties, so there is a need to refer work to a professional with a complementary skillset. Members of one profession also benefit from exchanging information and perspectives with the other – tax is one big area where the professions intersect, as are challenges inherent in firm management, staffing and marketing.
Alliott Group is an international association of law and accounting firms. What are some commonalities among member firms, even though they do different things?
Member firms share similar goals and challenges. As independent, mid-market firms, they are focused on growth and reaching their next level – this requires the knowledge to effectively develop and retain their business. Another common denominator is culture, specifically the emphasis on high levels of service, flexible, tailored solutions and entrepreneurial creativity. It is incredible to see how many partners within our member firms have big firm training and backgrounds. They exited those environments to set up or work at mid-market firms where they can be more involved in and accountable for their clients’ business success – they are all genuine “business owners” not “branch managers,” who are unable to have any real influence on their business.
What are some of the most pressing needs of Alliott Group member firms?
Probably the biggest need of Alliott Group member firms is differentiation – it is often difficult to tell one mid-market firm from another as it is a hugely competitive market and firms often lack the “(wo)men, money and minutes” that are available to the larger firms to build brand awareness and communicate their competitive advantage to clients and professional talent.
"On reaching a certain stage in their development, mid-market firms can hit a wall – they need a greater depth of resources to reach their next level – that’s where we can help."
Any long-term growth goals for the association that you can share?
- To ensure Alliott Group is among the ‘evoked set’ for mid-market professional services firms looking to remain independent but develop the enhanced reputation and visibility that will enable them retain, win and service clients in different geographic markets
- To ensure Alliott Group’s membership is a viable, alternative option to Big 4 / Magic Circle type firms for companies and high net worth individuals involved in multi-market business
- To increase the credibility of the worldwide alliance and the scope of member to member referral opportunities by closing all major geographic gaps by 2025.
One of Alliott Group’s goals is to cultivate greater creativity and innovation among member firms. How does Alliott Group assist in that effort?
A combination of technology and personal meeting opportunities give our members a high degree of access to each other. The association includes a large number of inspiring leaders, including some who are firm founders. We facilitate the discussions that result in ideas being shared, problems being solved and creativity and innovation being sparked. We also have a growing ecosystem of strategic partners that includes consulting businesses, technology companies, publishers and niche service providers who all contribute insights that will help a firm to think and act differently and to be mindful of trends that are impacting the macro environment and in some cases disrupting the way business is done.
Grow with us
To find out how we can help your firm to develop the reputation, visibility and business that will enable it to grow and reach its next level, please contact James Hickey, CEO of Alliott Group or submit the confidential, no-obligation inquiry form below:Inquire about membership
Interview kindly reproduced with permission from INSIDE Public Accounting magazine, originally published in February 2017.