The route to partnership in an accountancy firm

Kathryn Swan 09.07.2018

As part of our UK Leadership Series, Kathryn Swan, UK Lead for Accountancy Practices in Tax, Audit & Advisory, gives some insight into the route to partnership in an accountancy firm.

Developing business and increasing client portfolio and fee income

Typically, a route to partnership involves the successful achievement of targets and goals related to expanding the aspirational partner’s fee base. Although there are instances of accelerated progression, they are relatively rare and the normal route to partnership requires the accumulation of work experience at the various post qualifications levels in order to build up both internal and client facing credibility.

Traits that an individual must display to achieve partner level in a fee earning firm include, but are not limited to, strong technical competence, astute business development abilities, trustworthiness, credibility, commercial acumen and strategic thinking. Regardless of whether you are in a big or small firm, the core expertise required remains the same.

What are the most crucial steps to reach a partnership level position in an accountancy firm?

If you can carve out a particular technical niche or concentrate on a specific sector specialism, you can significantly increase your chances of standing out both in your firm and the marketplace in general. Like other fee earning specialists, accountants are well known by their clients, and accomplished networkers. Establishing a strong personal reputation is therefore an essential attribute to acquire and maintain.

Generally, only senior manager or director level professionals are considered for a partnership position, and the route varies considerably from firm to firm. The larger the firm, the more formal and structured the programme. However, whilst targets vary from firm to firm, (and need to be considered in relation to the amount and size of clients and the existing partnership) anyone seeking to progress to partner will be evaluated on their ability to grow fees and strengthen their technical specialism, as well as their overall contribution to the firm.

Route to partnership in an accountancy firm

Could moving to a smaller firm help an individual who wants to advance their progression?

In certain instances, moving to a lower tier firm can facilitate a faster journey to partnership. This can be due to there being a greater opportunity to build a successful business case and establish a large revenue stream - it is not necessarily an easy route to take, but it may speed up progression.

What does the daily work life of accountancy firm partner look like?

One of the greatest attractions of working in professional services, and in particular becoming a partner within an accountancy firm, is the huge variety of work. By working with a range of clients, you will encounter complex and diverse commercial and operational issues that you must adapt to accordingly. You are working in partnership with your clients to maximise their commercial environment and output, by providing impartial professional advice underpinned by a sound technical framework.

As a partner in an accountancy firm, you have the opportunity to mould a team and influence the professional development of your staff. This allows you to develop a group of individuals that will be performing to your high standards within your niche - if you and your team can prove your worth through consistent fees and business development, you will become a truly invaluable asset to the firm. This sense of teamwork goes further than just your own direct team. You will always be part of collaborative working; irrespective of the size of firm, you will work alongside accounting professionals on whom you will rely for their expertise in different technical areas.

A long but rewarding journey

A partnership role within an accountancy firm is one that carries great responsibility, but with that comes handsome financial reward. By proving your value to the firm in terms of revenue brought in and new clients developed, an accounting partner’s remuneration is well justified.

Extensive experience, a well established client base and a high performing team beneath you are all crucial to achieving success at partner level in an accountancy firm. For many within the sector it is the ultimate position to reach, and regardless of the firm in which you work, the role is viewed as both aspirational and lucrative.

Kathryn Swan's picture
UK Lead for Accountancy Practices | Tax Audit & Advisory
kswan@morganmckinley.co.uk