Are BV firm mergers accelerating?

One sign that the BV profession has reached a peak maturity: small to midsize BV firms are becoming increasingly attractive targets for larger accounting and other “generalist” firms looking to pick up competence in a particular market or specialty area, according toRon Seigneur (Seigneur Gustafson), who spoke at the pre-conference and also opening sessions of the AICPA National Business Valuation in Las Vegas this week. “Merger mania is front and center: we are seeing that every day,” Seigneur told the nearly 900 attendees to the annual event. (In fact—just last week saw the merger between Clifton Gunderson and LarsonAllen into CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) and Burr Pilger Mayer Inc. (BPM) with Windes & McClaughry Accountancy Corp. into BPM in Northern California and as BPM Windes in Southern Cal.)

Co-presenter Neil Beaton (Grant Thornton) said his firm is currently buying practices because there is a specialty or a “culture of individuals” that it needs to grow—so he’ll look for the “top person” or group of practitioners in the market, because they have an established brand. Over time, the firm has acquired roughly 25 practice groups. How can firms make themselves attractive to acquirers like Grant Thornton or LarsonAllen? Seigneur asked. “Build a competence in a niche specialty, such as compensation analysis or valuing law firms.”