Half-century founding principles thrive at Kreston Global

On the occasion of the organisation reaching its 50th anniversary, Zoya Malik spoke to Kreston Global CEO Liza Robbins about the milestone's impact on growth strategy and brand recognition, and the celebrations around the world

Zoya Malik: Many congratulations to Kreston Global on its 50th anniversary. How do you feel as CEO in leading the organisation past such a milestone?

Liza Robbins: Thank you! I feel very proud to be chief executive in this important year.

The buzz of our 50th anniversary gave me the impetus to re-read the original documents, drafted by our founders, in which they explain why an international network would have a role in the future.

I could imagine, back in 1971, people raising their eyebrows and dismissing this as a personal hobbyhorse of two charismatic and idealistic individuals. So, it is nice to imagine the smiles on their faces, if they knew, that the trip Gabriel Brösztl took from Stuttgart to London in 1971 to meet Michael Ross has today resulted in a vibrant community of over 170 firms, connecting daily to serve clients’ international needs.

It is noteworthy that the founding principles – global reach, quality at the core, sharing of good practice – remain embedded in our philosophy and ethos.

I never had the privilege of meeting our founders, but I very much relate to their approach – visionary, bold and action-oriented. They confessed that they did not know how to develop a network, but according to Brösztl’s daughter his catch-phrase was “we’ll find a way.” My whole career has been about building global businesses, each one different, but knowing that with determination, we’ll find a way.

My role, with other stakeholders, is as a custodian of Kreston – ensuring that the value of the network is protected and enhanced for the next 50 years and beyond. I have skills and experiences that I believe have enhanced our founders’ vision, and in turn I need the skills and experiences of the next generation of leaders to enhance my vision.

Kreston has also embarked on an important journey around our purpose, harnessing the views of our community around the 'why' we exist and considering our net societal impact. It has been a powerful process, and I hope someone will imagine my smile when Kreston celebrates its 100th anniversary and recognises the importance of this year in our history.

Liza Robbins, CEO, Kreston Global

ZM: How has Kreston Global’s brand grown and repositioned over this time?

LR: That’s a timely question, as we have just, in July, refreshed our brand and are now Kreston Global, after being known as Kreston International for many years.

Global is a more accurate reflection of our geographic footprint, which involves the entire world, as compared to international which suggests representation in just a few countries.

When we were founded in 1971, international was a reasonable description of provision of services to clients in two or three countries, but now clients require our services in several countries, and rely on our truly global reach.

The Kreston central team celebrate with food from countries that have played key roles in their lives. Image: Kreston

ZM: What does it mean to member firms to be part of Kreston Global at this time? How will the experience of half a century attract prospective members and clients? What message are you sending to the global market?

LR: Kreston is ever-more attractive to both member firms and clients, as we combine an established position based on 50 years’ experience with a dynamic and entrepreneurial culture.

I recall seeing announcements of new professional services groups launching, and while I admire their determination, it would be a daunting task to attract good-quality firms to a new group. Most good-quality international firms are already affiliated and embedded in an existing group, and even a transition to an established group would require deep consideration, let alone a move to a new group.

On the other hand, over the years, some established groups have gone into terminal decline, possibly because their cultures were very administrative and focused largely on hosting nice conferences. That simply is no longer a compelling offering for member firms.

Kreston is a membership organisation, but the network is increasingly involved in business development itself – only last week I was speaking to a client with needs in 10 countries. The centre of the network is continuously engaging, encouraging, and guiding firms on areas of development. Importantly however, our purpose project has enabled us to really understand what it is that is truly valued across our network by our clients and our people.

ZM: How will this message assist in lead generation and bolster stakeholder confidence?

LR: Confidence plays a critical role here. Stakeholders know that we have been in business for 50 years, but understand our entrepreneurial spirit based on their interaction with us. We are large and established enough to be trusted as an experienced long-term partner, but small enough to be agile.

Kreston’s approach to lead generation is to share the success stories of existing clients – which is a key feature of our new Kreston Global website. Clients want to hear stories about clients just like them and how Kreston solved these clients’ problems. As important as they may be, clients do not want to hear detailed facts and figures about an administrative membership group.

Kreston China firm Brighture Accounting & Tax Advisory celebrate. Image: Kreston

ZM: What activities has Kreston Global been involved in to celebrate its 50th anniversary with members, clients, the accountancy industry and the wider community?

LR: Our 50th anniversary celebrations have been designed to show Kreston at its best. And best of all, they will last for one year, with a key highlight being Kreston Week at the end of September.

Kreston’s social media is buzzing with photos and videos of member firms engaged in various activities – cooking, dancing, singing, running, climbing, fund-raising, community-based events and generally sending messages of goodwill across the world.

There are so many activities to choose from, but one of my favourites is from a Kreston UK firm, Bishop Fleming, which has launched a Round the World Challenge bringing Kreston people together – especially after the distancing of the pandemic – to circumnavigate the globe by aggregating the physical activities of all participants. This is a great initiative to encourage health and well-being, promote fundraising and connect people across the world.

During Kreston Week, we will also be presenting the next phase of our purpose journey and discuss its encapsulation in our new strategic plan, as well as celebrating our network in action.

ZM: What is your vision for the organisation over the next three years? What will the major shifts be in policies for working, operations, hiring, investment in tech and raising audit standards?

LR: Kreston will continue to cherish its history and its entrepreneurial spirit, but will see more output from our considerations on purpose and net societal impact. In short, we will accelerate our evolution to being a truly purpose led network.

We will also be launching a new strategic plan that will take us through to 2025. A key component of this will be further developing our interconnected groups – not just the traditional business lines of audit, tax and corporate finance, but also areas such as people and technology innovation.

The Kreston Albania team mark the anniverasry. Image: Kreston