World Survey 2022 SUMMARY

Robust growth returns with lucky number eight 

­For the first time in over a decade global accounting firms are edging towards double digit growth as the International Accounting Bulletin annual World survey finds 52 global accounting networks and associations seeing a combined increase of 8% in fee income to just over $261bn in 2021. Ana Gyorkos reports


ver 50% of the 32 participating networks in the survey recorded double digit growth rates including the top four mid-tier network players. The combined fee income growth rate of the six largest global networks, after the Big Four, was 13% with sixth ranked RSM seeing the largest fee income increase of 16% to just over $7.2bn.

The Big Four firms did not reach double digit combined growth but reported a healthy increase with a 7% combined increase in fee income to $167bn. The smallest of the Big Four, KPMG, was the only Big Four firm to see double digit growth of 10% to $32bn for year-end 30 September 2021. This is a significant increase for the firm as in 2020, it reported a reduction of 3% year-on-year.

Combined fee income for the 32 participating networks was $229bn in 2021, up by 8%.

Similarly, it was a good year for associations as the 20 participating global associations grew a combined 8% to $31.9bn.

The top five associations by fee income saw a combined growth of 11% to $21.4bn.

Across the board there has been little change in the rankings but, notably, MGI Worldwide has moved into the networks table as it takes its organisation more towards a network structure, following its merger with CPAAI in 2019. MGI Worldwide ranked as the 17th largest network.

Additionally, Russell Bedford International overtook UHY International to become the 19th largest global network.

The IAB has not included Chinese network Pan-China International in the global ranking despite its growing ambition and plans for a global presence; however the network is sizable with fee income of $680.5m, making it the 12th largest network in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the associations arena, PrimeGlobal had a strong year with 20% growth to $3.5bn, overtaking GGI to become the third largest association.

Service lines driving growth

For networks, 2021 was a good year across all service lines, with advisory continuing strong double-digit growth of 12%. Tax services grew among networks by 6% with several mid-tier networks reporting double digit-growth such as RSM, Nexia International, Kreston Global and Russell Bedford.

For a change, there has also been an improvement for assurance and audit services, as fee income in the service line grew 5% among participating networks to $75bn.

Similarly, accounting services saw an increase of 8% for networks, a combined $6.5bn.

It was a very similar picture for associations, with both advisory and accounting services growing strongly at 13% and 10% respectively.

Audit and assurance services as well as tax fee income increased 6% for associations.

Regional winners  

Regionally, there was an overall positive picture, with both mid-tier networks and associations seeing a double-digit growth of 12%.

In Europe, mid-tier networks fared better with a 13% overall fee income increase to a combined $26.5bn. For associations growth was harder to come by in Europe, as fee income grew 2% to a combined $11.6bn.

The Asia-Pacific region was the best performing region in 2021 with mid-tier networks seeing a 14% increase in fee income and a staggering 22% for associations.

The Latin America region did not perform as well with a lot of the region severely hit by the Covid fall-out, with mid-tier networks increasing fee income by 2% and associations collectively seeing a 20% decrease in fee income.

Similarly, Africa was a region of two tales where mid-tier networks found more favorable conditions with a 13% increase in fee income. Associations on the other hand had a much harder job of it, seeing a collective 28% decrease in fees year-on-year.

For the Big Four, Asia-Pacific and EMEA were the best performing regions with sluggish and flat growth rates in the Americas.