East Anglia: Regional head of merged accountancy firm BDO ‘still on her gap year’

Marilyn Martin, regional director of BDO LLP

Marilyn Martin, regional director of BDO LLP - Credit: Archant

Earlier this year accountancy and business advice firms BDO and PKF merged to create BDO LLP, the fifth largest organisation of its kind in the world. In the UK, Marilyn Martin is the partner in charge of the entire eastern region. She spoke to Sheline Clarke.

Within the UK, BDO LLP has around 250 partners and 3,500 staff based at 23 offices and generating annual revenues of nearly £400million.

Here in the east of England, the organisation now has offices in Ipswich, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Chelmsford and Cambridge and, as well as her client-facing day job, Marilyn Martin is in charge.

The merger means she has effectively gained offices and staff in Cambridge and Chelmsford which she says is an exciting development at this crucial time for the firm.

Previously regional managing partner for PKF and now taking a similar role with BDO LLP, Marilyn says the merger has been good for everyone involved.

“This is the first strategic merger for about 15 years and it was really about putting the strength of each firm together,” she said. “Both firms are financially very stable and have very different strengths.”

While BDO is an international brand operating at scale worldwide, PKF had a lot of niche expertise in areas such as healthcare, not for profit and football clubs, to name but a few.

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Putting the two together has combined their strengths and BDO LLP is looking to the future.

“There weren’t too many clashes. Sometimes when you put two firms together there is a ‘night of the long knives’ when everyone is worried about their jobs but because both firms wanted to merge for growth, there is no interest in reducing the head count of the fee earners because we need them all.

“The integration here in the east has been quite straight forward and most of the personnel have stayed the same.

“There was some concern from clients early on that BDO was a bigger brand and would the smaller firm get lost, but they have found that they are dealing with the same people and getting the same depth of advice, and the fees haven’t gone up, so they seem quite happy. It’s all gone very well.”

Marilyn now overseas a combined staff of around 200 and spends a certain amount of time travelling between the offices – something she is unfazed about - and is particularly pleased to add Cambridge to her patch.

“Cambridge is particularly exciting for us; we have never been in Cambridge and I think it is considered a major centre in the east. We have looked at merger targets there before but nothing quite matched, so to have our own office there now is good and we are starting to get to know the business community there.

“This time of year it’s a joy to travel and our systems work so well, it doesn’t matter where I log on it is as if I am at my own desk,” she adds.

Figures detailing the reach of the new firm are impressive.

BDO LLP is now the most active merger and acquisitions adviser in East Anglia according to Experian Corpfin half year results for 2013, having advised on 10 deals.

The firm is also number one in the table nationally.

It is also the mid market leader across many sectors, nationally, and the leading adviser to AIM companies, advising 157 companies.

Independent research, Mid Market Monitor, also shows that BDO LLP is the market leader for client satisfaction, outperforming all its major competitors and the only organisation to show an improvement over the past three years.

One of the major benefits for clients in the east is BDO’s international activity, which means the new firm is in a superb position to advise on export activity and expansion overseas.

“For many, growth comes from international expansion and in my opinion there is no other firm that can provide better direction and advice throughout the process, whether it’s acquiring an overseas business, joint ventures, increasing exports or setting up new operation.”

Marilyn is also proud of the firm’s work with start-ups.

“If you are starting up then it is really important you get the right advice. If you set up as a partnership but actually you should be a limited company or an LLP, it is going to take a while to unravel which is time best spent elsewhere on the business.

“So really it is a multi-service offering, from high growth start-ups to ambitious mid tier and family business looking for the best advice and service available and I think becoming BDO LLP just makes us stronger.”