Specialist tax firms Greenwoods & Freehills and Shaddick & Spence have announced that they will merge on June 1 to create Australia’s largest tax practice.
The merged firm, which will comprise more than 60 tax professionals, will operate under the Greenwoods & Freehills name with Shaddick & Spence set to relocate to Greenwoods & Freehills’ Melbourne offices.
Shaddick & Spence is a smaller, Melbourne-based firm which has specialised quite narrowly to date, predominantly advising clients in the manufacturing and resources sector. While partner Ken Spence believes that this approach has enabled them to become leaders in particular areas, he admits that not being a full service firm can be a bit inconvenient for their clients.
“For example, we’re about the only tax practice in Australia which doesn’t cover GST,” he said.
“So there are certain things we do which we know we’re good at, but there are certain things we don’t do, and that can just be a bit less user-friendly for clients.”
Spence explained that one of the key benefits of the merger will be the chance for their clients, mainly big ASX-listed companies, to have access to the full range of tax services offered by Greenwoods & Freehills.
“We really wanted to get rid of the boutique label,” said Spence. “We can do more for our clients by broadening our service base and [this merger] enables us to do that.”
One of the main benefits for
Greewoods & Freehills, explained managing director Andrew Mills, will be the strengthening of its practice in Melbourne, which is currently significantly smaller than its Sydney practice.
“By adding the Shaddick & Spence practice to the Greenwoods & Freehills practice in Melbourne it begins to look so much more like our Sydney practice and allows us to offer the same breadth and depth of tax services to our clients,” he said. “In particular Ken Spence and Richard Shaddick add enormous cachet to our practice because they are so well known as experts in their areas.”
Mills also believes the firm’s client bases are complementary, with Greenwoods & Freehills predominantly servicing clients in the property and financial services sectors and Shaddick & Spence dominant in the manufacturing and resources sectors. “Our sector representation will expand with the merger,” he said.
According to Spence, feedback from both firms’ clients has been overwhelmingly positive.
“There are people who really like both of our firms and they can see that this is not only an advantage to us, but also to them,” he said. “We’ve actually had a couple of clients who’ve been using both of us on different parts of assignments and they think it’s great.”
Following the merger, Mills says, the firm will be able to offer top-tier corporate clients “a quality and differentiated alternative” to the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms.
Specifically, he said, the firm’s model of operation in which clients deal directly with partners will set them apart from the accounting firms. “We don’t want to be a highly leveraged firm and have many layers of people before [clients] get to the partner,” Mills said.
“We’re very big on having a very hands-on approach to our clients. They tell us that’s what they like and it’s what we enjoy ourselves,” he said.
“We get down into the nitty gritty, we try to maintain our expertise across all levels of tax, and the way we see it we’re delivering a more personalised service.” Mills said. “When clients call, they’re dealing directly with a partner.”
However in response, Deloitte’s national tax leader for Australia, Bill Dodge, suggested that the big 4 accounting firms were still better placed to service clients that operate internationally. “Business is global. [Deloitte’s] extensive global network means we [already] have a presence everywhere our clients do business — something only a large global firm can offer,” he said.