Coopers aims to shed 90 partners

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The Independent Online
PETER SMITH, the new chairman of Coopers & Lybrand, is to wield the axe in Britain's biggest accounting firm, planning to oust nearly 100 of its 670 partners over the next year, writes Patrick Hosking.

Mr Smith, appointed in May, wants a leaner organisation and is putting the finishing touches to this year's planning and budgeting exercise.

He confirmed that senior job losses were likely: 'Over the next year or so our expectation is that maybe 15 per cent of the partner base, which amounts to about 90 partners, will be leaving.' Some of these would be through retirement, he added.

Mr Smith declined to say where the cuts would come. 'There are some areas of our business where the style of demand reduces over a period.' But he suggested that the reduction would not come in insolvency, despite the firm's sharp decline in income from that area last year. Coopers' total fee income rose by 1.3 per cent to pounds 560m.

Most of the largest accounting firms are slimming down their numbers of partners, but the Coopers move would be a distinct acceleration of the process.

The profession, plagued by huge lawsuits and the near-impossibility of finding professional indemnity insurance, is examining new ways of structuring itself. On Friday, the 25 most senior partners in KPMG Peat Marwick met to debate whether the firm should scrap its partnership status and incorporate.

In another departure, KPMG is understood to have decided to appoint non-executive directors from outside the profession to its board.

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