The Big Five?
Grant Thornton is one of just six worldwide tax, audit and advisory
organizations. Although not a member of the so-called Big
Four, the firm has established itself as a fairly big fish.
The firm can trace its roots back to 1924, when Alexander Grant,
only 26 at the time, left Ernst & Ernst (now Ernst & Young)
to start his own public accounting firm, Alexander Grant &
Co. As the firm grew it, absorbed 49 other firms, most
notably the U.K.-based Thornton Baker, and in the mid-1980s the
firm rebranded itself Grant Thornton.
Despite its exclusion from the Big Four,
Grant Thornton's structure is very similar, with each member firm
acting as its own distinct, legal entity. And, like
PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, the firm features a
U.K.-based limited company as its coordinating entity.
Parts of a whole
As would be expected of a firm of its size, Grant Thornton offers a
wide range of services across a wide range of industries. It
boasts three main practice areas: tax, audit and advisory.
Its advisory unit has worked with clients in 18 industries,
including both the public and private sectors and not-for-profit
organizations. The firm provides solutions for issues
complying with new legislation, managing risk, containing costs,
streamlining business processes, increasing security of computer
networks and identifying strategic transaction opportunities.
The consulting unit also includes a
forensics, investigations and litigations branch that researches
economic foul play and advises corporations involved with criminal
abuse lawsuits. Owing its existence to an â€œunprecedented
increase in business-related investigations and litigation,â€ Grant
Thornton consultants step in to protect clientsâ€™ reputations and
avoid the costly business interruptions that can accompany
high-profile lawsuits. Discretion is a major concern for the
branch and its clients; consultants make a point of â€œuncovering,
detecting and deterring fraudulent or abusive activityâ€ in a bid
to address trouble areas as quietly as possible.
Grant Thornton frequently shares its research and
insights with clients and the general public. The firm
periodically releases 30 specialized newsletters, specific to
certain industries, such as the automotive or financial industries,
while others deal with broader issues concerning federal
legislation, general accountancy developments and not-for-profit
regulatory matters. Grant Thornton also releases white
papers, reports and surveys, and partners at the firm have
published a number of books. Moreover, the firm regularly
hosts and attends seminars and industry events, also hosting
webcasts and podcasts. The firmâ€™s research and publications
are free to view on its website.
Declaring itself a â€œsteward of the environment,â€ Grant
Thornton adopted a comprehensive environmental sustainability
policy, dubbed ExperienceGreen, which aims to â€œminimize the
overall impact of business operations on the environment.â€
The initiative is directed from the top down; employees are
encouraged to participate by practicing responsible waste disposal
methods, and National Chairperson John Messer is the firmâ€™s most
visible environmental advocate. Leadership is proactive in
its environmental direction, funding local "greenest officeâ€
competitions and dictating a moratorium on unnecessary
travel. In particular, Messer leads by example, hosting
industry panels on corporate responsibility and organizing informal
sustainability alliances with corporate networks and NGOs