Benchmarking Numbers to Watch Related to Succession

By: Michael Platt, publisher, INSIDE Public Accounting

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

The 100 largest firms in the nation, the IPA 100, are telling us that succession is not their top concern. In fact, only 15% of the IPA 100 said it was one of the three biggest challenges facing the firms. While on the surface this may appear as a victory, other issues – staffing, growth and profitability – have nudged out succession as the top three sources of concern.

All those issues affect succession, of course. IPA has been able to analyze data from hundreds of CPA firms over the past 25 years through the IPA annual Survey & Analysis of Firms and the IPA National Benchmarking Report, one of the longest-running and largest MAP surveys in the accounting profession.

Numbers to Watch Among the IPA 100

Data tells us there are several metrics related to succession that accounting firm leaders need to watch closely:

  • Equity Partner Retirements: Of the 75 IPA 100 firms that provided information on retiring partners, 77% experienced equity partner retirements either last year or this year. That represents a total of 136 partners retiring in 2014 and more than 110 expected to retire in 2015. These firms include 2,840 partners, with retiring partners representing 8.7% of the total.
  • Newly Admitted Partners: Those same firms admitted 230 equity partners in 2014 – 70% more than retired. Expansion in the partner ranks is coming from both internal staff and lateral hires, which accounted for 42% of admitted partners.
  • Retirement Obligations: Retirement payouts, which reflect the annual financial commitment by the firm to retired partners, averages 1.5% of a firm’s total net revenue. Based on IPA data, retirement obligations as a percentage of net revenue are actually down over the last few years due to renewed growth in top-line revenues.
  • Average Partner Age: The average age of the partner group, at 52.2, is increasing, despite the naming of new (presumably younger) equity partners, and mandatory retirement clauses in effect for 75% of the IPA 100.

How IPA Can Help

Compare your firm to firms of similar size, to those within your region or to the Best of the Best firms, using the 2015 IPA National Benchmarking Report. It offers detailed information on more than 500 firms with over 80 pages of tables, graphs and analysis, along with in-depth analysis of the IPA 100, IPA 200 and Best of the Best firms. Order the full report today or read the executive summary. Survey participants can also order the one-page customized Financial & Operational Report Card, an extremely valuable tool to help firm leaders get laser-focused on what’s working, what’s not working and where the firm needs to improve. Consider inviting IPA to your next partner retreat for a customized presentation based on your firm’s survey results in the context of a global view of what’s happening around the profession.