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Grant Thornton: Audit team continues period of growth

Grant Thornton’s Audit and Assurance team spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about the continued growth of the department in Belfast, which shows no signs of abating amid heightened demand from a fast-expanding client base.

Grant Thornton Audit Partners, Louise Kelly and Neal Taylor.jpg
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The story of Grant Thornton in Northern Ireland over recent years could not be told without the word ‘growth’. Across all service lines and at every level, the leading business advisory firm has experienced rapidly increasing revenues and opportunities.

The Audit and Assurance offering is no different, currently experiencing the busiest period in its history.

Led by Partners Louise Kelly and Neal Taylor, the team works with some of the best-known, largest businesses in Northern Ireland.  

Louise, Head of Audit and Assurance said:

“At Grant Thornton, we are privileged to work with a broad range of organisations across every sector in Northern Ireland, be that construction, manufacturing, technology, utilities and beyond.

“We don’t do any back-office work. That keeps us entirely focused on serving the domestic and international needs of Northern Ireland businesses. It is a strategy that has served us well and one that appeals as much to our people as it does to our clients.  We now work for many of Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies.”

Louise, who became Partner in 2014, joined Grant Thornton in 2000 commencing her career in Dublin as a trainee. And when it comes to auditing, she literally “wrote the book”, having authored a textbook used by students preparing for exams.

She explained that activity levels with the Grant Thornton Audit and Assurance team have “sky rocketed” over the last couple of years.

“I think the success we have enjoyed over the period, and certainly in the last two years is due to a combination of factors, but ultimately it has been driven by our hunger to excel.

“Through our own in-house training, and strategic recruitment, we have assembled a team that we believe comprises the very best practitioners in this jurisdiction.”

The firm is one of the few in Northern Ireland to be registered with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to undertake audit work for Public Interest Companies (PIE), and increased regulations and relentless focus on quality are features in the market.

Neal, a Partner at Grant Thornton since joining the firm in 2016 said:

“The size of the team has grown significantly, in line with activity levels, with headcount increasing by 50 per cent in the past two years alone.

 “We are continually recruiting and see no sign of that slowing down.

“We are also committed to hiring the very best young professionals and as such, have greatly increased the number of graduates coming into the firm, with over 20 joining last year, and a higher number again in 2023.

“In addition, the growth and opportunities for career development this brings has seen the significant expansion of our senior management team.”

Emma Andrews and Nikita Lynn were among the latest to be promoted to Director level within the Audit and Assurance department, joining a senior team that already includes Bronagh Bourke and Maeve Hunt.

The Practice is also committed to supporting the wider profession and it saw Maeve Hunt elected as Chair of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society in 2020, picking up the baton from Grant Thornton Managing Partner, Richard Gillan.  Maeve served a two-year term prior to moving on to the Institute’s Main Committee in Dublin.   

With offices across the world, Grant Thornton is very much a global operation. The Belfast office however, retains that strong focus on Northern Ireland.

“At Grant Thornton, we are proud to be firmly based in Northern Ireland,” Louise said.

“We are of course part of an international firm which brings with it access to expertise in our offices around the world, but our focus has and will always be on the local market. That is a key differentiator.

“Many of our clients are household names in Northern Ireland. Increasingly however, we are also seeing international clients coming to us to deal with audit work for their Northern Ireland operations.

“Clients like the fact that we are rooted here and as such have a firm grasp of the nuances of the local economic landscape, whilst seamlessly providing expert advice from wider departments both locally and internationally, whether that’s Tax, People and Change, or Corporate Finance services for example.”

Looking ahead, further growth is expected despite the headwinds being experienced across the economy.

Neal said:

“There is no doubt that recent years have been challenging for businesses in Northern Ireland; it has been a very dynamic environment where no organisation has had the luxury of adopting a “business as usual” mindset. There is increasing positivity that inflation is on a downward trajectory but the outlook remains uncertain.

 “Whatever lies ahead, we will continue to ensure that our clients benefit from the very best service and advice available in the market.”

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