The argument for the Big Four doing the big audits is that they have the range of skills required. Where do you think the limits of your firm would be in top blue-chip audits?
We would need to build substantially before we could audit the oil majors, for example, or the largest UK banks or the biggest insurance companies. Outside of that, there is nothing we could not cope with. However, there is a “hearts and minds” battle to be won by firms outside the Big Four. Many of the finance team in big plc finance departments are alumni of the Big Four firms and there is the old “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” comfort structure to overcome. Unless directors in big plcs actually want to engage with other firms and give themselves a chance to get comfortable with the idea of a change, then all the regulatory pressure in the world is unlikely to change things. As a firm we have some 3% or so of the top 250 audits and one FTSE 100 audit. So we know what it takes to do big company audits. Will the change happen? It is going to take a great deal of work on the part of firms outside the Big Four to demonstrate that real benefits will follow from a more regular change of auditors by top plcs.