RSM Ireland Managing Partner, John Glennon, features in the August 2022 edition of Accountancy Ireland magazine to discuss how a global outlook and commitment to flexible working has paid off for RSM.

As published in Accountancy Ireland.

What started as a small firm in 1987 has evolved into the only first-generation professional services firm in the top 10 accountancy practices in Ireland, and by developing its flexible working policies, RSM continues to grow

Investing in the future is part of RSM’s DNA and the professional services firm is now doubling down on its hybrid working strategy.

Managing Partner John Glennon is justifiably proud of RSM’s success and growth since he founded the firm as Ryan Glennon with Liam Ryan in 1987.

“We had fee income of just IR£80,000 in our first year and we are the only first-generation professional services firm in the top 10 in Ireland,” he remarks. That success has its roots in the firm’s culture, he believes. “You have to have a culture of investing for the future,” he says. “Short termism inhibits growth. We have also had a global orientation for near a quarter of a century. We have been members of international networks since the 1990s and have taken a global perspective ever since.”

That forward looking culture also applies to strategic decision making. “Over the last two years practically all businesses were focused on reacting to the Covid crisis. They have been consumed with the day to day running of the business, but you need to continue to think and plan strategically. That’s where our hybrid working strategy comes from – it’s been an exciting and timely change and one which we made with the future in mind.”

The firm took a similar approach during the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. “We reacted very quickly when the recession happened,” Glennon recalls. “We looked at Ireland’s thriving FDI base as a source of new business and also built our consulting business.”

But reactions, however effective, can only take a company so far. “As you get bigger you can tend to focus on outcomes,” he notes.

“We place a big emphasis on culture and encouraging and embedding not just good behaviours but great behaviours within the firm. As a firm, we laud and encourage individual achievement. But we don’t encourage individualism. We believe professional services is a team sport, individuals can score goals, but teams can win championships. That’s our philosophy.”

That ethos aligns perfectly with the five key characteristics that define RSM globally – caring, curiosity, collaboration, courage, critical thinking.

“We made a strategic decision to join RSM in 2016 when the network had just established a single brand. We were Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon up until then. Joining RSM was transformational for us.

“RSM has been going from strength to strength and had 15.8% growth in 2021. It now has revenues in excess of $7.26 billion with more than 860 offices in 123 countries.

“Referrals from RSM have grown exponentially over the years, particularly in tax and audit. More than 50% of our clients are now non-Irish owned globally active companies.

“During the lockdowns there was a methodology in place for all firms to follow. This saw us react, reactivate, and re-imagine for the future. That really helped us. We have also adopted the ISO27001 information security management system.”

The pandemic certainly had an impact, he says

“When the first lockdown happened, I remember how concerned I was. How would we do audits if we can’t go to clients’ premises? But we adapted quickly. We took a hit on turnover in the first year. But like the Irish economy, we bounced back stronger than ever. We had compound annual growth of 30 percent in our audit practice”

The firm is now in the process of adopting ISQM 1 – the International Standard on Quality Management. This is the quality management standard for firms that perform audits, reviews of financial statements, or other assurance or related services engagements.

“RSM is rolling it out globally,” Glennon points out. “We are constantly planning for the future, and over the past 18 months, we have had a series of working groups within the network which have been working on our new strategy.

“We have five different action and learning groups, and I was involved in the group on alternative business models for the future. Our global strategy to 2030 will be launched this year, and I’m sure one of the strategic enablers contained within the strategy will be to harness our global strength.”

People development is another key area of focus. “The Forward Sprint is a creative problem-solving event for emerging talent,” says Glennon. “Each firm puts people forward for the programme where they develop their problem-solving skills. This year we had three people participating.”

Another programme is the RSM Academy where hand-picked future leaders gather for a challenging week to develop their leadership skills and understanding of working in multinational and multicultural teams.

“Two of our new partners participated last year,” said Glennon. “The agenda covers many aspects of our strategy, client service ambitions, brand, and ultimately, what it means to be part of our global organisation. Five of our partners have been through the programme over the years.”

The firm is committed to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. “These principles are embedded in our policies and strategies.

It’s part of the next phase of our transformation process. We have a project team looking at our recruitment policies, family-friendly benefits packages, and so on. Two- thirds of our employment growth over the past year was made up of women. That was probably due to our flexible working policies.”

Looking at that growth, he says the firm has appointed eight new partners since March 2020. “Two came in from outside the firm, and six came through our system. We now have 15 partners and are in the market for five or more over the next year to eighteen months. These partner appointments will come from within the firm and externally.”

Those flexible working policies make it easier for the firm to attract talent. “There is a talent shortage, but we have had to be creative and imaginative. We have had people in RSM South Africa helping us,for example. We are doing well in graduate recruitment but still have many vacancies. Part of what attracts younger accountants is global opportunities. Our people have gone to the US and Australia on placements, and we have had people from the US coming here. RSM encourages global mobility.”

Hybrid working is here to stay for RSM Ireland, he adds. 

“There is no compulsion for anyone to work in the office, and ours is an energising culture based on trust and empowerment.

The debate in the firm has moved beyond working from home versus working in the office. We have offloaded 30 percent of our office space and are about to revamp the remaining space to create more meeting rooms and collaborative spaces.

Coming into the office is not just about plugging in a laptop and working. You can do that at home. Our people can choose to come in one day a week to meet people and figure things out. I am happy to be explicit and open in saying this is our chosen road. We have strategic goals, one of which is to achieve balance in our lives.”

Certain realities are unavoidable, however. “There are times when people have to work long hours due to client demands or pressing deadlines. Those things can’t be avoided. But we are ruthless about wanting to be as lean as we can in our daily activities. We want to make it easier for people to work for us.

We now have 50 senior people living outside Dublin. Three of our partners moved outside Dublin during the pandemic, and some of our new partners live 150 miles from the city.

The new model is definitely working.

“We surveyed our staff, and 90 percent believe they are more productive working hybrid. They do enjoy their time in the office. But it’s for a purpose; for collaboration, meetings, training and so on.”

As featured in the August 2022 edition of Accountancy Ireland magazine.