RSM Malaysia

Audit, tax and consulting provider RSM unites with global brand

The world’s seventh largest audit, tax and consulting network’s one day rebrand shows how to stay relevant

Rebranding and keeping up to date and relevant in the constantly changing business landscape can be a major challenge for organisations today. Jean Stephens and Anand Selvarajan from RSM discuss how RSM’s rebrand united the 120-country network under a stronger global brand, and how RSM is developing its people to better serve its clients.

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World Finance: Rebranding and keeping up to date and relevant in the constantly changing business landscape can be a major challenge for organisations today. With me to discuss are Jean Stephens and Anand Selvarajan of RSM International.

Well Jean, if I might start with you. RSM has recently rebranded: talk me through this.

Jean Stephens: Sure. We’ve been in existence for over 50 years now – we celebrate our anniversary last year. And we are now in 120 countries, focused on audit tax consulting services around the world.

And we’ve been very close: all of our firms around the world are very close, serving clients. But because we didn’t have one global brand, we weren’t really helping ourselves in terms of communicating how strong we were, and how connected we were.

Our natural strengths were in the relationships we have with our clients, how we serve them. And through that we came with collaboration, understanding, and insight; which translated then to the power being understood.

So we had the big rollout on October 26th – a new look and feel. But what’s more important is what’s behind it, and how we serve clients, and how we unify globally to provide that value to clients.

World Finance: And Anand, how can people determine when’s best to expand, and what are the pitfalls – and indeed, the opportunities?

Anand Selvarajan: I suppose the thing is that an international expansion plan forms part of an overall growth strategy. And clearly some of the key benefits to growing internationally include diversifying your client base, generating new revenue streams, and even finding production efficiencies.

I suppose one key pitfall is to merely go into a country because all your competitors are there. We found that it is key to have local trusted advisors on the ground that can help you navigate very exciting but quite often complex ways of doing international business.

World Finance: And Jean, you’ve talked about the importance of developing professionally the employees of RSM, and the network – tell me more about this.

Jean Stephens: You know, we’re a people business, and we serve our clients through our people. So it’s absolutely critical that we attract and retain the best people. And then internationally, we have a lot of programmes that help our members do that around the world.

Nine years ago now, we started RSM Academy, which is a leadership development programme. We’ve had 500 of our future leaders go through that programme. They really learn about cultural issues, about RSM International, about how to use those connections globally to better serve their clients. It’s something I’m very proud of.

World Finance: Of course quality is extremely important for RSM. But how does this translate for clients – and indeed, member firms?

Jean Stephens: That’s one of our other cornerstones – it’s something we try to live and breathe. It starts with attracting the best firms globally through a very strong due diligence process. Then it continues with quality checks throughout the year. And without that we won’t be able to serve our clients at the level that they need, and really help them in their growth goals.

World Finance: And Anand, how will changes in macro-economic conditions in Europe affect companies, and how does RSM fit into this?

Anand Selvarajan: I suppose a key theme for 2015 will be volatility and uncertainty.

Europe has benefited – as you know – from low oil prices, low interest rates, and the euro exchange rate. But of course now we have mounting pressure and concern over the persistence of low inflation. And we continue to have high unemployment.

And that’s before we even get to how is Greece going to respond to its economic recovery, and what is the potential for a UK exit out of the EU.

We can’t predict the future; but with over 8,000 staff across Europe in over 42 countries, RSM has been providing companies with the ability to navigate uncertainties for over 50 years. And we do that by providing insight, by providing understanding, and also by providing a global reach for those companies and clients to be able to succeed in challenging economic environments.

World Finance: Well you mentioned the possible pending Brexit – how do you see this impacting business?

Anand Selvarajan: We still don’t have a clear date as to when that UK referendum is going to take place. That uncertainty is affecting businesses and impacting confidence for businesses across Europe.

A recent European Business Awards survey has suggested that over 85 percent of European business leaders, and over 85 percent of UK business leaders, believe that a UK exit would impact European and UK businesses.

It’s worth remembering that the EU remains the UK’s largest market, and an exit could impact our credit rating, our growth potential, and of course our traction as a centre for foreign investment.

World Finance: And Jean, finally: looking towards the year ahead, how will you ensure the continued success of the RSM network?

Jean Stephens: We have a very strong global strategy that has been agreed by all of the firms. We pride ourselves on being very strong local players with extensive global knowledge and reach.

We’ll be seeing more and more focus on sectors: pooling our sector specialists and having them join together more closely, and going to market on that.

We’ll be continuing to add coverage in key markets – though we’re already in 120 countries, but there’s always more room to grow there, so we’ll do that.

And then of course with our recent branding, making sure that all the companies in the wider world know about RSM, know what capabilities we have, and taking that message to them and delivering on that consistently around the world.

World Finance: Jean, Anand, thank you.

Jean Stephens, Anand Selvarajan: Thank you.

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