When a client turned to his trusted adviser and asked him to help him expand into new overseas markets back in 1970, that adviser, Dr Gabriel Brösztl (from German firm Bansbach Schübel Brösztl & Partners), could see immediately that this would become a major requirement for many German and other clients across the world.
Dagmar Brösztl-Reinsch, Dr Brösztl’s daughter explains: “at that time the idea of having international networks was not so well established. But my father said “yes we can help you, we’ll find a way” because he always put clients first. That was the beginning of Kreston. Very simple and very small.”
Dr Brösztl travelled to London and, at a networking event, met someone who shared the same international vision. Michael Ross, a partner at UK accountancy firm Finnie & Co, was a true “internationalist”. He had travelled extensively, worked abroad, and seen how markets were opening up overseas. They both agreed – it was time to form an international relationship that would put clients’ international aspirations at the forefront of its efforts.
Kreston International came into being in 1971 as a German/UK alliance but with big plans to extend into other European territories and beyond. It was also the start of a lifelong friendship between the two families, with shared family holidays and many common bonds.
Other leading players in the worldwide accounting market didn’t really start to look seriously at the international market until the 1980s when a series of mergers saw the formation of KMG in 1979, AMSA (later Arthur Young Europe) in 1980 and KPMG in 1986. But it wasn’t until 1998 that the giants of the accounting world came into being with the “mega merger” of Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse to create the world’s largest accounting organisation, PwC.
Meanwhile Kreston was focusing on its own approach to helping clients expand overseas by building an alliance of committed independent firms who knew their domestic markets inside out.
In 1981 they extended the alliance to Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. (our French firm Groupe Fiduciaire Kreston is still a member today). In 1991 the group had become so big they created a more formal structure by appointing the first Kreston International Secretary/CEO, Chris Flint.
After the birth of the World Wide Web in 1989, Kreston was able to truly operate globally and 1997 saw Kreston launch its first website, asking: “Does the reach of your business span continents, oceans and time zones? Look to Kreston International for support.” A Kreston promise as true today as it was in 1997.
In 2000, after serving as Chairman of Kreston for 29 years, Dr Gabriel Brösztl eventually announced his retirement as Managing Partner of the Bansbach firm after 60 remarkable years. Clive Stevens, then-chairman of Kreston said: “Without Gabriel Brösztl there would simply be no Kreston. It was Gabriel’s early vision, leadership and drive that created our organisation 39 years ago. Kreston continues to thrive on the culture that Gabriel established of ‘doing business with people we know, like and trust.’”
Despite this departure, our two founders’ shared vision continued. Between 2001-2011, Kreston grew in mainland China with nine member firms in 30 locations and over 1,700 professional and support staff. In 2005, after the Enron collapse, our American firm CBIZ/MHM joined Kreston, followed in 2008 by EXCO, a French accounting network that also included eleven French-speaking African countries, New Caledonia Poland, Reunion, and West Indies.
Kreston becomes a network
Another big move for Kreston was in 2011 when the board decided to become a network and to join the Forum of Firms, an association of firms run by IFAC to uphold standards and ethics in transnational auditing, driven by industry landscape changes and the need to drive quality through the profession.
Our implementation of a globally coordinated quality assurance program, committing to the use of International Standards on Auditing (ISAs), enabled us to join. “That was a big decision for Kreston to become a network,” Andrew Collier, Kreston’s Quality Director, points out, “to share a brand, resources, have a quality review programme in place and to really focus on the quality of our member firms and ‘transnational’ work was a major step forward.”
In the Middle East, another major milestone came in 2014 when Kreston held its first Middle East regional Conference in Dubai. Delegates came from all the Kreston firms across the Middle East, as well as members from India and Jersey, to spend 3 days together finding much common ground around clients and ambition.
Between 2016 and 2017, Kreston saw more rapid growth as new member firms were welcomed from Albania, Algeria, Australia, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Serbia, Singapore, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda. The network also cemented its presence in Bolivia, Cambodia, Gaza, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Sharing knowledge and expertise across the world
Around this time Kreston also created global knowledge sharing initiatives for its audit and tax experts worldwide. Whilst international audit and accounting capability is a core focus for Kreston, as Andrew Collier explains, “Tax will always be an international battle ground, so as businesses operate more internationally, it’s going to be more important that they can navigate that complexity.” These global groups have evolved and thrived (and been joined by others). They are now an important source of co-operation and knowledge sharing for the network.
Liza Robbins, current Chief Executive, joined in 2018 and instigated the move of our HQ to the City of London in 2019, reflecting the desire of its members to have a central office that matches the forward-thinking image of the network itself.
Today Kreston Bansbach still plays a key role in Kreston, with their ongoing place on the Board. Finnie & Co was taken over by BDO in the early 1992, but, 50 years later, we still hold close our founders’ passion for the importance of friendship, cultural collaboration and trusted working relationships across our network that have brought success for Kreston. No doubt that is why Michael Ross described the establishment of Kreston as “one of his proudest achievements.”