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ABS licences granted to KPMG and Kingston Smith

4th Oct 2014

Alternative Business Structure (ABS) licences have been granted by the SRA and the ICAEW for accountancy firms KPMG and Kingston Smith respectively.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has granted KPMG an ABS licence, while the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) has approved its first ABS licence for Kingston Smith.

An ABS licence allows firms to operate on a multidisciplinary basis, and is the first to be granted by the ICAEW, and the second granted by the SRA behind PwC.

The ICAEW was accepted as an approved regulator in August, after two years of trying. According to the company, around 250 firms also wish to apply for an ABS licence, but south-east firm Kingston Smith are the first to receive one, which will now allow them to carry out probate work also.

ICAEW executive director, Vernon Soare, hopes that this will open up the consumer marketplace, as they “might want their accountant to handle legal services too”. Many firms are keen to offer such a service, and Soare believes this will make the market more competitive.

Sir Michael Snyder, senior partner at Kingston Smith, notes that the licence removes the need for involvement by outside parties, and allows the firm to deal with the entirety of probate services.

Meanwhile, KPMG has become the second of the ‘Big Four’ to be granted an ABS licence, which Simon Collins, UK chairman states it will only use in order to offer legal services “which are fully integrated with other areas where we already provide advice”. They have no plans to create a standalone legal service.

KPMG has for some time employed non-practising solicitors in their tax and pensions practice, and in recent years has also expanded to other matters. Now they plan to further expand after being granted the licence.

KPMG’s plan to create a ‘one-stop shop’ is “exactly the kind of entity envisaged when the Legal Services Act was introduced,” states executive director of the SRA, Richard Collins.

KPMG will be the first of the ‘Big Four’ to operate as a multi-disciplinary company, after PwC set up a separate legal service, PwC Legal.