Upward trajectory

RSM South Africa is on a path of accelerated growth, following its successful merger with Ngubane Johannesburg

August 2023 saw the merging of two significant firms in the SA accounting industry – RSM South Africa and Ngubane Johannesburg. The combined business, trading as RSM South Africa, now has annual billings of approximately R300 million and more than 350 staff. This merger creates a genuine point of difference in the SA marketplace, bringing together a rich understanding of SA’s trading environment, with access to international markets and a range of specialist services. It also accelerates both businesses’ ambitions to drive growth through technology and deep sector specialisms.

RSM, the sixth-largest global network of assurance, tax and consulting firms, increased its revenue on the African continent by 14% in 2022. With offices in more than 120 countries, this merger is perfectly aligned with the network’s recently launched global strategy, which outlines a focused expansion plan centred on major multi-year growth and transformation. This merger is yet another demonstration of RSM’s commitment to achieving its global growth goals.

‘RSM South Africa had been looking to expand for some time but, until now, had not found a firm that was the right fit,’ says Dieter Schulze, regional CEO of RSM South Africa. ‘RSM and Ngubane Johannesburg were strongly aligned in terms of our values, methodologies, quality standards and our vision for the future of the profession.’ These, he adds, were vital considerations to ensure not only consistent client delivery, but also a shared goal for the future of the combined business. ‘In addition, RSM South Africa, as a proudly Level 1 B-BBEE contributor, and Ngubane Johannesburg, as a proudly black-owned firm, both have strong roots in South Africa and a commitment to transformation in the profession,’ he says.

For Ngubane Johannesburg, this was the ideal time to merge with the RSM network. ‘The overarching vision for Ngubane Johannesburg’s strategy was centred around becoming a local business with a global mindset. This meant taking the Ngubane Johannesburg business beyond the South African market,’ says Noma Ashom, newly appointed CEO of RSM South Africa. ‘The focus was on sustainability of the firm and enhancing the value and experience that clients and our people received from engaging with the firm. ‘Our profession is about people; this includes our internal and external stakeholders. In everything we do, we must always ensure we add value to people, and the merger created this opportunity. I believe the merger will provide our people with new opportunities for growth, learning and global mobility.’

Schulze adds that each firm brings strengths and expertise in different areas. ‘Our combined expertise in terms of service lines and sector expertise allows us to provide an even more comprehensive service offering to our clients. This merger sees our two successful businesses combine, offering scale, innovation and best-in-class talent development.’

As Ashom explains, the market landscape is changing as a result of clients becoming more digitally sophisticated. ‘The merger with RSM provided us with an opportunity to respond to the market changes at the required pace and scale,’ she says. ‘It also allows us to access new markets, increase our service offering and centre our delivery around innovation and technology. In addition, the merger provides the opportunity to tap into new and diverse ways of thinking that will assist to produce better outcomes for our clients.’

Dieter Schulze, regional CEO of RSM South Africa, and Noma Ashom, CEO of RSM South Africa

In terms of the successful integration of the merging firms, Ashom notes that bringing strategy into action is an iterative process. ‘It takes commitment, collaboration and a willingness to adjust and learn as you go,’ she says. ‘The firm’s combined leadership will continue to actively engage with staff through every step of the process, emphasising its significance, and ensuring that the required resources and support are in place. Embracing innovation and using technology to improve productivity and achieve a competitive advantage, while aligning the strategy with the requirements and expectations of our clients, is critical for success and ensuring that we service the needs of our customers in an impactful way.’

Continuous monitoring and adaptation will be essential to assess the integration process on a regular basis and make improvements as appropriate. ‘Market conditions and corporate landscapes often change, so adaptability is essential,’ says Schulze. ‘The RSM brand promise is “the power of being understood”. To evoke this, we must enhance the emotional experience our clients and employees have when they interact with our business. This is critical in setting the stage for us to deliver our brand promise.’ He adds that RSM’s strong cultural fit is centred on its people. ‘In the merged entity we continue putting people first and harnessing the power of diverse thinking to produce better outcomes for clients.’

As a qualified CA(SA) with more than 17 years of experience, Ashom is well prepared to lead the new RSM South Africa. She explains that her ‘colourful career’ has brought her to where she is today, with opportunities to work and travel around the world, which is what motivated her to step out and provide similar opportunities to those who are not able. ‘My passion is – and will always be – Africa, the development of Africa and its people,’ says Ashom. ‘My career experience is in audit, risk management, corporate governance, integrated reporting, business analysis, International Financial Reporting Standards requirements and technical experience, and project management.

‘I also gained experience in strategic planning, supply chain, risk management, business development, project management, financial information systems, statutory and regulatory compliance and taxation. My core industry experience is in the mining, financial services, pension funds administration, construction, oil and gas and manufacturing sectors.’

With regard to the future of RSM South Africa, Ashom says that this merger gives the SA market a real point of differentiation. ‘Since RSM and Ngubane Johannesburg have both served various industries separately, our combined efforts enable us to better understand the South African market. We are well positioned to tap into the medium to large market of growth-oriented clients and global minded companies. As is the case with all mergers, transition and synergy realisation are critical areas of focus, and I am confident that through teamwork, communication, collaboration and courage we will achieve success’.

In conclusion, Schulze adds that this merger is highly complementary for both businesses, which share a cultural outlook that aims to put people first at all times. ‘We are not afraid of different perspectives and always encourage people to challenge convention,’ he says. ‘Separately, we were two very successful businesses; together, we will be able to achieve our ambitions – and those of our people and clients – with even greater purpose and pace.’

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