Last edited 9:14 a.m., Nov. 28, 2023 [Editor's note: Clarifications about the global network have been added.]
A year after the formation of FORVIS LLP – the merged entity of Springfield-based BKD LLP and North Carolina-based Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP – the company now plans to launch a global network by next summer.
FORVIS CEO Tom Watson said the firm’s partnership with Paris-based international audit, tax and advisory firm Mazars Group will begin on June 1, 2024. The new global accounting network will be called Forvis Mazars with officials noting a combined revenue of $4.7 billion. That total would rank Forvis Mazars as a top-10 global network on the International Accounting Bulletin, officials say.
Officials said the move does not signify a merger, as FORVIS and Mazars Group will maintain current ownership structures and remain distinct legal entities. However, FORVIS will acquire Mazars USA LLP, an independent accounting, tax and advisory firm of Mazars Group, as part of the deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“We felt like the next logical step was creating a global brand,” Watson said, noting Mazars Group reached out last year with the idea. “Mazars has been working to increase their presence in the U.S. This would be an opportunity for us to work together to accomplish both those goals.
“It sounded very intriguing,” he added, noting the deal was in the works for about 18 months.
Watson said between now and June 1, it’s status quo from an operating perspective.
“Come June 1, what will happen is the employees and partners from Mazars U.S. will join the FORVIS partnership,” he said. “We will all be part of the same organization at that point.”
New York City-based Mazars USA has annual revenue of $305 million and employs around 1,100 people, said CEO Victor Wahba, who also is a member of the executive board for Mazars Group.
“I will join Forvis Mazars as a partner,” Wahba said, adding his new title is yet to be determined. “Tom [Watson] will be the CEO of Forvis Mazars, and my role will be primarily focused on transitioning the Mazars USA legacy business into Forvis Mazars, as well as continuing to be involved in the international organization through the network.”
FORVIS has roughly 6,000 employees, including over 600 local workers, spanning 72 markets in 28 states, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada and the Cayman Islands. FORVIS revenue for fiscal 2023 was $1.7 billion, according to officials. At the time of the BKD and DHG merger last year, the companies had $1.4 billion in combined revenue, good enough to place FORVIS at No. 8 on Inside Public Accounting’s list of the top U.S. firms.
Mazars Group has roughly 34,000 employees, earns $3 billion in revenue and operates in over 100 countries. It ranked No. 14 among accounting firms worldwide, according to an IAB global list.
“We are in every continent except Antarctica,” Wahba said.
The deal with Mazars Group will largely have no impact on most FORVIS clients and its employees, Watson said.
“One of the baseline assumptions we had going into this was each firm would retain its autonomy as far as how the majority of its operating decisions work,” he said.
For those clients in the Springfield area, there will probably be “no change whatsoever,” Watson said. “For June 1 and after, if you’re a client that doesn’t have a lot of global needs today, you still won’t see much of a change.”
For the most part, he said FORVIS is already handling services for its clients that have global needs, international subsidiaries and international tax filing requirements.
“But you should be able to see an even more streamlined and collaborative approach on how our new network can deliver those services,” he said.
FORVIS and Mazars Group have both been longtime members of Praxity, an alliance comprising over 55 independent accounting firms in roughly 120 countries.
Branded as a single global network of just two companies, company leaders say Forvis Mazars will be an agile group.
“The scale is there, but there’s also the agility and the nimbleness to move and move quickly,” Wahba said.
The network will have a board comprising a 50/50 split of FORVIS and Mazars representation, while Mazars USA partners will have seats on the FORVIS board, Watson said, declining to share additional details at this time.
“While we’re forming this new network, we’re also going to remain members of Praxity,” he said. “We really value the relationships we have in that alliance and look forward to continuing there.”
Watson said the Mazars Group deal is a quick way to expand FORVIS’ international presence.
“From the very beginning, we felt like it was going to be important for FORVIS to have a global brand. Probably the early assumption was that we would try to build that on our own,” he said, noting the company’s Canadian expansion into Toronto, Ontario, earlier this year was a step in that direction.
“That is a very long and deliberate process that you have to go through, and it can be very complicated,” he said, adding other international locations were considered. “We knew doing that would take 20 years probably to get that done and really build out to what we thought we needed.”
Finding a quicker solution with Mazars “was the best answer for us, for our clients and our people,” Watson said.
Wahba said Mazars Group found FORVIS to be a like-minded firm.
“The ambitions were the same; the objectives and goals were similar. But there were some complementary needs,” he said. “We’ve been growing in the U.S. and getting the Mazars brand reach out in the U.S. By joining FORVIS, it truly is accelerated. It advances us by a least a decade of having a true coast-to-coast, national presence.”
The deal also will provide FORVIS with a presence in Boston and Philadelphia – two of the firm’s target markets, Watson said.
“And we’ll be almost a top 10 firm in the New York City market. That was great,” he said. “It really is very similar to when FORVIS came together. We have very complementary footprints.”
While last year’s merger led to the creation of FORVIS, officials say they are now developing the overall brand identity for Forvis Mazars.
“At this time, we have decided we will use the lowercase styling to achieve a consistent look,” FORVIS spokesperson Mike Brothers said of the new name via email.
FORVIS, a combination of the words forward and vision, is also a reference to unnamed partners in the firm, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
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