More than 100 years of Accon avm handed over the Minister of Finance Auditor this morning

After Flynth’s takeover, Accon avm has been consigned to the history books. Among other things, this will include the fact that Anne Vondeling, Minister of Finance in the 1960s, was once director of the audit firm from which – much later – Accon avm arose. But also that the decline for the top 10 office was already visible in 2013.

Founded in 1917

Flynth’s takeover of Accon avm is the last chapter of 105 years of eventful history. The beginning of the famous audit firm can be dated exactly to July 24, 1917, when Coöperatieve Centrale Landbouwboekhoudt (CCLB) was founded in Leeuwarden, the first Dutch cooperative agricultural audit firm.

The farmers’ distress

In the first years, things still looked good for the Frisian farmers, but in the 1920s the yields from agriculture fell sharply. In 1923, less than half of the 551 members were profitable. In 1929, on the eve of the global economic crisis, a newspaper wrote under the headline ‘Peasants’ plight’ that the income of the farmer and his family was between 8.50 NLG and 21 NLG per week. “The farmer’s income, with few exceptions, is now generally lower than that of the worker in public enterprises and in private commerce, industry, and transportation.”

Anne Vondeling

Things went better after the war. In the meantime, CCLB got a new director in the form of Anne Vondeling. He combined that job for a number of years with membership of the House of Representatives for the new Labor Party. In 1958, Vondeling became Minister of Agriculture. He entered the elections as party leader in 1963. Vondeling was finance minister from April 1965 to November 1966. After he lost the battle within the PvdA in 1970 to Joop den Uyl, who was to become prime minister in 1973, Vondeling was for many years still chairman of The House of Representatives.

1990: AVM

CCLB, meanwhile, has flourished in Friesland. In 1960 there were already almost 5,600 members/customers. In 1969, a new head office could be moved to Leeuwarden. The opening was carried out by State Secretary Grapperhaus (1927-2010), father of the later Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus. Then there was more silence in the newspaper columns around the audit firm. In 1986, according to one newspaper, CCLB employed about 250 people, of whom about 35 held the AA title. In 1990 the name was changed to AVM (‘Advisors for Management’) because the office wanted to focus more on non-agricultural clients. According to director Auke Nolles, the new name was chosen because the CCLB designation was too closely linked to agriculture and small and medium-sized companies did not want to join a farmers’ club, which is also willing to cooperate. ‘We must confront the craftsmen on ‘e Dracht or on ‘e Nijstad net konfrontearje mei üs agraryske saus. Mei dizze namme kinne wy ​​​​​​​​​​​frijer opereare på ‘e brand'”, reported the director in a Frisian newspaper. In 1990, CCLB generated slightly more than half of its revenue from non-agricultural customers.

1992: Accon

In 1992 AccoN emerged (with initial and final capital) from a merger between Accountantskantoor Gelderland, the former accounting office of the Gelderse Maatschappij van Landbouw, and ZLM Accountantsunie. Holland became acquainted with the office in 1995 through a remarkable summary procedure. Staff took management to court to enforce that May 5 would be a holiday. The staff had brought the case because the employment contract stated that they would not work on public holidays. According to AccoN, Liberation Day only needed to be published once every five years. An annual day off would be too expensive. However, the president of the court in Arnhem ruled that AccoN could not drag out the day off ‘in any way’. The audit firm’s board decided to give employees an extra day off, a compromise because they were unable to inform all clients about the company’s closure in time. Incidentally, most office staff did not take the extra day off on 5 May.

2006: Accon avm

The planned merger with the Gibo Group, which would have resulted in one of the largest accounting and consulting organizations in the Netherlands (75 branches, more than 1200 employees and a turnover of NLG 120 million) was canceled in 1996. The reason was given , that the investigation of the merger would take too long. But it also became clear that AccoN had not yet really incorporated its own merger, in 1994, into the organisation. Only ten years later did AccoN dare to merge. Not at Gibo but at Consultants for Management (AVM), which created Accon avm. With 32 branches, more than 1,100 employees and an annual turnover of approximately 75 million euros, the new combination was one of the ten largest in the Netherlands. The head office was located in Arnhem, which ended a period of 90 years of Frisian history. The agricultural sector remained important: at the time of the merger, both offices together served about 7,000 farmers, a market share of ten percent.

Roda JC

In the following years, under the leadership of director Peter Feijtal, many more offices were incorporated. It was then when Accon avm was a proud shirt sponsor for the football club Roda JC. Feijtel wanted to double the number of employees to 3,200 and said it would be an alternative to the Big 4 for customers. In 2010, the once-dreamed-of merger partner Gibo chose a merger with Accon competitor Flynth. This office nevertheless remained smaller than Accon avm, which was the seventh largest accounting firm in the Netherlands.

Unions

The financial crisis that started in 2008 put pressure on the accounting sector in the Netherlands. Turnover fell and as a result offices had to be reorganized. It is estimated that 10 percent of the 53,000 jobs disappeared. Even Accon avm (the plan to double to 3200 employees had not been heard for a long time) could not avoid the trend. This led to criticism from the FNV Bondgenoten. Accon avm wanted to lay off dozens of employees, but because it was not classed as ‘reorganisation’, unions would have been sidelined. In 2013, a petition was filed with management complaining about poor treatment of employees. For example, after years of good ratings, they would suddenly get a bad rating and be fired with immediate effect. CEO Peter Feijtel denied the allegations.

2016-2019: OOB Adventure

Despite falling turnover (from 115 to 94 million), Accon avm remained on the acquisition path. The takeover of the audit firm Nijhof Groep from Deventer failed due to a disciplinary case against one of Nijhof’s certified public accountants. Nijhof went bankrupt as a result. From 2016, Accon avm ventured into the PIE market. That year there was one PIE customer, the following year no fewer than 8. However, these were companies with a high risk profile. For example, Value8 had several times postponed the publication of its figures, and the biotech company Esperite was also mainly in the news with financial problems. Regulator AFM put a ‘Question on the Client Acceptance Procedure’ to Accon. The control department remained small at 5 million euros with a total turnover of 80 million. In 2019, Accon avm withdrew from the control market. That spring, managing director Peter Feijtel also left after approximately 20 years.

Crisis

In 2019, then editor-in-chief at Accountancy. Frans Heitling calculated already this morning that there was almost no growth at Accon avm and that all acquisitions had contributed almost nothing. The new director Guus Delger, former finance director of Accon avm, acknowledged this in the annual report for 2019: ‘After many years of focus on expanding the base and growth through acquisitions, autonomous development has become the spearhead of the policy.’ Delger had to leave the field in 2021 after Accon avm postponed the publication of its own annual figures. According to waste collector Theo de Vries, Accon avm made a loss in 2020 and saw its turnover fall. The ‘work in progress’ entry turned out to be so inflated it smacked of accounting fraud. Mazars withdrew the previously issued audit opinion, and Accon avm had to write off millions. Only a takeover – this time from Accon avm itself – could save the office from destruction.

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