RSM targets growing opportunities in China with recent merger

'This is a very important phase of development, given the China-US trade wars,' says RSM CEO Jean Stephens


In 2019, RSM International’s Chinese member firm merged with another company, to become one of the largest accountancy firms operating in the country. It represents a 40 percent growth for RSM in China – at a strategically significant time, as CEO Jean Stephens explains. Jean is joined by European Regional Leader Gregor Schmidt in the first half of this interview, discussing RSM International’s innovations in Europe.

European CEO: I’m back with Jean Stephens, CEO of RSM International. RSM has been growing rapidly in China in recent months, so: Jean, clearly a country of growing opportunity for RSM and your clients?

Jean Stephens: Thank you Paul, yes: China is endlessly fascinating. It’s becoming ever-more important on the global stage. I’ve been travelling to China for the last 20 years, learning about the business environment, the culture. How we can best do business there.

I think everyone knows that the eastern/western way sometimes has nuances, that all companies need to manoeuvre. And that’s what we’ve been focused on as we go forward.

We have been growing rapidly, as you said. We’ve really been looking at our depth and capabilities, and how we approach the market together with our Chinese firm and our Chinese colleagues. And we’re well positioned now in China to help advise companies – whether it’s their M&A, their IPO, meeting their local regulatory and in fact international regulatory challenges.

I think this is a very important phase of development, given the China-US trade wars. Without a doubt that is going to impact all businesses, however and wherever in their supply chain.

And that’s the first part. We’ll continue our growth strategy; we see China as absolutely critical to our success in serving globally active middle-market companies.

European CEO: As you say, trade sanctions have hit a number of firms trying to do business between the US and China; how important is collaboration between countries for the success of middle-market businesses?

Jean Stephens: Really, I believe that without collaboration you can’t achieve anything. And as much as we hear the computers are going to take over, it really will always be people helping other people. And I think that collaboration, the advisory – really taking the time to understand a company’s ambitions – that is absolutely critical.

At RSM, throughout everything we do – throughout our culture, and how we interact – we really focus on, how do we know each other as advisors, how do we work together, what our systems, what our processes are. Because we believe it’s through that, that we can best advise our clients wherever they have needs. And China is certainly no different. It’s complicated, it’s challenging, and it’s endlessly fascinating.

European CEO: How do you actually manage that, as a network? You have offer 40,000 people across nearly 120 countries – what’s your strategy for your own collaboration?

Jean Stephens: We spend a lot of time together. I always say that we should be able to get to the right person in any country with two touch points. So, very short chains.

We know each other, we know our capabilities very well. We spend a lot of time together. We have RSM Academy, which is leadership development. We have regional conferences. But all of that’s nice, and those relationships are great to have, but we do that so we can bring all of the talents of over 40,000 people to bear for our clients.

European CEO: Jean, thank you very much.

Jean Stephens: Thank you.