Grant Thornton buys boutique financial crime consultancy Initialism

14 September 2022 2 min. read
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Grant Thornton has bolstered its Risk Consulting practice with the acquisition of Initialism, a boutique financial crime consultancy based in Melbourne.

Initialism’s team of consultants specialise in anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorism financing (CTF) compliance, and work with clients across sectors including financial institutions, gaming and entertainment.

Grant Thornton has over the past years already worked together with Initialism on joint financial crime engagements – but according to Initialism leader Neil Jeans, now was the “the time was right” to formalise the partnership as regulators and businesses alike ramp up their anti-money laundering efforts.

Grant Thornton buys boutique financial crime consultancy Initialism

For Grant Thornton, the deal strengthens its financial crime practice across areas such as advisory, risk assessment, compliance programs, and independent reviews.

“There is a limited amount of senior expertise in the market, which has been accentuated by aggressive levels of recruitment being undertaken by AUSTRAC and financial institutions over the last 12 months. Initialism are experts in the financial crime field, and we are delighted to add them to our existing financial crime capabilities,” said Michael Pittendrigh, National Managing Partner for Consulting at Grant Thornton.

Katherine Shamai, a leader of the financial crime offering, welcomed the specialised knowhow and practical value that Initialism brings to the firm. “It’s about growing our offering to have a more mature approach to proactively manage money laundering risk, rather than fixing the back end when something doesn’t go right.”

“It also further grows our team with lateral recruits, it’s important to continue that knowledge for our young staff.”

Meanwhile, for Initialism, the joining of forces will “provide us with increased access to significant additional on-demand capacity, including forensics and data analytics resources which are becoming increasingly used in financial crime work,” said Neil Jeans, a 30-year financial services veteran who has been appointed a partner at Grant Thornton.

The deal comes at a time of booming demand for financial crime compliance expertise, against a backdrop of mounting regulatory pressure from AUSTRAC and several governance scandals plaguing Australia’s biggest banks and casinos.

“We’re seeing increased regulatory activity in the anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing space, and seeing increased expectations from both the regulators and the wider public,” said Jeans.

The acquisition is Grant Thornton’s first in Australia since the 2020 bolt-on of R&D consultancy Glasshouse Advisory. In between, the mid-tier accountancy and consultancy divested its private wealth business to Oreana.