Publish Date

Apr 20, 2020

Meet Alvarez & Marsal and the Man Behind Their European Expansion

Tax Insights

Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) Taxand, an affiliate of Alvarez & Marsal, a leading global professional services firm, is part of one of the world’s largest independent tax networks, with an expanding European team. A&M Tax serves clients from its U.K. bases in London and its newly opened office in Glasgow, leveraging the Taxand network that covers nearly 50 countries and some 2,000 Tax professionals while continuing to grow its market share at pace.

The beginning

A&M is a leading global professional services firm noted for its turnaround management and performance improvement expertise and its work with numerous large, high profile business around the world.

In 1983 Tony Alvarez II, former workout specialist and Bryan Marsal, a former Citibank workout banker founded Alvarez & Marsal. Their intent was to seamlessly link operations, performance improvement and value creation to best help companies turn areas of stagnation into growth to achieve sustainable results. This ethos remains at the core of our firm.

In 2001, the firm launched a Turnaround/Restructuring practice in Europe and by 2002, further service line expansions into Performance Improvement and Business Advisory Service lines followed in 2003. By 2006, A&M had introduced dedicated Transaction Advisory, Private Equity, Compliance and Tax Advisory practices. A&M Tax advises clients on complex issues including transfer pricing, valuation tax, bankruptcy tax and merger integration.

Today, A&M works with companies, governments and entities across a variety of sectors to improve all aspects of their operational and financial performance. Over the last two years, in Europe the firm has opened offices in Zurich, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Dusseldorf and Glasgow increasing headcount by over 50 percent during that time. A&M now has over 4,500 employees across 65 offices in 25 + countries.

Tax at A&M

In 2018, A&M Tax in the U.K. appointed Marvin Rust to lead its European Tax team. Under Marvin’s leadership the team’s headcount has increased by 209 percent. We spoke with Marvin to better understand A&M Tax’s business model, growth strategy and long-term plans.

Can you talk us through your career to date and what drove your move to A&M?

My tax career started over 30 years ago. I spent time as a partner with Andersen and Deloitte where I served as the global managing partner for their Hospitality sector. My focus has been advising clients on complex tax matters from transactions and refinancing, through the BEPS agenda with a focus on transfer pricing. My client spans a range of industries but with a particular focus on hotels and leisure, real estate, retail, telecoms, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Before joining A&M Tax I spent four years with FTI Consulting where I trebled the size of its tax business.

As with most moves, there were push and pull factors that contributed to my decision to join A&M. A meeting I had with Tony Alvarez II, co-founder of A&M, and Ernesto Perez, global practice leader for A&M Tax, told me all I needed to know. A&M values leadership, action and results. Clients select us for our deep expertise and ability to create and deliver practical, rather than theoretical, solutions to their unique problems in addition to our independence/objectivity. They were looking for a leader who embodied this approach and that resonated with me. The enthusiasm, realism and success stories around ‘finding and falling in love with’ other leaders was a compelling proposition. Now, two years on, A&M Tax UK already has a unique market position in the tax world and we are only at ‘base camp’.

What does the European tax team offer to clients and how does your value proposition differ to that of the Big 4?

Our work for clients is very much partner led. The culture here is one of a bias to action, where the leaders of any of the A&M services (the partners) are heavily integrated in the day-to-day work we do. So much so that the hours I work here on client matters far exceeds the hours I worked at my previous firms.

In the two years since joining A&M in London, how may tax professionals have you hired and what has driven the growth?

I joined the team of 23 tax professionals. As I celebrate my second anniversary, we are up to 71 heads with a new tax office opened in Glasgow just earlier this year. Growth has been fuelled by expanding both the breadth and depth of the work we do.

What has made your team so successful in the market especially when competing with the Big 4?

Our distinctive value proposition to clients, unique culture and philosophy of leadership, action, results, has allowed us to gain a compelling position in the market versus our competition. This is driven by many factors including – the strength of our senior team members with the breath of their client base, the team’s ability to collaborate with Big A&M (other business services) and the strength of our Taxand network of firms in over 50 countries.

What has been your biggest challenges over the last two years?

Initially, it was winning the confidence of the legacy team and instilling belief in the path we are on – to build the best independent tax practice in the UK market. A close second was finding the best talent to join the team. At first, this was hard – who is A&M Tax? Two years in I wouldn’t quite say the world knows about us just yet, but we are now on the right path, and of course I now have a brilliantly talented sales team of new arrivals from all sorts of firms who tell others what it is like to work here! Competition for talent remains my biggest challenge today.

How would you define the culture at A&M?

This is an easy one – our culture is unique, and in many ways, reminds me of the good things from my Anderson days. Our core values are:

  • Highest level of integrity – our tax team scored 91% in our last employee survey in the ‘strongly agree’ caption. Says it all.
  • Quality – deliver from the front the highest quality of work in a responsive and enthusiastic manner.
  • Objectivity – we retain our objectivity even when pushed to get to a premature conclusion.
  • Personal reward – for personal reward we believe in paying well and sharing rewards, but this is underpinned by the maxim ‘Client, Firm, Self’.
  • And finally, fun – by making sure we hire people who fit with our culture, who work well in teams and we remember to recognise, and celebrate, the many successes.

Where do you see the tax team in 5 years’ time?

In this firm, it’s hard to see that far ahead but I can tell you three things, we’ll be opportunistic, disruptive and a little bit maverick. Having said that I am 100% confident that in five years we will have smashed the challenge Tony Alvarez II set me back when I joined the firm – to grow the team to 200 people.

Source: Global 100 Taxation Edition 2019, Wilkinson Partners