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Deloitte's global origins

The global history of Deloitte


Video | 3:49 mins

Deloitte takes you back through 168 years of our shared history. When was the firm founded? Who were the key players? What global events helped to shape and create the Deloitte we know today?

Deloitte today

In 1989, Deloitte Haskins and Sells, Touche Ross and Company, and Tohmatsu and Company merged internationally to form Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu International. The following is a brief review of the history of the predecessor firms.

Deloitte Plender Griffiths and Company

William Welch Deloitte was the grandson of a Count de Loitte, who escaped from France during the French revolution, settled in England and changed the form of his name. At the age of 15, Deloitte obtained a position as an assistant to a Mr Edwards, who was an Official Assignee at the Bankruptcy Court, then situated in Bassinghall Street in London. 

In 1845 at the age of 25, he set up his own practice as a public accountant in an office in Bassinghall Street, not far from the Bank of England, at a time when there were already more than 200 accounting firms in London.

Deloitte soon established himself as a railway auditor and his clients included the great Western, Lancashire and Yorkshire, as well as South Wales railway companies. Deloitte served his firm for a total of 52 years, retiring in 1897.

The firm Deloitte grew and prospered and by the 1970s was practising under the name Deloitte Plender Griffiths and Company.

Deloitte took great interest in the formation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. He was a member of the Council of the old Institute of Accountants, and on its absorption by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, he took a seat on the Council with one of his partners, Mr John G Griffiths.

Mr Deloitte was Vice President for the four years 1884 to 1888 and in 1889 was elected President. He also took a great interest in, and was one of the founders of, the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association and until his retirement from business, held the office of President.

Haskins & Sells

The Deloitte firm had been in business half a century before Charles Waldo Haskins and Elijah Watts Sells opened their practice in the United States. Haskins was a native of Brooklyn, New York. Sells came from Muscantine, Iowa.

 Both men had considerable experience in establishing accounting systems and internal auditing in Americas first big industry, the railroads, when they came together in Washington DC in 1893. At the time Haskins was 41 and Sells 36.

Both men had been selected as expert accountants to perform the detailed work on behalf of the Dockery Commission, a joint commission appointed by the US Congress to investigate and recommend changes in the Government's accounting system. The two experts carried out the work in Washington DC from 1893 to 1895 with such thoroughness that their recommendations were approved by the Government and they were warmly commended by the commission. 

With their work in Washington finished in March 1895, they decided to form a partnership, Haskins and Sells, based in the financial district of New York City. Haskins and Sells worked closely together as a mutually supportive team; their firm prospered and their staff grew rapidly.

When the US firm was only one year old, the legislature of New York State passed an Act to regulate the profession of public accountants. The Act established a class of expert accountants to be known as certified public accountants and authorised the State University to provide for examination and certification. 

Haskins was appointed to the board of examiners in New York State, and the other examiners promptly chose him as President. In 1897, he helped form the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants of which he and Sells were among the first members and Haskins became its President.

Haskins led a presentation to New York University aimed at organising classes in accountancy, and this original concept of an accounting school broadened to include commerce, finance and economics. When the new school was finally approved, it was named the New York University School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance. Haskins, while carrying on his other responsibilities to his firm and profession, became the school's first dean and held that post until his sudden death in 1903.

In contrast to the more extravagant Haskins, Sells was always the quieter of the two. At the age of 16, Sells started work as a telegraph operator and assistant station master for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in the town of Gradner, Kansas. By the time he met Haskins in Washington, he had worked for seven different railroads from the midwest to the Pacific coast. His experience carried him through virtually every position in the accounting department and controller's office from bookkeeper to auditor, secretary and vice president.

The honours that came to Sells were many and included the presidency of the American Association of Accountants in 1906 and 1907. But the accounting honour that is most widely known in the US today is the Elijah Watts Sells Awards, given twice yearly by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to the candidate scoring the best marks in the semi-annual CPA examination.

In their first year 1895/96, the Haskins and Sells' business totalled a modest $15,000. By 1902, their volume had risen to $340,000 and they had opened offices in Chicago, Cleveland, St Louis and London. After Haskins died in 1903 at the age of 51, Sells retained the name of the firm and headed it until his own death at 66 in 1924.

Deloitte Haskins and Sells

Over the years a correspondent relationship began between Deloitte Plender Griffiths and Company and Haskins and Sells. As this relationship grew, in the United Kingdom, Haskins and Sells generally was referred to as "Deloitte Overseas". In the 1970s, reflecting the strong international relationship that had been established, the firms began practising under the common name of Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

Touche Ross and Company

George Touche, later to become Sir George, had set up a practice in Scotland, and in 1899 decided to expand to Birmingham and London. He followed up these moves in the early 1900s by opening an office in New York and another in Toronto, Canada.

Meanwhile, in another Canadian City, Montreal, Philip Ross established an office in 1858, to provide accounting services to international shippers. This was the first of a network that would later spread across Canada.

The global vision of these two men led their firms in 1858, into a joint venture which was to evolve into the Touche Ross International organisation.

By the late 1960s, these early beginnings had grown to include 30 individual national firms, each operating under its own management and each responsible for its own clients. Then in 1974, Touche Ross International was restructured to bring about a new concept of organisation to the worldwide practice of accounting.

The new organisation made it possible to provide leadership for the development of international services while at the same time preserving the national identity and strengths of the long established national member firms.

Tohmatsu and Company

The Japanese practice of Tohmatsu owes its origins to Admiral Nobuzo Tohmatsu. He worked as a naval attaché at the London embassy, where he had the honor of being invited to George V's silver wedding anniversary at Buckingham Palace. 

He had also been an instructor at the Naval Paymasters Academy. Among his students were many talented people who took an active part in the official and economic worlds after the war.

After Tohmatsu qualified as a certified public accountant at the age of 57 in 1952, he became a partner in a foreign-affiliated accounting firm and a director of a private corporation. In 1967, he became president of the Japanese Institute of CPAs. At this time, the Japanese government wanted to see national audit corporations established, and Tohmatsu asked Iwao Tomita, a former student, to respond to that challenge.

Tomita had also earned an MBA at the Wharton School in the United States. Tohmatsu and Tomita had a common sense of purpose and were closely bound by similar experiences in the Navy. Thus, in May of 1968, Tohmatsu & Co. (formerly Tohmatsu Awoki & Co.) was incorporated.

The key to Tohmatsu's growth was the decision to send a substantial number of partners and professional staff overseas to gain experience. From the beginning, this meant the firm was internationally focused, and it is reflected in its long-standing international clients.

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