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The history of Deloitte in Canada

Rooted in excellence: Canadian beginnings

In the mid-1800s, when William Welch Deloitte opened an accountancy practice in London, England and Philip S. Ross opened a firm in Montreal, the profession was in its infancy. There were few, if any, professional standards, articling students received little or no pay, and accountants had to hustle for work by soliciting debtors. Insolvency work was the mainstay. It was no accident that when Ross was a bookkeeper in Glasgow, he supplemented his income as a chandler.

This changed in the 1870s, with the rise of the joint stock company. Suddenly there was a need for independent auditors to protect the investing public’s interests.

Deloitte was recognized as an outstanding accountant by the leading British industrialists of the day. He became auditor to the Great Western Railway and assisted many other large industrial concerns with their affairs. As Deloitte’s business became more international, the firm opened offices in North America and other parts of the world. Its first Canadian office, in Montreal, opened in 1912.

George A. Touche & Co. arrived in Canada in 1909, when it opened an office in Montreal. It was an offshoot of the accounting firm George A. Touche founded in London, England in 1899. Touche was an internationalist and was deeply involved in the business of investment trusts. Like Deloitte, his firm opened offices worldwide. In Canada, it soon began to expand into the West, where there was great opportunity and growth and little competition.

Charles Waldo Haskins and Elijah Watt Sells opened a practice in New York in 1895. Like Deloitte, they were active in the railway business. The two firms began to collaborate in 1895.

Emergence of professional standards
By this time, the audit and advisory role of accountants was beginning to supersede insolvency work. As the economy and profession grew, there was a new concern with professional standards and training. Many of the firms’ founders promoted the development of professional standards.

  • Deloitte helped found the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and served as its president
  • Ross helped found the Association of Accountants in Montreal — one of the first professional accountants’ organizations in North America
  • Touche and Ross both advocated and promoted a professional organization to assure standards
  • Haskins helped found the New York State Society of CPAs and the School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance of New York University
  • Sells served as president of the American Association of Public Accountants and the American Institute of Accountants (now the AICPA)
  • J. Arthur LaRue lobbied for C.A. exams to be held in French and English
  • Lucien Belair served as governor of the Canadian Tax Foundation and president of the Societe des Comptables Agrees du Quebec (now L’Ordre)

Turn of the century: Expansion across provinces, across borders
J. Arthur LaRue was the founder of the first public accounting office in Quebec City and the first French-Canadian practice in the province in 1909. His firm served a prestigious clientele and through mergers, eventually became the Samson Belair of Samson Belair/Deloitte & Touche. Lucien Belair was an early and distinguished partner, as was Maurice Samson, who had his own Quebec City practice before merging with what by 1929 was LaRue Trudel.

In 1925, the practices of Deloitte, Plendar & Griffiths & Co. and Haskins & Sells were merged in Canada, Cuba and Mexico. The global economic expansion of the 1920s created a great demand for the services of professional accountants as auditors and advisors. There was a great emphasis on research and training at Deloitte, Plender, Haskins & Sells and many other leading firms.

In 1958, George A. Touche & Co. and P.S. Ross & Sons merged to form Touche Ross. The West had not fully recovered from the depression of the 1930s, and Touche wanted to expand eastward. The Ross firm, strong in the financial centre of Montreal, wanted Touche’s national and worldwide connections. The same year, Touche Ross formed an international association with Touche practices in the U.K. and U.S.

Diversification and globalization: Mid-century strategy
As economies of scale and technological advances drove consolidations among small local businesses and gave rise to national and international enterprises, international affiliations became important and consulting became a major part of major accounting firms’ work. To prevent conflicts of interest, accountancies had to spin off their consulting functions. Ross started consulting in 1946; Touche, in the 1950s. Their post-merger consulting arm, P.S. Ross & Partners — Management Consultants — performed engagements in Egypt, Korea, Peru, Panama, Malawi, Indonesia, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s.

The same economic and technological forces that drove consolidation among client companies caused local accounting firms to amalgamate and affiliate with each other and with the offices of large, multinational firms in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Practices had to grow to serve their growing clients’ needs. To stay competitive, they had to invest heavily in information technology. Touche Ross and Deloitte Haskins & Sells Samson Belair both grew through mergers, becoming two of the largest and most influential accountancies/consultancies in Canada, with strong worldwide connections.

Rapid growth continues in new millennium
The Touche Ross and Deloitte Haskins & Sells Samson Belair merger in 1990 set the stage for a period of rapid organic growth in Canada and intense interest in creating a global strategy. In April 1999, our firm entered a new era when we and our counterparts aligned with our global affiliate, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), one of the world’s leading professional services firms.

On June 3, 2002 Deloitte & Touche completed the transaction that would enable over 1,000 Andersen Canada partners and staff to join Deloitte & Touche, creating Canada’s largest professional services firm with over 6,600 people and estimated revenues in excess of $1.1 billion.

In 2003, the firm integrated its Consulting practice and repositioned itself as Deloitte — a distinctive professional services firm renowned for its talented people, distinguished by its clients and with a market position that provides us with the advantage of scale while still providing our clients with dedicated, local service.