Ensors Chartered Accountants

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Ensors Chartered Accountants, a firm we have worked with for many years. This collaboration epitomises our shared values of integrity and innovation and will offer you an insight into a niche selection of accountancy roles.

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Ensors is one of East Anglia's largest and most respected firms of Chartered Accountants, offering a wide range of accountancy and business services to a diverse portfolio of clients. They promote and look after their staff. As an equal opportunities employer, Ensors are committed to an open, collaborative, and dynamic working culture that encourages and empowers all staff to realise their career goals whilst achieving a good work-life balance. Explore more about what Ensors can offer you below.

Blog & Resources

Meet the 35 Under 35 Winners

In this article we discuss Craig Ewins-Jones’ career path into Accountancy and his thoughts on how firms are having to adapt their strategies and structures to ensure efficient service to their clients.

HI CRAIG, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am an Audit and Accounts Manager for Rickard Luckin Ltd and have worked at the firm for 11 years. My main responsibilities are to motivate, develop and support my team, look after a portfolio of clients helping them to achieve their aims and to contribute to and maintain a fun and professional working environment in which our people can thrive.

WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER JOURNEY BEEN LIKE? FROM THE MOMENT YOU DECIDED TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT, WE’D LIKE TO KNOW WHERE YOU STARTED, AND HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW.

I stumbled into accountancy, which is to say that I never necessarily aimed at becoming an accountant. I was recommended Rickard Keen (the pre-merger firm which eventually became Rickard Luckin) by my college tutor who had links to accountancy practices in the local area and identified it as an industry that leant itself to my strengths at the time. I had a year out between school and college whilst my family were contemplating a move to Australia which ultimately never happened but allowed me to study and pass the AAT level 2 course to ensure I made use of the year. I then returned to college to complete 3 A Levels (Maths, Economics and Physics) and 2 AS Levels (Business Studies and Further Maths).

From there I joined Rickard Keen, studied and attained my certificate in accounting, finance and business, then my ACA qualification and did actually get one exam from completing my CTA which I made a conscious but difficult decision to stop working towards in order to focus on a new role as manager of the firm.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT YOUR PARTICULAR AREA OF THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION?

When I was younger my mathematics and problem solving skills meant that a role in accountancy made sense and allowed me to learn and hone the necessary skills, however, it was after being in the business and working with a team of high performers and talented and successful clients that I realised my passion was more people focused.

I now find myself in a line management role and my personal mission here is to motivate, develop and support my team, helping them to meet both their day-to-day objectives and also their longer term career goals and ambitions. This is one of the key factors that gets me out of bed in the morning.

I also have the opportunity of working with some fantastic local businesses and entrepreneurial individuals who are the masters of their craft. My client facing role is less numbers-based these days and more focused on the intangible goals set by businesses, helping them to overcome hurdles and reach their potential.

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE NOW IN ACCOUNTANCY?

In a world where technology and automation are driving down prices and turnaround times, there is an opportunity for us to grow and nurture a team of highly motivated individuals to become true business advisors.

The industry has changed over the 11 years I have been involved, with less data entry now required and more real time and proactive advice driven by really understanding our client’s businesses and ultimate aims.

Here we have an opportunity to build robust and lasting relationships with our clients and to maximise the value we can offer them.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’RE FACING RIGHT NOW? HOW ARE YOU TACKLING IT?

The opportunity which arises as a result of technology automation is also a challenge. Accountancy practices may need to adapt their strategies and structures to ensure efficient services are being offered to clients which maximise value.

Our firm is full of talented individuals who recognise this and are constantly refining our approach to ensure we are delivering the best service we can. We are also doubling down on our training strengths to ensure our people have the right technical and general training available to meet the increasing and changing demands of the various roles in our team.

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO BE EVEN BETTER?

I enjoy working hard. My work ethic has been instilled into me by my mother and it is this that keeps me going. I am also convinced that you are able to have fun whilst also working hard to achieve personal, client and business goals and this is also something that drives me to be better.

I want my team to have the best support, my clients to have the best advice and our business to achieve its strategic goals and I can do my part with continuous self-improvement.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS LOOKING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ACCOUNTANCY?

Ultimately, in life you need to do what works for you. Not all paths are going to be the same. We are groups of individuals working together to help achieve the aims of other individuals. So my three pieces of advice would be:

1) Follow the path that offers you the most joy and lends itself to your own strengths. If you are still at the stage of selecting subjects to pursue in school or college, pick the subjects which you enjoy and are strong at. Life is about balance so select subjects which test you in different ways.

2) Physical exercise and fitness is extremely important for your mental and physical wellbeing. So try to incorporate some sort of physical exercise into your weekly routine. Something is better than nothing.

3) Start every day with some objectives to ensure you have some structure and can reflect on what you have achieved.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN

I have had the benefit of working with some fantastic and inspiring individuals (and still do) so the good advice I have been given over the years is substantial. Something that stands out and was offered to me by one of the now retired Directors of our practice when I qualified, was to seek out the opportunities that make me uncomfortable. The thought behind this was that, if I’m feeling challenged or nervous, it is likely that the task at hand is helping me to grow and learn. Jake Humphrey puts it more eloquently: “Don’t sit in the comfy chair”.

If you would like to apply to be shortlisted for next year's 35 Under 35 list, please keep a look out for our updates in Summer 2023. 

View the full list of 35 Under 35 Winners for 2022 here.

How technology is transforming the Accountancy sector

Off the back of Accountancy Age’s annual 35 Under 35 list release, winners give insights into how technology is changing the way accountants work.

Accountancy Age’s 35 under 35 highlights the rising stars of the Accountancy profession, featuring those who have made great professional contributions to the field and their individual firms.  

At the end of September, Accountancy Age released the list of winners who made up a diverse group of young accountants making their mark.   

In this second video of the series, the winners share how technology is changing the industry.   

Watch below: 

Accountants share the secrets to their success

The 35 Under 35 Accountancy winners give their insights into how the industry is evolving, as well as sharing their top tips on how to excel in a competitive environment.

Accountancy Age’s 35 under 35 seeks to highlight the rising stars of the accountancy profession, featuring those who have made great professional contributions to the field and their individual firms. 

During the month of September, Accountancy Age released the list of this years’ winners who made up a diverse group of young accountants making their mark.  

In a forthcoming video series, Accountancy Age asked winners about how the industry is evolving, how technology is changing the function, how firms can retain talent, and what personal challenges they overcame.   

Watch the first video below: 

If you would like to know more about our Audit & Accountancy offering, please visit our dedicated vacancies page here

Types of company innovation needed to qualify for R&D tax credits

Research & Development Tax Credits allow companies engaging in R&D work to claim a reduction in their Corporation Tax. For SMEs this reduction can be quite significant.

R&D goes on in pretty much every successful company at some point, regardless of its size, professional area or sector. Companies must strive for the power of innovation. But where does innovation come from, and is there a universal framework that can be applied to help consistently make big breakthroughs? From a R&D Tax Credits perspective, when does innovation qualify and when does it not?

Tip 1: Improve products

After examining over 2,000 business innovations throughout history, data has uncovered that most breakthroughs don’t necessarily stem from engineering inventions or rare discoveries.

Instead, they observed that innovations can be categorised within distinct dimensions - and anyone can use the resulting strategic framework to analyse the competition, to stress test for product weaknesses, or to find new opportunities for their products.

According to research, innovation centres around the configuration of the company, and all the work that happens “behind the scenes”. Although innovation types in this category are not directly customer-facing, they can still have an important impact on the customer experience. How your company and products are organised can have a crucial downstream effect, even enabling innovations in other categories.

Cloud computing has already been transforming companies from a whole range of sectors. Just like any other businesses, accountancy firms must embrace new technology like cloud computing in order to stay efficient and competitive.

The beauty of cloud-based accounting is that it enables accountants to access financial data from any device, 24/7. They also allow constant collaboration between accountants and clients, offering better service and improved security.

Manufacturing businesses are perfectly positioned to take advantage of R&D tax relief as most are constantly required to research and develop or redevelop products in response to rapidly changing technology, practices, standards, customer requirements, and competition.

The keyword here is research; it doesn’t actually matter whether your product development is successful or not, as what you claim for is time invested in the project as a whole.

Tip 2: Create new systems or software

Innovation required in the adoption of other technology is often one of the most overlooked opportunities when it comes to claiming for R&D relief.

As most businesses in the Accountancy sector will know, cloud computing isn’t a marginal cost. The sheer power that goes into creating, maintaining, running and storing machine learning (ML) and AI solutions, training datasets, models and simulations can be a huge overhead that is essentially unavoidable in spaces such as quantum computing.

Many accounting firms are already using various pieces of software to reduce operational costs and automate repetitive tasks. Many will need the software to perform a variety of tasks, such as data entry, generating reports, changing the format of financial data and performing tax operations - accurately and efficiently too.

For this reason, while a few smaller companies may revaluate cost effectiveness if they still house their own servers, for much of the sector this change will not introduce them to cloud computing. The impact, however, will be that firms can start to reclaim some of these costs back, allowing them to redirect funds to other areas of R&D or allow them to put additional budget behind computer power to more quickly and effectively develop new solutions.

Have you developed a new system, piece of software or process to allow you to integrate new tech? Have you worked with a provider to adapt their tech even further? Have you resolved implementation or compatibility challenges that no one else has been able to address before?

There are lots of myths about the opportunities for claiming R&D tax relief in the IT sector, but it’ soften an untapped source of qualifying expenditure so don’t discount your own work on IT without seeking professional advice first.

When most people think of innovation, it’s likely the offering category that comes to mind.Making improvements to product performance is an obvious but difficult type of innovation, and unless it’s accompanied by a deeply ingrained company culture towards technical innovation, such advancements may only create a temporary advantage against the competition.

This is the reason it is recommended that companies focus on combining multiple areas of innovation together—it creates a much more stable economic moat.

Tip 3: Develop bespoke solutions

There won’t be many businesses that haven’t been presented with a unique problem by a particular client. That is, after all, the driver of invention and innovation!

Though the work that goes into developing bespoke solutions is about meeting a brief or specific client need, it also has the added benefit of making you eligible for R&D tax credits. It’s often overlooked but a very real part of working with a wide variety of clients across all industries, from software to manufacturing to construction and beyond.

Various solutions have been developed for accountancy firms to use over recent years, and they will continue to evolve over time. These solutions can protect sensitive client (and business) data, offer improved detection and firewalls, and serve to back up information stored on USB sticks, desktops, mobile devices and laptops.

The above types of innovation are the most customer-facing, but this also makes them the most subject to interpretation. While other innovations tend to occur upstream, innovations in experience all get trialled in the hands of customers. For this reason, intense care is needed in rolling out these ideas.

If you would like to find out about our vacancies in the Tax sector or are looking for talent, please contact Tom-Sharland-Harris or Jodi King at AJ Chambers.

Sources:

AccountingWeb: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/community/industry-insights/can-accountancy-firms-themselves-benefit-from-rd-tax-credits

MSCRND: https://mscrnd.com/rd-tax-credits-accountant/

GovGrant: https://www.govgrant.co.uk/latest-thinking-news-and-views/legislation-day-hmrcs-draft-changes-to-rd-tax-relief-schemes/

MPA: https://mpa.co.uk/three-things-you-do-that-qualify-for-rd-tax-relief/

Meet Elliot Tayler | M&A | Legal Practice Market
Could you please tell us a bit about your background and what you were doing before joining AJ Chambers?

Prior to joining AJ Chambers, I worked and trained for 4 years at a Top 100 law firm as a Corporate Solicitor, after I completed the Legal Practice Course and achieved a Masters in Law, Business and Management at the University of Law in London. During my time in Corporate Law, I gained a wealth of experience working on Mergers & Acquisitions for a broad range of businesses.

I grew up in Chelmsford, Essex with strong ties to the region and studied my undergraduate law degree in Nottingham.

As part of AJ Chambers, what is it that you are doing exactly? What regions and practice areas are you covering?

My role at AJ Chambers will focus on assisting Legal Practice owners with their growth plans, be it via acquisition, merger or exit/succession strategy.

Legal Practice Owners will be mindful of the current economic climate, rising Professional Indemnity Insurance costs and talent acquisition difficulties as key reasons for looking to the M&A market to futureproof their businesses. My role will ensure that these factors are mitigated by ‘matchmaking’ buying and selling parties through consultation to ensure a successful merger or acquisition stands the test of time.

AJ Chambers deals with a full range of Legal Practices; from larger international firms through to small and medium practices, and even sole practitioners.

How do you feel your past experience will help add value to our clients?

Not only do I have a wealth of experience working in the M&A sector from a legal perspective, I also have first-hand experience of what life is like working inside a law firm.

This puts me in an ideal position to appreciate both the business, and cultural factors, that make a merger or acquisition successful. It is often the culture and people within a Legal Practice that truly define the long-term success of a deal and it is vital that attention is given to this when introducing the parties.

What does your role consist of on a daily basis?

I will work each day to source a buyer or seller (as the case may be) that suits the needs of my clients. It may be that such a party already exists within AJ Chambers vast network of clients.

Once a suitable introduction is made, I will act as a helpful conduit from the outset of the transaction through to Completion.

What is your favourite company value (from the below), and how does it relate to the way you work?

Maintaining integrity and confidentiality is crucial for my role, as clients will disclose sensitive information to me about their business throughout the process. As a qualified solicitor, my clients can rest assured that this will remain at the forefront of my mind and any details about a proposed deal will remain secret.

My goal is aligned with that of AJ Chambers in wanting to maintain lasting relationships with our clients, which continue long after the conclusion of a particular transaction.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of the job, and how are you looking to develop in that area?

There are several intangibles involved in the M&A process that can cause difficulties in sourcing, agreeing upon and finding success in a transaction. It is these difficulties, though, that means my service provides value to Legal Practice owners, who undoubtedly already have a busy workload running their businesses.

Outside of work, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a keen interest in sport, particularly football and basketball (though I perhaps spend too much time watching sport rather than playing it!).

Aside from sport, I like hiking and going to live music. I toured California earlier this year, very fortunately visiting the Yosemite National Park and going to the Coachella music festival.

What are 3 things on your bucket list/goals for the future?

The main thing on my bucket list is to continue to travel and experience different cultures - I recently travelled across South Korea on my own, enjoying a stay at a Buddhist temple where I practiced zen martial arts and yoga… not that I was any good!

I would love to ‘tick-off’ the seven wonders of the world, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and experience the Northern Lights.

I would also like to see my football team win the premier league, just once, but I think doing all the above is much more likely given their success in my lifetime – I’ll leave you to guess who that team is.

 

Meet the 35 Under 35 Winners

In this article we discuss Ross Lomas’ career path into Accountancy and his current role, as well as his thoughts on the search for talent in the sector.

Q1  |  HI ROSS, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

Good morning, my name is Ross Lomas and I am a Partner at Saffery Champness, based in our Peterborough office. What I do varies considerably from day-to-day but essentially it is to support and enable the success of my clients as well as my team.  I look after a wide range of clients ranging from small partnerships to large international groups, a lot of which are entrepreneurial, owner-managed businesses.  I am also Staff Partner for my office so a lot of time is also spent looking after the team and helping ensure the environment we work in brings out the best in the team.

Q2  |  WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER JOURNEY BEEN LIKE? FROM THE MOMENT YOU DECIDED TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT?

I was around 17 when I decided this was a career I was interested in and after finishing my A levels and spending a little time working, I started sending out my CV to a number of local firms.  Fortunately, a small firm in Whittlesey gave me an opportunity to study for my AAT and learn some of the basics before moving to Saffery to start my ACA studies in 2008.    

As soon as I walked through the door at Saffery I felt it was a great fit for me.  The clients were really interesting and it was great to be supported through my studies, but the main thing was just the team was so welcoming.  It really felt like a family and was so friendly and supportive.  The office has tripled in size since then, but I’m really pleased that it still has that same feel and the team work really hard to support each other.

I’ve been able to progress through the ranks here, making partner in April, and feel really fortunate to have so many opportunities to progress and get involved in new and interesting clients.  The other partners gave me a lot of their time and I hope I can do the same for others over the coming years.

Q3  |  WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT YOUR PARTICULAR AREA OF THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION?

I really enjoy getting out and seeing businesses and getting to understand how they operate and what makes them tick.  It’s very rewarding when you know you have been able to help them overcome challenges and see them doing well.  A lot of our clients are family or owner-managed businesses so it is such a big part of their lives.  Similarly, it’s really rewarding when the team are passing exams and qualifying or reaching their next promotion.

Q4  |  WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE NOW IN ACCOUNTANCY?

I think there are lots of opportunities and it’s a great career for people.  Firstly, ACA is an excellent qualification which can help open doors for people, whether you want to stay in practice or move to an industry role.  Being competent in finance is a skill that anyone in business should have, in my view.  Secondly, I think accountancy practices are a great place to learn and be exposed to lots of different businesses and meet lots of interesting people.  You are continually learning and developing in your role with plenty of opportunity for progression, so you are frequently being challenged, which keeps the job interesting.

Q5  |  WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’RE FACING RIGHT NOW? HOW ARE YOU TACKLING IT?

It’s probably no surprise that recruitment is a big challenge at the moment.  The whole sector is looking for more resource to support their clients and make the most of the opportunities for firms like Saffery.  It is hard to find top talent but one thing we are doing is investing heavily in our trainee recruitment, having just taken on our biggest ever intake, with both graduates and school leavers joining the team.  It is great that there are so many opportunities to both support our existing clients and new businesses, but it is a balancing act to make sure we don’t overload the team and ensure service levels remain as high as ever.

Q6  |  WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO BE EVEN BETTER?

That’s an interesting question, partly because it has changed over time.  When I was training and working my way through, I was being inspired by some of the other partners who were such great mentors for me.  However now I would say my inspiration comes partly from the team, as they make you want to be at your best for them, and also comes from my two children at home.  Having kids certainly changes your perspective on things and they teach me as much as I teach them!  Wanting to make them proud is certainly a motivator.

Q7  |  WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS LOOKING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ACCOUNTANCY?

I would say to them to be as open as possible.  Don’t worry about asking silly questions as the earlier you ask them the better!  We are all still learning and still asking plenty of silly questions.  Try to say yes to new opportunities wherever possible.  Even if you are not confident, say yes and you will learn so much more.

Q8  |  WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN

I think the best advice I have had was don’t compare yourself to others.  It’s never helpful.  Just do your own thing and give your all and everything else will take care of itself.

If you would like to apply to be shortlisted for next year's 35 Under 35 list, please keep a look out for our updates in Summer 2023. 

View the full list of 35 Under 35 Winners for 2022 here.

Salary bunching in the Law sector
Can we take a moment to talk about salaries? Specifically, salary bunching.

 

When deciding where to train, or deciding on an NQ position, many aspiring and training solicitors are probably lured in by the high NQ salaries, and who can blame them.

However, NQ salaries alone are not necessarily a good indication of future earning potential.

Whilst most law firms disclose their NQ starting salaries, future earning potential is sometimes kept under wraps. Even for recruiters, it can be difficult to get a clear answer on salary bandings and how they equate to certain PQE levels.

 “The salary is flexible and dependent on the individual”, is a phrase we come across most from clients in our industry.

However, through our market knowledge we do have a pretty clear grasp on the market rate. Earlier in the year, Legal Cheek opened a forum in which solicitors were asked to disclose the salary bandings at their current firms, providing never-before-seen insight into the pay structures of London law firms.

While we are unable to validate the data contained in that forum, it did confirm something we had already suspected.

Salary bunching is real and as Legal Cheek termed it, “the unspoken effect of the war on talent”.

What is salary bunching?

Salary bunching refers to the pay structure of a firm or company, where employees do not necessarily see pay rises in line with their increased experience.

For example, one individual mentioned that an international law firm was paying its NQ solicitors £95k, its 1 PQE solicitors £96k, £98k for those with 2 PQE and £101k for those with 3.

As an NQ (or aspiring solicitor) a £10k increase in salary over a 3 to 4 year time period, is not necessarily what you would expect given the flashy NQ figures.

What is driving this trend?

The war on talent is unrelenting. When ‘Biglaw’ US firms entered the UK legal market, they set salaries soaring with some NQ solicitors being offered pay packets above and beyond £150,000 p.a.

This puts the rest of the market in a quandary. Lawyers at US firms are not necessarily working longer hours than those lawyers within Magic Circle firms, but they are in some cases earning £50k more than their counterparts.

To try to stop a mass exodus, Magic Circle and other elite UK-based firms have had to increase salaries to attract and retain young talent. This sparks a chain reaction and soon all law firms are upping salaries in order to compete.

The problem comes when NQ salary pay increases are not replicated to the same extent as those with more experience under their belts.

This is not to say that more experienced lawyers are not benefiting from raises in pay, but in most cases, their increases are watered down.

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When will this bubble burst?

Many consider the huge pay increases we are currently seeing at the junior end of the market to be unsustainable.

The more firms pay their lawyers, the more money the firm has to earn. Cost is inevitably going to be passed to clients who will end up paying more for the same level of service.

Reluctant to fall too far behind the market rate, salary bunching may be one way that firms have tried to balance this issue. If they can get away with paying a 3 PQE only £6k more than an NQ, why wouldn’t they employ this tactic?

Many suggest that the salary growth bubble will burst within the next couple of years, and I suspect they are right.

Allen & Overy and Linklaters both made waves when they announced earlier this year that they were bucking the trend and were not going to rush to match others’ NQ rates, deciding instead to “consider the impact of any changes in the wider economic context".

It saw them fall behind the rest of their Magic Circle counterparts and provoked unrest among some of their trainee cohorts.

Something tells me that it will not be long before other firms are forced to join them and hold steady.

Article by Shannon Aldis, who works on our London Law desk. If you would like to work with Shannon on any talent or vacancy searches, please contact: shannon.aldis@aj-chambers.com

Leading at Ensors Chartered Accountants

Throughout this series we have spoken with members of Ensors Chartered Accountants about their expectations for the industry and the career path into Accountancy, from training to daily working life. Now, to wrap up the series, we speak with Zoe Plowman, Associate Partner, about what it is like to be in a leading position at one of the country’s most respected firms of Chartered Accounts, and reflect on her own career path to bring you more guidance on starting out in this exciting and rewarding profession.

Zoe starter her career with Ensors in 1998, after joining the firm as a Student Accountant at their Bury St Edmunds office, Radford House. Having joined whilst partially AAT qualified, she completed her qualification and moved onto obtaining her ACCA. In 2001 Zoe moved from Radford House to the Haverhill office, where she took on a Senior Accountant role and began managing her own client list, shortly progressing on to Assistant Manager. In 2007 the offices that Zoe had worked at in the past were merged into the current Bury St Edmunds office, Fornham All Saints. In 2009 Zoe made a move over to the Ipswich office to manage a corporate and pension scheme portfolio, and continued climbing in her career, making stops along the way at the levels of Pensions Manager, Audit Group Manager, and Director until she was promoted to the role she holds today; Associate Partner.

During my time at Ensors I have had two short periods of maternity leave, I reduced my hours - working part time for 9 years, and for the last 11 years I have been back to full time. I was lucky in the fact that I joined a firm that allowed me to flex my hours around family commitments in a supportive environment and give me opportunities to develop and progress my career.

Reaching the top of your professional field is a long journey,  ensuring that you are in a supportive environment and are surrounded by peers that motivate you is key to making that journey as comfortable as possible, ‘being somewhere you are proud of and enjoy working means everything’. Not only is your environment key but finding enjoyment in your day-to-day is vital to avoiding burnout on your career path. In accountancy, there is variety in the clients you work with and the jobs that need to be done, especially at a higher level, which can make each project and day feel fresh and new.

For example, in Zoe’s instance, she says that ‘every day is different - primarily I am an Audit Partner, so reviewing audit files, working with the other RIs to maintain quality within the firm, managing teams, attending close out meetings, and agreeing fees, but my role is so much wider than that. I am also heavily involved in recruiting and appraising staff, team management, networking, writing articles for publication. I also contribute my fair share in compliance matters that are involved with running a partnership.’

Progressing your career

As your career advances and you begin taking on new responsibilities, you will be exposed to a wider workload, supported by your team. The responsibility - the privilege - to be allowed to manage your team is something that is rewarding not through remuneration , but through pride. ‘Managing people can have pros and cons, but it is lovely to see people develop and I do enjoy being part of their journey’  said Zoe, whilst discussing her favourite aspects of the job at her level.

What drew me to audit was going out and about visiting clients, as an auditor you are privileged to gain a unique insight into a client’s business and operations. Going out as a team with one common goal, working together to support each other and get the job done is very rewarding.’

As you look to the future of your career, it is important to not just think about how your role will change, but also how the industry as a whole will evolve and transform over the coming years. Through Zoe’s reflection on her career, we can tell that the landscape of this profession has already grown over the past two decades. ‘When I started in 1998 our work was largely manual, and we had no female partners. In both respects the firm and the industry has progressed and evolved.’

With the ever pressing digitalisation of the industry, processes have begun to change rapidly. Instead of a slow and gradual process of evolution, the way we work - and the reasons for doing so - have been transforming almost overnight throughout the pandemic era. Although we need to be aware of these changes and be capable of utilising them to their full potential, it is always important to remember the basics as these are the skills that will carry you throughout the entirety of your career. ‘In terms of digitalisation, processes have streamlined many of our services, but judgement and rationalisation will always be key in auditing.’

We have asked all of our contributors to this series the same question: What advice would you give to people starting out in their career? We have received great insights from both Chris Aniskowicz and Ben Jorge-Luis about being aware that you will always have room for improvement. Zoe agrees, saying ‘You will never know everything, and Accounting/Auditing standards and tax rules are constantly changing’, continuing the sentiment by advising that it is important to picture the long-term:

It is a long road. When I were younger, I had friends earning more than me, working less hours. In your early 20s it takes some commitment to think longer term and focus on your studies. Set yourself a target and whatever life throws at you don’t deter from that. I am so glad I stuck at it!’

Advice for accountants of the future

Thinking about the long term and not getting bogged down by small bumps in the road - bumps that will be forgotten about in a few weeks' time - is key to succeeding in most, if not all, walks of life. Coming in to work with the right attitude and mentality, without letting one failure define the rest of your career is possibly the most positive mindset to have. That’s not to say that failures should be easily forgotten. On the contrary, they should be learnt from. If you are planning for the long term, and have a clear picture of where you want to be, it is important to care; treat each place you work as a career and not just a one off temporary job. ‘I am heavily involved in student recruitment and since a large percentage of Ensors partners trained with the firm, one of our key messages is that if you work hard and are committed, you treat the journey as a career and not just a job - There is no reason why you can’t get to partner!’.

If you are looking to begin your own journey on the road to Partner, Zoe and the Ensors team are constantly on the look out for talented qualified staff to join their growing team. They have a number of live vacancies, some of which can be found here, but are also open to receiving speculative CVs. If the perfect role for you is not currently being advertised over at Ensors, it is still a good idea to send in your current CV and let the team know what roles you are interested in.

If you are starting out on your career path and have aspirations of becoming a Chartered Accountant, you will be happy to know that Ensors are currently recruiting for their 2023 training pathways, which will start enrolment in January and September next year.

Meet the 35 Under 35 Winners

Welcome to our new series where we meet and interview those listed in the recent 35 Under 35, highlighting the young talent in the Accountancy sector.

In this article we discuss Dominic Noakes’ career path into accountancy, his current role at Top 30 Firm Haysmacintyre LLP, as well as his thoughts on how cloud accountancy is empowering and creating endless opportunities.

Q1 – HELLO. CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO?

I am Dominic Noakes, a Director at Haysmacintyre, an award-winning firm of Chartered Accountants and Tax Advisors.

Q2 – WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY TO DATE? FROM THE MOMENT YOU DECIDED TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT TO PASSING YOUR ACCA EXAMS, WE’D LIKE TO KNOW HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW.

I suspect like many Accountants in practice today, I wasn’t always certain I wanted to become an Accountant!

I studied Accounting and Finance at university, but after graduating I undertook a Masters in Sports Business Finance as I wanted to pursue a career in two of my main passions – sport and finance.

After graduating with distinction, I found good opportunities in the sporting world limited, so I decided to build a long-term career in the accounting profession after learning more about the ACCA, which particularly appealed to me as I saw it as industry and internationally focused.

I enrolled myself onto the ACCA and an opportunity arose at a small local accounting practice. I was self-taught and self-funded, which further motivated me to pass all the exams first time!

In my experience you are usually required to work across many areas of accounting in a small practice, which was great for me starting out in my career. I gained a solid grounding in the basics of accounting, tax, company secretarial and payroll.

After qualifying within 3 years and working up to a Finance Manager level, I decided to move to central London and a much bigger practice, when I joined Haysmacintyre in 2016.

Since then, I have been very fortunate to learn from many great people. I have managed a diverse and often challenging portfolio comprising predominantly small and often fast-growing companies.

In April 2021 I was promoted to Director and now lead several strategic firm projects.

Q3 - WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT YOUR PARTICULAR AREA OF THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION?

I love that I am able to work with many companies at the same time, which has given me a huge amount of exposure to different industries, services, and ways of operating.

Although I’m now more specialised in my area of accountancy, every day has a new client challenge or opportunity. I love the fast pace and strong relationships I have forged and the client facing aspect, where I have become a trusted advisor to many growing businesses.

Q4 – WE KNOW THAT CLOUD ACCOUNTING ADOPTION IS WIDESPREAD; WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE NOW?

Even now I have seen statistics that would shock many in terms of how many companies still do not use cloud technology and software!

Cloud technology used correctly enhances automation, integration, and collaboration. This means accountants can spend more time on value-add work, advisory services, and engagement with clients. But we are only able to do this with the right data, structure, and processes.

I am a huge advocate of changing outdated accounting stereotypes; by speaking frequently with my clients, offering real time, data lead insights and much more than a traditional ‘once a year’ service to clients. Cloud accounting is a big enabler of this!

Q5 – WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU ARE FACING RIGHT NOW?

Keeping pace with evolving technology is demanding as there is so much noise and choice in the industry. Knowing which apps and software to use and recommend to clients is time consuming, requires energy to implement and get buy in from all stakeholders. My team are tackling this challenge by increasing our investment in technology and we have implemented dedicated project teams.

Equally challenging right now is attracting and retaining good people. Probably more so now than I have ever experienced. I feel there are several reasons for this; one of the main catalysts is the changing expectations of ‘GenZ’ and people in general in the post pandemic era. I believe the changing landscape is largely positive and I’m a big proponent of flexible working.

We are all striving to upskill our team, taking a flexible approach, and empowering staff to take control of their own future!

Q6 – WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO BE EVEN BETTER?

I am a driven and ambitious person, but my son and daughter inspire me to be a great role model and a better person every day. Life is too short not to throw yourself into it!

Q7 – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS LOOKING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ACCOUNTANCY?

I wouldn’t want to change my university experience because I grew as a person with the independence my time at university gave me.

However, I don’t think a university degree should be considered essential for a career in accountancy. In my experience, many of the best accountants I have worked with do not hold university degrees and it is often the case that earlier entry into work gives people a jumpstart.

Q8 – WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN

Be kind to people and treat people how you would like to be treated. I am far more impressed by how people treat others.

View the full list of 35 Under 35 Winners here

Celebrating Black History Month

October is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions of black people in the UK and on the world stage. Black History Month was first marked in the UK in October 1987. 

Entering its 35th year of celebration, Black History Month 2022 UK runs throughout the month of October. This year’s theme, Time for Change: Action Not Words, focuses on the double-burden black people carry: experiencing racism and discrimination and then being expected to fix the problem themselves. The event encourages people to get involved by taking action using the ‘see something, say something’ idea of tackling racism.  

Everyone can participate in Black History Month by championing, and celebrating diversity in the workplace, and embracing its theme through demonstrating inclusivity and challenging bad behaviours. Check out the information and resources available at https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/ 

International Black History Month (IBHM) organisation is exploring the black British community through their ‘Sharing Journeys’ feature find out more at https://www.ibhm-uk.org/black-history-month-uk.  

If you prefer to engage with IBHM through reading, then there are a number of good reads through the book recommendations initiative for Black History Month. Included in the list is ‘A Visible Man’ by Edward Enninful – “I set out to bring the 'othered' to the table. We're here to inspire and give people something to dream about as well as a sense of the possible here and now.” 

Black history is everyone's history as we are all global citizens. The victor gets to tell history, but this approach creates blindspots and blinkers. So it’s time we took those off and celebrated all of the continued contributions black Britons are making in the UK. 

Explore the Black History Month homepage here. 

View the Events across Essex here: https://essexcdp.com/bhm2022/

35 Under 35: Winners 2022

Our 35 Under 35 rankings, in partnership with Accountancy Age, showcase the Accountancy industry's rising talent and highlights the young UK professionals who are making great contributions to both their firms and their fields.

Here is the list of the 35 winners for 2022 in alphabetical order. Congratulations to all those who entered! The standard this year was incredibly high and all entrants should be proud of being nominated and standing out as leaders in their industry.

To visit the Accountancy Age article, please click here

Mark Adderley

Manager, Crowe UK

Mark Adderley’s career continues to go from strength to strength at Crowe and is an important part of its team. He has been pivotal in growing the firms national Solicitors Accounts Rules team and leads training and development on this sector for the firm, including scoping the firm’s methodology and best practice.

Adderley is an Executive Council Member for the ILM which has helped facilitate growth in this sector for the firm. He spends a lot of his time developing team members and leads on the office training as well as one to one training with members of the team to ensure that they develop in their career and benefit from his guidance. Adderley leads from Crowe’s Midlands office as an office champion for its LGTBQ+ & Allies Network and also is part of the Crowes National ED&I Steering Group whereby he continues to provide insights into offering a diverse and inclusive place to work.

Crowe’s team is made up of people from many cultures and backgrounds and Adderley has been vital in organising events to help celebrate those backgrounds. He made manager at an early age and is one of the youngest members of Crowe’s manager group. He has an excellent career ahead of him and his colleagues at Crowe believe he will excel in growing the firm and continuing to develop those around him.

Sara Andrews

Partner, Haines Watts

Since joining as a manager in 2018, Sara Andrew’s impact and influence has been felt across the Haines Watts Group. She has played an integral part of the North East’s organic growth, leads the group’s specialist incentives and reliefs (I&R) team, has pioneered the North East’s social value strategy, and is leading the charge on innovation and new ways of working across the firm.

In recognition of her leadership, ambition and vision beyond her day-to-day role, she quickly progressed to associate partner and was promoted to partner in early 2022. She has grown the I&R team headcount from 5 to 25 and developed new specialisms. She plays a hands-on role supporting the team’s career development, drawing upon her learnings from the firm’s Leadership Development Programme. Her coaching and mentoring has resulted in 12 internal promotions across the team. With Sara at the helm, the team has helped organisations access over £105m in tax relief – a critical source of cashflow throughout the pandemic.

Andrews has spearheaded the region’s social value strategy, which involved partnering with a CIO to support young people with their employability skills. This entailed delivering workshops on LinkedIn, CV writing and mock interviews, alongside fundraising for the organisation. She regularly takes part in Newcastle and Northumbria University’s employability weeks to inspire and educate the next generation on forging a career path in the industry.

Holding an enviable reputation with businesses and external stakeholders in relation to I&R. She regularly lectures and holds seminars for business leaders, industry bodies, and professional advisors. She takes a leading role in Haines Watts’ R&D committee, ensuring the firm maintains the highest of standards whilst educating business owners on the implication of regulatory changes.  She also led on a significant project to streamline the firm’s approach to R&D claims, overseeing a six-figure investment into a bespoke claim management system.

Andrews is currently undertaking an innovation project in collaboration with other Haines Watts offices, researching client service in a high-growth environment. Conducting quantitative and qualitative research with stakeholders to understand how the firm and wider industry can respond to the changing needs of businesses in the face of modern working practices. With a focus on further growth, Andrews is seizing the opportunity of change in the R&D industry to recruit the very best people to guide clients through new standards and guidelines.

John Atkins

Partner, Larking Gowen

John Atkins leads on trainee support at a major independent firm, and looks after the recruitment, training and development of an increasingly large number of student accountants. He works very closely in partnership with his training provider First Intuition and is constantly pushing for more effective ways to support the trainees in his care.

He also works very well with his internal team and understands the specific issues being faced by many of his trainees at an individual level. Atkins seems to balance the strategic and the operational extremely well. He approaches everything in a very positive and enthusiastic manner, always with the best interest of his students at heart. He also makes efforts to get involved in the local business community and is an increasingly important part of the Norwich professional scene.

Natalie Binstead-Wey

Founder & CEO, BW Business Accountants & Advisers

Natalie Binstead-Wey launched BW Business Accountants & Advisers in April 2021 and since then the practice has gone from a standing start to having worked with nearly 30 clients in year one, a turnover of £45k and a profit after tax of £15k. All of this was achieved with Natalie working just three days a week for the business.

BW is founded on the foundations of community, sustainability and diversity, meaning that she chooses to put people and the planet ahead of profit. In line with these core values, BW has donated 150 days of childhood education and sponsored several local initiatives to support the Bristol community. BW was included in the AccountingWeb Class of 2021 as one of the year’s most successful start up practices and has recently been shortlisted for the Sole Practitioner of the Year award at the Accounting Excellence awards.

Alongside running BW, she has taught on the Accounting & Finance undergraduate degree programme at UWE and brought real life practice experience to the classroom. She has supported her students to run the university’s pro bono clinic and provided approximately 20 hours of pro bono accountancy services to small businesses in Bristol as well as providing invaluable work experience for undergraduate students.

In addition, she was the ICAEW West of England president for 2021-22, a role which involves representing the 5,500 ICAEW members in the region. As ICAEW West of England President, she has supported chartered accountants in her region to adapt to life during and after the pandemic.

Throughout the year, she and the wider ICAEW West of England committee engaged with members on key local matters, connecting people from the same location or who share common challenges in similar sectors. She has also supported a small team of local ACA students to reinvigorate the student society in order to provide networking opportunities to local students throughout their ACA studies, something which will help to develop the next generation of accountants.

Binstead-Wey has established herself as key player in the accounting world, through the work she is doing for her clients and by putting sustainability at the heart of everything she does. Natalie is also a positive role model for aspiring accountants and has sought to inspire the next generation of accountants by demonstrating the value that accountants can add to their clients and to society.

Isobelle Bristol

Adviser, Old Mill

Issobel ‘Izzy’ Bristol gained her AAT, ATT and ACA qualifications within seven years. At 21, she was selected to join the Old Mill’s Junior Adviser programme and, at 25, now sits as Senior Accountant and Adviser with the firm.

Izzy has a passion for speaking to clients and an aptitude in finding solutions for their problems. She believes “accounting doesn’t need to be dull” and her methods and techniques has gained her a large portfolio of loyal clients and admirers, demonstrating age is not an issue, and consistently receiving high levels of satisfactory feedback.

She has worked hard to ensure accounting isn’t just something you have to do as a business owner. She believes it should be something that aids decision making and planning. She has brought this enthusiasm and passion to her clients and the team around her.

Izzy’s unique contribution to the industry is her ability to assess future efficiencies and opportunities and bring them to fruition for the whole firm to benefit. She works in the commercial team at Old Mill and has played a pivotal role in creating and bringing to market a new digital package based offering to small businesses.

The way accountancy is changing with the introduction of MTD is something she sees as a massive step forward for the industry, and having been involved with Xero since 2015, she has grown the digital business within the firm by training digital business champions. She is currently in the process of reviewing the accounts preparation procedures in the team to see where further efficiencies can be made.

Izzy has also pushed hard to bring in her environmental and social responsibilities into the workplace, for instance getting most of her clients to adopt paperless transactions. Not only does it help the environment, but she has proved it is a more efficient process for Old Mill and our clients.

Most recently, Izzy has been asked to become involved in the recruitment process, transferring to others the passion and talent that she has demonstrated over her career. The need for more female role models in accountancy is something she is particularly focused on and takes time to showcase her own experiences and career path to inspire others.

Yuan Chen

Senior Manager, PwC

Yuan Chen joined PwC Assurance in 2014 as a graduate and qualified as an ICAEW chartered accountant, specialising in insurance external audits with an extensive portfolio of experience. Going beyond just delivering her own audits, she has maximised the global network of talent by creating opportunities and upskilling offshore PwC teams to support across Solvency II regulatory audits, a team model successfully operating into its fifth year.

In addition, since taking on the lead role for implementing the PwC Distributed Delivery Model in the insurance practice, she has demonstrated exceptional success in driving the client quality agenda through greater standardisation of good practices and automation.

Using her insurance technical expertise, Chen developed new technology tools that automate Solvency II regulatory audit processes, which reduced tasks from taking several days to manually complete into mere minutes for any client. The success of her innovations have been shared across PwC network firms looking to replicate these new ways of working.

Chen has continued to take action to build an inclusive workplace. In her role as a PwC Colourbrave Champion she advocated on issues impacting people of colour and helped organise open conversations about race and mental health across offices during the Covid-19 lockdowns. She continues to champion staff well-being as a career coach and a people representative in the Insurance audit practice. In 2022, Chen was shortlisted in the WeAreTheCity Rising Stars in insurance in recognition of her contributions within the industry.

Ben Chernoff

Director, Davis Grant

In just over a decade, Ben Chernoff has risen from a trainee to the director of one of the South East’s most innovative independent accountancy firms, Davis Grant. Promoted from his position as a senior manager to director two years ago, Chernoff has a fast-growing client portfolio, made up predominantly of SME businesses, particularly those within the property and recruitment sectors.

Aged just 28, his rapidly growing client base is thanks to his approach to assisting clients. He prides himself on building close relationships with the individuals and businesses he supports, to the point that they feel they have an active financial director as part of their team. Chernoff also works within Davis Grant’s technology and start-up team, which advises clients on research and development (R&D), the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI), business plans, cash flow forecasting and cash management.

His interest in technology extends to his passion for automation and the cloud. He was heavily involved in further digitising Davis Grant’s accounting systems, including moving to cloud-based working papers and testing new software and apps. This played an essential role in migrating clients to the systems needed to comply with the Making Tax Digital regime.

Outside of his work with clients, Chernoff works tirelessly to support the firm’s recruitment and staff development process to ensure that Davis Grant has the staff numbers to grow, while still providing exceptional services to clients.

Lorenzo Coletta

Associate Director, Ascendis

With an eye on the future, Lorenzo Coletta is leading the development of several innovative services at one of the Northwest’s fastest-growing firms, Ascendis, and its unique Cryptoasset offering. Coletta has worked incredibly hard to grow this new specialism in a short time and recently assisted in the sale of leading NFT platform, KnownOrigin, to eBay in a multi-million-pound deal.

He helped Ascendis grow from its three founders to a team of 25 in under 18 months by developing and implementing systems that kept up with its exponential growth. He also acted as the company’s de-facto finance director, preparing budgets and financial models, as well as creating an accounting system to accommodate the company’s receipts and payments in both crypto and fiat currencies – all of which played an important role in securing the sale of this business. Throughout this deal, Coletta punched above his weight to help this small start-up’s acquisition by a multi-national giant.

Coletta is working hard to help grow the business to be one of the largest in the Northwest and cement Ascendis’ reputation as the “go-to” firm for technology start-ups and crypto accounting. Due to his skills and expertise, pro-activity, work ethic, professionalism, and popularity amongst staff and clients, together with his ambitions, the directors of Ascendis have given him the opportunity to acquire an equity stake in the wider Ascendis group.

Craig Ewins-Jones

Manager, Rickard Luckin

From the moment Craig Ewins-Jones joined Rickard Luckin in 2011 as a trainee, it was clear that he had a distinct, personable style that enabled him to build strong relationships quickly across the firm, according to his colleagues. Whilst being a self-motivated and driven individual, he continued to balance the needs of others whilst successfully training to become an ACA. It was no surprise when he joined the firm’s social committee, and ever since he has continued to drive and inject energy into bringing people together across the firm.

Ewins-Jones progressed in his career and joined the management team in 2019, immediately taking over the line management of a team in hugely challenging circumstances. A team who had experienced the tragic and premature loss with the sudden passing of a hugely valued colleague and friend to many across the firm. His supporting and nurturing style was the “rock” the team needed, and his interpersonal skills were worthy of someone with many more years of life experience. 

He is an advocate of the ACA and a champion of the career opportunities generally within the profession; from taking on the chair role of the ICAEW Student & Young Professionals South Essex Group to an example in the last few months of encouraging people in his network to make a career change to train at the firm. Becoming a chartered accountant is a huge career success for anyone, but everyone at Richard Luckin is hugely proud of him in taking this to another level in his management role and supporting and inspiring others to follow in the journey with him.

Dan Firmager

Audit Senior, Kreston Reeves

Dan Firmager’s personal purpose is to “educate others to grow an environmental conscience and embrace diversity so we can make the world a more considerate place” and through his involvement with internal initiatives at Kreston Reeves he could not be doing any more to further this goal.

He joined the firm in 2017 as a school leaver and in the five years since has qualified, become a trustee of a national charity and led our internal sustainability initiative to achieve carbon neutral status. He took on the project himself, taking a proposal to our management board and then he coordinated a team of people at Kreston Reeves to achieve our carbon neutral status.

Besides the leadership skills needed to achieve such a thing, he has since represented the firm at internal and external events to display what we have achieved and educate others to do the same. This encouraged a new level of engagement with our people and clients who have come to us to collaborate with and get involved.

Firmager has also led the firm’s drive to engage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to encourage us to be a more socially responsible organisation. After working with a team to decide on four UN SDGs to focus on, in line with the ICAEW suggestion, he took it upon himself to develop a way of communicating our achievements and our goals with our stakeholders and developed a first ever Corporate Social Responsibility Impact Report. This was a first for the firm and his work has encouraged us all to think more about how we must behave in the modern world, including our clients, whilst maintaining a commercial mindset.

At an early stage in his career, he showed he was able to manage a portfolio of clients. In recognition of all of his achievements to various initiatives and with his client’s, Dan was awarded the firm’s Student of the Year award in 2020.

James Gilliland

Partner, Lubbock Fine

James Gilliland qualified as a chartered accountant in 2015 with a small Glasgow-based firm and joined Lubbock Fine in late 2016 as a senior within the business services team to manage several complex outsourcing assignments. He was quickly recognised for the new ideas he brought to the team and was given additional responsibilities due to his work ethic, pragmatic approach in problem solving and ability to present solutions to clients simply.

Gilliland has risen through the ranks very quickly at Lubbock Fine and in just five years was appointed partner in December 2021. He works with a wide range of clients across sectors including technology, investment funds and property investment and development. He often manages the reporting for UK subsidiaries of larger group companies, reporting to the parent accounting function in Europe or the US and often becomes a vital part of the client’s finance team.

Throughout his time at the firm, he has played a pivotal role in growing the services offered by the business services team, with the team doubling in size in the last five years. He currently leads much of the day-to-day management of the team and drives recruitment, staff development, process and system improvements.

Gilliland offers fantastic support to his team and is known as the go-to person when a problem arises. He provides mentoring to the team, from new trainees through to managers, and encourages the team to develop in regular progression reviews to achieve their own personal goals. He was awarded the title of the most valuable player (MVP) at Lubbock Fine’s most recent annual away day, as a testament to the service he offers clients and the contribution he brings to both the team and wider firm.

Franki Hackett

Head of Audit and Ethics, Engine B

Franki Hackett makes a massive contribution to the accountancy field as a thought leader both in and out of Engine B. She has become a major voice in the digitisation of audit and contributed to industry voices like Accountancy Age, Accountancy Today, ICAEW Insights, Business Insider and the Fintech Times.

Following a career in the third sector Hackett changed lanes and trained as an auditor at the NAO, where she went on to lead the data and analytics team, marrying both technical audit and technological skills in a unique role. She joined Engine B in August 2020 as the head of audit and ethics and has become one of the key leaders of the business.

Outside of her day job she sits on ICAEW advisory groups on ethics and technology, has a growing academic career following Research Fellowships at the European University Institute and King’s College London, and is a school governor. An expert in accounting technology, Hackett leads Engine B’s product development by translating the needs of accountants and their firms into technological solutions.

She is unparalleled in her ability to support the tech team in turning complex solutions into simple interfaces for the auditor to use. It’s fair to say that customers love her, this is not only because she speaks their language and that she is always able to answer queries and suggest solutions, but also because she is thoughtful, empathetic, and enthusiastic.

Becky Hartley

Associate Director, BDO

Becky Hartley has worked for BDO for 10 years after joining the firm’s graduate programme. In this short space of time, she has been fast-tracked to associate director and now works closely with partners on an international level.

Harley is in the tax dispute resolution team under the private client services group in London where she helps clients resolve complex tax disputes. She has demonstrated in her work to date that she is able to deal with a large variety of highly technical tax disputes and often presents on technical tax topics to the wider firm. Her areas of specialism include transparency and “offshore” disclosures as well as tax avoidance issues.

She is a CTA member and STEP Affiliate working towards becoming a full member. She is well-established in the industry for her work in the tax disputes world. She also represents the wider BDO Global network regularly. She spent three years working with BDO in Singapore and has built up a vast international network in the private client and tax arena and is well-known for providing UK tax advice in the Asia market, in particular in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Hartley represents BDO at international events such as STEP Global and STEP Asia. She regularly travels to Asia and Guernsey to represent BDO and present and discuss UK tax hot topics with intermediaries.

Chris Hession 

Audit Partner, BK Plus

Chris Hession joined the EY audit department in 2014, following a successful internship and having graduated from the University of Birmingham with a first class honours degree. It was during his four years at EY that he discovered his passion for the SME market; ensuring that all clients are provided with the highest audit quality and the support to grow their business. As part of this, he transitioned over to regional accountancy firm Baldwins, now known as Azets. It was here that he aided the national transition to paperless working in all aspects of audit, educating staff as to both the environmental and economic benefits of this approach.

In 2021, Hession was headhunted to become a partner at new start-up BK Plus, responsible for leading their audit department nationally. Contributing to the operational direction of the business, they have rapidly become a £10m turnover business with six offices across the country and c. 150 employees. Audit specific, he has overseen the growth of the entire division from nothing to c. £1m of recurring fees, with clients ranging in size from £1m to £100m+ in turnover.

Hession manages a team of ten audit staff nationally, responsible for their personal and professional development. He takes immense pride in his grass roots approach to recruitment ensuring that the firm gives opportunities to local school leavers and graduates and allowing all staff the opportunity to further their careers within a supportive environment.

He is a member of the ICAS charities panel, actively contributing to the guidance issued to both members and not-for-profit entities; ensuring that all parties feel supported in their adherence to the reporting standards. Away from work, he is a keen supporter and advocate of a number of charities; in one instance, travelling to Africa to support them with their financial planning to accelerate their future growth.

Alex Hird

Director of Technical and Innovation, Azets

In 2016, as an audit supervisor at Garbutt & Elliott, Alex Hird identified that clients needed support with the more unusual areas of accounting, and also that data was to play a greater role in the future. As a result, he began to create an entirely new service line which would become the Technical and Innovation team. Despite the firm having no expertise, Hird was keen to use his double award-winning status from ICAEW final exams to deliver value for clients, which began with IFRS reporting and advisory, IPO support, share option valuations, and purchase price allocations, all of which were then audited by top firms with positive outcomes.

The team was instrumental in moving Garbutt & Elliott up the value chain, and instead of smaller audit clients Hird helped to win AIM Plc’s for annual reporting, a variety of household name clients, and both win and deliver support with several IPO’s taking the team’s client base nationally despite physical presence only in Yorkshire.

Since Garbutt & Elliot were acquired by Azets, Hird continues to be instrumental in the growth of the Technical Accounting service line as it is rolled out nationally. It’s gone from nothing to expected revenues of £1m in the year to September 2022, with similar contributions to other service lines. The team recently won ‘Team of the Year’ at the Yorkshire Accountancy Awards, and a manager selected and developed by Hird was the runner up in ‘Young Accountant of the Year’ at the awards.

Sam Inkersole

Tax Manager, BKL

Sam Inkersole joined BKL as an audit trainee in 2015. He pursued a passion for tax by moving teams and was promoted to tax manager in 2021. He completed the CIOT CTA exams with first-time passes, including one of the country’s highest marks for the Taxation of Major Corporates paper.

He works closely with other BKL teams including corporate finance and tax due diligence. He has taken on family investment companies (FICs) as a specialist area. In his first year as a manager, Inkersole won over 20 new clients for BKL. Rather than sticking to well-worn taxation paths, he has specialised in cryptoasset tax, combining what he finds interesting with something that diversifies BKL.

He has spoken at a 2021 Digital Asset Tax Issues webinar with colleagues from UK and US firms, and BKL videos on crypto tax & accounting. Inkersole won ‘Rising Star’ at the 2022 Taxation Awards by a unanimous judging decision. According to junior colleagues, “the way [Inkersole] summarises legislation makes tax easier and more interesting” and has inspired others to take the CTA.

Emma Jones

Head of Audit, Fortus Business Advisors

Emma Jones quickly developed at Fortus, progressing from audit manager in 2015 to head of audit by 2019. During that time, she has expanded that role to take a national lead for the business’ audit and assurance (A&A) service line, bringing together several regional teams into a single centre of excellence.

Jones has a strong development ethos, playing a key role in the Fortus’ school leaving initiative since its inception in 2015, bringing through several exceptional team members who have flourished both in the A&A team, as well as those who have branched out into other areas within the wider business. It is an initiative that she continues to champion and develop today with a number of new recruits joining the team this year. This ethos and focus on culture within the team has driven remarkably low staff turnover rates. Feedback throughout has pointed to her open and honest working style, strong emphasis on trust, accountability, enjoyment and flexibility, with every member (regardless of seniority) empowered to contribute to the development and evolution of the service line.

On the technical front, Jones is often at the forefront of technical discussion within the business, leading many of the firm’s larger, more complex audit engagements. This is coupled with her continued push on audit quality, leading a number of initiatives with the team on training and development to ensure this is at the core. In addition to the respect held by her peers, she is also extremely approachable and helpful across a wide range of technical areas. However busy she is, Jones always makes time for colleagues, and effectively gets the job done. A role model for many, according to her colleagues.

Charlotte Lishman

Audit and Accounts Manager, Grunberg & Co

Charlotte Lishman is a driven and ambitious accountant, who aims to ensure clients always feel supported and confident in both their financial reporting and day-to-day operations. Having trained with Grunberg & Co, she went on to become an audit & accounts manager where she supported the practice’s partners in managing a diverse portfolio of clients, ranging from self-employed or newly incorporated businesses to established groups of companies with a global presence.

Lishman has been heavily involved in developing and introducing new processes to ensure clients’ financial reporting meets their own needs and third-party obligations. She has also played a key role in previous transactions handled by the firm, helping clients to achieve their exit goals and ambitions. During her time with the firm, she has been responsible for leading many large and multi-national group audits, mentoring junior members of staff and has overseen the preparation of unincorporated accounts.

Having taken a year out in the previous year, she has jumped seamlessly straight back into portfolio management, while also taking on additional responsibility in her new capacity as associate director for Grunberg’s fast-growing cloud team. In this capacity, she has delivered drive, direction and support, which has helped with the rapid onboarding of many new clients and created a cohesive team.

Over the next 10 years, she has big plans to expand her portfolio and enhance the service the practice offers. This includes further improving team management and bringing in some of the biggest technological changes, to further bridge the gap between the firm’s accounts and cloud teams. She also plans to expand the bookkeeping work conducted for clients to incorporate work that has historically been left to year-end adjustments and in doing so provide much more accurate and insightful support.

Ross Lomas

Partner, Saffery Champness

Ross Lomas joined Saffery Champness back in 2008 to start his ACA training contract with the firm, having completed AAT at a smaller firm locally. He immediately settled into the team and began forging his career at Saffery.

Lomas has since been working hard building his experience, knowledge and skills as he has worked through the ranks at Saffery. This has included being part of tender teams that have won some of the largest, most prestigious, and complex clients in the firm, and then onboarding them and successfully delivering their audits and supporting work.

Through the pandemic he was leading the office response in keeping up to date with the fast-changing news and information on grants and other support measures, keeping close to his clients but also providing content for the rest of the office to share. This something our clients valued, and Lomas received some excellent feedback from client through this period. He was also doing this whilst studying for CTA and balancing life with a young family which is an extraordinary achievement.

Saffery was delighted when he was made partner earlier this year, which was fully deserved for the hard work and dedication he has shown to his team, clients and the wider firm. Lomas has made an excellent start to his life as partner, winning several new clients and taking on the staff partner role in looking after around 75 staff. He is a real asset to the firm and someone who will help lead this office for many years to come.

David McIntosh

Apprentice Management Consultant, KPMG

David McIntosh is pioneering a new path at KPMG as the first apprentice to specialise in management consultancy in Scotland. His work has contributed to positive outcomes for communities across Scotland during the pandemic. This includes his involvement with the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect programme. McIntosh worked with senior government directors, leading a pilot scheme allowing schools to return during the pandemic only three months into his role.

“David played a key part in the development of a new testing pathway for the asymptomatic COVID testing of teachers in Scottish schools. I wish him all the best for his career ahead,” Fiona McDiarmid, director, Scottish Government Social mobility, said.

McIntosh joined KPMG in 2017 and proactively established the firm’s social mobility network in Scotland in 2019. He is now the founder and chair of KPMG’s UK Social Mobility Network leading 650+ colleagues, six workstreams and 30 committee members whilst representing the firm globally on Social Mobility. He has managed to balance all of his achievements alongside qualifying in AAT level 3 and 4 as well as his CIMA.

In 2020, David met with Her Majesty The Queen on a video call to speak about his own journey that went viral.

“David’s willingness to talk about the barriers he faced growing up, and his passionate advocacy for seeing potential, not background, has increased the profile of socio-economic inclusion within KPMG. We are proud to have him as an ambassador and he would be a worthy winner of this award,” Sarah Atkinson, CEO, Social Mobility Foundation Podcasting, said.

Drawing on his experiences of poor visibility of career paths to those from low socio-economic backgrounds, McIntosh runs his own self-development podcast ‘The Development’, which is listened to in over 60 countries. He hosts guests as prolific as the Founder of Reebok, Levi Roots, Seth Godin, Premier League, and Netflix stars. He provides an online directory of role models to be inspired by.

These achievements led David to win Best New Apprentice at the MCA awards, 2020 BPP UK Apprentice of the Year and ranking #20 in the Scottish Business Insider 35 under 35.

Callie Marles

Partner, Bambridge Accountants

Callie Marles has worked for over 10 years at Bambridge Accountants holding a portfolio of over 3000 clients. She has a 100% success rate with both the US and UK tax filing seasons. Not only has she handled some of the most complex US/UK tax circumstances, but she also prides herself on her ability to make the filing and any advice understandable and reassuring so that clients always feel confident with their filings.

On top of her impressive success with clients, Marles has also embraced her role as a mentor and manager of new entry tax assistants. Offering the highest level of tax training and support to up-and-coming accountants. She continues to enroll on trainings and participates in daily research to ensure she remains the top of her game and up to date with all the latest tax developments in both the US and UK tax systems.

Rachel Martin

Co-Founder, StriveX and Accountant She

Rachel Martin is a TEDx speaker, a content creator, an author, an introvert, a business owner and most importantly… an accountant! As the director of StriveX and the founder of Accountant She, Martin has done tremendous work towards her mission of helping small business owners to overcome the barriers to entry and changing the perception of the accountant.

Over the past 18 months, she has scaled StriveX, a cloud-based accountancy and tax advisory firm, from 50 to 500 clients. What began as a firm ran from her dining room table with her partner is now a growing team of 8 employees. Both the service offered and the hiring reflects how she wants accountants to be seen, which is approachable, passionate, enthusiastic and kind.

The firm’s motto is “we rise by lifting others” and that has been a big part of its rapid growth. Embodying the firm’s motto in every way has been a big part of its success. Martin goes above and beyond to support her clients success and offers stellar employee benefits that go beyond financial incentives such as an EAP scheme for mental health and wellbeing, full costs for studying covered, and paid study leave.

Her work to change the accounting industry does not end with StriveX. When she was a young female apprentice, Martin felt that she had no female role models to look up to. The stereotype of the accountant was an elderly white male – something that she couldn’t relate to. She wanted people to be able to relate to their accountants and for more women to consider it as a career opportunity. It was from this desire that Accountant She was born.

Today, Accountant She is a community that is made up of over 10,000 accountants and small business owners. Martin creates content to educate and support members of the community on her YouTube Channel and Instagram. She is also committed to supporting the small businesses in her community to overcome the barriers to entry such as access to funding and finance, imposter syndrome and lack of financial advice/knowledge.

Grant Miles

Director, Murrells

Grant Miles has revolutionised Murrells accountancy practice. His biggest strength was in change management, where the office has turned from a paper-based office to completely digital. With no formal workflow management and clients always paying at the year-end for accounts, a practice management system (accountancy manager) along with a variety of technology has been implemented to turn Murrells into a high tech, modern practice.

Since taking over as director, he has grown the client base at Murrells by 15% in his first year.  He has spent considerable time with the existing team at Murrells and changed the whole dynamic of the team. Under previous ownership of Murrells the owner would manage all client relations. Miles has torn up the rule book at the firm and encouraged the team to take on the client relationships. The team are now empowered to manage the clients and have a much deeper relationship as a result. Clients now all have a minimum of two people to get hold of as a direct support, as opposed to the one. Miles has managed and brought growth, stability, structure and a highly engaged team to the forefront for Norwich accounting. He only qualified ACA in 2019 and is an ambitious director who shows no signs of slowing, and he is only now 30.

Jack Moore

Partner, Page Kirk

Jack Moore made Partner at Page Kirk, a firm with a revered reputation and a rich history, in April 2021 at the age of just 29 years old. His career started at a small local firm in 2010 straight out of sixth form before becoming AAT qualified in 2012 and ACA qualified in 2014.

His mind ticks like an entrepreneur and business person and, equipped with more than 12 years of accounting practice experience, one of his goals as an accounting partner is to build a platform from which both he and his team can give more valuable and proactive advice to business owners by having live and accurate financial and non-financial information at their fingertips.

Traditionally, accounting firms are reactive rather than truly proactive, relying on annual or perhaps quarterly results being prepared after the fact, but Moore believes that with advancements in technology in the fintech space, and with the right team in place to implement new technology, he can help Page Kirk blaze a trail into this new digital era for accountancy. He will help pioneer their efforts whilst establishing the firm as a leader in this type of advisory service, which will afford business owners an accurate financial view of their business, on demand, at any time.

His primary focus within business is the people who he works with, at every level of the organisation, and he always makes himself available for frank discussions and genuine career and personal advice. He enjoys that people feel that his personality is friendly and approachable, whilst at the same time commanding one’s respect by leading by example. As a result, people feel that they can trust him to lean on in times of need or when they need somebody to give them honest and insightful advice.

In his first year as a partner, he was instrumental in helping Page Kirk achieve the best year it has recorded in its last 10 years in terms of total fee income. This is testament to his ability to help bring growth to the firm by bringing new clients on board. He has quickly built up a bank of clients who contribute over a six-figure sum in terms of annual gross recurring fees, and this continues to grow month-on-month. The future of accountancy is fast approaching, and it is forward thinkers like Moore who will make a world of difference for their business clients.

Ryan Moore

Audit Partner, Randell & Payne

Ryan Moore became partner at Randall & Payne in May 2022. In doing so, he became the youngest partner in the firm’s 143-year history at the age of 30 years old. Moore is an enthusiastic and driven leader who is committed and passionate about changing the public perception of the audit industry. He is proud of his achievements this year, particularly those which have had an impact on staff satisfaction in what has been a difficult and challenging year of work.

In the last year, he has continued to develop the client base at Randell & Payne and introduced technology and data analytics into the work that the audit team perform. Since joining the firm, he has successfully grown head count in the team by 15%, taking on several new trainees. In addition to being able to attract high quality resource to the team, he has successfully increased fees by >20% annually, won and delivered the firm’s biggest ever audit client and created new strategic and geographic partnerships with other firms of accountants which has seen it expand dramatically into Bristol and the South West.

In 2022, he redefined the firm’s audit strategy and delivered on a series of audit technology projects, including creating an interactive impairment analyser in Power Bi. This has been very well received from Randell & Payne’s larger corporate clients.

Outside of Randall & Payne, he has a continued interest in audit regulation and is currently a member of the Disciplinary and Regulatory Committee and the Audit Monitoring Committee at the ACCA. This year, he introduced a new staff initiative called ‘Do Something New in 2022’ encouraging staff to learn a new skill or try a new experience. The activities chosen by staff members are funded by the firm and he has been amazed to see how employees have challenged themselves this year.

Melissa Ng

Director, Alvarez and Marsal Taxand UK

Melissa Ng is a standout talent in the real estate space and by far and away the most capable individuals beneath partner, according to her colleagues. In recent months, Melissa has led on three international corporate real estate transactions for one of EQT’s funds which has led to significant contributions to the Alvarez and Marsal’s (A&M) real estate team’s growth as well as cementing the firm’s relationship with the private equity firm.

She advises a range of clients based in Asia that invest into commercial and residential real estate in the UK, from private family offices to ultra-high net worth individuals. Melissa has been become instrumental in leading the team at A&M alongside Kersten Muller since arriving at the firm in 2021. Melissa is a true inspiration to junior members of staff in how to be the best in your field and her colleagues expect she will be one of the youngest (if not the youngest) partner at A&M very soon.

Dominic Noakes

Business Support/Outsourcing Director, Haysmacintyre

Dominic Noakes is haysmacintyre’s youngest business support director. Joining as a qualified senior accountant in 2016, Noakes was identified early on as a key business driver for the firm and was fast tracked through various managerial levels to directorship in April 2021. His client portfolio can be characterised as high-growth and predominately in the technology sector. He is a key member of the firm’s largest sector – creative, media and technology (CMT), managing relationships with sponsored organisations, leading webinars, and participating in roundtables and networking events to raise the firm’s profile in the sector.

Noakes’ extensive business development activities reflect his approach to client engagement, which is open and communicative. He is a charismatic and personable business advisor, noted for his excellent client relationships and deep understanding of their businesses which has enabled him to offer invaluable insights, from cloud advisory to systems set-up and a shift towards real time information with financial reporting dashboards.

He is motivated to change outdated accounting stereotypes and is passionate about transforming the more traditional ‘once a year’ accounting service by leveraging technology and producing data-led key accounting insights for business owners and finance teams in the SME space.

He understands the importance of communicating in a way non-financially minded people can easily digest and interpret financial information being presented. His role as a highly valued and well-respected professional is evidenced by his glowing collection of client and affiliate testimonials that regard him as extremely diligent, proactive and dynamic. Due to his deserved recognition and extensive skill set, he was a natural fit to take on responsibilities beyond portfolio management.

He actively contributes to haysmacintyre’s internal activities. He is prominent in the firm’s business support training programme and is passionate about supporting the next generation of accounting leaders. By mentoring three qualified members of the team, who recently progressed to managerial roles, he offers valuable advice and guidance on ways to develop technical, professional and soft skills required in the modern world.

Jamie Seaford

Partner, Moore Kingston Smith

Jamie Seaford joined Moore Kingston Smith in 2012, becoming partner in less than 10 years at the age of 31. He specialises in technology and financial services, partnering with the London Mayor’s International Business Programme to advise and support UK start-ups and scale-ups on their growth and international expansion.

He is a key member of the firm’s Strategic Growth Services team, supporting SMEs on their growth journeys. He makes a big impact on smaller OMBs, helping them improve business performance in a harmonious way from incorporation to the point that they go to market. An innovator with his finger on the pulse regarding technology, Seaford proactively introduced new audit automation software to the firm, creating efficiencies for the team and improving the speed and quality of audits.

He was part of the team that won the 2018 British Accountancy Awards Large Firm Innovation of the Year award, which recognised Moore Kingston Smith’s excellence in their inventive approach to strategy and client service provision. He also was selected by Moore Global for Moore Quest, a leadership programme offering participants strategies to thrive as a leader. He attends monthly Moore Ambition sessions for future leaders with other Moore firms around the world, which focus on Harvard Business Review case studies.

During the pandemic lockdowns he organised knowledge-sharing sessions and check-ins to support engagement with his colleagues and provided structured feedback to the firm’s partners to improve overall communication.

Devaki Shanbhag

Managing Director, Pearson McKinsey

Devaki Shanbhag is a visionary and a perfectionist. She passed her ACCA at the age of 20 and began her career at a major consulting firm. After a brief period, she decided to pursue her vision and moved to a boutique accountancy firm, Pearson McKinsey, where she had the opportunity to apply her knowledge and understanding of accountancy to assist a small but diverse spectrum of clientele.  She joined as an associate, but within three years, she was practically running end to end operations at the firm under the mentorship of a seasoned partner. 

The first phase of her vision was to setup the entire practice on a cloud-based system, a strategy, which was successfully implemented and consequently proved to be a major advantage during the pandemic. To broaden sector diversity within clients, Shanbhag acquired another accountancy practice and merged it with Pearson McKinsey’s corporate structure. Currently, the firm has grown four fold and currently advises over 900 clients under her management. 

In 2019, as a proponent of financial freedom for women, she launched a program for women in rural India, who aspire for independence but do not have the resources that would allow them to reshuffle their household responsibilities. This program allows candidates to choose their hours of work and the quantum of workload they can deliver based on their respective circumstance and, the entire training is provided via cloud-based systems with local supervisors providing guidance wherever necessary.

As of 2022, Shanbhag launched a private debt fund, which aims to invest the capital in acquiring larger accountancy and tax advisory practices in London. Her venture provides clients with an opportunity to grow their capital and tax-efficiently manage their returns, all under one roof. 

Louise Sleightholm

Corporate Finance Manager, KPMG

Louise Sleightholm has gained significant experience in both practice (across audit, transaction services and most recently, corporate finance) and industry (working within the finance department at Nestle UK&I). She has managed several high-profile deals, including the IPO of The Hut Group and MADE.com.

She is also in the process of launching a female networking group, which aims to provide career support to women in finance, legal and banking. She also sits on the committee for the Collaborative Professional Network in Leeds, which aims to bring together professionals from a variety of backgrounds to share knowledge and experiences. In addition, she is passionate about the future of women in the finance sector and participates in the mentoring of students around the Leeds area to help promote more women in finance.

Jake Standing

Partner, Kreston Reeves

Jake Standing joined Kreston Reeves (then Spofforths) on a training contract in 2009, after impressing during work experience during summer and Easter breaks at university in 2017 and 2018.

He qualified as an ACA Chartered Accountant in 2012 with multiple prize wins under his belt – most notably achieving first place worldwide in the July 2012 Advanced Stage Business Reporting Exam, and first place in the Southeast for the three July 2012 Advanced Stage exams. After qualification, he left for a career with a US multinational where gained a range of new skills and experience. After a couple of years, he returned to Kreston Reeves.

Partnership was offered to Standing in 2018 at the age of 30, with sustainable growth within his client portfolio, and in 2021 he took up the role of leading the firm’s business advisory offering. He is a valued member of the Accounts & Outsourcing SMT.  With ongoing skills shortages in the audit and advisory market, Standing has used his experience in commerce to drive training in our advisory capabilities across our team in London and the Southeast, most notably in technology, access to finance, FP&A and strategic business planning.

Using his experience and skills learned as an accountant to support the local community is important to him, which is why he has been a trustee, and the treasurer, at Martlets Hospice in Brighton & Hove since 2019. He encourages people to use their knowledge to help others and is always striving to find other ways to support his community.

Eddi Taylor

Partner, Azets

Eddi Taylor joined Azets (then Wilkins Kennedy) in 2013 as a graduate trainee and quickly progressed through the ranks to become a partner in 2021 at the age of 29. Taylor prides himself on the strong relationships that he builds with his clients which allows him to give meaningful advice that really adds value to his client’s businesses. Taylor is passionate about building his team and developing others.

Taylor is also passionate about client care. He was a part of the Covid-19 response team who quickly helped the Azets’ client base adapt and manage during the pandemic and regularly speaks at local events and forums to help develop business opportunities locally. He is an advocate of local businesses and ensures his client base is made up of a diverse and local portfolio.

Ele Theochari

Director, Liberty Collins

Since specialising in R&D tax six years ago, Ele Theochari has spearheaded the rapid success of Liberty Collins, and is setting new standards for professional excellence, personalised customer service, and leadership in the sector.

Theochari’s leadership qualities were recognised early on, as was her enthusiasm and flair for developing less experienced people around her. Within a few years of entering the profession, she had assumed responsibilities for supervising and training junior colleagues at Forrest Brown. When the company was taken over by a large US company, she was chosen to brief new colleagues in Texas on the finer points of the UK’s R&D tax credits incentive.

In October 2020, she joined the fledgling Liberty Collins to grow and lead the tax function. Theochari is already recognised as an emerging talent in the sector. She was a finalist in the prestigious Tolley’s Tax Awards (‘TTA’) in the ‘Rising Star’ Category 2022. Under her leadership, along with the team, Liberty Collins has been shortlisted for Best New Tax Practice at TTA and Micro Business of the Year at the Growing Business Awards.

Theochari has built a close-knit team of staff and freelance tax advisors, and proved a motivated, dedicated and highly respected leader. Her management style is collaborative and open to encourage questions, discussion, and knowledge sharing. Happy to spend time face-to-face with clients, jump on Teams or pick up the phone, she is dedicated to helping and enthusiastic: clients really appreciate her openness and personal approach.

Clients attest that she is relatable, able to speak the language of the client’s staff whether it is a scientist in a lab, engineer working on site, or CEO at head office and can rapidly establish a warm rapport. She recognises that soft skills are as important as her technical knowledge, and she has honed them. Ele is a great communicator, able to explain the often-abstract tax rules and detailed information requirements in a way that people understand.

Tom Warner

Associate Director, Evelyn Partners

Tom Warner has rapidly risen through the ranks at Evelyn Partners (formerly Smith & Williamson. Starting in 2015 as a part-qualified ACA and being promoted to associate director in early 2022, he is a member of the firm’s Landed Estates sub-committee tasked with growing this area of the business given the specialist nature of accountancy and tax services required in this sector. He is also a member of the firm’s tax planning committee.

In the last three years, he has received the prestigious ‘tax employee of the year award’ as testament to his client service, friendly and approachable demeanour, and commitment to development of fellow staff.

Outside of his day job, Warner takes an active role in developing the accountancy industry by teaching AAT Level 4 at the local college in Salisbury and visiting his secondary school on an annual basis to speak about the industry and Evelyn Partners to Year 12 and Year 13 students (the most recent visit being in May 2022 to discuss the benefits of apprenticeships as a way into the accountancy industry).

His 2019 ICAEW Chartered Star entry discussed the fourth industrial revolution and its position within the UK accountancy industry. Warner firmly believes that there will still be a human role to fulfill and ensuring strength of ability and character in the next generation of accountants is crucial.

He is particularly focused on developing an understanding in areas where he feels he can add value or areas that he believes clients are not yet aware of. Warner is particularly interested in benefiting local charities with substantial donations being made over the last three years following awards from work.

Natasha Webber

Director, Chippendale and Clark

In 2013, Natasha Webber juggled working in administration for a car dealership, studying AAT through self-funded study and also volunteering as a Police Special Constable for Wiltshire Police.

In 2016, she started her ACCA journey into becoming a chartered certified accountant. She spent all weekends and evenings studying, completing four exams a year until she qualified in 2019. Within this time, Natasha also helped train staff members within the practice and went from accounts assistant to senior account manager in three years. Within this time, she also volunteered to be the treasurer for a local rugby team.

Following confirmation of her qualifications and authorisation to practice, Webber and her employer went into joint partnership in opening a new limited company in 2020 which would be a second branch in a new town to the existing practice.

At the age of 26, and as a new company director, she started to build the client base in this new practice whilst working full time in the other office. In 2020, as the coronavirus hit, the whole practice continued to work fiercely in serving their current client base as well as onboarding new clients who were otherwise not supported by their current accountants.

Working at Ensors Chartered Accountants

In our previous interview with a member of Ensors Chartered Accountants, Chris Aniskowicz, we detailed how you can join the firm at an entry level by utilising their trainee pathways. In this follow up we talked with Ben Jorge-Luis, Assistant Manager of the Business Services team at Ensor’s Ipswich office, about career progression, working culture, and what you can expect on a regular basis after joining the firm.

Ben has been at Ensors for over 8 years, joining the firm back in 2014 in their Corporate Services department as a student accountant. He moved to the Business Services department in 2017, where he successfully completed his Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA) qualification and became a member of the ICAEW. Ben then went on to become an Assistant Manager of the Business Services department in 2021, where he obtained his Chartered Taxation Adviser (CTA) qualification. Receiving two professional qualifications and reaching a managerial position at one of the region's’ most trusted and respected firms of Chartered Accountants in such a short span of time is a monumental achievement, but is something that is made accessible at Ensors because of their well thought out progression structure and available career prospects.

Your career path as a trainee accountant at Ensors is open and made easily traversable through regular talks with more senior staff. ‘Progression at Ensors is something that is very much earned. Regular catchups with the group Manager and Partner are a fantastic opportunity to discuss career aspirations, and then set clear targets to help work towards these goals.’ Ensors make sure to treat their employees as individuals - individuals with career aspirations and lives outside of the office - and ‘fund qualifications, training, and professional mentorships’ to help their employees reach their full potential.

As you look towards your future and where you might be in 8 years’ time, it is important to remember that the industry itself is progressing alongside you. Digitalisation has always been at the forefront of the changes we can expect in the next few years when it comes to the future of the industry.

Over the last few years there has been a real push towards cloud-based solutions, with live data feeds and technology such as OCR really taking off and helping to streamline businesses daily accounting functions. I am excited to see how these develop over the coming years, and how these can enhance existing solutions!

Post Covid (if I can say that!), a mixture of working in the office and at home – hybrid working – looks like it can be very beneficial for all involved and is here to stay. What I can say for sure is that there is significantly less paper floating around these days, which can only be a good thing!

As technology continues to develop, and HMRC slowly move along with this, there is a real push towards the live reporting of information between individuals/businesses and the UK tax authorities. As HMRC continues to push its “Making Tax Digital” initiative, over the next few years we will start to see things that were once reported annually being reported live on a monthly and quarterly basis.

Over the last few years, we have seen that a lot of our clients have moved towards a more regular involvement with their businesses, and not just the end of year compliance work. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work closely with our clients on a monthly/quarterly basis. By doing this, we can assist with their reporting to ensure they have up to date and meaningful information, which enables them to make more informed decisions daily, and this is something that clients are really valuing in the current climate!

As the industry’s landscape continues to evolve, certain skills fluctuate in their importance. For instance, IT literacy skills are becoming increasingly vital as the profession transitions into a purely digital era. However, there are also some timeless skills that will benefit you throughout your career journey, from trainee to assistant manager and beyond. Ben suggests that the best skill an accountant can have honed is their ability to communicate.

Communication is key! I think this is true no matter what level you are at, or how old you are, and while I think this is an important skill for an accountant, good communication skills are useful in all walks of life.

In the financial services industry it's extremely important that we listen to our clients and understand their needs and having the strong communication skills allows us to build the relationships with them to do this.

We are regularly working together and as part of a team at Ensors, and it's important we can communicate with each other to iron out any bumps in the road and work towards common goals of the firm and our clients.

In every interview, we like to ask the interviewees what they know now that they wish they had known at the start of their career. Ben’s answer was ‘You’ll never know it all!’, reflecting that of our previous interviewee Chris Aniskowicz, who said that ‘working in accountancy is a career that continues to evolve and change; one that requires continuous learning and progression.’ Learning and development does not stop after earning you qualifications, or when reaching a certain level, or when earning a specific title; it is something that continues as you progress throughout your career. Ben continues, ‘I assumed that once I had finished my qualifications, I would know everything there was to know, but how wrong I was! You are always learning, and always will be, and I think that is one of the things that keep not just your career, but life interesting too. It’s a journey!’. 

Do not put too much pressure on yourself to know everything from the beginning, not just at the start of your career, but also at the start of a new project, a new role, or even a new day. We cannot guarantee this advice works for all companies, but if you want to advance your career efficiently, then keep learning and be willing to ask for guidance when it is needed as this will display initiative, skill, and a willingness to admit when you are out of your depth.

Ensors state on their website that they ‘recognise that having fun together is vital for a successful business’ and often host social events for their employees throughout the year, including annual Christmas and summer parties, sporting fixtures, theatre trips and quiz nights. When we asked Ben about the working culture at the firm, he told us that there ‘is a real sense of togetherness at Ensors, with all teams working towards a common goal. There is a whole host of events run through the year, from team cocktail making, 5-aside football, and even the coveted beer challenge, which really helps to build relationships with colleagues and clients alike.’  With regular social events and well thought out career progression opportunities, it is clear to us that Ensors genuinely believe in “making you more than just a number.”

If you are interested in starting a career with Ensors Chartered Accountants, they are currently accepting applications for both their January 2023 and autumn 2023 entry onto their trainee pathways, which you can find out more about in our previous article here: https://aj-chambers.com/news/2022/08/training-at-ensors-chartered-accountants/181

If you are already a practicing accountant and are thinking about a career move, you can also view current vacancies at Ensors on our website here: https://aj-chambers.com/current-vacancies

Training at Ensors Chartered Accountants

“Making you more than just a number” - Ensors Chartered Accountants have a long standing history as one of East Anglia’s most respected firms of Chartered Accountants. For over 130 years, Ensors has been one of the region’s most trusted service providers within the accountancy sector. Even now, amidst a post pandemic skills shortage that has taken over the industry, Ensors continues to grow, offering a variety of training schemes and entry level pathways that are designed to foster and nurture the talents of budding accountants into the managers, directors and partners of tomorrow.

In this article, we will take you through the process of joining Ensors as a trainee accountant, and how you can set yourself up to begin studying for your AAT and ICAEW/ACCA qualifications. Alongside accounts from Chris Aniskowicz, Assistant Manager in the Corporate Services department at Ensors, we will give you some insights into the daily life of an accountant, demonstrate the ways you can turn the skills shortage towards your advantage, and provide advice on exactly how you can begin your career with Ensors Chartered Accountants.

Advice for a potential trainee

To help you discover if a career in accountancy is the right step for you, we asked Chris to tell us about his time training at Ensors and studying for his qualifications with the backing of one of the UK’s top Accountancy practices behind him. With his past experience as a trainee, alongside the knowledge he has gained along the way on his path to Assistant Manager, Chris has shared some noteworthy tips for those that may be looking to start a career with Ensors on one of their training pathways, as well as insights into his favourite things about working at the firm out of their new Cambridge office.

If you are anxious about needing to know everything ahead of time, Chris advises ‘You won’t be an all-knowing accountant overnight!’; You will not be a qualified and experienced accountant right from the word ‘go’, and  nor do the firm expect you to be. There is a clear and distinct reason as to why a training scheme is called a training scheme; it is designed to train and teach you the skills you need for the job. Just because you may think you are not suitable for the role, or do not know where to start when it comes to accounting, do not let that sway you from applying. Ensors will help guide you as you study and learn the role, not just so you reach a level where you feel confident doing the job, but so you can feel comfortable asking, learning, and reaching higher within the company. 

‘Working in accountancy is a career that continues to evolve and change; one that requires continuous learning and progression. Whilst the sheer volume of regulation, legislation and systems may seem daunting at first, the process of studying accountancy is like a jigsaw. At first it might seem difficult to connect modules, but through learning and assimilating, you find there are parts that link up and join together, and with work, the bigger picture is formed.’ 

– Chris Aniskowicz

If you are worried about being thrown in at the deep end, you will be happy to know Ensors ‘operates a mentoring system, whereby qualified colleagues support students throughout their journey, whether it be with specifics of exams and learning, or the administrative side of the process.’ Chris also states that, alongside support from Human Resources, the mentoring system ‘helps to facilitate a comfortable learning environment, one which enabled [him] to progress through [his] exams whilst working full time, carrying out chargeable work.’

Predictions and Skill Gaps

Post pandemic, some of the best advice we can offer you to help you achieve your goal of securing a place on a trainee pathway is to apply. That may seem obvious, but in the ‘Mind the Gap’ report conducted by Search, it was revealed that 68% of hiring managers in East Anglia have been impacted by the skills shortage, with 29% struggling to fill entry level roles. 

Another report entitled ‘Skills for Future Success’, released by PBSC in June of last year, explains that 28% of Financial, Professional, and Business Sector (FPBS) firms in the South East had reported vacancies stemming from the skills shortage. This number jumps up to 39% for the East of England. We can expect these numbers to have stabilised slightly over the past year, but these openings are still there, and your access to them is no longer blocked with as much competition as there previously may have been. In the eFinancial Careers ‘Hiring Trends Review for Q2 2022’, we discovered that the Accounting & Finance sector has seen a year on year decrease of 25% in average applications – a drop that results in one key takeaway; the time to apply is now! 

Alongside the skills shortage, one of our predictions for the future of the accounting sector is to see further development and integration with upcoming technologies. Chris ‘[expects] artificial intelligence will be integrated further in accountancy, [such as in] increases in machine learning capabilities to process larger amounts of structured and unstructured data.’ Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and process automation have all been hot talking points within the industry when it comes to the sector’s inevitable digitalisation.  IT literacy is becoming more and more of an important skill that will soon be fundamental to tackling the most menial tasks. If you can demonstrate a flexibility and knowledge of IT skills, certain hiring managers may look at you more favourably. This will not be the be-all or end-all of any application, as the firm will aim to upskill their staff and trainees, but this may be a valuable edge against any competition you come up against in the hiring process. 

What is it like to work at Ensors?

All this information is useful for the application process, but you may be wondering one thing before you make that decision to send off your CV and apply; what is it like to work at Ensors?

Well, we have got you covered. Chris takes us through exactly what it is like to work within the Corporate Services department, and explains some of his favourite things about the working environment at the company, telling us that:

‘Working in Corporate Services, my week can be varied, generally working  from either clients’ premises, the Cambridge office or from home. As an Assistant Manager in the department, I predominantly run statutory audits. My role has many client-facing aspects, where on a weekly basis I am speaking to clients from a range of industries, from Agriculture to Tech.

Most weeks seem to have some sort of event going on, whether it’s a sporting fixture in the way of netball, cricket or football, a team lunch, a fundraiser, or a networking event. We have been in our new Cambridge office since the start of the year; it is spacious, bright, and comfortable, and has plants throughout. Our meeting rooms “Crick” and “Watson” (named after the Cambridge based biologists who published ground-breaking work on DNA) have great views of greenery, a pond and plenty of ducks! The new office kitchen has an excellent “from-beans” coffee machine, which I am ensuring is vigorously tested on a daily basis.’

– Chris Aniskowicz

Available Training Schemes and Open Days

From 1st September 2022, Ensors will be accepting applications for both January 2023 and Autumn 2023 entry onto their training schemes. If you would like to learn more about these pathways, during September Ensors will be hosting a series of Student Recruitment Open Evenings aimed at potential entry level trainee applicants . The dates and locations of these opening events are as follows:

Ipswich office – Wednesday 14th September 2022

Bury St Edmunds office – Tuesday 20th September 2022

Cambridge office – Monday 26th September 2022

All evenings will operate on an informal drop-in basis between 16:30 and 18:30. Those who attend will have the chance to talk to current staff, including students, as well as the opportunity to meet the Ensors study provider. This will be a great opportunity to get to meet the people you will be interacting with on a regular basis if your application to the training scheme is successful. If you are interested in attending, please register your attendance in advance by emailing: recruitment@ensors.co.uk

For more information on current vacancies at Ensors, you can visit our landing page here: www.aj-chambers.com/current-vacancies

 

Resources

Training Schemes, Ensors: https://www.ensors.co.uk/about-us/workingatensors/trainee-scheme/ Mind the Gap, Search: https://www.search.co.uk/recruitment-insights/skills-shortage-report?source=google.com Skills for Future Success, PBSC: https://www.pbsc.uk/skills-for-future-success/ eFinancial Careeers Hiring Trends Report: https://recruiterhub.efinancialcareers.com/rs/647-AFI-013/images/eFinancialCareers%20Hiring%20Trends%20Report%20Q2%202022.pdf
The major issues Law companies face in the current financial climate

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, surveys suggest that half of UK workers want help from their company. But with inflation running at 9.1%, and most businesses also hit by additional costs themselves, this isn’t always possible. At present, there are four pressing matters businesses must deal with. 

1. Staff Retention

With a record 1.3 million job vacancies in the UK, retention is one of the biggest problems facing companies right now. Employers are faced with the double-whammy of the ‘Great Resignation’ running parallel to the cost-of-living crisis and there is a concern that if bosses can’t afford to pay their employees more, they may seek employment elsewhere. 

Flexible working should be top of your list when considering how to retain staff, as studies show that employees now value work-life balance more than their salary. Based on a poll by payroll software provider CIPHR, over two-thirds (70% of women and 65% of men) see work-life balance as being more important than their pay and employee benefits combined (selected by 60% of women and 57% of men). 

In particular, the legal services sector has been affected heavily by this, with 45% of law firm partners citing retention as their biggest challenge, according to a survey by litigation funder Harbour. 

For many, pay rises have offered an easy solution to the problem, with firms increasing salaries by 15% to 50% in a bid to retain talent. Top firms have been handing out starting salaries of up to £150,000 to graduate lawyers. Those in business services are also benefitting, with firms such as Slaughter & May having recently reviewed salaries across the breadth of its services. 

If you can’t offer staff a pay rise, there are other ways of helping ensure their salaries go further. Employee benefit packages can include salary sacrifice schemes, pensions, maternity/paternity pay, sick pay, travel loans, share options and bonuses. If you are already offering generous benefits packages, it’s worth highlighting this to your employees –employees are more likely to stay with an employer who offers a good benefits package. 

Finally, and this is something that doesn’t happen as often as it perhaps should; a “thank you” from an employer goes a long way towards making employees feel valued. It can have a big impact on engagement – and it’s free! 

2. Maintaining Customer Service 

As well as rising costs and inflation, small businesses are also being held back by poor customer service from suppliers. The research by the business communications solutions provider found that, amidst rising costs and inflation, small businesses are also being held back by poor customer service. 67% of small businesses work with a supplier that has blamed bad service on the pandemic – despite Covid restrictions officially ending six months ago.  

Rob Hailstone, founder and CEO, Bold Legal Group explains: "When you apologise to a client for taking so long to get back to them because you were busy, all they hear is that someone else was more important to you." 

Lawyers tend to think in terms of input – the legal advice they can give and its quality. But clients take the quality of your advice for granted. What concerns them is the output – getting a good result and being able to move on. It's by listening to them that you find out what the client thinks a good result would be – their priorities and expectations. For a client in pain – upset about a divorce, nervous about the future of their company, or under pressure from their boss to improve their performance – the longer it takes the longer they suffer. 

But it’s perhaps not all doom and gloom. The pandemic saw many SMEs displaying considerable agility and creativity, pivoting to take opportunities when they came up, in order to survive – and thrive. While many may have hoped for some respite in 2022, disruption looks set to continue for the time being – and once again, those that are able to display adaptability, and effectively manage their capital to support growth development, are the ones best positioned to meet the current challenges. 

3. Energy Costs 

The UK energy crisis has had a domino effect across the sector, and companies are in no way immune. The nation’s businesses – especially the 5.3 million micro businesses that total 95% of the country’s business sector – are also facing steeper energy bills, which may pose real problems for their bottom line. 

Businesses are affected by the UK energy crisis in essentially the same way as households are: they will be paying far more money for their energy bills. The worry is that they have less protection than domestic consumers when it comes to energy. Namely, the energy price cap does not apply to the nation’s firms, regardless of their size. 

“Whilst fast-track law supply chains save waste and costs, they also leave companies financially exposed when they break down”, quotes Cory Bebb, Partner, Keystone Law 

Business energy contracts are typically longer than their domestic counterparts, potentially lasting up to five years. So, for the moment, some businesses that have existing contracts will be shielded from rising prices. However, there will be lots of businesses that need to renew their contacts this year, as well as others that will be on variable tariffs that are already seeing their bills increase. 

To combat the costs of the UK energy crisis, there are certain steps you can try to take to reduce your business energy bill: 

-   Make sure you are being billed correctly -   Improve your business’s energy efficiency -   See if you have a business energy claim -   Check if you are eligible for any business energy grants 

While business energy bills are going up, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to find a better deal when it comes time for you to switch suppliers. 

4. Attracting Talent 

The competition for talent is different now. Employers are competing with the full array of work experiences available to today’s employees — traditional and non-traditional jobs and, in some instances, not working at all. To keep up, companies must offer adequate compensation and benefits packages. But to win, they must recognise how the rules of the game have changed. While workers are demanding higher compensation, many of them also want more flexibility, community, and an inclusive culture to accept a full-time job at a traditional employer. 

Research shows that 25% of the employees who voluntarily left and then returned are at least somewhat likely to leave their current employers in the next three to six months. They know that other opportunities are out there—particularly in this strained labour market. And they say that if professional development, workplace flexibility, support for mental and physical health, and other needs aren’t being met at one company, they will look for the right conditions elsewhere. 

The offering at each law firm is going to vary, and whilst a firm may be strong in certain aspects, it is unlikely for any firm to have the capability to offer market leading benefits in every single aspect of their offering. For some firms, their main selling point is the quality of work they deal with, whereas for others, it’s the flexibility they offer that sets them apart. When it comes to legal recruitment, law firms need to understand who they are as a business and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their employer brand. Those firms that have a thorough grasp on their priorities and take steps towards strengthening and effectively communicating their offering will be in a strong position to compete for talent, regardless of size or status. 

Even more important, talent acquisition teams must find ways to attract latent workers—those who are no longer in the workforce and are not actively seeking a traditional job at a traditional employer, but who might yet return under the right conditions and with the right offer. Maybe they are burned out and on an indefinite break. Maybe they left the workforce during the pandemic to take care of their kids but are considering a return now that schools are getting back to normal schedules. Maybe they retired too early and are looking for something to fill their days with. By not looking at those actively seeking work, firms are missing out on valuable candidates. 

The new competition for talent is not just about employers competing with one another to find the best workers; it’s about employers acknowledging the many choices that today’s workers have and finding effective ways to compete against all those options. The old playbooks won’t work. Even for those companies that end up figuring out how to bring some people back, there will be inevitable setbacks if they can’t figure out how to retain those workers. 

 

Sources: Grapevine Leaders: https://lnkd.in/eS9zJs_g Grapevine Leaders:https://lnkd.in/edDicdf6 BBC: https://lnkd.in/ewXYF2Kr People Management: https://lnkd.in/ebMRYNcW McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/gone-for-now-or-gone-for-good-how-to-play-the-new-talent-game-and-win-back-workers 

 

Talent shortages a key driver of accountancy M&A activity, experts say
The need to plug skills gaps and address talent shortages is driving deal activity in the accounting industry.

A critical skills shortage continues to plague accounting and professional services in 2022. New research indicates a gap of 22% to be precise.

Meanwhile, the UK accountancy M&A market has gathered significant pace, with consolidation soaring in recent months – a trend that some believe is driven by ongoing skills shortages in the sector.

Alongside more conventional ambitions such as regional and commercial growth, a key motive for acquirers is the absorption of a new talent pool, according to James Gosling, head of M&A at AJ Chambers, a specialist in accountancy practice consolidation.

“The fight for talent is very tough at the moment. So, more often than ever, we’re seeing acquirers that, alongside looking to build the business, will be looking to acquire the smaller firm’s talent.”

Whether this is to plug gaps in their own skillsets or to aid succession planning, the M&A route offers a talent solution that would otherwise be difficult to attain in the current market, particularly when it comes to expanding into new service areas, Gosling adds.

“If they’re looking to move into a new area, often the preferred route is to buy an existing firm in that area rather trying to organically grow, which can be tough and can take many years.”

UK accounting practice MHA Macintyre Hudson is living proof of Gosling’s view, with the mid-market firm having expanded into a new service line by acquiring a majority stake in wealth manager Cave & Sons earlier this year. According to MHA managing partner and group chairman Rakesh Shaunak, talent acquisition was a key rationale for the recent takeover.

“How does one go into a specialist service line? Starting it yourself is high risk because you need to create a business plan and get it right, and secondly you can’t guarantee that the talent will be there to get it off the ground.

“So, in acquiring a business, you’re acquiring a talent pool and giving yourself that assurance.”

Shaunak also argues that consolidation can contribute to a firm’s talent strategy on a broader level. Growth and expansion will aid the acquisition and retention of talent in the general sense, he says.

“Having that critical mass makes you a more attractive employer in that you’re able to bring in ambitious people who want to progress within the profession.

“It’s about giving our team the opportunity to grow within the firm, because if the firm is growing, ambitious and talented people don’t need to look elsewhere.”

When it comes to inorganic growth, international outfit Azets is perhaps the best example. With the aid of capital injections by private equity firm HG Capital, the SME advisory specialists have completed the acquisitions of four smaller practices in the space of just six months.

The acquisitions of Tait Walker and Garbutt + Elliot (generating £13m and £12m in revenue respectively) across the North East and North West of England were particularly significant for Azets. In a made at the time, the firm’s regional CEO for the North of England remarked that the deals would serve to bolster its “strong regional presence”.

Poole-based Inspire Accountants and Danish firm DanAccount were also among those acquired by Azets.

Commenting on the recent deals, Azets’ head of M&A Jeremy Fearnley notes the link between talent shortages and consolidation. However, investment in new technological capabilities can help both firms and their clients compensate for skills gaps, he argues.

“A major thing from both a client and accounting practice perspective is the shortage of talent and capacity, which is really driving people to look at more efficient ways of doing things and automating more.

“So there’s obviously a lot of work we’re doing with clients to help them through that process. And I think in future we will become more of a technology plus accounting business, because I think you have to now.”

IT integration is key

But for Fearnley, the influence of technology in the M&A process works both ways. While a benefit that can be derived from the process, it can also act as a key enabler of it, he says.

More specifically, he goes on to argue that thorough IT integration plays a major role in smoothing out the incorporation of a new firm into the network, citing what he calls “the Azets way” – harmonising processes using technology.“We’ve been through a massive technological change programme over the last three years which has been about bringing together all this scale that we’ve developed, but then really harmonising the processes.

“So there is an Azets way, if you like, and it’s based on core technology. It’s a platform that, when we go and buy another business, they can come onto that platform. And when we’re training people, they could be working in any office and it’s always the same.”Fearnley notes that this is an often-overlooked aspect of the M&A process. Research carried out by Deloitte supports this view, with a survey of M&A and IT experts finding that just 56% of decision-makers took IT issues into consideration during the due diligence phase.

In addition to enabling a seamless consolidation process, thorough IT integration also allows the firm to operate more efficiently and comprehensively for its clients in terms of offering a suite of services, Fearnley adds. A key example of this is using tools such as real-time data to move to a model of more consistent interaction with the client, rather than a more traditional once-a-year model, he says

“We’re effectively becoming their finance function as well as their adviser, which allows us to offer more timely advice on how their cash is looking.”

Bolstering service offerings

MHA’s Shaunak echoes Fearnley’s view, arguing that the quality of capabilities and service offerings must be the primary consideration when it comes to consolidation.

He characterises MHA’s overall strategy as becoming a “full service” firm, but notes that the definition of this consistently shifts with the times. This was the key driver behind the firm’s recent acquisition of Cave & Sons, he says.

“Cave & Sons is a wealth management company, and we felt that the needs of our clients were indicating that we needed to bring something like that in-house.

“As things have diversified and as our client base has progressed, we find that having that niche capability is very important.”

Private equity fuelling M&A activity

Looking ahead, Shaunak says that MHA is still “in that mindset and mode of consolidation” and expects that the firm will continue to find strategic partners in multiple locations, providing it matches certain key criteria.

In similar fashion, Fearnley simply characterises Azets’ future as “more and better advisory”, unambiguously hinting at a continuation of the firm’s recent flurry of M&A activity.

He also cites the firm’s laser-focus on technological change once more, saying that he wouldn’t rule out a move into technology advisory and implementation alongside its core financial offering.

Both predict that the recent rise of M&A activity in the market is yet to reach its peak.

This largely squares with the view of AJ Chambers’ Gosling, who believes it’s “safe to say” that the pace of M&A in the sector will continue for another 12 to 18 months. He also says it’s likely that more private equity capital will enter the market during that time, and that, at the top level, a degree of cross-consolidation between the legal and accountancy markets may also occur.

Gosling adds that levels will naturally return to normal after this period, but also notes the often-cyclical nature of the market, theorising that individual may exit newly-acquired firms with a view to establishing their own practices. When the time comes, this has the potential to trigger a fresh wave of consolidation activity, he says.

“I think we’ll reach a natural point where there won’t be too many more opportunities that make sense. But of course, you may get certain individuals who decide to leave a firm after it’s purchased by someone else, and they may set up their own practices.

“So, it’ll be interesting to see how they evolve, because it’ll eventually get to the stage again where they’re becoming established, and larger firms will want to have a piece of the action.”

If you are an Accountancy Practice owner, or Equity Partner and would like to discuss your business plans for growth, merging or exit, please contact James Gosling for a confidential discussion about your options.james.gosling@aj-chambers.com | 020 8092 6220

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