Practice Excellence 2017: Specialist teams shortlist
The diverse nature of this year’s specialist teams award was reflected by the different niches in which they operate, with opera singers, academies and tech start-ups all making an appearance.
Successful entries of this year’s category showed a breadth of expertise and willingness to understand their chosen niche. What made the shortlisted firms stand out was their high level of technical knowledge.
“Anticipating how standards will impact and providing a sensitive and swift response to compliance change demonstrates the degree to which they are immersing themselves in their markets for the benefit of their clients,” said Philip Fisher, AccountingWEB columnist and former partner at various leading firms of accountants.
One trend emerging from the applications was how niche success transferred across the rest of the firm, and in some cases, the teams helped redefine the firm’s entire approach. As seen by the diverse clients of the teams, owning a particular niche aided the specialist team’s sustainable growth.
The shortlist contains a mixture of firm sizes, which goes to show that size is not a barrier to benefitting a specialism.
Berkshire-based Performance Accountancy has over twenty years’ experience advising classical musicians and the performing arts sector. The firm has mastered the sector by becoming the recommended supplier to conduct self assessment to the Incorporated Society of Musicians. Although a narrow niche, the practice has enjoyed a 53% turnover increase from 2015 to 2017.
Performance Accountancy educates its performer clients through offering training in music and drama colleges, and setting up a Facebook group for performers in need of tax and accounts help.
The firm’s use of technology and a variety of apps means a client can complete an online data capture form, and within minutes all the systems are up to date and processes start to work.
The 2016 Large Practice of the year award winner’s FB wealth management team has become the first port of call for academy schools – a rapidly expanding market due to the sweeping education reforms of the past few years.
The team’s development of staff expertise has resulted in having a team member sit on the ESFA advisory committee on academy audits. As more of the team have developed into experts, the firm is training junior members in academy matters.
One initiative it has developed is a bespoke accounting package for academies that offers all the benefits of cloud accounting at the fraction of the cost.
Forrester Boyd puts its client service success down to having a targeted system for keeping in touch with potential academy clients, including those still within the public sector and demonstrating technical expertise.
Ramsay Brown and Partners
Ramsay Brown specialises in medical practices, sessional GPs and hospital doctors. Through becoming a leading firm in its niche field of expertise, the specialist team is responsible for the development of the practice.
Despite its team members becoming acknowledged specialists in the field, the firm has a low staff turnover. This retention helps profitability as recruitment costs are very low, and their own expertise encourages new clients. The team’s knowledge is reinforced by monthly in-house training courses.
The team supports its clients by sharing updates and knowledge through weekly news feeds and monthly newsletters and responds to client queries within 24 hours. The team has also invested in an app where they can access a number of services, including accessing their tax liabilities.
The firm’s team of tech specialists was established in response to demand from start-ups and rapidly growing companies in London’s silicon roundabout.
Adapting to the tech client’s tendency to remote work, the team provides the flexibility to meet on video calls or go to wherever the client is based at that time.
The team’s services are tailored to the tech industry and are built around securing investment, managing cash burn rates, non-financial metrics (such as user numbers) and long product development periods. This means the firm produces detailed cash flow forecasting, incorporating complex “what if scenarios”, flexing modelling and intelligent predicting methodology
The team runs regular free accounting clinics in its ‘TechHub’ co-working space and over the past year has hosted an event aimed at early stage entrepreneurs.
Fitzgerald & Law LLP
Based in London, Fitzgerald & Law acts as an outsourced finance department for international clients, operating in 25 different countries. The department has grown over the last year from 18 people to 25 by June 2017.
Its commitment to client service means the firm tours the world visiting clients and contacts at their HQ. During 2016, a new training policy was implemented. Now, all new members of the team have a skills review as part of the interview process, including country-by-country idiosyncrasies and complications, and training on a range of cloud accounting platforms.
The firm offers a range of cloud software options and uses its understanding of accounting standards in different countries to adapt to its advice and improvements to fit local reporting rules.