Practice Talk: Laurie Hannant from BDO

Laurie Hannant
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Joining Practice Talk this week is Laurie Hannant who has recently been appointed as the new audit partner at BDO LLP's East Midlands team. 

Hannant rejoined BDO this month after 15 years at EY. “I’ve come full circle,” she told AccountingWEB as she settled back at the mid-tier firm she trained with.

Hannant returns to her old audit stomping ground as BDO pushes for the fifth position in the UK accountancy league table. The renewed brand strength and ambition the proposed Moore Stephens LLP merger brings to BDO was not lost on Hannant when she decided to take the opportunity with the firm, but there were other reasons.

Returning to her East Midlands home region, Hannant’s appointment provides her with the flexibility to do the nursery school drop off and pick up, unlike her EY role, where her client base was spread across the UK.

And it’s not just in BDO that Hannant has seen change. From starting out at a three-partner practice after leaving school to her career heights today, Hannant’s seen the audit industry undergo its own transformation.

“We’ve never experienced so much change in the audit industry, and combined with the current political backdrop it’s a fascinating time to work in our sector,”  she said.

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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?

I try and get up before 6am and I am afraid I am one of those people that can't function without coffee. I try and enjoy an hour - I call it the golden hour - before my three-year-old wakes up. Which, depending on where I am working that day, involves preparing myself for the day ahead, exercising, or having a hot drink and watching the news. Number one priority is to get me and the little boy out of the house on time and where we need to be for the day.

I notice you didn’t mention emails as your first port of call. We’ve heard often on Practice Talk how emails have become a thorn in accountants' side, especially outside traditional working hours. Is this a concern of yours?

I've spent my career working with businesses across different time zones, so for me there has never really been such a thing as traditional hours for emails. It depends on what clients I am working on at the time. The key for me is that you allow yourself to disconnect at some point, and I encourage that in my teams as well. I've gone back to reading proper books rather than reading my Kindle before I go to bed because I just need to get a break from screen time.

Similarly, another concern is the always-on culture. How do you ensure this is not a problem in your team?

I am passionate about achieving a work-life balance. I always have done and I will continue to. I am open with my diary and clearly schedule gym sessions in there, pick up, drop off times, I will work late if needed, depending on what clients need. I do work from home when I can, and also, I do protect my Tuesday mornings in my diary to spend time with my little boy. I will do urgent emails and calls if needed but it does give you that feeling that I am achieving personal goals as well as being really committed to my clients.

I encourage that in all my teams for all individuals to achieve their personal objectives. Flexible working is not just about people that have families: if you need to play football on a Wednesday night or if you've got a music lesson or a horse you need to feed, everyone has to have a personal objective.

What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?

Apart from family time, exercise is very important to me. It allows me to switch off and escape the day job. I schedule in the gym sessions but I also love to run. I just put my headphones on with Spotify and pound the streets. It reinvigorates me and makes me feel better and clear thoughts.

Since you qualified what's been the biggest change you've seen in the profession?

The workplace has radically changed since I qualified. When I first started out people still smoked in the office, and we shared one computer. It was also a very 9-5 office-based culture. There was no such thing as working from home or coming in early and finishing early - it's completely different to how I first started out.

As someone who specialises in audit, what’s been the biggest changes in this area?

It's certainly changed from a regulatory perspective. There is a lot of focus on audit quality. When I first started out we were more business advisers, so we could offer a full range of products to service to our clients. There are restrictions, obviously, if you are a public interest entity or a listed client nowadays, but small, medium-sized entities and fast growth entities still need and we still offer that business adviser support.

And finally, as we ask every week, can you remember your first calculator?

My first calculator was an adding machine, which had a little till roll. This was the days when everything was manual. You would type in the numbers from the sheet you were adding up and you could check it on the till roll to make sure you had put them all in properly and then you rip-off the till roll and you'd staple it to the working paper and file it to say you've added it up correctly. It wasn't a portable calculator - it had a massive plug that plugged into the wall and it took up half the desk. I bet the firm I used to work for when I left school still has one, but no I don't. I just use my iPhone calculator nowadays if I need to.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.