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Practice Talk: Rafi Saville from HW Fisher

Joining Practice Talk this week is Rafi Saville, who is a partner in HW Fisher where he heads up the firm's forensic accounting division.

28th Oct 2019
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Rafi Saville
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Rafi Saville joined HW Fisher 22 years ago and has risen up through the ranks to lead the firm’s busy forensic accounting department with fellow partner Stuart Burns, which boasts household names such as JCB, BMW and even Liverpool Football Club.

Saville puts his success down to a chance meeting with someone working in the firm’s forensic department. He had started with the firm straight from university on a three-year training contract, and after having done audit for a couple of years he was looking for a change.

“I was walking around the office and came across this guy working in the forensic department,” recalled Saville. “He told me about this case he was working on which was a money-laundering drug dealer who had been caught crossing the channel with lots of cash.

“The police had caught him and knew he was a drug dealer but wanted to understand where his funds had come from. He claimed it was inheritance and all sorts of other weird and wonderful reasons. The job of the person I was talking with was to find out whether any of those reasons were justifiable.”

As his then-colleague spun the story, Saville thought “this was much more interesting than standard audit”. And the rest, as they say, is forensic accounting history.

The forensic department makes up a significant proportion of the business at HW Fisher, auditing clients a typical medium-sized firm may not have.

In the last two years, Saville’s typical day has only got busier. As a result of older partners retiring, Saville and his cohorts have effectively done a management buyout, which means that he is heavily involved in many other areas of running the business, including overseeing IT, marketing and the recently refurbed office building.

“As result of that,” he said, “it's non-stop and there is always something going on.” 

Rafi Saville’s typical week

“I am not a millennial but… Because a lot of my clients are US-based I wake up, turn on the phone and see what's happened overnight. I often have to deal with things that happened during the night before I get into the office. 

Now that all my four daughters are at secondary school I can drop them off and get in for around 7.30am. If I am feeling very energetic I might pop to the gym before getting in. I was at the gym at 6am this morning because I had a 7.30am meeting. I tend to do a quick 15 or 30 minutes to get me going. 

In terms of the technical side of my job, the main thing I am doing is that my team are going out and auditing these licensees, say Paul Smith, and are coming back and writing reports. I review those reports so they are correct and accurate.

Bringing in new business is also a major part of what we do. That could be chasing up leads, new clients, preparing quotes for new work - that is something that happens most days.

Interacting with my 25-person team takes up most of my day. I have to make time for them and make other things fit in around the main job. 

The world is divided into two people: those who have nothing in their inbox and people who have thousands of emails. I try and keep fewer than 10 emails in my inbox at any given time so I am dealing with things as they come. A lot of what I do is reacting to those emails but at the same time, I have a to-do list which I will tick off as I go.

I've got good at organising my time. If I go to a meeting I need the meeting to happen quickly and for people to get the point. I've become much stricter about my time. If I need to spend 30 minutes on the building, that's how long it will take and I will be out of there.  

I never have lunch in my office. Most days I go downstairs. We're a bit traditional and we still have partner lunches. I will always pop down for a 15-minute lunch break. Some days I will go to the gym and do a 15-minute run or swim to break up the day. 

For the last 18 months, I’ve organised weekly yoga at Fishers. We've done 75 sessions and have 20 people who regularly come. I've tried to create a lovely Yoga space downstairs which is also our staff area. At least once a week I know that I can go down there for an hour at 6pm and it is a great time to relax.

Since a lot of my clients are in the US, there can be many late nights doing the assessment calls where you're negotiating between a licensor (someone who owns the property/brand) and the licensees and trying to resolve any issues. 

I normally leave the office at 7pm. Then, at least once or twice a week in the evening I go out for dinner. I've got four daughters aged 11-17 and they're not the same as young kids who need putting to bed, but it's nice to hang with them and chat - that's my most relaxing time of the day.”