Small Change: Chris Reeve from Gascoynes
Welcome to Small Change, a weekly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out their daily routine and ask them about the biggest trends in the profession.
Chris Reeve took a break from his duties as managing director of Bury St Edmunds firm Gascoynes to speak with the Small Change team.
Reeve started with Gascoynes in 1991 as a trainee. Since then he qualified via the ACCA in 1996 and then became director of the firm in 2006. In 2013 he took control of the business. Today Gascoynes has 750 clients, 16 members of staff and in the last 18 months has completed three acquisitions.
Over a coffee at April’s QB Connect conference, Reeve discussed how his firm is preparing for the conveyor belt of legislative change, recruitment, and of course, his first calculator.
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What's the first thing you do when you get into the office in the morning?
I go straight to my email. To be honest I do it in the car when I get in the car park. I open the email and clear a few ‘salesly’ ones, and then it’s the normal things like approving time sheets.
Do you check your emails outside office hours?
Oh yeah, all the time - constantly. I like working flexibly. Clients these days want it anyway. They love it if they get an answer straight away. Knowing that I've emailed clients early or on a Sunday night I don't feel guilty if I go to my kids’ school play. It also allows me to stay on top of my work.
Making tax digital or making tax difficult?
It will force clients into better record keeping. But I'm slightly concerned about the format: the increased filing and how it will work for client fees. Fees will get pushed down. If clients want us to do it all then the fees will increase. Whilst it is not our fault, we'll be the ones punished and moaned when the fees go up.
There have been rumblings about MTD leading to the grading of accountants: ie when your clients file, how accurate the filings are etc. Is that something you've come across?
It's something Barry Gascoyne (the founder of the firm) talked about years ago. He said: ‘we are a chartered accountancy firm, we do everything correctly, and there are certain accountants out there that don't, and there should be a grading system. And that's how the Revenue should look at it’. He said that is how Australia and America did it. I think it's a good idea. We pride ourselves that we're doing the compliance part right, although with technology it is difficult to get it wrong. If you make an error on a tax return, our software flags it up. It's flashing blue lights if there is something missing. It's harder now to make errors.
With the never-ending conveyor belt of legislative change, how do you prepare your staff?
GDPR is coming up soon. We're going to have a whole in-house session on it. We'll follow up on that and let the clients know. They're all aware of it, but I didn't want to be someone who got the whole ball rolling six months ago. Clients could forget it, especially if you do it before Christmas - no one will be interested.
In rural areas accountants are struggling with recruitment. How has your firm fared?
The last one we did we worked with First Intuition last summer. The trainees log on to the government website and get pushed towards a training provider. The company then had 15 candidates for us, they interviewed and got them down to five for formal interviews. From our point of view, this is easier and the person we got was really, really good.
You said you started in 1991. How different are the trainees coming through now compared to when you started?
Learning double-entry bookkeeping is so much harder because it goes straight into the accounting software. Your clients do that side as well, so it's harder from a training point of view. But trainees come in now and do the job straight away - it's unbelievable. You can give them a task and they're straight back because they're so IT compliant. It works well for us and you get really good employees quickly.
The Ralph memorial question: can you remember your first calculator?
I had a little Casio when I was about eight. But I remember getting a scientific one for Christmas when was 10. I had that right the way through. I did my ACCA exams with it too.