Practice Excellence 2017: Medium firm shortlist

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The rise of cloud accounting poses a challenge to ambitious mid-size accounting firms (3-7 partners).

The technology provides a platform to roll out new services, but also tends to degrade fee levels. The most successful entrants to this category in the 2017 Practice Excellence Awards found ways to negotiate that conundrum.

The shortlisted firms are navigating into new markets and developing added value services, but as Lamont Pridmore CEO and PEA17 judging panel member Graham Lamont noted, “It is complex stuff. We are seeing more firms having to reflect hard about where they are adding value, and how they are preserving their value to clients.”

People hold the key to success in any accountancy firm, so it was no surprise to see medium firms paying serious attention to recruitment and retention and putting an emphasis on training and development. “Culture” is the new watchword too for successful firms, who project a clear sense of purpose, motivate and reward those who want to innovate and listen and adapt to what clients will need in the future.

These are the six medium-sized firms who fulfilled those criteria:

Ramsay Brown and Partners

Ramsay Brown is a specialist medical accountant that has been dealing mainly with GP and health sector clients since 1935.

Embracing the challenge of Making Tax Digital, the firm set up a training academy to set clients up for the software it tailored for their specific requirements.

The London-based firm created an online information portal with access to services including a current tax liability report. They can also interrogate this information with a mobile app or through an automated telephone system.

Seymour Taylor

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, High Wycombe-based Seymour Taylor offers the services of a large corporate firm, but with the personal touch of a smaller practice.

In addition to networking lunches with professional referrers such as banks and solicitors, the firm has built up an internal referral marketplace and runs business lunches where clients who could mutually benefit from working together can meet.

To cement this sense of community collaboration, Seymour Taylor uses its own clients where possible as suppliers.

Mitchell Meredith

With offices across Wales, Mitchell Meredith takes an innovative approach to marketing and claims you won't find any other accountant like them.

The results of its referral incentives mean that nearly 40% of new clients during 2016-17 came through referrals and once they join, they tend to stay. Mitchell Meredith enjoys a client retention rate of approximately 98%. To ensure client service matches expectations, the firm has a guarantee in place to meet all deadlines and will forfeit £50 to a charity of their client’s choice if it falls short.

Elsewhere, it actively markets across multiple media channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google AdWords.

Grunberg & Co

Having recently adopted a more interactive approach to client service, London-based Grunberg & Co introduced a blog and email bulletins to keep clients informed of the latest news.

During the year, the firm introduced a “Brexit Expert” service to claim leadership as a specialist advisor. It also launched a cloud-based Making Tax Digital service in partnership with Xero.

Grunberg was one of the several entrants that demonstrated how it was helping trainees at different stages of their careers to develop into the next generation of accountants.

Fish Partnership

Fish Partnership has an eye to the future and proactively sets out to equip clients with practical solutions to reduce their taxes, increase their profits and improve their management techniques for better results in the future.

The High Wycombe firm takes great pride in providing value-added services by monitoring clients’ key performance indicators using real-time software.

The firm is creating a Brexit service and a specialist digital tax service to ensure clients have access to the support they need in these uncertain areas. It regularly holds free seminars and launched a monthly business club, STRAW, with two other local businesses, as another way of keeping clients informed.

Dunkley’s Chartered Accountants

Bristol-based Dunkley’s has established itself in the dental sector through networking and various targeted marketing strategies.

The firm holds free sessions for clients to help them develop their skills, support their personal and professional development and in turn, company profitability. New clients as well as additional fees from current clients have contributed to 26% growth this year.

Staff are at the center of Dunkley’s business model as they are instrumental to service delivery. The firm developed an in-house programme giving each qualified staff member a minimum of 1 week’s training and has a mentoring system in place to develop junior staff’s skills.

Practice Excellence Week is AccountingWEB's landmark festival of excellence, inspiration and celebration for the accounting profession. If you would like to hear more about the programme, please visit the Practice Excellence website or email [email protected].

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Contributions from the AccountingWEB.co.uk editorial team.

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