The accounting profession has changed irrevocably since he joined some four decades ago, but as Brisbane managing partner James Henderson explains, running a firm like a family-run business is something that will always remain the same.
Ease of access to the adviser and the speed of delivery of information has certainly changed over time. When I began my career in audit with a big four accounting firm, there were no computers; now, with the internet, mobile phones and other innovations to come in the period since, it has made for very efficient, timely and seamless delivery of information to the client.
On the flipside of this, these same developments have meant that clients are now a lot more discerning and informed than ever before. While the analysis of their financial needs and circumstances is not what they’re necessarily trained in, they can access information more readily and easily.
The COVID health crisis presented us with new options around client delivery. We learned that there are clients who are comfortable with an increased online delivery of information. At the same time, there are those clients, particularly those approaching retirement, who are not as comfortable with this approach and are still favouring in-person meetings, and we accommodate these clients accordingly. Speaking to clients adapting to their requirements is part of the trust we engender.
During the height of the shutdown last year, our 60-odd staff – including several based in India – were able to operate efficiently from home through firm-provided laptops and screens. It was critical to ensure staff were resourced sufficiently in order to be able to undertake the roles we ask of them, and we received positive feedback from staff on the way we undertook the transition.
As a leader of the business, the process during this unique time reinforced a belief that the decisions you make and the actions you take effect people directly. We’ve got a number of family-owned and operated businesses as clients, and the culture they create is something that we, as a firm, look to emulate. From an ownership perspective, we’re structured very differently, but our objective is to get a culture of a family-run business running through our professional services business.
The firm is well regarded for the delivery of its holistic business advice, and we work together to provide solutions for our client base. Importantly, we don’t work in silos and as much as possible, we service clients across divisions. Some of our key clients are across sectors of property and construction, hospitality, medical and aged care.
Last year I was also appointed chair of HLB’s Asia Pacific region. While we are at a time where we must focus on the direction and growth of our own business, it’s equally as important to look further afield and collaborate with our neighbours.
Our key focus for the remainder of 2021 is largely a continuation of what we’ve been doing in recent months, while also growing our client base either through the delivery of different services to our clients. From here onwards, a major piece of advice work will be related to the cessation of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program, and clients needing to understand the impact to their business and financial requirements.
This article was published in the 2021 Autumn edition of Financial Times.