Accountancy firm alumni lists – do the rules make sense?

I went to a Chantrey Vellacott alumni ‘do’ recently.  I had a most enjoyable time although it felt a little strange as I never worked for the firm – but I had worked for one the predecessors.  I even managed to find a couple of faces I recognised from those dim and distant days; I left shortly after passing my ACA exams in 1982. I have fond memories of my ‘articles’ (as that training period was called in those days).

I also get invited to alumni parties arranged by Deloitte. Again the invitations stem from my time at a predecessor firm – this time ‘Touche Ross’ which is where I started my tax career shortly after I qualified in 1982.

Again I have happy memories of my time at Touche Ross – as I do of most of the firms I worked for before I established the Tax Advice Network.

This is all in stark contrast to one ex employee of a big 4 firm. He had met his wife at a small regional office of the firm. When she left shortly after their marriage she was added to the alumni list. Then he left and started his own small practice. Clearly he wasn’t any competition for the local office of the Big 4 firm. Nevertheless he was not added to the alumni list and his wife’s name was dropped too.

Two years later however he merged his practice with a mid tier firm and after a further two years he left and became MD of a premier league football club.  Guess what happened when his old Big 4 firm tried to tender for the audit!


Websites for accountants

I regularly find myself sharing my views on this topic so I thought it would be helpful to include in one place all of my previous posts on related issues:

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9 signs of a bad accountant

The following list describes 9 signs of a bad PR agent – but most of these would equally be signs of a bad accountant. What do you think?  I’ve added my comments in square brackets.

  1. To demand to be paid by the hour rather than quote for a job  [Yup. I’m beginning to come round to the view that this is a tough one to argue to a new client who wants a recurring service]
  2. To not set specific objectives [No point quoting a fee or starting work without being clear what the client wants and needs]
  3. To start doing his own thing rather than what you asked him to do [If you need to do more than the client has asked for, best to get authority beforehand rather than doing the work and trying to bill for something that client didn’t ask for and wasn’t aware he needed]
  4. To boast about big-name contacts [perhaps less likely with accountant. If you’re going to try to evidence your credibility it will often be best to talk about other clients that are similar in some way to the person you’re talking to]
  5. To show a lack of urgency anddisrespect for deadlines [ok – this is more likely to be the client than the accountant]
  6. To make elementary spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in press releases and publications [letters, accounts, emails and reports]
  7. To be vague  [like, you know 😉 ]
  8. To spend time and effort on elaborate plans rather than making phone calls  [perhaps the equivalent here is when the accountant makes grand promises and has big ideas during a meeting but doesn’t follow through either at all or not on a timely basis]
  9. To blame the client when things go wrong  [ok – this one’s specific to PR]

What do you think?

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Tax Return completion – tips and advice

Where does the time go? It’s almost exactly two years since I recorded my first webcasts. They are still viewable from the ICAEW Tax Faculty website.

1. Collating clients’ Tax Return information

2. Billing the Tax Return work [the ICAEW link for this webcast doesn’t seem to be working at the moment]

3. Quoting for tax compliance work

They each contain around around 5 minutes of tips and advice and were intended to help accountants to avoid disappointing and losing their clients.
I recall suggesting that it might be best to use a teleprompter for the recordings but none was available. That’s why you can see me referring to my notes. Other than that I think the webcasts are fine and I know they contain useful and commercial soultions. All of these are covered in more detail in my talk: How to make more money from your tax clients.

This year we have a new 31 October deadline for submitting paper based tax returns. This replaces the 30 September deadline referred to in the webcasts. Other than that the advice should be equally valuable this year as it was in 2006 when the recordings were made.

I hope you find them helpful – although the technology has moved on quite a bit in the last two years.


A salutory example and warning

As regular readers will know, one of the talks I regularly present to accountants and tax advisers around the UK addresses Negligence claims and what you can do to avoid these.

Early on in the talk I know that I shock some of my audiences when I spend a few minutes talking about Forgery and fraud.  I outline the relevant law, the penalties and some of the activities that fall with this remit.  I explain the relevance of this and how it relates to the rest of the material being addressed.

I was reminded of this when reading the Sunday Times report about legal action being taken against Izodia’s professional advisers.  The paper’s reporters predicted this outcome almost exactly two years ago.

The claim was lodged last Friday and apparently names the law firm’s company secretarial arm as a defendant.

“According to the claim, a Fladgate partner “signed a forged and fraudulent minute purporting to record a board meeting of Izodia [that never took place]”. The partner is also alleged to have said that at the “meeting”, three individuals were directors of Izodia when they were not. The “meeting” was said to have authorised the opening of a bank account with RBS International through which money was siphoned off by [“serial crook Gerald Smith”].”

In my talk I explain that a top litigation lawyer told me that the most common reason that accountants get involved with illegal acts is that they are too focused on trying to help their clients to realise the implications.   Backdating a document is but one example of how a fraudulent document may be created. It’s a crime under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 and such crimes qualify for a prison sentence.

As I note during my talk – the consequence of such allegations would be even worse than in respect of a negligence claim. And if a disgruntled client is unable to purse a negligence claim against you, then you want to ensure they aren’t in a position to allege that you’ve been involved in any criminal activity.  Such activities would include the creation, copying or using false instruments or the making of false representations.

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In house training session for an accountancy firm

Had a great time yesterday afternoon presenting a couple of training sessions for an accountancy firm. I love doing this. Normally I only do one slot on one issue. This time though I’d been asked to address both of the following :

  • How to avoid negligence claims; and
  • Taking the work out of Networking

Both were cut down versions of full half day courses and seemed to go very well. The guy who had booked me was delighted and said I’d created a very good impression and made a number of new friends. He also checked that I’d be sending my invoice promptly. (Of course! ;-))

I’d like to think that one reason for such a positive reaction was the way that I made both sessions relevant to the firm and to the people in the room. Perhaps also that I evidently didn’t take myself too seriously, helped to maintain the informal and flexible style of the event and also a little party trick I threw in.

The question I’ll leave you with for the weekend is this:

When you’re working with a client for the first time, how much do you tailor your approach and what you say to suit your audience?