Accountants part of global stable but keep a local focus

Andrew Rowe of Azets. Picture by Tom Banks

An accountancy firm with a large base at Wynyard is embarking on an exciting new era as part of the international Azets stable.

Formerly Baldwins, the firm – with around 70 people employed at Wynyard Park and more throughout the north – has rebranded as Azets, one of the world’s major business accountancy players and with more than 160 offices worldwide.

Partner Andrew Rowe tells Dave Robson what it means for Teesside clients – and stresses how the local touch will remain very much to the fore.

Tell us about Azets: Well, the name’s a play on words of “assets” and that’s what we’re all about, helping businesses make the most of what they have. It brings together all of our group’s brands under one banner and Azets in the Nordics was the largest and most well-established name internationally.

So why join the Azets stable? It’s a switched on, progressive, tech-savvy accountancy and business advisory group and that’s how we see ourselves on Teesside. The traditional accountant is an end-of-year compliance service. We see ourselves as using technology to automate a lot of the data capture and compliance stuff, which allows us to be advisors throughout the year – partners to the business rather than a service bought in at the year end.

Who are your clientele? Everything from sole traders to multi-million pound companies. But our best fit partner is the SME (small-to-medium-sized enterprises) community. In the last few years we have specialised in advising the digital sector – start-ups, university spinouts, that sort of thing. A really varied mix.

What’s your approach to digital working? We were early adopters of the Cloud. Using tech for the manually intensive, data capture side of things means there’s more time for us to advise the client on important stuff to them – starting, growing and even exiting their business. Some people don’t like change – there’ve been a few comments like “What happens if the internet blows up?” – but if you can demonstrate the time and cash savings, it’s a very neat solution for many businesses.

What sort of new developments have you brought in? We use CoZone – a Cloudbased, end-to-end, secure document exchange for us and clients, so there’s no more attaching to emails or sending it in the post. You can sign accounts and tax returns electronically. It’s a real timesaver and reflects the top-level cyber security you need to have now. We are the only accountancy firm who are platinum partners with all of the leading Cloud accountancy software houses, reflecting our commitment and investment in this area. We have recently invested in new software which enables us to quickly analyse accounts and tax information, helping us to react and advise more quickly with the best advice.

Is it all about digital? We advocate digital working, but there’s still the odd person who likes pen and paper, so we remain flexible to our individual clients’ needs. But digital working brings many advantages. We can be a virtual financial director for a business, as well as looking after the compliance stuff such as tax and accounts.

Might people lose the local touch? Absolutely not. We pride ourselves on providing a local, professional service. We’re very conscious you need to have local knowledge. I’m chairman of the Redcar and Cleveland Chamber of Commerce committee and know the importance of a local outlook and providing a personal, high standard of service. But if clients have a problem that’s outside the norm, we can access specialist advice quickly for them through our national and international network. An example of this is Customs Duty issues as we run up to December 31. It’s great to be part of a big international player but we never forget our roots and the importance of providing that local, professional, friendly service.