Emily Ness and Caroline Webster tell the history of UHY Ross Brooke.
We were all desperate for some positive news at the start of 2021, following a tumultuous 2020, and it came in the form of the announcement that UHY Ross Brooke were to join our UHY family. Bringing four new offices and a team of around 100 people to work within our Group, and alongside our 11 existing member firms, we were keen to share more about our newest member firm and what makes them great.
Can you tell us a little more about the history of UHY Ross Brooke?
How long have you been established? How has the firm grown?
Michael Brooke is the founder of UHY Ross Brooke. He originally acquired a small practice in Newbury in 1988 with around £30,000 of fees. In 1994, he merged the firm with long-established local firm Ross Smith to form Ross Brooke, based within Newbury.
Our Swindon office was opened in 2000 when the firm acquired a local Swindon practice, giving us reach across the M4 corridor. We made another acquisition in 2015 when we opened our Hungerford office, and more recently the Abingdon office opened in 2018.
We have further strengthened both the Swindon and Hungerford offices with further acquisitions of good quality local practices.
The Abingdon office has seen rapid organic growth and has quickly established itself as a strong presence in the Oxford area, particularly due to its audit focus. The Newbury office, having been established for over 30 years, is well known in the local area as the largest independent firm within the town. Through a combination of organic growth and acquisition, we have grown to now boast a team of around 100 people across our four offices.
What would you say are your key strengths or specialisms?
We have a strong audit department and we are seeing continued growth in this area. Our Abingdon office also focuses on academies and charities and our proximity to Oxford is key to this. We are also a partner in an Equine LLP as well as an Estate Planning LLP, both of which are in the process of joining the network fully. These give us specialisms in the horse racing world and trusts and estates respectively. In addition, we are a partner in an LLP providing specialist accounting services and advice to dentists. We also have a strong and developing tax team headed by our tax partner, Phil Kinzett-Evans, with strengths in Research and Development, capital allowances claims, international tax, share schemes and tax due diligence. We also carry out general practice work with a large number of owner managed businesses which we work closely with on accounts and tax matters using the latest technology.
It has been great to see UHY Ross Brooke actively participating in our various national sector and working groups, using the national resources and referring work across our UK and international networks already. What were the main attractions for you in joining the UHY network?
We have been looking around for a network which would work for us, given our recent expansion, and take our business to the next level. In particular, we looked for a collaborative network where there would be mutual support and referrals, and one where there was a strong international presence. UHY seemed to tick the boxes and the meetings we had prior to joining gave us confidence that this would be the case. We also wanted to join a network that we felt would strengthen our firm’s presence both locally and nationally, and the UHY name was one that was well known and respected by us. We felt that UHY would be a good fit with our existing structure and values and it was good to see that all firms in the network appeared to work together to portray the same image.
Appreciating that it’s still early days, what benefits have you already seen as a result of joining the UHY network?
We feel that the network is really friendly and supportive. We have been able to tender for audits that we would potentially not have been invited to do before and we have also won more of those tenders. Being able to refer work to UHY International is also a great advantage and we have already been able to do this on numerous occasions and it is useful that there is such a global reach. We find the network really professional and the shared use of resources within the UK, where it is sensible, is also really useful. UHY Technical have provided us with valuable documentation and pro-formas together with ad-hoc technical help, and the marketing team have been really supportive of us in our first few months, assisting us with tender documents and guiding us where needed. This has been invaluable and the presentation of all the documents has been a really good standard.
Please tell us more about your roles within UHY Ross Brooke
How long have you been with the firm?
Emily: I have been with the firm for 21 years having joined straight from university. Having initially trained with ACCA, I then completed my conversion to ICAEW and most recently completed my CTA qualification. I am Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT) for the firm and, as such, I work closely with the trainees to develop them and ensure that they receive a good level of training and experience.
I split my time between the Newbury and Swindon offices and my client base consists of general practice work with a lot of owner managed businesses where I work with the clients on their accounts and tax positions. I also have a number of limited company audit clients in a range of industries which add some diversity to my portfolio.
Caroline: I joined the firm four years ago, having been attracted by the client-centred approach and strong team ethos. I am an audit specialist with many years’ experience, with a particular interest in charities, although my portfolio is varied and includes large corporates. I am the audit compliance partner for the firm.
A year after joining the firm we opened the Abingdon office which Michael Brooke and I are responsible for. We opened the new office with seven people three years ago; we now have twenty one in our team and we have been fortunate in attracting high quality staff to work with us in developing our offering. We are pleased with our expansion and continue to gain new clients.
How do you split the MD role between you?
Do you split duties and responsibilities?
We think that communication is key to the joint MD role. As the role is relatively new to us both, we haven’t divided the responsibilities between us and instead try to work collaboratively. As a firm we think there is a benefit in having Directors in different offices share the role as part of our desire to work collaboratively between offices in sharing best practice and ensuring that our work is carried out by team members with appropriate skills and specialisms.
We have a weekly meeting to discuss anything that has arisen and then look to implement items that we decide upon. We feel this is very much an evolving role for us both and we work closely with our joint Chairs, Michael Brooke and Chris Davies.
How do you keep in touch across your offices?
Has this been more of a challenge during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, the Directors would have face-to-face meetings monthly and we would visit different offices. Since the pandemic, these meetings have taken place on Teams which has been good because that has kept communication channels open, but we are looking forward to our first face-to-face meeting again later this month.
We use Teams across the offices, in particular for the audit work, and we find that this helps to improve communication between different teams as everyone gets to know each other. As we try to be a paperless firm wherever possible, this makes it easier for work to be picked up no matter which location people are in. There are also regular email communications from the MDs for the firm as a whole where we communicate anything important. Our offices are all within a 30 mile radius, meaning it’s not hard to travel between the offices and we think that this helps us all to keep in touch.
What plans do you have for the future?
Are there any key projects in the pipeline at the moment?
Our plans for the future are to strengthen each local office with a combination of marketing and possibly mergers. We do see considerable opportunities for our specialisms in the Thames Valley, and anticipate continued growth in the immediate future.
The firm continues to look to recruit both graduates and experienced professionals and we have ambitious plans over the next few years. We are very much a partner-led firm with partners knowing all of their clients and working closely with them, and we believe that the UHY brand gives us the opportunity to get in front of more potential clients to explain the expertise and services which we can offer.
Thanks to both Emily and Caroline for taking the time to talk to us. If you would like any further information on the firm, please feel free to contact the MDs directly at Emily Ness – email@example.com and Caroline Webster – firstname.lastname@example.org