Churchgates celebrating 10 years
In 2021, the Bury St Edmunds based company is marking an anniversary on the way, no doubt, to more growth and success.
How did it all start? Well, Churchgate Accountants Ltd launched in March 2011 following a local management buyout of the Grant Thornton office in Bury St Edmunds.
Over the last decade the company has more than doubled in size to become a strong team employing over 50 people in the Eastern region.
Churchgates takes its name from the location at which three of the founding directors met – Churchgate House, Bury St Edmunds. Robin Jackson, Roger Baker, and Michael MacSwiney first started working together at what was formerly known as Thornton Baker, which subsequently became Grant Thornton following a merger with Alexander Grant & Co in 1986.
The recently merged Bury St Edmunds office of Grant Thornton then moved to its current premises at 18 Langton Place in 1988. It was here that Robin, Roger, and Michael met fellow directors Alwyn Evans and Matthew Boardman. Collectively, the five directors have a wealth of expertise in a wide range of specialist sectors and a combined experience in their respective professions of over 150 years.
The short-term vision of the buyout at the time was to provide greater stability for employees and continue to offer the office’s full range of services for clients who wished to continue to be serviced from Bury St Edmunds.
Robin Jackson said “At the outset it was very encouraging to see the majority of our existing client base chose to stay with us as we made this step into becoming an independent business”
“We were also very fortunate in that no redundancies were made as part of the buyout process and all of our staff decided to stay with us. In fact, staff who had previously left Grant Thornton decided to come back to work for us, which was a huge vote of confidence and let us know that we were creating a business environment which was enjoyable to work in. Some of our staff have worked with us for a number of decades.”
Over the last ten years, the company has expanded its range of services to become a single point of contact for all legal and financial advice, relating to both personal and business finances.
In 2015, Churchgates gained approval to practice as solicitors, and began offering legal advice on estate administration, wills, powers of attorney, property conveyancing and corporate transactions.
The aim was to build on, and implement, the existing taxation, estate planning and financial advice that the firm was providing to its clients. Such was the success of this new service offering that, in little over three years since gaining approval, Churchgates became ranked in the Legal 500 as one of the recommended firms in East Anglia for Private Client – Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate services.
Churchgates is now ranked as a Tier 2 firm in East Anglia by The Legal 500 Guide, which says Churchgates “stands out for estate planning advice to farmers, owner-managed businesses, investors, doctors and property owners”.
Matthew Boardman, who heads up the legal department said “The last ten years has seen a dramatic change in the breadth of advice that Churchgates can give its clients. It is very gratifying to see not only how our legal services have been able to contribute to that and to experience first-hand how clients appreciate and respond to the joined up service offering, but also to see some of our legal work in particular featured and recognised by industry publications, and peer-reviewed publications, such as the Legal 500 and Chambers.”
“One of our ambitions for legal services within the next ten years will be to continue to expand the scope of our legal offering and become recognised as a top tier firm across all our various disciplines.”
As well as offering legal services, the personal financial planning side of the business has seen expansion with the introduction of a discretionary investment management service in 2014.
Financial Planning Director, Alwyn Evans said “Under a discretionary service we decide on the transactions we feel are most appropriate for our client’s portfolio, considering their investment objectives and the level of risk they are willing to take. The major advantage of this to our clients is that we are able to react a lot quicker to market movements.”
“Over the next ten years, we hope our discretionary service will continue to offer excellent value for money and we want to emulate the strong investment returns we have provided to our clients over the last ten years through both our advisory and discretionary investment management service.”
Robin Jackson believes that the success of the company over the last ten years has been mainly down to the unique multi-disciplinary proposition the firm now offers and the friendly professional approach of the firm’s employees.
Robin said “The way our multi-disciplinary business proposition has evolved in this period has been instrumental to our success. Our proposition as it now stands has considerable appeal once this is explained to new clients.”
“I think we offer a very friendly service to our clients which is aimed at building trust and this helps us gain more work. You might say producing quality work and delivering on this is a given, but I also think we do that as well. Doing this then gains us more work through referral or by building up a position of trust with our clients.”
The directors of Churchgates do not plan to stand still for the next ten years and want to keep the business growing.
Robin added “I think we still need to be ambitious and continue growing the business, as if you stand still you go backwards in a constantly changing world.”
“We may also need to look where we might expand our service offering into new areas, which fit with our business as it now stands.”
One of the main challenges for the business over the next ten years will be navigating away from providing the traditional compliance services which have helped make the company successful until now and moving higher up the value chain into providing more advisory and planning services.
When asked about the next ten years Robin Jackson said, “The main challenge will be on the compliance side of our business where we have already seen the impact of technology and automation. But advice and being a trusted adviser are much harder to automate and I suspect the world will become more complicated rather than less so. Hence, from our standpoint as trusted adviser to many families, alongside our service offering in totality, I think we are in a strong position. Currently we are seeing more new work opportunities than I can ever recall.”
Roger Baker sees the main growth for the firm in the next ten years coming from legal services, discretionary investment management, business and tax advisory work. He added “Quality, service and reputation has helped us to get where we are today. For the future, compliance will reduce in general practice due to automation, but we are in a good place to provide accounts and tax advisory work.”
The team at Churchgates will be celebrating ten years in business on March 11.
For more information on Churchgates, click here.