In September, Accountancy Age proudly launched the inaugural edition of the Mid-Tier Power Index (MTPI): an all-new ranking designed to highlight excellence in the middle market of the accounting industry.

MICT seeks to go beyond typical financial measures. While profitability and growth were considered as one of four categories, participants were also assessed on strategic planning, professional excellence, and people and community.

Securing 4e North London-based Grunberg & Co topped the rankings. The company excelled in all four index categories, although it narrowly ended up in our 50+50 – the biggest gap between the two rankings for a company.

In a conversation with Accountancy Age, Managing Partner Robert Bean explains how the increased focus on soft skills and the emergence of new service lines has facilitated the company’s growth.

Professional Excellence – “Accountants are reactive rather than proactive”

RB: It is difficult to differentiate ourselves from other accountants, so we had to consider how we can be slightly different and meet the needs of our clients and our staff. People are the most important thing to deliver professional excellence.

We have many people who have been with us for a long time. So with that, we have decided over the past few years to invest significantly in soft skills. This allows our team to better support our customers, understand how to take initiative, communicate and become leaders, rather than just focusing on the technical aspects.

And then there are also the services we offer. Over the years, we have invested in technologies, such as cloud accounting and a wide range of integrated applications, which help us observe our customers’ activities in real time rather than relying on data from the past. This means that we are able to react immediately if we see something that is not where it should be, while being more proactive than reactive.

Historically, I think accountants are reactive rather than proactive. So we tried to do a bit more than other companies. For example, when we saw that the world was changing and MTD was approaching, we quickly transitioned the majority of our customers to Xero.

This was really important – it gave us and our clients real-time insights and deeper insight into their KPIs. We are now Xero experts thanks to our rapid and early adoption.

People and Community – “Start at the Bottom” with Talent Development

RB: Again, many of our people have been with us for many years, and we also have a lot of interns. They start without any knowledge and we build them. We even have a partner in the firm who joined us as an intern.

Likewise, many of the people who have joined us through activities such as apprenticeships are now senior managers and associate directors within our company. So we obviously offer something that our people love.

People are obviously the most important asset we have, and so we listen to them. So, for example, the benefits we offer are tailored based on what the team requested, and similarly with the new offices we moved into a few years ago – we put together a focus group and taken into account what they said.

As you have probably heard from many other people, staff recruitment has become very difficult in the industry as there is a lack of suitable candidates. So our view is, let’s start from the bottom. Bring in new people and shape them into our mold and allow them to move up the ladder.

As part of this approach, we came to the conclusion a few years before COVID that while the technical skills are great, it’s essential that our team can manage their time, communicate well with customers, write an email, etc. . I’ve been in the industry for a while, and writing something now is unusual. So writing a letter, for example, is a skill that people don’t necessarily have anymore, and that sort of thing can be critical when it comes to dealing with and retaining customers.

Strategic planning – Becoming “crypto experts”

RB: The main thing was the deployment of our new services. The big development we are launching now is the crypto tax, accounting and advisory service, which we have dubbed Grunberg & Co Version 3.0. Version 1.0 being our traditional accounting firm, and version 2.0 being our cloud side and Making Tax Digital. As you can see, we have become experts in crypto and have invested time in understanding how it works from a tax and accounting perspective.

Most companies have a weird customer who is interested in crypto. So we just looked at the market and realized that few companies offer a complete and rounded service.

So, we just thought, why not become experts in this field? And this is something that has allowed us to differentiate ourselves from other companies.

Profitability and Growth – Winning Business in the Big Four

RB: Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we managed to increase our commission income by more than 11% between fiscal years 20/21 and 21/22, and we plan to increase it again by at least 10% this year.

One of the firm’s main areas of growth has been its auditing and business advisory services. The firm has on several occasions won major audit work from the Big Four and now audits several multi-billion pound oil and gas companies operating in the UK, Asia and internationally. Part of this growth has also been achieved through the onboarding of new customers, with the company securing over 350 new instructions in the past year alone.

However, emphasis has also been placed on cross-selling services. By offering more to existing clients, they helped retain more work and earn higher fee income. Because of that, we just grew organically. We didn’t buy cabinets or anything like that – a lot of our new business comes from referrals and referrals from existing clients and contacts. It is clear that the work we do is appreciated by our customers.

As to which areas of the business will grow the most, that remains to be seen. The crypto offering is the new part of the business and of course we hope it will explode, but little do you know cryptocurrency is the new big thing. But as the world evolves, we will evolve and we will be able to provide our customers with the services they need.

What are the biggest challenges for the business right now?

RB: I think the most important thing for us and for every company is to have staff. Everyone is fighting for the same staff, so you have to differentiate yourself.

We have high standards here and will not tolerate substandard service. But we’ve taken on a handful of interns over the past two months that we can train our own way. Hopefully in the future this will solve the problem of finding high quality talent.

The full ranking of the Accountancy Age Mid-Tier Power Index 2022 can be viewed here.