It’s a small point, but the fact that John Holroyd had Oliver Hoffman alongside him to talk about Mazars impressed me. John is a partner, chartered accountant and chartered tax advisor whose portfolio includes manufacturing, property, retail and IT businesses. Impressive.
While managing partner Oliver is national head of corporate finance, advising on company sales, acquisitions, MBOs and finance raising. Again, impressive.
So to have both of them was a treat. Two key players for my Panini Fantasy Finance sticker album, but one theme: Confidence is back. “The key-overriding comment we are hearing is that growth is firmly on our clients’ agenda” said Oliver.
“That is great to hear, because for a number of years the discussion has been about stability and shorter-term development rather than being concerned about longer-term growth.
“I think we can break that down into a lot of different areas. There is organic growth and development, recruitment plans and we get asked by a lot of clients about how they go about growing their core business and making it bigger, better and stronger in new product areas and new markets.
“There is also a focus on growth by acquisition, which is more where I come in.
”John Holroyd’s pride in his team’s success – which grows into a confidence that businesses across Yorkshire are relieved to hear – is evident.
He tells me: “Over the last two years we have had quite a number of people who have asked us to find them a business to buy. To date we have a 100 per cent success rate with that.
“We have helped clients in the UK and overseas find new markets geographically, not just new product markets. In the UK, this growth has more been in new product areas. Thankfully, this success comes from this blend being created.”
That blend must also contain transparency, with tax issues hitting the headlines recently.
Mazars has launched a global initiative to help restore trust between business and society. Business for Good looks at issues such as diversity, innovation and tax transparency.
“The key question we hear is ‘what would you do if you were me?’. Our clients look for honesty and transparency, which is very high on our agenda and on theirs,” said John.
“People don’t want to get on the wrong side of the taxman. They want to take advantage of the appropriate means of manipulating their tax – clearly within the law.
“We have had a tax transparency initiative in place for the last few years, letting people see the benefits of proper tax planning early on.”
From my viewpoint, the combination of confidence across Yorkshire businesses based on the continuing steady recovery, a history of innovation and the soaring approachability of leading figures in the finance sector has attached a turbo to the region’s engine. Soon we will be able to put our foot down hard on the accelerator, all the time keeping that engine regularly fuelled and maintained.
Oliver agrees that there is a growing regional power at work. “The North’s businesses have been pretty resilient and remain entrepreneurial, which means they can find opportunities in bad times and opportunities in good times.
“We are entering good times and certainly our clients are taking the North in some different directions and are very open-minded about what the opportunities might be. Our job is to take ideas to clients about development as well as acquisitions.
”One thing that keeps the region strong is that we find there is a commonality of vision between our clients in marketplaces and products.”
John has also been reading the runes, particularly the ones with R&D in them. “We are helping a lot of people with research and development plans, which obviously can lead to future increased profits.
HMRC’s own stats show that only one third of those eligible for R&D grants apply for them, so we are getting a lot of new business helping those firms fund their growth plan and new ventures.
“Another area of growth for me is working with people who are thinking of leaving their employment and setting out on their own. They are telling me this is the right time to make the jump.”
Oliver puts this down to an increased level of certainty and positivity. Even with an election just a few days away, that return of confidence is a driving force.
“Looking back to the last election, there were a lot of businesses putting things on hold. But there has been a lot less of that now. The right messages are coming out in the local marketplace and centrally and it gives people a spark to think ‘right – this is my time’.”
That local and central mix is a big part of Mazars, but from their role as principal partners with Yorkshire County Cricket Club to Community Days and the Mazars Charitable Trust, they are Yorkshire through and through.
John says: “The vast majority of our clients are Yorkshire-based and a key thing is to make sure that people like Oliver and myself and our other colleagues have got availability. Either over the phone or face to face we have to be able to respond quickly.
“We want to be working with our clients at ‘the coalface’. That’s the fun of it.
“If someone trusts you enough to ask you for help, that’s great – an absolute privilege.”
That trust builds businesses, both for the clients and for the advisers, and while the people at the top of Yorkshire’s financial ladder believe their job is a privilege – Yorkshire businesses will trust them as well.