Hazlewoods magazine: Meet our people

Published: Monday 20 July 2020

Katie Bond, Senior Associate

Joining Hazlewoods straight after my A-levels, I have now been working in our Corporate Services team at the Cheltenham office for nearly six years. I chose the AAT route to becoming an accountant which has meant that I qualified at 22 and I am much younger than many of my peers. Whilst there is a lot of pressure to go to university, I felt that AAT was the best route for me, and I am now further in my career than I would have been, gaining added experience along the way. I am a senior associate which involves leading audits for a variety of clients. I am also involved in non-work-related activities, such as the social committee which involves organising events throughout the year and our annual Christmas party.

A typical day pre lockdown involved visiting clients to perform statutory audits, mentoring trainees and working alongside other departments within Hazlewoods to solve client problems.I am often the main day to day contact for clients and therefore also answer ad hoc queries. A highlight of my role is meeting new people and having an insight on a variety of different businesses and industries.

COVID-19 has changed my day to day role in a variety of ways. I began lockdown working on my dining room table with only my laptop and portable screen. As lockdown has continued and working from home is here to stay, I have invested in equipment and have now set up a permanent comfortable and motivating space for me to work from.

Thanks to our IT team, IT issues have been minimal and overall it has been easy transitioning to this new working style and environment.

Working in the audit team meant I was already set up and used to working away from the office as I regularly travelled across the country, working on site at clients’ offices.

Clients have adapted well to meetings moving from face to face to video calling. The rapport I have built with clients over my time at Hazlewoods has been maintained with regular contact to catch up, seeing whether we can assist with any of the new challenges that they are facing.

Communication is by far the most significant skill which has enabled the ‘new norm’ to run effortlessly. In order to maintain team engagement and continue support between the team members, from managers to new graduates, over this period of working from home, we have introduced open microphone sessions where when a group of people are working on the same client we keep the video calls running in the background to create an office environment whereby you can ask questions as and when they arise rather than inefficiently having to email or call. This has been positively valued and a great way to replicate the social aspect that could otherwise be lost from no longer working in the same room as the whole team.

Dan Town, Director

I have over 20 years’ experience working as a business adviser and accountant, 15 of which have been focused on corporate clients including large and complex

group structures, funds, and owner managed business amongst others. I have a particular interest in the property and construction industries having specialised in that area for a lot of my career.

I’m originally from London and this is where I developed significant experience with listed clients; I have worked for both other mid-tier and big 4 accountants over the years and joined Hazlewoods in early July. The firm has such a great reputation in the South West and further afield, so it is an exciting move for me.

I’m really looking forward to the opportunities available working here; the firm has a great range of clients from the start-ups to the international corporations, and it is exciting to be part of it.

Moving firms can always be a daunting prospect and with the majority of people working remotely at the moment, it has been a really interesting time and not quite how I had imagined my first few weeks of working at Hazlewoods would be. However, everyone has been so supportive and welcoming since I joined and accommodating with the numerous questions I’ve been asking.

COVID-19 has certainly changed the way in which auditors operate both during lockdown and as we are coming out of lockdown to new ways of working.

Lockdown has given auditors plenty to think about and practicalities which perhaps  previously  we  had  taken for granted. For example, stock takes and physical asset verification during lockdown proved difficult and I was being challenged almost daily to come up with innovative ways of auditing to gain sufficient levels of audit assurance whilst acting within the Government guidelines.

I’ve noticed that I speak to clients and the audit team more and this is normally via video conference to still get that personal touch, which I feel is important for an audit relationship to be successful. I’ve found that I have probably used every video conferencing tool available in the market space, I never knew there were that many but it just shows how technology has come on over the past few years!

COVID-19 has made me think that we can certainly be more efficient with our time and how we spend it during the day, and that a video call can be a good substitute for a traditional face to face meeting when it permits. There will be times when a face to face meeting is more practical or required, for example, attendance at an audit committee or AGM which in person will be more suitable; however, for other meetings, a video call might suffice and I can see this being a preferred choice in the future as we become more trusting of new technology and new ways of forming business relationships.

The key going forward will be how audits change and how they will be carried out. Historically, a team will go onsite for 1-2 weeks depending on the size of the engagement, with senior team members popping out intermittently to check on progress. COVID-19 has meant all audits have been carried out remotely and going forwards I can see the approach changing to a hybrid of being onsite at clients and working remotely. During my short time here at Hazlewoods I can see as a firm we have the technology in place to make this work and this will only lead to a tailored approach for clients to best suit their needs going forwards. It will also open up opportunities for new business relationships which previously might not have happened; COVID-19 has proven more than ever it doesn’t matter where in the country you are located, the important part is delivery of an audit and I can see this opening up new opportunities which personally I am excited to see.

Overall, it’s been a great start to my career with the firm and looking forward to meeting my client and colleagues face to face when we are finally able to, whenever that might be!