Bethan Evans is a partner in mid-tier practices Menzies LLP which specialises in restructuring and insolvency
As a young adult, I loved to read novels. I would read the likes of Jane Green, Maeve Binchy and Patricia Scanlan’s City Girl series of novels. I loved the idea of dressing up in a suit and becoming a businesswoman. I was fortunate enough to have a family friend as CFO of a Plc who offered me work experience. I learnt that he had started his career as an auditor in one of the big firms and it was inspiring to see how he had once been like me and was now sat on the Board of Directors. That, combined with fiction, was my inspiration although it felt a bit like an unconquerable mountain. One day, I went to a small practice offering ACCA training and a job. That was the day I met my now business partner and it’s the day that I fell into the world of restructuring and insolvency.
I am now a partner in a mid-tier firm, Menzies LLP. We are a general accountancy practice based in the South East of England and Wales. I am based in Cardiff and our office is all about Business Recovery. At the beginning of the pandemic it was quiet which allowed us to adapt to the new ways of working, putting in place new policies and procedures for day to day working, rolling out new technology and checking in with our teams. As time went on, we found ourselves advising a lot of clients on their solvency and cash flow projections. We worked closely with our general practice colleagues and their clients, particularly corporate finance who were working hard to get CBILs over the line.
Working from home has been the biggest challenge we’ve faced during the pandemic. Whilst it has created the opportunity for people to gain more flexibility in their daily lives and provided a greater work life balance, it comes with mental health challenges, training issues and collaboration barriers. That said, the advances in technology have created some real opportunities. This is helping to break down geographical barriers, improve productivity and, given the mass scale on which it is happening around the world, help towards climate change pledges.
Improving paper usage and embracing the use of electronic delivery of documentation has been an important part of our drive to be sustainable. It is all about making it easy for people to make changes to their lives and daily routines so that they can embrace the changes. Docusign and client portals are big ones and for our department and the changes made to the Insolvency Rules in 2016 mean we no longer have to hold physical meetings as a matter of course, instead we can hold virtual meetings and make decisions by correspondence. This of course means less travel and less emissions.
"One of the things I love about my job is the variety and the curve balls that are thrown at me every day but that does involve stepping outside of my comfort zone sometimes."
A good example is a number of years ago when I was relatively junior, and I was sent to trade the administration of a printing company. I was terrified and at one point was locked in the kitchen of the premises on the phone to one of the partners explaining how the production manager was fighting against my decisions. It was all about having confidence and knowing why my decision making was right. I was well and truly out of my comfort zone but, having been given a pep talk and knowing my logic backed up my decisions, I went on to complete the project and make a profit. The business was later sold and I paid dividends to all the creditors.
The immediate future is going to be busy. Unfortunately, as we all know, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy and there will be a substantial need for turnaround, restructuring and insolvency professionals to help rebuild the economy over the course of the next few years. Improvements in technology are making it easy for us to do our job more efficiently and add more value to our clients which is fantastic, but we also have changes in legislation and regulation to navigate.
"As technology evolves there are more tasks that it can do for us to improve efficiencies, but technology cannot replace the experience and empathy that the practitioner brings to the role."
Accountants should be key business partners for any business. We have the expertise to advise on strategy, assist with funding applications, help with succession planning, to guide for growth, turnaround and restructure businesses. We have expert knowledge, experience and an ability to empathise with the people operating the business.
Those entering the profession are starting on a journey. Anyone who comes into the profession thinking they know all they need to is certainly not ready and those that are not ready to take ownership of tasks and look for ways to problem solve will struggle. The world is changing at pace and those that come into work ready to embrace change will have a more fulfilling career.