Yusuf Erol is the Group Managing Director of Langbrook Finance
I didn’t have elaborate plans when I was at university but after I got my business degree, I saw an advertisement for a finance assistant job for a large charity in West London and that started my journey in finance. I had a great line manager who always took time out to teach me; this positive mentoring approach is something I have always adopted through my management positions later on in my career.
After working around 18 months in that charity, I took up a new role as a finance officer for a private company linked to a local authority and that started my local government journey. For more than 17 years I worked with Hackney Council in one way or another and by the end of my time there, I led the finance team for the education and children’s social care directorate. If you do not work in the public sector, then you may not realise the scale and scope that such roles can have - my directorate had an annual budget of £400m and about 1,200 staff. If we were a company, it would be a very big company!
In recent years, I started thinking about doing something else and the thought of being in practice has always appealed to me – albeit a risky move. My application for a practice certificate went relatively smoothly. I saw the Council through the worst of the challenges that the pandemic brought - and then in the autumn of 2021 I made the move and now I have a great team around me in Langbrook Finance where we offer a range of business advisory and accountancy services.
I work mainly with our public sector clients, who appreciate that we understand grants, their regulatory & governance environment, and the effect of political policies on their work. If other practices want to get involved in this area, then to increase their chances of winning public sector contracts, I think the three things they could do are:
- Consider recruiting your next accountant from the public sector - there are many ACCA members working in the public sector who I believe could quickly adjust to life in practice, and bring public sector knowhow to your firm
- Approach other ACCA practices who have an active public sector offering (like Langbrook), to see if there are consortium opportunities
- Volunteer in the public sector (for example, partners becoming school governors, or trustees in local authority subsidiaries) to expand your network of prospective clients.
Langbrook Finance’s public sector offering focuses on local government, central government, and education – the latter because of my extensive experience in education whilst at Hackney Council. The intention within the practice was that I would focus on the public sector, and my colleagues would focus on other specialisms like the private sector and corporation tax; the reality is somewhat different and surprised us. We now have public sector clients that want tax work and private sector clients who want help with business development planning for their public sector customer base. So, we have our tax specialists working with some of our public sector clients, whilst my public sector background and knowledge make me the right person for some of our private sector clients. As a result, the practice has turned out not to be as compartmentalised as we had expected when we first set out.
In the first six months, it's been as good a start as I had hoped; now, we look to do more. We hope to grow in all our specialist sectors, including our public sector division. It can be an unforgiving process if you get it wrong, missing complex decision-making cycles if you don’t move quickly enough. Those practitioners thinking of getting into local government and central government work, keep in mind that governance workflows can be lengthy and complex – understandable given that their spending is public money.
I’m excited at what I think are some real opportunities for us.