‘We left the office in March 2020 as Frank Hirth, and we came back as part of a global organisation – EY,’ says Iain Younger, describing the 2021 union of a boutique specialist firm with a professional services superpower. The end result was the creation of EY Frank Hirth – a new entity that he believes can combine the niche expertise of one with the scale and breadth of the other.
So far, the omens are good. Younger was crowned Spear’s Private Client Accountant of the Year in recognition of his technical skills, work ethic and what one of our judges described as a ‘robust good grace’ – all attributes that you suspect will be useful as the partnership evolves. But Younger is not one to steal the limelight. ‘We couldn’t have done it unless we were a team, and I think that’s really key for me in winning this award,’ he stresses.
Embedding a boutique firm of around 200 people into the massive framework of a Big Four firm is a challenge, he admits, but the rapport he has built with his colleagues over a period of more than two decades have proved to be a solid foundation.
‘It’s been easier because we are close, we are together,’ he says. ‘In some ways, [the pandemic] is a double-edged sword: it helped us as a team come closer together. And what’s key for us in the conversation with EY is that we are a team – we want that to continue in EY.’
In some ways, Younger says, he thinks of his clients as colleagues, too. This approach enhances the way he communicates with HNWs, especially those whose affairs span the US and the UK, creating complex tax is- sues. This allows him and his team to be proactive. ‘If the only time you talk to a client is when you’re preparing a tax return, you’re looking backwards,’ he says. Instead, ‘you want to work with clients to understand their motivations, their goals, and how we can assist them with their tax efficiency within that.’
Younger is not coy about spelling out what makes him stand out among increasingly tough competition in the burgeoning private client space.
‘I think you need to be blunt about it, I think our size sets us apart,’ he says. ‘We were 200 people, doing this work, and we’re now 200 people plus everything that EY brings – all the expertise and all the different services that we can bring to the table.’ Guiding clients through complex UK-US tax arrange- ments ‘is what we’ve done for the 45 years Frank Hirth has been in existence’.
Indeed, Younger is proud of the fact that he has spent his entire career at Frank Hirth, largely under the tutelage of the late chairman Paul Hocking, who developed the firm’s market-leading ethos of private client service.
Image: Sebastian Nevols