Posted on Wednesday 23 March 2011 by Ulster Business

Des Kelly, Sean Cavanagh and Gerard Gildernew

L-R: Des Kelly, Sean Cavanagh and Gerard Gildernew.

Ulster Business talks to the partners of Cavanagh Kelly to find out more about the firm's decision to expand from its Mid-Ulster base by setting up a permanent office in Belfast

Professional accountancy and business advisory firm Cavanagh Kelly could not have chosen a more central location for its new Belfast office unless it had set up shop in the City Hall! At the start of 2011 the Dungannon headquartered firm established a base at the heart of Belfast's financial district in the Scottish Provident Building on the corner of Donegall Square. The firm has had a presence in Belfast for many years and the volume of work there has steadily increased so it was a natural progression to establish a permanent office so as to be close to clients and the courts. "This work has largely centred on corporate advisory work with the banks and other finance houses and our major presence in the insolvency and restructuring field has increasingly required a Belfast presence," explained partner Des Kelly. Not content with that, the practice will be also adding to that impressive work portfolio by also offering the traditional audit and taxation services. Marriage of minds The firm was formed in 2003 when Sean Cavanagh and Des Kelly merged their practices. "This marriage was a good example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. It allowed us to successfully consolidate expertise across a range of disciplines within a shared culture of commitment to quality work and dedicated service to clients," says Sean Cavanagh. The combined energy and work ethic has allowed the firm to grow from an initial professional team of 15 to the current complement of 65. This, in turn, provides the firm with specific specialisms in corporate finance, management consultancy, tax, insolvency, forensic accounting and public sector advisory work which are over and above the traditional audit and accountancy services. Gerard Gildernew, who joined the firm in 2007 and became a partner in 2009, says there is a critical need for specialisms and practical straightforward advice. "Many business dealings are now more complex and require a high level of professional expertise, otherwise key factors can be missed. With a comprehensive range of specialisms in-house, we can offer the highest level of quality advice and in a streamlined straightforward manner – that is a key platform of our forward strategy," he explained. Business 'Partners' Cavanagh Kelly prides itself in being 'trusted business advisers' who can see beyond the standard accounts figures. It recognises that one of the key factors in its growth is its 'partnership' with ambitious and fast moving clients. The firm has assisted and worked with many of these clients and has enjoyed being a vital part of that vision to move forward into new markets and new disciplines. "Partnership working is embedded in our approach and it allows us to develop a thorough understanding of our clients, the challenges facing them and the solutions they need whether it is succession planning, expansion and growth, controls within systems, tax issues, opportunities for merger or acquisition and preparations for sale of a business or enterprise" says Gerard Gildernew. Home values According to Sean Cavanagh the firm's closeness and commitment to small business underpins its success. "Whilst our large corporate work has been a great platform for growth, the practice has never and will never forget its local roots in the Mid-Ulster community. We continue to be closely involved with a substantial number of small businesses in the area –many have been a source of inspiration in the way they have firmly kept their feet on the ground, which has shielded them from crisis situations and even in this recession are able to look forward to the future with confidence," he said. This allegiance to core values also translates into the firm's support for many community initiatives, something which is a source of great pride for the firm. People power Whilst the success to date has been meteoric, Des Kelly is keen to emphasise the critical importance of its people in getting this far. "People solve problems not computers and we are very fortunate to have a fantastic team of highly committed young professionals who thoroughly enjoy the challenge of their work. With the broad mix of disciplines, we can offer opportunities for people to get wide experience – it is a big factor in attracting talent and also in maintaining our high level of staff retention," he said. The firm is also proactive in encouraging initiatives where staff can enjoy a positive working environment. "It is a cliché," says Des, "but we really do our very best to encourage staff to enjoy what they are doing and to transmit that enjoyment to our clients!" The way forward With the Belfast office now in place, the firm sees big opportunities to increase its work in the public sector as it believes councils and other government bodies will still need consultancy services: "With the public purse under continued strain public bodies will be seeking even greater value for money from their tenders," says Gerard Gildernew "our size gives us the critical mass to be highly competitive and deliver a high quality outcome." Another key growth area is the continued development of its close links with other accountancy practices. The firm has been an advisor in offering specialist insolvency, corporate finance and tax advice to many smaller practices. "We enjoy excellent relationships with many of our colleagues," says Des Kelly "and it is our intention to continue to foster those bonds and strengthen these relationship through collaborative working on behalf of clients." The NAMA drama The Irish Government's NAMA Scheme is also expected to be a growth area as the details of the financial restructuring strategies for NAMA projects in Northern Ireland continue to emerge. Cavanagh Kelly is one of the very few professsional service firms from Northern Ireland appointed to the agency's professional services panels. "As the NAMA strategy evolves, we will be actively working with their team and, as we are already closely involved with all the banks in implementing work-outs and restructurings, the NAMA work will be a natural extension of those projects," says Gerard Gildernew, who is the partner responsible for NAMA and general restructuring work. Hope springs eternal Cavanagh Kelly hopes its arrival in Belfast will bring fresh energies and a new 'bounce' to the various financial disciplines it will be working in. The partners have a natural flair, optimism and positive work ethic and certainly appear to be well placed to gain a good share of the business advisory sector. They are keen and ready to extend the firm's participation in the wider Northern Ireland business community and see the future, despite the current sombre economic mood, as one of hope and opportunity.

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