Posted on Wednesday 25 January 2017 by Ulster Business
Heading up one of the biggest business advisory firms in Northern Ireland is no small task but it’s one which John Hansen manages with the combination of a steady hand and an ambitious outlook.
When we meet, he’s reflecting – somewhat surprisingly - on the fact he has been a chartered accountant for more than 30 years, a period of time in which he has thoroughly mastered his brief and, indeed, the world of business both near and far.
After a degree in Economics and Accounting at Queen’s University, John trained at Coopers & Lybrand in Belfast where he stayed for a number of years, gaining extensive accounting experience working in a small accountancy firm the company purchased in Omagh before eventually running the Restructuring Department of Cork Gully, the insolvency arm of Coopers & Lybrand.
The chance to become a partner and build from scratch a Restructuring and Forensics practice at a local independent firm in Belfast saw John spend 14 years at that firm before moving to KPMG, again in the Restructuring and Forensics space, 11 years ago nearly to the day on December 21.
“The attraction of KPMG was to work with a big four firm which could command larger assignments and present more challenges,” he said.
“The last 11 years have been interesting, enjoyable and challenging. If you’re working in a field which you enjoy then time passes very quickly.”
To some, the world of Restructuring and Forensics might not, on the face of it, appear an enjoyable area to work in but for John it is hugely rewarding.
“Our specific intention with every assignment is to see what we can do to keep the company open. In many instances we’ve been called in too late in the day to do that but if there’s any way we can keep a company going we will.
“The Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen is a great example of that. We traded Lough Erne successfully for a number of years, resolved some significant issues before selling it last year.
“It was a huge success because we managed to keep jobs in the area and maintain the viability of a major draw for tourists.”
A huge success indeed and probably something (from the point of view of running a hotel) you wouldn’t expect accountants to get involved in, particularly when you host the world’s most important conference of G8 nations taking place during your tenure.
He’s has also been involved in a number of other high profile cases including the Presbyterian Mutual Society where he is Joint Supervisor, the Odyssey Pavilion and he is also heavily involved in the liquidation of IBRC bank in Dublin, to name but a few. His name has popped up over the years every time there is a high profile and complicated case.
Significant commercial and business experience directly with trading companies was also gained by John over the years including a two year secondment to the then Industrial Development Board (now Invest NI) and when he became Non-Executive Director of a sizeable manufacturing company for a number of years before he sold the business for the owners.
With such experience, John is not the normal chartered accountant and now, as Partner in Charge of KPMG’s Northern Ireland operations, he’s taking on a new challenge.
As Ulster Business goes to press, he’s just signed the lease on two floors of Grade A office accommodation in the prestigious Soloist building in front of the Belfast Waterfront Hall, where John is pictured.
The move from the firm’s current headquarters is expected to take place early in 2017 and will see the 250 KPMG staff transfer to the new building, one which has room for further expansion.
“What I want to do in Northern Ireland is grow the business,” John said.
“We have fantastic people a great client base and we want to build on that by doing as much as we can for them and bringing our experience and expertise to others.
That’s something which is backed by KPMG’s Dublin Partners.
“The firm is very clear: the Northern Ireland operations are very important to what we do in Ireland and globally and will remain so.
“We have a global reach and that’s something which stands us in very good stead with local clients who are doing business around the world.”