Posted on Tuesday 2 April 2019 by Ulster Business

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GMcG is already a well-established and leading independent accountancy and advisory business, and the growing firm tells Ulster Business about planning for a brighter future, carrying out major investment and developing the next generation

“Our success is about people, building and growing relationships, innovation and developing the next generation. We have a business that has very much enjoyed its own expansion and we want to shine a light on our next generation of young professionals”.

According to Susan Dunlop, that’s a well refined mantra at GMcG Chartered Accountants. Susan is one of seven directors at GMcG, having joined the firm more than 20 years ago and who now heads up the firm’s Audit and Business Advisory Services department.

Part of planning for the future has been the recent appointment of a new director in Audit and Business Advisory Services, together with an associate director who will head up the firm’s Corporate Finance department. Both are significant investments at management level and a reflection of the firm’s growth and ambition across its three offices.

“As a leading independent accountancy firm, many of our key strengths lie in our ability to get things done, through local decision making, management and accessibility of our people” Susan says.

Accessibility is regularly acknowledged as being of great value to the firm’s clients and has become a key component of how the firm does business.

“Business owners know they can lift the phone and speak to any of our directors, at any time of the day. For us, that’s just part of our client service, but our clients expect it and they know it can make a huge difference to getting an issue resolved quickly and effectively, allowing them to get on with running their business.”

As local businesses face uncertainty and challenges across many fronts, Susan and the management team recognise the importance of being positioned as the complete business advisor and having the expertise, understanding and experience to deliver.

“Businesses evolve through different circumstances and with different requirements. We need to be one step ahead, providing the right expertise at the right time. GMcG can offer this expertise through our service lines which include Audit and Business Advisory, Tax, Forensic Accounting and Investigation, Corporate Finance, GMcG Digital and International liaison, through our TIAG membership.”

The firm delivers these services though a team of more than 90 employees across three offices in Belfast, Lisburn and Portadown. Having initially operated as independent firms in each location (Goldblatt McGuigan in Belfast, Hanna Thompson in Lisburn and Robinson & Co in Portadown) the GMcG evolution was completed in 2016 when the three firms merged completely under a single GMcG brand. This was a significant investment and transition for the firm.

Gill Johnston, director at GMcG Portadown, says: “It was vital that we didn’t lose focus on the profile and client relationships we had developed over many years in each location.

“So we are delighted with the success of the transition and how the shared systems and expertise are adding real value to client service delivery across each location”.

GMcG services a broad client base from sole traders to large corporates, including a diverse range of businesses and private individuals, public and not-for-profit sector entities, as well as legal and other professional services practices.

For Susan and the rest of the team, the firm’s independence and longstanding client relationships are what bolster the firm’s success.

“We have a loyal and growing client base and are particularly proud of the fact that many of these relationships go back decades or transcend generations. We advise many of these clients on succession planning, helping them develop their business through the next stage of its journey.
“In our experience, all of this is underlined by the importance of investing in client relationships, getting to know the client’s business, their issues, opportunities and the type of expertise they need.

“It can be a long term effort and something that often demands dedication beyond a nine to five working day. But we always view it as a rewarding investment, especially when we see our clients thrive and grow.”

As part of the firm’s growth and expansion, GMcG has undergone major investment in its overall strategy, its people, IT systems and recruitment.

With no shortage of drive and ambition, it’s very much a case of ‘been there, done that’ for GMcG, having themselves undergone restructuring, appointed new directors, undertaken significant investment, experienced dynamic growth and transitioned seamless succession planning.

“We have done it ourselves, and been through it all,” Susan says.

“We have grown our firm and understand many of the challenges and opportunities facing SME clients with real aspirations or plans for business development; we have that insight and experience that has really proved valuable in advising many of these clients.”

Building on these foundations, the firm today has a strong focus on developing the next generation of its service team.

A younger generation of professional advisors are moving up the ranks in the firm, with other new faces joining the expanding management team.

Nigel Moore, who started with the firm back in 2001 as a trainee, has been appointed director in the Audit and Business Advisory Services department. Director Stephen Houston also started his career as a trainee and heads up GMcG’s Lisburn office.

Robbie Milliken, who has more than 12 years’ experience across corporate finance and business banking, has also joined the firm to head up its Corporate Finance department.

Susan is keen to acknowledge that GMcG is a firm that is proud of its working environment, and that career progression is part and parcel of its ethos.

“We give employees every opportunity to progress through the ranks and be rewarded for their success, and we can point to two of our directors who commenced as trainees. We feel this is testament to the experience and environment we offer, and to our commitment to ensuring employees reach their full potential”.

“Importantly, achieving the right work-life balance is something we facilitate and promote as much as possible across all grades. We are very aware of the importance of mental health and wellbeing and are delighted to have partnered with a mental health charity for the last two years, with mental health programmes delivered across GMcG’s offices.”

GMcG also has the global reach to serve clients wherever the growth of their business takes them, through its membership of The International Accounting Group (TIAG).

Lyn Canning Hagan, who heads up GMcG Tax Services and is one of the firm’s TIAG liaison directors, says:

“TIAG, together with its sister alliance TAGLaw, provides GMcG and our clients direct access to accounting, tax and legal expertise across more than 105 countries worldwide.

“This is hugely beneficial to businesses with international markets or operations and many of our clients have already benefited from this global expertise across numerous jurisdictions.”

Looking to the Ulster Business Next 200, which features in this edition of the magazine, Susan Dunlop says many of those small and medium-sized Northern Ireland businesses making the list are exactly the type of clients GMcG is working with.

“We’re proud of our track record of helping SME clients across all sectors achieve success through growth, restructuring or expansion, drawing on our own experiences to make a real difference in shaping their future plans.”

So, it goes without saying that the future is more than bright for GMcG – a firm with decades of experience, but one which is always looking forward.


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