MYERSON gearing up for a year to savour; Small Business Of The Week ALEXANDER MYERSON & CO City chartered accountant nears 80th year. Neil Hodgson reports.
aNNIVERSARIES are milestones in everyone's life, illustrating the many achievements and adventures on the journey so far.
But as Rodney Street chartered accountants Alexander Myerson approaches its 80th anniversary next year, it only serves to highlight the seismic shift that the profession has had to navigate in recent times.
Managing partner Mark Cohen said the nature of the job has changed dramatically over recent years.
As well as the nuts and bolts of accountancy and ensuring the delivery of best service for clients, the focus is increasingly on compliance issues to add much more transparency to an accountant's function.
Mr Cohen explained: "The job is so geared to compliance and external reviews.
"We have one review every year, which is voluntary, to make sure we are in ine with the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) rules and regulations, so we invest heavily to make sure we are correct."
He said certain rules and regulations are obvious: "From a client's point of view there is a huge penalty regime. If you are late with your accounts there is a fine.
"But there's a lot more pressure. There have been huge changes in audit regulations.
"The problem is because of various scandals that have happened in the past, usually with the bigger firms, but we have to comply, and there's little differentiation in terms of requirements between huge practices and smaller ones."
Mr Cohen said it is imperative to keep up to date with all aspects of the changes affecting the industry: "We invest in staff training. It is there all the time and we have to do the training to keep up to date."
He believes the pace of change will be unrelenting: "It won't get any easier in the future - hopefully, it won't get any harder."
And he revealed that when the rules and regulations began to change, no-one was exempt, not even founder Alexander Myerson who was still working at the firm in the mid-90s, aged 82: "We had to pass work over from him (to other colleagues) because of compliance issues," said Mr Cohen.
Mr Myerson, a former bursar in the navy, set up the practice in 1936 in the city centre's Cook Street.
The firm remained there until the early 1980s, despite being bombed during German air raids in 1941.
Mr Cohen proudly proffers a framed typed letter sent by Mr Myerson to all his clients following the attack explaining their predicament and pledging to carry on.
After moving to Martins Building in Water Street the business then relocated to its current Rodney Street offices in 1997 in order to expand and, said Mr Cohen, to do what they had always been advising their clients to do, and buy their own property.
Traditionally, the firm has dealt with a diverse range of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), from one-man bands upwards.
Mr Cohen said the business began to take off when Mr Myerson's son, Richard, became involved.
"He joined his father in 1971. "He was a real schmoozer and we developed the practice from there and started expanding and taking on clients in North Wales and Chester.
"It was bigger stuff, then, like family companies."
However, he admits working with bigger clients did have its drawbacks: "We did advise on some Business Expansion Schemes, but the problem with that was they then went on to the Stock Market and had to take on bigger accountants."
So, the firm's forte still remains the SME sector, with clients based around the North West and North Wales, and as far away as London, but still served from the main Liverpool office.
The client list includes several small pharmacy groups, with branch portfolios of up to 12 shops, as well as familiar names like the florist Fishlocks and family run Bold Street food store Matta's.
Mr Cohen said: "We have one client who works exclusively for the European Space Agency, doing systems analysis, who has grown from a two-man band when they started, to 50 staff here, and more in Holland, Italy and Germany.
"It is a varied client base, from one-man bands right the way through, including charities and lots of dentists."
The firm specialises in serving the dental industry thanks to the expertise of Ian Swerdlow, who is a member of the National Association of Dental Accountants and Lawyers. "There's very few of them in the country," added Mr Cohen.
He and Mr Swerdlow ran their own practice together before joining Myersons in 1998.
He said: "It was coincidence. We were looking to move from where we were and they had extra space, and we knew them anyway.
"It was just strategically a good move to get the two practices together and save on costs and expand together, because we were working in the same marketplace."
The firm, which boats gross fee income of around PS800,000, now has a 17-strong workforce, including a specialist tax adviser who previous worked with the Inland Revenue.
"That is quite unusual, because directors and partners tend to deal with tax themselves, instead of having anyone specialise."
Mr Cohen added: "My specialism is looking after my clients.
"That is how I run my part of the practice, to do what we can to help the clients.
"They can always go somewhere else, so I owe them a debt of gratitude that they have chosen us."
And as the firm prepares for its 80th anniversary, Mr Cohen believes its future lies with a new generation of accountants who will concentrate on establishing its identity even more.
"As a practice we have hidden our light under a bushel, to a certain extent, so we have Paul Burns and Alison Runnens who are networking and spreading the word.
"Eighty years is something to celebrate."
THE FACTS Age: 62 Best advice received: Treat everybody the way you would want to be treated yourself.
Ambition: For Paul Burns and Alison Runnens to successfully become fully immersed in the practice and to carry on the success that it already is.
Hobbies: Watching Liverpool FC, theatre, films, and now the gym, as I decided I was overweight and unfit and wanted to do something about it.
Mark Cohen enjoys watching | |Liverpool FC in his spare time
Mark Cohen, Managing Partner at Alexander Myerson Chartered Accountants on Rodney Street |