35 under 35 2022: First wave of winners revealed!

35 under 35 2022: First wave of winners revealed!

Showcasing the industry's rising talent, the first instalment of our 35 under 35 rankings highlights ten young UK professionals who are making great contributions to both their firms and fields

35 under 35 2022: First wave of winners revealed!

The Accountancy Age 35 under 35 seeks to highlight the rising stars of the accountancy profession, featuring those who have made great professional contributions to the field and their individual firms.

Each day this week, we will release a batch of winners who made the final cut. Today, we present the first wave of noteworthy professionals who made the Accountancy Age 35 under 35.

The full Accountancy Age 35 under 35 will be unveiled on Friday September 30, 2022.

Melissa Ng, director, Alvarez and Marsal Taxand UK

Melissa Ng is a standout talent in the real estate space and by far and away one of the most capable individuals beneath partner, according to her colleagues. In recent months, Melissa has led on three international corporate real estate transactions for funds managed by EQT Exeter  which has led to significant contributions to the Alvarez and Marsal’s (A&M) real estate team’s growth as well as cementing the firm’s relationship with the private equity firm.

She advises a range of clients based in Asia that invest into commercial and residential real estate in the UK, from private family offices to ultra-high net worth individuals. Melissa has been become instrumental in leading the team at A&M alongside Kersten Muller since arriving at the firm in 2021. Melissa is a true inspiration to junior members of staff in how to be the best in your field and her colleagues expect she will be one of the youngest (if not the youngest) partner at A&M very soon.

Dominic Noakes, business support/outsourcing director, Haysmacintyre

Dominic Noakes is haysmacintyre’s youngest business support director. Joining as a qualified senior accountant in 2016, Noakes was identified early on as a key business driver for the firm and was fast tracked through various managerial levels to directorship in April 2021. His client portfolio can be characterised as high-growth and predominately in the technology sector. He is a key member of the firm’s largest sector – creative, media and technology (CMT), managing relationships with sponsored organisations, leading webinars, and participating in roundtables and networking events to raise the firm’s profile in the sector.

Noakes’ extensive business development activities reflect his approach to client engagement, which is open and communicative. He is a charismatic and personable business advisor, noted for his excellent client relationships and deep understanding of their businesses which has enabled him to offer invaluable insights, from cloud advisory to systems set-up and a shift towards real time information with financial reporting dashboards.

He is motivated to change outdated accounting stereotypes and is passionate about transforming the more traditional ‘once a year’ accounting service by leveraging technology and producing data-led key accounting insights for business owners and finance teams in the SME space.

He understands the importance of communicating in a way non-financially minded people can easily digest and interpret financial information being presented. His role as a highly valued and well-respected professional is evidenced by his glowing collection of client and affiliate testimonials that regard him as extremely diligent, proactive and dynamic. Due to his deserved recognition and extensive skill set, he was a natural fit to take on responsibilities beyond portfolio management.

As a director, he became the firm’s cloud accounting lead advisor, invested in the continual improvement of systems and processes, as well as managing strategic projects. Many of these projects have been innovative and transformative to the firm’s service delivery and have included scoping and implementing new apps and technology, whilst maintaining relationships with third parties, such as Xero, that increase the firms overall service offering.

He actively contributes to haysmacintyre’s internal activities. He is prominent in the firm’s business support training programme and is passionate about supporting the next generation of accounting leaders. By mentoring three qualified members of the team, who recently progressed to managerial roles, he offers valuable advice and guidance on ways to develop technical, professional and soft skills required in the modern world.

Jamie Seaford, partner, Moore Kingston Smith

Jamie Seaford joined Moore Kingston Smith in 2012, becoming partner in less than 10 years at the age of 31. He specialises in technology and financial services, partnering with the London Mayor’s International Business Programme to advise and support UK start-ups and scale-ups on their growth and international expansion.

He is a key member of the firm’s Strategic Growth Services team, supporting SMEs on their growth journeys. He makes a big impact on smaller OMBs, helping them improve business performance in a harmonious way from incorporation to the point that they go to market. An innovator with his finger on the pulse regarding technology, Seaford proactively introduced new audit automation software to the firm, creating efficiencies for the team and improving the speed and quality of audits.

He was part of the team that won the 2018 British Accountancy Awards Large Firm Innovation of the Year award, which recognised Moore Kingston Smith’s excellence in their inventive approach to strategy and client service provision. He also was selected by Moore Global for Moore Quest, a leadership programme offering participants strategies to thrive as a leader. He attends monthly Moore Ambition sessions for future leaders with other Moore firms around the world, which focus on Harvard Business Review case studies. An active voice in the profession, he recently gave presentations to over 500 people from the Moore Global network, with sessions on business development and strategic client expansion in June 2022.

Ever supporting the professional and personal development of his colleagues and the next generation of accountants, Seaford facilitates internal sessions on mental health and wellbeing as well as project and time management, and he plays a key role in recruitment at the firm. During the pandemic lockdowns he organised knowledge-sharing sessions and check-ins to support engagement with his colleagues and provided structured feedback to the firm’s partners to improve overall communication. Outside of work, Jamie acts as a co-opted member on the Finance Committee of Migrant Help, a charity helping people affected by displacement and exploitation, supporting their governance activities and ensuring they are growing sustainably.

Devaki Shanbhag, managing director, Pearson McKinsey

Devaki Shanbhag is a visionary and a perfectionist. She passed her ACCA at the age of 20 and began her career at a major consulting firm. After a brief period, she decided to pursue her vision and moved to a boutique accountancy firm, Pearson McKinsey, where she had the opportunity to apply her knowledge and understanding of accountancy to assist a small but diverse spectrum of clientele.  She joined as an associate, but within three years, she was practically running end to end operations at the firm under the mentorship of a seasoned partner. Devaki believed that she could better the service if she was at the helm so, within two years of achieving her practicing certificate, she acquired Pearson McKinsey at the age of 28.

The first phase of her vision was to setup the entire practice on a cloud-based system, a strategy, which was successfully implemented and consequently proved to be a major advantage during the pandemic. To broaden sector diversity within clients, Shanbhag acquired another accountancy practice and merged it with Pearson McKinsey’s corporate structure. Currently, the firm has grown four fold and currently advises over 900 clients under her management. Her work ethic has not gone unnoticed by clients, who have actively convinced her to take a place as a trustee on their boards.

In 2019, as a proponent of financial freedom for women, she launched a program for women in rural India, who aspire for independence but do not have the resources that would allow them to reshuffle their household responsibilities. This program allows candidates to choose their hours of work and the quantum of workload they can deliver based on their respective circumstance and, the entire training is provided via cloud-based systems with local supervisors providing guidance wherever necessary.

As of 2022, Shanbhag launched a private debt fund, which aims to invest the capital in acquiring larger accountancy and tax advisory practices in London. The fund has received tremendous interest from existing customers, who have invested solely based on Shanbhag’s ability as an accountant and a businesswoman. Moreover, her venture provides clients with an opportunity to grow their capital and tax-efficiently manage their returns, all under one roof. Her vision for growth as a practicing accountant is clear and unfaltering but moreover, she has recognised the importance of accountancy as a tool to generate wealth for clients through financial instruments.

Louise Sleightholm, corporate finance manager, KPMG

Louise Sleightholm has gained significant experience in both practice (across audit, transaction services and most recently, corporate finance) and industry (working within the finance department at Nestle UK&I). She has managed several high-profile deals, including the IPO of The Hut Group and MADE.com.

Sleightholm also dedicates a huge amount of time to wider initiatives. She co-founded a networking group named Leeds Young Professionals, which provides networking opportunities to professionals in their 20’s and 30’s in the local area. This initiative was launched in January 2022 and has already gained over 1,500 members to date. The networking group runs a number of events including social, wellbeing and speaker events and has received fantastic feedback to date.

She is also in the process of launching a female networking group, which aims to provide career support to women in finance, legal and banking. She also sits on the committee for the Collaborative Professional Network in Leeds, which aims to bring together professionals from a variety of backgrounds to share knowledge and experiences. In addition, she is passionate about the future of women in the finance sector and participates in the mentoring of students around the Leeds area to help promote more women in finance.

Jake Standing, partner, Kreston Reeves

Jake Standing joined Kreston Reeves (then Spofforths) on a training contract in 2009, after impressing during work experience during summer and Easter breaks at university in 2017 and 2018.

He qualified as an ACA Chartered Accountant in 2012 with multiple prize wins under his belt – most notably achieving first place worldwide in the July 2012 Advanced Stage Business Reporting Exam, and first place in the Southeast for the three July 2012 Advanced Stage exams. After qualification, he left for a career with a US multinational where gained a range of new skills and experience.  After a couple of years, he returned to Kreston Reeves.

Partnership was offered to Standing in 2018 at the age of 30, with sustainable growth within his client portfolio, and in 2021 he took up the role of leading the firm’s business advisory offering. He is a valued member of the Accounts & Outsourcing SMT.  With ongoing skills shortages in the audit and advisory market, Standing has used his experience in commerce to drive training in our advisory capabilities across our team in London and the Southeast, most notably in technology, access to finance, FP&A and strategic business planning.

Standing is a ‘typical millennial’, with a particularly strong belief in equality, sustainability and wellbeing. He has been delivering on our work in adopting some of key principles value of B Corp.  He is a big advocate of shared parental responsibilities and equality in the workplace, particularly relevant during the lockdowns of the past two years.

With his wife Hannah returning to work, he is currently leading the way with six months paternity leave to care for their newborn son, Lucas. Using his experience and skills learned as an accountant to support the local community is important to him, which is why he has been a trustee, and the treasurer, at Martlets Hospice in Brighton & Hove since 2019. He encourages people to use their knowledge to help others and is always striving to find other ways to support his community.

Eddi Taylor, partner, Azets

Eddi Taylor joined Azets (then Wilkins Kennedy) in 2013 as a graduate trainee and quickly progressed through the ranks to become a partner in 2021 at the age of 29. Taylor prides himself on the strong relationships that he builds with his clients which allows him to give meaningful advice that really adds value to his client’s businesses. Taylor is passionate about building his team and developing others.

He leads the internal programme of “lunch and learn” sessions to help upskill over 100 managers across the South region, presents to directors on the partner process, and leads the regional growth hub to help build a viable and exciting growth plan for the offices within the region.

Taylor is also passionate about client care. He was a part of the Covid-19 response team who quickly helped the Azets’ client base adapt and manage during the pandemic and regularly speaks at local events and forums to help develop business opportunities locally. He is an advocate of local businesses and ensures his client base is made up of a diverse and local portfolio.

Ele Theochari, director, Liberty Collins

Since specialising in R&D tax six years ago, Ele Theochari has spearheaded the rapid success of Liberty Collins, and is setting new standards for professional excellence, personalised customer service, and leadership in the sector.

Theochari’s leadership qualities were recognised early on, as was her enthusiasm and flair for developing less experienced people around her. Within a few years of entering the profession, she had assumed responsibilities for supervising and training junior colleagues at Forrest Brown. When the company was taken over by a large US company, she was chosen to brief new colleagues in Texas on the finer points of the UK’s R&D tax credits incentive.

She then joined PwC in 2019 to prepare and manage R&D claims for FTSE 100 companies, resulting in a portfolio with fees >£1 million per year, and delivering client benefit >£50m.

In October 2020, she joined the fledgling Liberty Collins to grow and lead the tax function. Theochari is already recognised as an emerging talent in the sector. She was a finalist in the prestigious Tolley’s Tax Awards (‘TTA’) in the ‘Rising Star’ Category 2022. Under her leadership, along with the team, Liberty Collins has been shortlisted for Best New Tax Practice at TTA and Micro Business of the Year at the Growing Business Awards.

Theochari has built a close-knit team of staff and freelance tax advisors, and proved a motivated, dedicated and highly respected leader. Her management style is collaborative and open to encourage questions, discussion, and knowledge sharing. Happy to spend time face-to-face with clients, jump on Teams or pick up the phone, she is dedicated to helping and enthusiastic: clients really appreciate her openness and personal approach.

Clients attest that she is relatable, able to speak the language of the client’s staff whether it is a scientist in a lab, engineer working on site, or CEO at head office and can rapidly establish a warm rapport. She recognises that soft skills are as important as her technical knowledge, and she has honed them. Ele is a great communicator, able to explain the often-abstract tax rules and detailed information requirements in a way that people understand.

Tom Warner, associate director, Evelyn Partners

Tom Warner has rapidly risen through the ranks at Evelyn Partners (formerly Smith & Williamson. Starting in 2015 as a part-qualified ACA and being promoted to associate director in early 2022, he is a member of the firm’s Landed Estates sub-committee tasked with growing this area of the business given the specialist nature of accountancy and tax services required in this sector. He is also a member of the firm’s tax planning committee.

In the last three years, he has received the prestigious ‘tax employee of the year award’ as testament to his client service, friendly and approachable demeanour, and commitment to development of fellow staff.

Outside of his day job, Warner takes an active role in developing the accountancy industry by teaching AAT Level 4 at the local college in Salisbury and visiting his secondary school on an annual basis to speak about the industry and Evelyn Partners to Year 12 and Year 13 students (the most recent visit being in May 2022 to discuss the benefits of apprenticeships as a way into the accountancy industry).

His 2019 ICAEW Chartered Star entry discussed the fourth industrial revolution and its position within the UK accountancy industry. Warner firmly believes that there will still be a human role to fulfill and ensuring strength of ability and character in the next generation of accountants is crucial.

With the introduction of Making Tax Digital (for self-assessment) on the horizon and the impact of basis period reform being felt, particularly in the agricultural industry, there is even more scope for accountants to add value and guide clients where necessary. He is particularly passionate in this area and writes regularly for the firm on its website.

He is particularly focused on developing an understanding in areas where he feels he can add value or areas that he believes clients are not yet aware of. Warner is particularly interested in benefiting local charities with substantial donations being made over the last three years following awards from work.

Natasha Webber, director, Chippendale and Clark

In 2013, Natasha Webber juggled working in administration for a car dealership, studying AAT through self-funded study and also volunteering as a Police Special Constable for Wiltshire Police.

Her had her first job in accounts was in 2014 where she was thrown straight into the deep end in a small growing modern practice. She picked up the skills quickly and implemented new systems and digitalised ways of working. Webber started networking events from 2014 and has become an avid networker. She has referred thousands of pounds worth of additional revenue across multiple sectors working with clients to meet their needs for outsourcing.

In 2016, she started her ACCA journey into becoming a chartered certified accountant. She spent all weekends and evenings studying, completing four exams a year until she qualified in 2019. Within this time, Natasha also helped train staff members within the practice and went from accounts assistant to senior account manager in three years. Within this time, she also volunteered to be the treasurer for a local rugby team.

Following confirmation of her qualifications and authorisation to practice, Webber and her employer went into joint partnership in opening a new limited company in 2020 which would be a second branch in a new town to the existing practice.

At the age of 26, and as a new company director, she started to build the client base in this new practice whilst working full time in the other office. In 2020, as the coronavirus hit, the whole practice continued to work fiercely in serving their current client base as well as onboarding new clients who were otherwise not supported by their current accountants. Over the course of the two years, she has brought in between the two companies over £100k additional revenue which has meant £100k worth of clients now provided with digital, modernised and up-to-date accounting systems.

Accountancy Age’s 35 under 35 2022 winners will be revealed in batches throughout this week. The full ranking will be available on the morning of Friday September 30, 2022.


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