Rebranding heritage: Saffery’s pivot from tradition to innovation

Rebranding heritage: Saffery's pivot from tradition to innovation

Saffery Champness's strategic rebrand to "Saffery" reflects a bold step towards aligning its historic values with a modern, innovative ethos, fostering a deeper connection with global partner Nexia International and engaging both clients and employees in its evolving identity.

At a time when  brand identity is as crucial as the services offered, Saffery Champness, with its deep roots dating back to 1855, embarked on a strategic journey to rejuvenate its brand, emerging as “Saffery.”

The firm is steeped in history – its founder Joseph John Saffery laid the foundation stone for the original Chartered Accountants Hall in July 1890. But it is also not a firm to do things by the book. In 2010, Jonathan Fox became the firm’s managing partner – the first non-accountant to lead a top 20 firm.

Now under the management of Matthew Burton, Saffery underwent a rebrand in 2023. Burton sat down with Accountancy Age this month and said the decision was not just about modernising its look but aligning the firm’s ethos with the evolving expectations of the market and its clientele.

At the heart of this rebranding was a strategic foresight, encapsulated within the firm’s 2022-2026 business plan. This initiative, synchronized with the managing partner’s tenure, was more than a cosmetic change—it was about realigning the firm’s identity to mirror its modern, forward-thinking stance.

“A key pillar of our 2022-2026 Strategic Business Plan – which we shared openly right across the firm – was to, at an early stage, review the firm’s brand and identity, and to seize the opportunity to better reflect the modern, forward looking firm we are” Burton said.

The Journey Through Rebranding

Incorporating client feedback into its strategic vision, Saffery Champness engaged in a comprehensive dialogue with its clientele before embarking on its rebranding journey.

This proactive approach ensured the new brand identity of Saffery not only reflected its innovative legacy and alignment with Nexia – its global network partner – but also resonated with the evolving needs and perceptions of its clients. This feedback was instrumental in shaping a brand that truly represents the firm’s forward-thinking and client-focused ethos,

The journey of rebranding was marked by an intensive planning phase that involved over 600 distinct workstreams. This phase was not just about changing logos or updating website designs; it was a deep dive into every aspect of the firm’s identity.

The dedicated project team, led by marketing and business development director Richard Crook, meticulously managed these workstreams, ensuring that each element of the transition was carefully considered and executed. In the end, the firm partnered with Campbell Hay, a creative consultancy, to develop the new brand, bringing in elements from Nexia, but also, importantly, retaining the firm’s distinctive personality and reflecting its heritage. A pivotal aspect of the redesign was the new name and logo, which needed to also strengthen its alignment with Nexia.

This move was aimed at showcasing Saffery’s commitment to international standards and its active role within the Nexia network, fostering a stronger connection and shared identity.

Burton noted that the integration of Nexia’s branding elements into Saffery’s new visual identity served to underline this strategic partnership, reinforcing the firm’s position in the global market and its dedication to providing comprehensive, internationally informed services to its clients.

From digital platforms to physical signage, and from internal communication strategies to external marketing materials, every touchpoint with clients, employees, and the broader market was reimagined to align with the new brand identity.

“It’s all in the planning. If you’ve got good people doing good planning, you’ll be fine,” said Burton.

Fostering a Unified Culture

More than just altering visuals, the rebranding effort sought to weave the new identity into the fabric of the firm’s culture. The introduction of an amnesty program for old branded materials was a clever strategy to engage employees directly in the rebranding process, creating a tangible connection to the new identity.

This program, coupled with the innovative use of an online platform where employees could access new branded merchandise, turned a routine branding update into an exciting event for everyone involved.

“If you had an old umbrella with the historical branding in, we told staff to bring it in and we’d swap it out for a new one,” said Burton, adding there was a whole host of merchandise available for staff to order for free.

By making the rebranding process inclusive, Saffery successfully cultivated a renewed sense of pride and belonging among its staff, ensuring that the new brand was embraced not just externally but within the heart of the firm’s culture.

Reflecting on the Impact

The transition to ‘Saffery’ was met with widespread positivity, internally and externally, marking a pivotal moment in the firm’s evolution.

This rebranding not only elevated Saffery’s competitive edge but also significantly enhanced its attractiveness to emerging talent, as evidenced by a record intake of trainees post-rebrand.

Reflecting on the journey, Burton offers sage advice to any firm considering a similar path: “It’s all in the planning and don’t underestimate how much is involved.”

He further advises on the importance of viewing rebranding as a comprehensive organizational shift rather than a mere facelift, highlighting the balance between ambition and financial stewardship.


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