Overview: Frank Hirth, rising star

At 28% growth year-on-year, Frank Hirth, a first-time entrant to the Top 50,
also happens to be the fastest growing business in this year’s survey. But how
does chairman, Paul Hocking, manage to keep the firm racking up such a healthy
hike in revenues?

What’s happened?

Frank Hirth has had a very good year. No annus horribilis here. Hocking is
even ready to admit that in every recession he’s seen the firm has seen decent

But this time the firm, where Hocking has been principle shareholder since it
went plc in 2000, has really outdone itself. As we mention on the front page, 39
out of the top 50 firms saw their growth rates shrink this year ­ and nine of
those actually saw negative growth.

It’s a clear indication that the crisis in the economy has had an effect. But
the 28% at Frank Hirth triples last year’s growth rate of 9%.

But Hocking is guiding the business through a very lucrative specialism ­
serving the tax needs of wealthy US City workers. Or to put it another way the
trans Atlantic high performing, high net worth and ‘ultra’ high net worth
financial services elite.

There’s a bit of accounting and audit in the Frank Hirth mix, but they are
largely junior partners (perhaps less than a tenth of revenues) to the core
business aimed at making the tax lives of US City high flyers a little easier.

Hocking has been at the firm since 1976, when he joined as a trainee. ‘They
call me chairman. I can think of a lot worse things to be called,’ says Hocking.

He actually has the honour of being the firm’s very first employee, so for
the past 33 years, Hocking has watched every twist and turn of its development.

He’s a member of the ACCA, the Society of Estate Practitioners, an associate
of the Institute of Taxation and once served on a US congressional committee
that reported on electronic tax administration.

But in a sector where many practitioners would rather remain below the radar
Hocking is an ebullient character pleased to be relatively open about his
business and what it does.

What happens next?

Ask Hocking about the next chapter in the development of Frank Hirth and he
doesn’t hesitate. He expects the business to post another 25% growth climbing to
revenues of around £15m. That would see the business climb through the tiers of
the Top 50 for the second year running giving the firm a ranking in the thirties
rather than the forties.

Hocking apologies for the immodesty of the phrase, but likes to say that what
the business is seeing is a ‘flight to quality’.

That might be the case but the firm is so specialised it receives refferals
from all other big tax practitioners.

But there is something else the business foresees ­ the ever increasing
complexity of the tax system, especially for non-domiciled tax payers. Being a
non-dom creates two to three times the volume of compliance work that was once
required, which means Frank Hirth, working as it does for US nationals, can
expect its fortunes to continue improving.

Last year it opened an office in New York to ‘capture’ non-doms before they
arrived in the UK.

Despite the uncertainty and the crisis, Hocking believes the UK remains an
attractive location for financial services experts. Which means Frank Hirth
could remain on a growth curve for some time to come.

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