Best Practice: AIM higher and higher

NOT EVERYONE has heard of the small specialised practice Jeffreys Henry. However, under the watchful eye of one of its seven partners, Nick Michaels, the accountancy firm has become well known among AIM-listed clients.

According to the latest Morningstar table, which ranks audit firms based on their number of AIM-listed clients, Jeffreys Henry has managed to steadily climb the table since it entered the chart in 2005 at number 16.

This came as a shock to the firm which didn’t think it would even enter the Top 20 in this category. Since then, however, Jeffreys Henry, has edged up the table to number 12 for the first quarter of 2012.

Jeffreys Henry is one of just two firm’s outside the Top 50 accountancy firms to enter the Aim-listed client chart.

“Not many firms of our size are in that Morningstar league table,” said Michaels (pictured).

Jeffreys’ rivals in the AIM audit market are much bigger – pulling in fees ranging from the billions to the double digit millions – (see table below), but Jeffreys Henry is managing to continue to punch above its weight.

It is not just the AIM clients the firm specialises in; it also works with  private companies and organisations listed on the Plus Stock Exchange (PLUS-SX).

The London-based Plus Exchange provides international companies seeking their first step onto the public markets with avenues to European capital. Having built up an expertise in IPO work Jeffreys Henry were recently crowned PLUS reporting accountant of the year, beating shortlists HW Fisher, Kingston Smith and Adler Shine.

The firm puts its success down to the niche sector it has carved out for itself – helping foreign companies come to the UK to list on the stock exchange.

The recent recession has also been good for business. A lot of companies around the world would like to list on AIM but many cannot afford to, or would prefer not to pay large firm fees. Jeffreys Henry provides the perfect alternative, with its smaller fees, international network and proven track record in helping companies in this task.

“We probably have done better in the recession. We have a specialism and we can provide that specialism at a reasonable cost. So perhaps the recession in a way has helped us,” says Michaels.

“It was also probably a stroke of luck in terms of doing that type of work, and being given that opportunity. Then it was a case of grasping that opportunity and marketing it and following it through from there.”

When the firm realised it was providing this unusual yet desirable service it grabbed the opportunity with both hands he says.

Its niche in the market is supported by the Jeffreys Henry International Network (JHI), which was set up by the firm more than 30 years ago. It has about 107 representative firms in more than 55 countries worldwide. As an established brand in the market, the network lends itself to being able to cope with a lot of international work from companies that want to or are coming to the UK.

However, just having the network wasn’t enough, the firm makes it a priority to ensure that marketing and meeting international clients remains high on the firm’s agenda.

“We constantly make sure that we network and associations make sure that there is a lot of marketing,” Michael says.

He insists that you have got to maintain links with your international contacts. “It is those referrals from clients you have dealt with and members from the network that trust you, that get you the work,” he says.

“You can’t just join a network and expect to pick up work, it’s a question of building international relationships. We’ve worked with our networks for years building that trust so they will recommend us. No-one is going to recommend someone they don’t know, you have to know them [member firms] and be able to work with them.”

Although times are hard across the world, Michaels believes that marketing shouldn’t always be the first thing firms cuts in their cost reducing exercises.

“You can’t make stop spending on marketing in a recession, we made a conscious effort not to reduce our marketing spend during the recession,” he says.

“These days it’s a question of focusing your marketing. You can’t just market a company for the sake of it. But more focused if you have an area of expertise (then exploit that). That is what you are pushing.”

Although Michaels concedes that it would be almost impossible for a small accounting firm to start up its own network now, he stresses there are always opportunities out there even during the recession, particularly for accountants that can provide a range of services to businesses during these uncertain times.

Practice: Jeffreys Henry

Partners: 7

Fee income: £5.10m

Specialist sectors: IPO’s, helping foreign companies list on the LSE, audits of AIM clients

Top 50+50 ranking: 77


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