Best Practice: Larking Gowen’s family affair

YOU ARE unlikely to find an accountant that doesn’t claim to provide a personalised, responsive and efficient service.

But in the highly competitive area of personal tax advice, smaller firms have to be inventive if they are to stand out from the congested market.

Anne Richardson, personal tax partner at Larking Gowen, believes the top 50 firm has done just that – with the launch of what it believes is a unique offering.

The East Anglian firm has teamed up with with Legal 500-ranked solicitors, Hatch Brenner, and one of the UK’s largest independently owned financial advisors and insurance brokers – Lucas Fettes, to launch a new online service – Family Fundamentals – for individuals with a partner or family with dependents who need to look at wills, long term financial planning and taxation.

According to Richardson, the online offering and the collaboration between the three firms – which brings all three services under one roof – is something that hasn’t been tried before.

The premise behind the offering is that wills, savings provisions and ensuring too much tax isn’t paid are often pushed to the bottom of the pile because people are unable to address due to the time, trouble and effort involved in engaging a number of different service providers.

The three firms shared the cost of setting up the service and will share the revenue from the reports.

However, there is no guarantee that Larking Gowen will pick up any business from the application. On having filled out the questionnaire it is entirely possible that prospective clients will find they want legal or financial advice but not tax.

At £500 a pop for the initial report, the service doesn’t sound that cheap. But given that it contains the combined expertise of three financial service firms, Richardson argues that it isn’t really that expensive.

“It is undoubtedly going to cost more to consult three separate people,” she says.

Richardson concedes that Larking Gowen is taking a punt on the service, but adds that there is no real risk involved.

“We really don’t know how much revenue it will generate. We haven’t set budgets,” she says Richardson. “But it wasn’t particularly costly to set up so there isn’t much in the way of risk to the business.”

Although Richardson hasn’t attached any specific targets to the new service, she is confident it will attract a previously untapped client base and will give Larking Gowen an edge over its competition.

“It will bring in clients that wouldn’t normally want to walk through the door of us or the competition because they think it is probably going to cost them a lot of money,” she says.

“If we do a good job it is going to lead to other work. If people who use the service do their tax receipts themselves, or even have to file for the first time they will be more likely to consider coming to us.”

Practice: Larking Gowen
Partners: 20
Offices: Bungay, Colchester, Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Fakenham, Holt, Ipswich, Norwich
Fee income: £13.3m (y/e 2011)
Specialist sectors: Agriculture, Charities, Construction, Education, Legal, Medical, Shipping, Tourism
Top 50+50 ranking: 47

Source: Accountancy Age Top 50+50 Survey, Larking Gowen

Related reading