Specialising in a niche area is a sure way to leverage market opportunities, explains BW Medical Accountants’ Keith Taylor
THE FURTHER down the Accountancy Age Top 50+50 you go, the more firms appear to specialise in some obscure niche areas. Sobell Rhodes has an interesting line in professional golfers and caddies, while Dennis & Turnbull offers a range of accountancy and business consultancy services for martial arts clubs.
A more tried and trusted niche specialism is serving medical professionals, and it is an area that is still drawing in new entrants. Launched in July 2013, BW Medical Accountants was set up provide specialist accountancy, tax and financial planning services to medical professionals across the north east of England.
“We saw an opportunity in the market to provide something better for medical professionals than was available in the market at the time,” explains Keith Taylor, managing director at BW Medical.
Launched by independent financial advisers Blackett Walker, which stumped up £1m in investment to launch the business and purchase a new head office, BW Medical has expanded rapidly, trebling its number of staff from four to 12 and acquiring over 180 medical clients across the UK.
With such growth the firm’s year one target to pick up 20 practices appears woefully modest. It now has 44 practices and achieved £120,000 more in fees than originally forecast. “We didn’t foresee the growth we had,” admits Taylor.
That growth has also created “succession planning issues” for the firm, explains Taylor. Working in such a specialist and technical area requires an accountant with a very particular skillset.
Taylor himself has experience working exclusively with healthcare clients at RMT Accountants, but can also boast a Big Four background having spent time at Deloitte as an audit manager. Alongside Taylor as a catalyst for building the company is taxation expert Peter Waller, who worked with Taylor at RMT in the healthcare space.
“Because of our knowledge of the sector we can engage with partners and practices at a higher managerial level,” Taylor says, adding the firm needs people with an “all-encompassing background” that also “understand the health sector”.
A question of timing
The timing of the firm’s entry into the market, which includes GP practices, practice managers, hospital doctors, locums and consultants has benefited from much of the upheaval taking place in the profession.
Indeed, tax changes that relate to pensions took effect from 6 April in which NHS GPs will see their annual allowance cut to £40,000 from £50,000, and their lifetime allowance cut to £1.25m from £1.5m, alongside changes to the way GPs are paid and sweeping health reforms introduced last year that include giving groups of GP practices and other professionals – clinical commissioning groups – real budgets to manage.
“We were highly aware of what has been going on in and around the NHS,” says Taylor. “Practices are merging and there is a squeeze on income. One-to-two partner GP practices are looking to merge to get economies of scale.”
According to Taylor, the firm’s “core” business is tax planning and tax compliance with financial accounts, an area where medical professionals are being underserved by other firms.
“GPs have to fill in an annual certificate of pensionable profits which is a complex area. I’ve seen sets of accounts provided by other firms and they will have NHS income as a single line in accounts equal to turnover. In our accounts income stretches to two pages,” he says.
Though still early days in the BW Medical’s development, Taylor says the firm has some big aspirations. It has already expanded outside of Newcastle and the north east and developed a portfolio of clients in Lincoln and the Leicester area.
Firmly in BW’s sights is Ramsay Brown, a specialist in medical accountants based in London with over 400 practices. “Are target is to become bigger than them,” says Taylor, targeting medical practices of some ten partners.
With around 28,000 GPs in the UK and 500 practices in north east alone, BW Medical’s aspirations are not that far-fetched.
Keith Taylor’s CV
May 2014 – Managing director, BW Medical Accountants
2013 – Head of medical services, BW Medical Accountants
2008 – Head of medical services, RMT Accountants
2002 – Owner managed business group manager, RMT Accountants
2000 – Assurance manager, Grant Thornton
1998 – Audit and assurance manager, Deloitte Touche
1986 – Audit senior and audit director, BDO Reads Ltd
1981 – Chartered accountant, Spicer and Pegler
BW Medical: Facts & Figures
No of offices: One (Newcastle)
No of directors: Four
No of employees: 14