Large firm: Johnston Carmichael

With the Large Firm category making its debut it was always going to be tough for the judging panel to make a decision, but there was little doubt that Johnston Carmichael should take home the prize.

The criteria was rigorous. Entrants had to demonstrate how they added ‘significant value’ to clients presenting through case studies their achievements. They also had to show how developments in the firm’s own structure over the past 12 months had improved client focus, effectiveness and innovation.

Lastly, entrants had to reveal how their financial performance over the previous year had improved their fee income, sources of income and profits per partner.

A tall order in a year which has seen many firms battling with falling incomes and reorganisation to take advantage of growth areas while cutting back in areas of stagnation.

Founded in 1935 in Elgin, the firm received unequivocal approval from the Accountancy Age judges.

One said: ‘It’s impressive to see an older firm getting its act together.’ Another observed Johnston Carmichael has seen ‘good growth and positive client feedback’.

Others remarked that they were ‘very impressed with the website’ while there was a real feeling that the firm was doing something new with its corporate structure. ‘With a CEO it is an innovative structure for an accounting firm,’ commented one of the judges.

Johnston Carmichael has 11 offices, 24 partners and 220 staff dealing with 6,500 clients, all privately owned and most owner-managed. Fees for the year to May 2002 were £8.9m with a 10% increase on the previous year.

The firm specialises in farming, still high risk in the wake of foot-and-mouth and BSE, but it has stuck with the sector putting together a client base of 1,500 farms and estates.

One farming client remarked: ‘The attention to detail and the personal service we get from an independent firm like Johnston Carmichael is very good.’ The client added: ‘JC triggers issues and highlights potential problems that we need to pay attention to.’

That said, the firm has a range of services including a specialist tax team, financial services and client courses.

All this means there was no doubt in the judges’ mind that Johnston Carmichael should be a winner at this year’s awards.

Other shortlisted candidates:

  • Cooper Parry
  • Ford Campbell
  • Kroll Buchler Phillips

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