Borders-headquartered accountant books steady numbers despite pandemic fallout

Borders-headquartered accountancy firm Douglas Home & Company has booked an increase in turnover and maintained client numbers despite the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Bosses said they remained on track with an ambitious business plan to occupy a market gap they have identified between smaller accountancy firms and major players.

The firm recorded a 4 per cent rise in turnover to £4 million for the financial year 2020/21, while headcount was maintained at about 70 people.

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Darren Thomson managing director of the Kelso-headquartered firm, which has eight offices across Scotland and northern England, said: “In common with virtually every other business in the country, we’ve faced headwinds and worries over this challenging year.

Directors of Scottish accountancy firm, Douglas Home & Co. L-R: Victoria Ivinson, Mike Johnston, Sheryl Macaulay, Alan Drummond, Caroline Tice, Darren Thomson - managing director. Picture: Ian Georgeson Photography

“Given that, it’s easy to understand why everyone at the firm is so pleased that we’ve managed to weather what’s been thrown at us, while actually maintaining some modest growth. I can’t praise our team highly enough for the herculean effort and commitment they’ve shown to get us here.”

He added: “Of course there is room in the market for firms of all sizes. But we believe there is a sweet spot between niche practices that offer a highly personalised service and the big four who are more impersonal, but offer a huge range of services.

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“It’s a tricky path to negotiate, because it is dependent on achieving a certain scale while still maintaining personal relationships with clients. However, we absolutely believe in this approach so we doubled down on it during the pandemic.”

Thomson said the firm had adopted a proactive approach during lockdown with the firm processing some 2,000 furlough claims on behalf of clients.

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“We were determined not to be back on our heels and instead tried to get onto our toes during the pandemic,” he added. “So, we actually launched a new app which is free to our clients. It makes it simple to store virtual receipts, log mileage in real-time and also provides easy access to plenty of useful tax and accountancy advice.”

Clients of the firm range in size from sole operators to major corporates. As part of its growth and development plan, the practice is targeting businesses of all scales and sizes located throughout Scotland and the north of England.

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Since it was established in 1983, the firm has expanded significantly, growing from a predominantly rural-focused practice into a “modern and dynamic operation” serving a wide range of business and corporates. Best known for traditional chartered accountancy and tax advice, its services now include business development, IT support, wills, trusts and estates.

At the peak of the pandemic, the firm launched a sector-specific service alerting firms to the implications of government updates and rule changes.

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Those updates also included links for loan and grant applications and the firm estimates that around 90 per cent of its 3,100 clients made some sort of application as a result, collecting grant or loan payments it estimates to be in excess of £25m.

Thomson added: “With all of this activity, the feedback from clients has been incredibly positive.”

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