UHY Hacker Young Group
Firms in the UHY Hacker Young Group, which is the UK arm of the UHY global accountancy network. Most UK member firms rebrand to incorporate UHY Hacker Young into their name within three years of joining the network.
It’s been an eventful 18 months since Colin Wright FCCA was appointed chairman of the UHY Hacker Young Group. The outbreak of Covid-19 earlier this year threatened the prosperity of the group’s staff, clients and member firms. It also presented Wright with some major management headaches.
‘Back in March, we thought this was going to be terrible,’ he recalls. ‘We thought clients would be more negatively impacted, we’d have cashflow problems and we’d have issues with working remotely. But it’s turned out better than we thought.
‘There have been challenges and inefficiencies, but remote working has worked well; we had the whole of the London and Nottingham firm working from home within 24 hours. Also, because we have a diverse client base, a lot of our clients have been okay.’
Nevertheless, he acknowledges that some of the firm’s clients, including those in the hospitality sector, have been hit very hard by the pandemic. ‘As a UK network, we’ve done a huge amount of communication on Covid to make sure that clients and firms around the network are fully aware of all the different government initiatives,’ he says.
As for Brexit, Wright says many clients are prepared for the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of the year, ‘either because they won’t be hugely impacted in any case or because we have already spoken to them and they’ve taken steps to mitigate the risk, such as setting up a subsidiary in the EU or seeking specialist tax advice.
‘If you have your strategy and culture right, so many things then fall into place’
Since his appointment, Wright has been focused on setting the UK network’s strategy for the future. ‘We have appointed an external consultant to help us look at our purpose, values and vision,’ he says. ‘We see that as a key driver for the network because if you have your strategy and culture right, so many things then fall into place.’
Wright interprets the group’s strapline, ‘Helping you prosper’, thus: ‘Partly it’s helping our teams prosper through training them and giving them career progression. It’s also helping our clients prosper by helping them make money and reducing their risk. And it’s helping the firms prosper around the network, but it also extends to our wider community.
‘It’s not just about money, either. It’s also about prospering in life, so includes soft skills and wellbeing.’
Route to success
Wright was born and raised in Trinidad by his British expat parents. Although he has spent most of the past 25 years in the UK, asked whether he considers himself British or Trinidadian, he answers ‘50/50’.
He started his accountancy training on the Caribbean island, having been interested in business management and finance while at school. Studying for the ACCA Qualification was a straightforward decision. ‘In Trinidad, like a lot of countries, ACCA is the main qualification for accountants and for finance,’ he explains.
Initially, Wright trained as an auditor with EY in Trinidad. After a few years, however, he decided that he wanted to see more of the world, and he and his wife moved to the UK.
Although he could have transferred internally within EY, he wanted to work for a smaller firm. So he joined what was then Hacker Young in 1996 – the same year he qualified with ACCA. Aside from a four-year stint back in Trinidad in the early 2000s, he has worked for the firm in the UK ever since, becoming a partner in 2007 and specialising in audit and financial reporting.
‘I’ve always enjoyed the service side of audit, and helping clients try to improve their quality and achieve their goals with an audit,’ he says. ‘I also enjoy the financial reporting side, helping clients find solutions and prepare their financial reporting to a high standard.’
Wright’s experience in Trinidad and Tobago, working for EY and later outsourcing provider Aegis Business Solutions, explains his sector expertise. ‘A lot of our clients were oil and gas companies or service companies operating in that sector,’ he says. ‘So I understood the oil and gas industry.’
When he moved to UHY Hacker Young, which served a number of oil and gas companies listed on London’s AIM stock exchange, it made sense for him to stay focused on the sector. Additionally, he began working with some mining and technology clients.
Throughout his career, Wright has also had a passion for working with charities and not-for-profit organisations, supporting them through the audit to achieve their objectives.
Both Covid and Brexit will continue to loom over the business landscape in the near term. Nevertheless, UHY Hacker Young is positive about the future. ‘The next challenge going forward is: how do we expand more?’ says Wright.
‘We’re working hard to try to increase the size of our UK network, largely to ensure we have a truly national offering. We are looking to fill our current geographic gaps in Scotland, the far north west, Leeds and the south west.’
Wright’s term as UHY Hacker Young chairman will last for three years. What does he hope to have achieved by the end of it?
‘It comes back to strategy and culture,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to devise what a perfect accountancy business looks like and help each member of the network to identify the elements of that perfect accountancy business that will help them to improve their firm and their business. Once you do that, you’ll get dividends from growth.’
Chairman, UHY Hacker Young Group
Audit partner, UHY Hacker Young, London
Director, Aegis Business Solutions, Trinidad and Tobago
Audit manager, UHY Hacker Young, London; qualified with ACCA
Audit senior, EY, Trinidad and Tobago