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Accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael ready for changes in industry

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Johnston Carmichael (JC) boss Andrew Walker expects Brexit and the UK Government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) ambitions to keep his growing team busy next year.

The Aberdeen-based accountancy firm had an eventful 2019, opening new offices in Dundee and London – its first outside Scotland.

It appointed Mr Walker, 48, as CEO, with the former Inverurie Academy pupil and Aberdeen University graduate taking over the top job from Sandy Manson on August 1.

Mr Walker said it had been a “fairly painless” transition, and he enjoyed spending his first few months in the hot seat travelling around the 13-strong branch network.

“I’d already been working closely with Sandy for 18 months as part of our succession planning,” he added.

He said the next 12 months would bring new challenges as JC’s accountants and business advisers embrace MTD as its scope widens from VAT to other taxes, while also helping clients adapt to Brexit.

“The firm is keen to retain, develop and attract new talent,” he said, adding: “There is a lot of change coming to the industry. Digitisation of the profession is going to have a profound impact and make accountancy more exciting.”

It is hoped MTD will offer businesses many benefits by helping them manage their taxes more effectively, including through near real-time reporting and payments.

Mr Walker said: “It will change how we deal with clients, and we will need to bring in other skill sets such as computer science graduates. It’s definitely going to change how we do our work. That change is inevitable and we need to embrace it.”

JC employs around 850 people, including more than 60 partners, with central belt branches driving year-on-year revenue growth of nearly 8% across the business.

The firm’s latest annual figures show revenue of £49.3 million in the year to May 31 2019, with net profits before partners’ remuneration and profit shares up 3.4% at £12.2m.

Johnston Carmichael’s CEO has strong roots in the north-east

Andrew Walker’s elevation to the top job at Johnston Carmichael in August came during his 17th year with the firm since he rejoined it in 2003.

Avid followers of the Highland League may remember JC’s new boss from his footballing days with Lossiemouth and his hometown team of Inverurie Locos.

Now living in Aberdeen with wife Gillian and two young children, he credits former JC CEO Patrick Machray for luring him back to JC after spells at KPMG and in the oil and gas industry.

Mr Walker, who took over as managing partner in JC’s Aberdeen office in June 2007, has more than 12 years’ corporate finance experience at a senior level.

He has particular knowledge of the owner-managed business sector, and has a strong track record in deals execution.

In keeping with his predecessors, JC’s latest chief executive boasts strong north-east roots.

His father was an auctioneer at Aberdeen and Northern Marts, while his mother taught at Inverurie Academy.

Reflecting on his first five months as JC’s CEO, Mr Walker said business growth was running at a “similar level” to the strong performance achieved during the firm’s 2018-19 trading year.

“It’s pleasing to see that continue,” he said, adding: “We’ve also continued to invest in the business.”

Offices opened in Dundee and London during this year have further broadened the scale of JC, which has its roots in Nairn.

The firm was established in 1936 by James Johnston for his son William, who soon linked up with another chartered accountant, John Carmichael.

It is now the largest independent chartered accountancy firm in Scotland and part of global accounting network PKF International, which has in excess of 200 member firms and correspondents across about 440 locations in more than 150 countries.

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