Interview with Stevie Christian and Sarah Weir, Equiom Scotland

Tuesday 10 October 2017

By the Inverness Chamber of Commerce's Executive Magazine.

Eagle Consulting, which was founded by owner Harry Hornby some 20 years earlier, joined the Equiom Group in March of this year. The accounting and professional services outsourcing firm already has an international clientele, but now as Equiom Scotland, it becomes part of a globe spanning network stretching from the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean to Japan.

Offices in other territories – or jurisdictions – include Jersey, Guernsey, Malta, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Hong Kong and the USA, with plans for further expansion throughout Europe, Asia and the United States.

However, as the first mainland UK base for the group, Equiom Scotland will play an important role in the group’s ambitions; originally a part of Ernst & Young, Equiom was sold to Anglo Irish Bank before becoming fully independent following a management buyout led by Sheila Dean, who remains the group’s global CEO.

With 650 employees worldwide – a figure expected to rise by the end of the year – Isle of Man headquartered Equiom may not be one of the biggest companies in the international finance sector, but Stevie Christian, the group’s head of integration for Europe, believes that is one of its strengths.

'It’s not a big corporate, so it’s not this big machine that does things in a certain way with lots of red-tape,” he said. “It has a very family orientated culture and that means a very agile approach to how we operate, if someone has a good idea, we can implement that relatively quickly.'

That includes bringing any ideas and best practices from companies, like Eagle, that Equiom takes over as part of its worldwide growth strategy. One of the exciting aspects that Equiom Scotland has brought is a well-established, fully accredited training programme that Equiom now intends to assess and in some way roll out across the rest of the group.

As Eagle Consulting, the company was already far from being a standard accountancy practice, newly appointed managing director Sarah Weir pointed out, thanks to offering a diverse range of end to end services to a variety of different clients.

Many of those clients operate within the hospitality industry and with the support and investment from Equiom, the Inverness office is now forging a path towards being the market leader in the sector.

“Our growth plans under Equiom will be very ambitious and will see us adding extra services to the business while growing and solidifying our current services,” Sarah said.

“That will require a large, diverse pool of accountants and operational staff. We have a fantastic training programme where we work very closely with the students, whether they come straight from school or university, to understand their individual strengths and tailor a training programme that suits them as individuals. We have a training manager who is solely dedicated to staff training and development, and we are always looking to diversify our training programme to benefit both the individuals and the company.”

Once their training is complete, Equiom’s staff can look forward to an exciting and demanding career in Inverness, but they could also look further afield with Equiom’s international footprint allowing them the opportunity to pursue a career within Equiom Group in any one of over a dozen locations worldwide.

“It’s great to give people this opportunity if they want it. Not everyone does, but for those who do, they can spread their wings within Equiom,” Sarah said.

Stevie agreed this global footprint would bring new opportunities for employees:

“We can recruit people who want to train and stay in Inverness or they can come in, train, and then be seconded to Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, Qatar, Malta or the United States, and really be part of a global organisation. That’s one of the most exciting things about being part of Equiom, that global reach and the opportunity for our people to be part of that,” he said.

Servicing the hospitality sector will still be a core element for Inverness, but Equiom also has ambitions to make it a European centre of excellence for accounting practice.

As Equiom’s first foothold in the mainland UK, the Inverness team will be able to take advantage of this jurisdiction.  “There remains some good and legitimate reasons to have offshore companies and trusts,” Stevie explained, “but if you are a UK resident, there is now very little benefit to this, therefore we have a lot of UK clients who now need UK companies which is an area of growth and we will look to develop this service within Inverness.”

In addition to the 65 staff who transferred to Equiom Scotland in March, the expansion plans will see numbers in Inverness increase by an estimated 20 to 25 staff over the next 18 months as the type of accounting work diversifies and grows.

“With Brexit, having a UK footprint is really important to us,” Stevie added.

“We have a footprint in the EU currently in Malta and we have plans to expand in Europe (and Malta) even further, so we have a foot in both camps in terms of the post-Brexit options, and that’s really important to us as a business.”

Eagle Consulting already leases three buildings in Inverness, so there is plenty of room for Equiom to expand. There was a strong economic argument for choosing Inverness as Equiom’s first UK base, Stevie explains, with the cost of running an office far below an equivalent operation in London or Manchester, and after spending time in Inverness as interim managing director, he has been impressed by the quality of the staff in the Highlands.

“The culture of teamwork and the can-do approach, certainly among the people I’ve met and worked with in Inverness, is quite inspiring,” he said.

“Having people with that work ethic and the ability to go that extra mile adds so much value to the business because we have such good people there. It’s a great place for us to have a UK footprint and we are really proud to be part of the community.”

Those virtues have also been noted outside Equiom, with the Inverness office nominated as outstanding performing business in the Highland Business Awards, which will be announced at the climax to this month’s Highland Business Week.

So it is should be no surprise that Equiom found the person with all the qualities needed to take the Inverness office to the next level already in place in Sarah, who has worked with Eagle Consulting for three years and has over 22 years accountancy experience, both in large corporates in London, and in Scotland

In turn, Sarah and her team are looking forward to the future as a key component of Equiom’s plans.

“It’s been a very exciting time for us, here in Inverness,” Sarah said.

“We are seeing a lot of aspirations and dreams being realised because of the investment from Equiom and the support we can get from a bigger organisation.”

And Equiom has every confidence that Sarah and her team will rise to the challenge.

“Sheila Dean, the global CEO, has been absolutely delighted with Sarah’s performance and that of her team and we were really pleased to be able to make that appointment,” Stevie said.

“I know she is going to be able to drive Inverness to the next level.”


For further information about Equiom Scotland's services, please speak to Sarah Weir.