A progressive approach to success

October 8, 2021

Chartered accountancy and business advisory firm UNW has a long track record of helping clients achieve their goals. But such is the nature of the business that it is continually moving forward and, as newly appointed audit and assurance partner Fern Rivett tells Steven Hugill, its momentum is only set to continue.

www.unw.co.uk @UNWLLP 

 There’s something wonderfully symbolic about the location of UNW’s Newcastle office. Nestled between the city’s flagship Helix science and technology complex and the rugged remains of the medieval Morden Tower, the company’s base perfectly captures the sense of evolution.

Both structures speak of marked progression – the Helix’s sprawling footprint once housed a beer bottling plant and before that a coal mine, while the former fortification became an acclaimed poetry hub.

So, it is fitting then, that UNW neighbours such landmarks, given progression sits right at the heart of the independent chartered accountancy and business advisory firm.

Accustomed to helping aspirational businesses of all sizes, charities, not-for-profit entities and individuals attain their respective growth goals, it has surmounted coronavirus to secure several new partnerships with a broad range of clients during the pandemic.

Furthermore, it has augmented its highly skilled teams with a number of internal promotions and maintained a long-held commitment to the next generation, with several graduates and school leavers having recently joined the business to bolster an already strong collective expertise in the marketplace.

“We’ve probably had our biggest 18 months in terms of client wins,” says audit and assurance partner Fern Rivett.

“But we will never become complacent; it is always great to win work, but the key priority is looking after the clients we have and maintaining our very high standards.”

And to continue delivering such, says Newcastle University accounting and finance graduate Fern, UNW will remain steadfastly dedicated to its strong talent pathway.

“When you have more clients, you need more people,” says Fern, who works with businesses such as Gateshead subsea manufacturer Express Engineering and demolition company Thompsons of Prudhoe.

She continues: “And we are a progressive firm when it comes to people.

“Not only do we put an emphasis on bringing in experienced and established talent, but we also take on a lot of recruits from university or sixth form college and have a fantastic coaching culture.

“If you are willing to work hard and are good at what you do, you’ll get to where you want to be here,” says Fern, who was appointed partner in July, having previously been senior manager in UNW’s audit and assurance department since 2017.

She adds: “We’ve got a lot of people like Peter Sym, who joined our graduate programme in 2014 and who was recently promoted to senior audit manager, that have come through our training pathway and stayed with the business.

“People like Peter are proof of the opportunities that exist in all our departments, as well as our retention strength.”

Intrinsic to the progression of younger workers, says Fern, is the company’s willingness to invest in their futures.

This sees fledgling team members supported closely through their development and afforded opportunities right across UNW’s broad client and sector spectrum, which includes many well-known businesses in the North East and Cumbria as well as those further afield, such as Leeds-based Evans Property Group.

Furthermore, says Fern, the close-knit and supportive working environment at UNW, which employs about 130 people, provides a hugely unique atmosphere.

She says: “You are interacting with everyone; as a trainee, you are constantly speaking to the partners and senior team members – a fairly unique opportunity when beginning a career in finance.

“Our partners are hands-on too – they talk to younger workers about how they are finding things and what sectors they might want to be involved in, and as soon as they qualify, they draw out long-term plans for their futures.

“It makes for a really caring culture.

“And it works – we have multiple ICAEW award- winning team members across the business.

“Another fundamental reason why our training programme is so successful is that trainees are given great experience of working with a variety of clients, big or small, across all sectors.

“I don’t think there are many businesses in the North East, if any, that enable trainees to work with charities and then the next week work with a £10 million corporate turnover client or even a £200 million turnover client,” says Fern, who highlights how UNW’s trainees have the opportunity to bolster their experience by working across departments.

She adds: “That again makes for fantastic learning, which in turn benefits clients.”

Fern’s latter point echoes one of UNW’s cornerstone values – an extremely supportive and personable approach.

“Looking after clients is integral to our business, and I really enjoy finding out how they are doing,” says Fern, who joined UNW in 2012.

“We invest a lot of time in understanding clients, their business and their needs – our varied portfolio includes manufacturing, construction and online retail businesses – and we do everything to ensure they always receive the highest levels of service.

“We’ve had clients say to us, ‘your team has gone above and beyond’, which is indicative of our approach and a major marketplace differentiator.”

The overarching support to which Fern refers is also reflected in UNW’s collective expertise, which sees its various departments unite on projects to provide comprehensive client support.

She adds: “A client could pick up the phone to me and say, ‘we’re selling a property and I’ve got a VAT issue’, or ‘we have an employment tax issue’.

“I work in audit and assurance, but I can walk across the office floor, speak to colleagues in other departments, and connect a client to the relevant person.

“Essentially, we can help a client with anything because of the environment and expertise we have here.

“All of that is done while maintaining the high standards we always set ourselves and means clients’ needs are met successfully.

“It’s all part of the service we provide.

“We care passionately about our clients and take great pride in supporting their growth.”