Accountancy isn’t just about the numbers – and Mark Fielding, newly-appointed managing director of Huddersfield chartered accountancy firm Simpson Wood Ltd, is more aware of that than most.
Mark, who stepped into the role just weeks ago following the retirement of senior partner Giles Cliffe, says the business has been built on people and the connections forged with clients and colleagues.
While Simpson Wood has a proud tradition and history, it is moving with the times and braced to pursue new opportunities.
“Our core strength is serving our clients,” says Mark. “We have a wonderful client base and how we serve that client base is what matters.
“We are here, not just to do the accounts, but to save our clients money – and the recession means the profession has to provide more value to its customers.
“People trust us,” says Mark. “We are comfortable with who we are and my desire is that we are as good as we can be, and that means serving our clients to our utmost capabilities.”
Linthwaite-born Mark says he was always going be an accountant – and was always going to work at Simpson Wood.
His father Keith was a partner at the Market Street firm from 1970 until his retirement in 1992, which was shortly after Mark started at the firm.
Mark attended Colne Valley High School and took a degree in Business and Industrial Systems at De Montfort University.
The degree covered marketing, manufacturing and accountancy.
Says Mark “It means I came out knowing a little bit about all aspects of business and I understood what my clients were talking about! I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was a very good degree to take.”
Mark passed his accountancy exams first time and rose through the ranks at the firm to become a partner in 1998, working principally as a general practitioner.
“I have never known anything but Simpson Wood,” he admits. “I first came to these offices as a baby. Later, I used to look at what my dad was doing and thought ‘I could quite enjoy doing that’.
“I used to work at Simpson Wood during the school holidays.”
Mark freely admits that he walked into a job, but knows that he is there on merit.
“I have only ever had one interview in my life and that was to join Woodsome Hall Golf Club junior section at the age of 15,” he says.
“It has been an advantage being ‘Keith’s lad’ and there are still a number of clients who knew my father and have been clients of Simpson Wood for a long time – but I have been able to plough my own furrow.”
At 43, Mark is already making plans for ‘succession at the firm and is conscious of the debt owed to his predecessors.
He says the biggest influences on his career were his father and Simpson Wood’s succession of senior partners, notably David Simpson, Julian Holdroyd and Giles Cliffe, to name but a few.
“We have a good mix of experience here,” he says. “The one thing I want to do as a firm is for us to be about people.
“It is not a dull profession where you just do the books. You are at your best when you talk to people. It is about connections and how you work with one another.
“You get to know people – individuals you can ring up and turn to for advice or help, those you can trust.”
Mark also enjoys the professional camaraderie among the town’s accountants.
“What I appreciate about Huddersfield is its ‘village mentality’ and the fact that people genuinely care about each other,” he says.
“I like the accountancy profession in Huddersfield. We all get on very well and we have good working relationships with each other.
“There is certainly enough work in Huddersfield for all of us.”
“I have always been involved with the Huddersfield Society of Chartered Accountants and I was secretary for three years under three presidents – David Walker, Paul Smelt and David Hutchinson.”
The firm boasts a large number of owner-managed business among its clients – which also throws up issues about succession planning and how the owners of those businesses can protect their wealth and take their money out of the business when they retire.
That’s where Simpson Wood’s skilled tax team and financial services operation come into their own.
Major issues looming for all businesses include auto-enrolment – the Government’s initiative to get everyone saving for retirement by being automatically enrolled into a workplace pension by their employer.
Simpson Wood is alerting clients to their responsibilities when the scheme kicks in and highlighting how its payroll bureau service and financial services company can help take the pressure off.
“It’s a growth area and it’s something we’re focused on,” says Mark.
“Clients have been talking about this for the last two years, but it is getting to the staging dates and becoming very ‘real’ for them.
“For all accountants, it will mean providing a lot of hand-holding.”
Mark sees other areas of opportunity. One growth area is working for schools which have adopted academy status. Another is the rise in demand for management accounts and consultancy.
Mark is also keen to further develop the firm’s tax and estate planning department, who are helping people retire and do what they want to do.
Says Mark: “We have the skills in our office to offer a complete all-round service.”
Family and friends play an important role for Mark away from work – first and foremost his wife Dawn and their children Joseph, 14, and Alice, 10.
Mark played cricket for Broad Oak for many years from being a teenager, but recalls how a professional career in the sport eluded him.
“I missed going to the North of England trials because I broke my wrist,” he says.
“Someone called Darren Gough got my place! I don’t think I would have made the grade, though.
“I started playing golf when I was 16 and I play off 8 at Woodsome.
“I continue practising to try and stay ahead of my son, who also plays and may one day be a better golfer than me!
“I cycled quite a lot earlier this year as Simpson Wood staged a charity ride for the Tour de France, but since that ride in June I have only had the bike out once!”
Mark is treasurer at Emmanuel Methodist Church in Barnsley, near the family’s home in Dodworth.
Says Mark: “I grew up in the Colne Valley and now live in Barnsley where the countryside has a more gentle feel to it.
“But I very much enjoy being part of the professional community in Huddersfield and the difference we can make for our clients.”
Role: Managing director
Family: Married to Dawn with children
Joseph, 14, and Alice, 10
Holidays: I like Cornwall. St Ives is very special. I like Northumberland, but we also like to go abroad for some sunshine. We have also been to California and Las Vegas
Car: I have a Chevrolet Captiva – but I have just ordered a Volvo V40
First job: Working at Simpson Wood during the school holidays
Best thing about the job? Helping people, trying to solve their problems and being there for them
Worst thing about the job? Dealing with red tape and faceless bureaucracy
Business tip: Be comfortable with what you do and be comfortable with yourself If you don’t like who you see in the mirror, you cannot function
Work: Chartered accountants
Site: Market Street, Huddersfield
Phone: 01484 534431