Richard Kleiner became a Partner at Gerald Edelman in 1986, aged just 27, and was appointed CEO in 2007. Since 2007, Gerald Edelman has grown considerably, increasing its income by 95%, expanding out of London, gaining four new Partners and doubling its employees (80 in 2007, 160 today).
Richard tells us about the inner workings of Gerald Edelman and the work that contributed to it becoming a Top 100 Firm (Accountancy Age: Top 50+50 Accountancy Firms 2018).
Although Gerald Edelman stems from a traditional accountancy practice, today, we do not identify ourselves in this way. Accountancy as a term is so limited and does not adequately describe or do justice to the role we have with our clients. We provide support with so much more. Instead, we describe ourselves as a business’s “first port of call”. Whatever a business needs, we can help, or we know the people who can.
What is Gerald Edelman’s philosophy and top priorities towards its clients?
Gerald Edelman’s philosophy is to think beyond compliance and even beyond accountancy. We aim to challenge the very definition of an accountant and invite businesses to ‘ask us anything’, because our vision is to be the first port of call for all businesses.
In my experience, businesses today want creative solutions, new ideas and memorable experiences. Therefore, our focus is to always surpass the expectations of our clients and to add real value to their businesses. One way we do this is to encourage clients to think without limits and challenge them to inspire greater success.
The Gerald Edelman team also has an ethos to deliver genuinely exceptional relationships, experiences and advice. We’re in the business of real relationships and therefore our priority is to ensure our clients (and our team) feel valued and supported throughout their journey with us.
As a Top 100 firm, to what would you attribute the success that you’ve seen?
I attribute Gerald Edelman’s success to the forward-thinking nature of the team and our overarching desire to never stand still. The market is changing; technology is automating much of the compliance work. This has meant that we are experiencing an increase in pressure on fees and a change in client expectations – and rightly so.
There is no time for complacency. We have embraced this change and are continually looking at how we can add value and deliver more strategic and commercial advice to our clients. This has meant that we are always on the lookout for new partnership and alliance opportunities that are going to benefit our clients whilst improving our own business.
Constantly innovating means that we have been able to continually optimise our performance, meet client expectations and extend our services to new clients and their businesses.
Have there been any notable cases or achievements recently that you could tell us about?
I am extremely proud of the strategic alliances and partnerships we have formed in the last few years. These have allowed us to extend the support we deliver to our clients and form new forces in different service areas, such as Deal Advisory (through Gerald Edelman Deal Advisory), Asset Financing and Leasing (through GE Asset Finance and Leasing Ltd) and HR advice through our internal HR consultant.
As well as forming alliances and partnerships, we are also collaborating with solicitors. These collaborations allow us to act as a facilitator in driving thought-provoking discussions for SMEs.
Many of our clients have limitations on what they believe their business can achieve. Through these alliances we have been able to think about business in a different way – to challenge and inspire clients and their businesses.
What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
Announcing our partnership with SB&P, an established business of Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors based in Liverpool, was one of my proudest moments. This alliance allows Gerald Edelman and SB&P to work together to service clients beyond the South East, diversifying our client base into Northern England.
Just witnessing the growth Gerald Edelman has achieved over the years and now forming partnerships with businesses outside of London means a great deal. I am excited by the opportunities that this new venture will bring and together, we will continue to innovate to deliver services and advice which may not traditionally be expected in our profession.
How has the tax system in the UK transformed over the last few years? Can you give some insight into any upcoming changes as well?
Digitalisation and AI have dramatically transformed the UK tax system. For example, in the last five years aggressive tax mitigation avoidance schemes have become more and more frowned upon by HMRC, as well as the media. In addition, HMRC launched its “Connect” system in 2017. This system significantly increases its reach and resources in targeting taxpayers for enquiries and investigations through getting an accurate profile of a taxpayer’s financial profile.
This is just one of a number of steps in HMRC’s plan for a digital tax system. In the next five to ten years, through Making Tax Digital, we expect that all compliance work will be automated – tax returns, annual accounts etc. Indeed, these services will still be an overhead for businesses, but costs will be pushed down, and less value will be attributed to them. This is why, we at Gerald Edelman are placing greater emphasis on value enhancing services, such as indirect taxation (VAT, SDLT and tax advisory) advice as well as business strategy and business/corporate finance support. These are also the services that offer the greatest value to businesses and are essential for businesses to compete and grow – they are also the services we enjoy delivering the most!
What role does technology play in your services and how you deliver them? How do you ensure the most up-to-date services possible?
Technology is integral to the way we operate as a business. We are continually looking at our systems and the technology we use to ensure efficient delivery of our services. Technology is used throughout the business, whether in our corporate finance systems, or our communications with our clients.
We are aware technology is going to become more and more integral to our growth. Businesses and individuals now expect personalised services and bespoke advice. Therefore, we are always looking at how we can capitalise on technology to ensure we are delivering the right services at the right time in a business’s life cycle.
What do you anticipate in the years ahead in the world of finance, especially given the current economic and political climate?
As mentioned previously, business processes are becoming more and more automated. I think if you speak to any accountancy practice, they will tell you the same. This means more emphasis must be placed on value enhancing services and strategic advice of the highest quality.
Also, with the current political and economic uncertainty in the UK, businesses are hesitant in executing their growth plans. It is therefore our job to ensure businesses are kept compliant and, more significantly, are getting timely stimulating, strategic and commercial advice that is actually going to help them be successful in their respective market sectors.