A fresh start: Tilney’s new Bristol director

With 20 years of experience in consulting practise across restructuring, advisory, audit, risk and internal audit, Lynne Blakey and Claire Burden discuss Blakey’s move to the firm as its new director.

Tell Accountancy Today about your career history

Blakey: I made the decision to move into accountancy after enjoying the snappily entitled “Accountancy for Lawyers” course included within my law degree. This change of career saw me take on a role within KPMG’s restructuring practice in Glasgow. I quickly realised that accountancy was definitely for me and that restructuring provided me with a blend of financial, commercial and legal issues to deal with which made the most of my skill set. I then spent three years in audit to undertake my chartered accountancy exams and get a good grounding in finance and how businesses operate, before returning to the restructuring team.

After five years at KPMG Glasgow, I transferred internally to the Bristol office. Although I remained within the restructuring team. I had the opportunity to work with clients less far along the stress curve, who wanted to implement change or improve performance in some way. I was able to work on a huge variety of projects including reviewing forecasts and projections, undertaking options reviews, accelerated business sales processes, performance improvement reviews, and preparing business plans. I even spent nine months on secondment to Barclays Bank plc working alongside the larger business team. I also undertook various other roles in KPMG including a year in the office sales team, meeting prospective clients to talk about the range of services KPMG as a firm could provide, as well as spending two years in Internal audit and risk, working with clients on their controls, processes and risk management.

Finally, in 2018, the opportunity came up to join a business in Somerset as their finance director, which was building a hotel, visitor attraction and gardens (soon to become the Newt in Somerset). I started work prior to trading commencing and therefore was responsible for setting up the finance function, the business systems and processes and helping frame the wider operations. The role was challenging and fast paced but extremely enjoyable and I had the privilege of working with a very talented and committed management team and staff.

Four years later, after seeing the Newt transform into a successful, well respected and entrepreneurial hotel, visitor attraction, food production, retailer and so much more, I had the opportunity to move to Tilney Smith and Williamson to work in the advisory consulting team with Claire.

Why did you decide to leave as head of finance at Newt?

It was a very difficult decision to leave my role as head of finance at the Newt in Somerset. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working there and have tremendous pride in what has been achieved, and continues to be achieved. I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible people, plus taste the best cyder in the world (although I may be biased) . The Newt will always have a very special place in my heart, and I am sure I will be a frequent visitor.

However, there was a desire to get back into the city and be a little closer to home and when the opportunity at Tilney Smith and Williamson came up, I just couldn’t refuse. Working with Claire and being part of a fast growing team with a wide variety of clients and different projects, was an exciting opportunity that I simply couldn’t turn down. I am very excited about my new role and look forward to working directly with clients to help them achieve their strategy and business aims.

What did you learn from your time at big four accountancy firm KPMG?

Where do I start? As summarised above, I had a really varied career whilst at KPMG and can genuinely say that I learned something new from each and every aspect of my work. The breadth of experience and the wide range of clients I worked on have helped me adopt a commercial and practical approach in my work. However, there are a few key learnings which transcend across all areas:

Make sure you take the time to really listen to and understand what your client needs and wants. Each business is unique and has its own strengths and issues. No two businesses are the same and you need to adapt what you do to the business you are working with and the people working there.
The importance of collaboration and working together. You can’t know everything, so make sure you use the team you have around you and pull in the correct people with the correct skills and experience for each project.
And finally, be yourself – people like genuine people and by being yourself and being honest, you will always retain your personal and professional integrity and get the most out of your professional relationships.

Why did Blakey seem a good fit for the role?

Burden: I worked with Lynne for many years in KPMG’s Restructuring practice and am really excited to have Lynne on board from both a personal perspective and for our clients. Lynne is one of the best pragmatic, commercial advisors I have worked with, who works collaboratively to get the best results for clients. As we grow our national advisory consulting practice, bringing in experienced operators at a senior level like Lynne really supercharge our client offering. Lynne has a wonderful mix of industry FD experience and big four consultancy, she knows how it feels to be an FD, whilst at the same time being able to bring the best practice solutions to boost efficiencies and profitability for our clients.

What plans does the firm have for its advisory consulting practice?

We are a national, ‘high growth’ practice that was created when I joined the firm 18 months ago. I think that because we have ‘real world’ experience, we don’t act like typical management consultants – we roll up our sleeves and help deliver the change needed, especially for SME businesses. Businesses have really engaged with our approach and we are lucky to have an amazing range of clients and our services are very much in demand, which is great. However to meet that client need, we have big expansion plans across geography, sector and service lines. We are always on the lookout for a diverse range of talent to join us.

What trends are you currently seeing from clients?

Lots of organisations took a step back during the pandemic to reassess, so we are working on a number of strategy and change management projects currently. There are also lots of clients focussed on high growth, completing acquisitions and bringing in funding which is great to see in the current climate. At the same time, every CFO or FD I speak to at the moment is hyper focussed on cost control as we move back into an inflationary environment, which of course many FDs haven’t seen during their senior career. It’s a whole different mindset and so requires a different approach to financial planning and analysis.

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