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The future of Bishop Fleming

Bishop Fleming recently appointed tax partner, Pippa Clarke, as its new chair. Heading up the firm’s Technology, Innovation and Growth sector, Clarke shares with Accountancy Today what she hopes to achieve in her new role and what the firm’s growth plans entail.

What is your history in the business?

I first joined Bishop Fleming in 2002, and re-joined the firm in 2019, having taken a hiatus from the firm for five years.

As a firm, we have seen increasing demand for tax advisory services, and I have been working to enhance the firm’s growing tax team.

I also established our technology, innovation, and growth sector. This has ensured we consolidate knowledge and experience of the sector to provide a more rewarding service to those clients and create a more rewarding experience for our people.

What are your most notable achievements in the industry?

I have over 30 years of experience in the tax profession, specialising in International Tax for a wide range of clients. Here at Bishop Fleming, along with being the chair, I think creating and developing our Technology, Innovation and Growth sector team has made a real difference.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role as chair?

The firm is embarking on an ambitious plan to further grow our business. I am particularly passionate about the development of our people, and among several other priorities will be working with the team to attract more talented people to our business. Excellent people, who reach their potential, will be pivotal to our growth.

How does your appointment promote diversity in the business?

I think it reinforces the fact that our people progress based on merit. I started work as a care leaver pretty much straight from school – I’m not a chartered accountant, and I have always combined my career with caring responsibilities.

To improve diversity, we have introduced a new inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy. This is focused on increasing female representation at senior levels, improving our ethnic diversity, and better representation and support for our LGBTQ colleagues.

At Bishop Fleming, we are committed to encouraging diversity, promoting equal opportunities, and providing fair treatment in all that we do. We strive for a working environment that is inclusive, free from discrimination, and where everyone feels they are treated with dignity and respect.

I would hope my appointment helps to lead by example and promote diverse leaders within our business, showing that equal opportunities are available.

How do you plan to further improve inclusion and diversity?

As a responsible business, we are absolutely committed to improving I&D, and as someone who has a less traditional background, I am particularly proud of the important message my appointment delivers in promoting diversity within the business, both internally to our own people and in our sector.

In the last few months, we have been working not only on our I&D strategy but also on our practical approach to I&D. We have a new working group made up of a diverse group of 12 employees from across the business who will drive our I&D strategy forward and hold us to account on the actions we are taking.

What do the firm’s growth plans entail?

We have ambitious plans to double our fees – a stretching target but one, based on current performance, that is achievable. However, we recognise that we must grow our headcount further, focus on innovation and efficiency savings and strengthen our work in new sectors and specialist areas.

We are determined to achieve all of this whilst remaining independent, and to grow in a way that retains our unique culture and people-focus. We are shortly launching our new Employer Value Proposition to reinforce our position as an employer of choice, attracting and retaining the very best people into our business.

How will Bishop Fleming double the size of the business over the next few years?

We now act for over 10,000 clients across the UK and have been one of the fastest growing firms in the last decade. We recognise that to be the most rewarding firm for our clients and communities, we need to have a team of exceptional people to support our growth.

As the new chair, one of my main priorities is to ensure we actively develop our people now more than ever and we are on track to deliver record growth in 2022. This builds on our strategy to attract, develop, excite, and retain people.

How does Bishop Fleming hope to attract more people to the team?

We are working hard to ensure that not only does Bishop Fleming continue to be a great place to work, but that potential job applicants have a really good experience and understand what it’s like to work here. We are committed to offering work that is both stimulating and challenging.

Our People strategy focuses on developing individuals to enable them to achieve their full potential. As an approved provider of apprenticeships, we have developed a rigorous programme for our school and university leavers, which helps them to deliver the skills and behaviours needed to be well-rounded advisers rather than just technical experts.

We are committed to developing our staff; we offer a mentoring programme across the business and run weekly surveys of employee engagement levels. We have and continue to expand our development programmes, such as Bright Futures, to help people progress. Wellbeing for all our people is paramount, particularly as we deepen our hybrid working policies.

What is next for Bishop Fleming?

Along with our ambitious growth plans, we are absolutely committed to being a responsible business. This includes a commitment to Net Zero and to publish details of our responsible business performance.

We are members of Business In The Community, and we focus on the strands of healthy business, healthy communities and healthy environment.

All of this comes together in a single line of sight that runs through our business, captured by our brand proposition – it’s what we bring together, that sets us apart.

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