Monday interview: Graeme Allan of Anderson Anderson & Brown

Graeme Allan trained at PwC in Edinburgh, joining Stephen Hay & Associates as a senior manager before taking up a partnership at Aberdeen-based AAB in 2007. Picture: Contributed
Graeme Allan trained at PwC in Edinburgh, joining Stephen Hay & Associates as a senior manager before taking up a partnership at Aberdeen-based AAB in 2007. Picture: Contributed
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After one of its busiest years ever, Anderson Anderson & Brown (AAB) is not resting on its laurels.

The Aberdeen-headquartered accountancy practice has ambitious plans to grow, bolstering its headcount and leading to an eventual doubling in revenues, currently sitting at about £22 million.

To double in size we will need to enter into new markets

Graeme Allan

Steering the business along its growth path is managing partner Graeme Allan, a tax specialist for more than 25 years and the first direct entry partner to the firm in 2007 before being promoted to the top post in 2015.

Aiding the expansion is the firm’s move last summer to a new purpose built 45,000 square feet headquarters building at Prime Four Business Park, Kingswell, providing roughly twice the space of its previous base at Queens Road. As head tenant at the old address, AAB has struck an eight-year management agreement with serviced office operator Citibase.

Allan, who trained at PwC in Edinburgh before joining Stephen Hay & Associates as a senior manager, says the relocation forms a key part of a 15-year project to scale up the business.

READ MORE: Positive signs after dealmaking slowdown

“There has been a significant investment by the partners to give us a platform that allows us to grow the business the way we want to. We recognise that not all of that growth is going to come from Aberdeenshire. Undoubtedly the Central Belt will be one of our target areas from a geographic perspective and I suspect that London will be an attractive option for us at some point,” observes Allan.

“As a firm we have grown horizontally with 37 different service lines. That has been supported by clients who want access to all of these services under one roof. To double in size we will need to enter into new markets. There are a couple of options to achieve that target of doubling the business. We could merge somebody into the business or grow organically as we have done until now.”

With some 250 staff across the firm and 13 partners, the headcount is set to grow alongside the increase in fee income, although not necessarily at the same pace. “I think we will need 25 partners to achieve what we are trying to do,” notes Allan. “It’s maybe not as straightforward as doubling the overall headcount.”

AAB’s specialist corporate finance arm has established itself as a major player in the Scottish corporate finance arena. Since launching, the division has completed more than 500 transactions with a combined deal value in excess of £4.5 billion.

The firm acted as adviser to the Macduff Shellfish group and its acquisition by Canada’s Clearwater Seafoods for almost £100m – one of the largest private company sales in Scotland in recent times. The deal was significant enough to secure both Sale of the Year and Deal of the Year at the 2016 Deals & Dealmakers Awards.

READ MORE: Macduff Shellfish family nets £50m from sale

Allan says the firm found itself sitting around the table with a lot of major advisers, but concedes that deals of that scale are few and far between, with more typical values in the seven and lower eight-figure range.

“Macduff was certainly one of the biggest deals to work on. In the North-east the transaction flow has eased considerably on the back of what has happened to the oil price. So many businesses are connected to the oil and gas industry in this area, but I’m sure my corporate finance partners will point to a number of deals that remain on the go. Let’s hope another deal the size of the Macduff one comes along,” he says.

Headline-grabbing work or not, the firm takes a client-centred approach, through a mantra dubbed the “Plus Factor” with its four tenets – to help clients make money, save them time, give them peace of mind and to support them “now and in the future”.

That focus on what lies ahead has never been more pertinent, argues Allan, given the uncertain outlook for the global economy, rapid pace of technological change and, of course, Britain’s future relationship with the European Union following June’s historic vote.

“I can’t say I was a supporter of Brexit,” confesses Allan. “We have ended up with a lot of uncertainty, and we really need to see what develops. However, the country has voted that way and we have to make the most of it now. Anything that creates an environment where advice is required is obviously right up our street and with sterling under pressure you can also see where acquisitions would be good for overseas investors.”

30-SECOND CV

Job: Managing partner, Anderson Anderson & Brown

Born: Glasgow

First job: Tax assistant

What car do you drive? Porsche Cayenne

Favourite mode of transport: I love to travel so has to be flying

Music: Coldplay

Reading material: I’m a big David Baldacci fan

What makes you angry? Unsolicited phone calls

Favourite place: Balmoral Beach, Sydney, Australia

Best thing about your job: It has given me the chance to travel and meet lots of different people

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