MHA and Geoghegans merger billed a 'marriage made in heaven'

A shared ethos and culture lie at the heart of the recent merger between MHA, the UK independent member firm of Baker Tilly International, and Edinburgh-based accountancy firm Geoghegans.
Accountancy news: MHA and Geoghegans merger billed a 'marriage made in heaven'. Supplied imageAccountancy news: MHA and Geoghegans merger billed a 'marriage made in heaven'. Supplied image
Accountancy news: MHA and Geoghegans merger billed a 'marriage made in heaven'. Supplied image

The deal, announced on Tuesday 6 February, sees MHA further expand its offering across the UK as part of its growth strategy. This is its second merger in Scotland following a tie-up with Aberdeen-based accountancy firm Meston Reid & Co last October.

And Rakesh Shaunak, managing partner and chairman of MHA, does not rule out further mergers in Scotland, alongside organic growth. MHA is currently the 13th largest accountancy group in the UK and has a strong SME focus as well as deep resources to support larger firms with international cross border operations with their Baker Tilly International relationship.

Geoghegans provides a full complement of accountancy services for clients in Edinburgh and across Scotland from its office at St Colme Street which has been rebranded under the MHA banner. Its four partners – Euan Fernie, Iain Binnie, Lachlan Fernie and Paul Marshall - and all its 64 staff are remaining with the firm.

Rakesh Shaunak, managing partner and chairman of MHA. Supplied pictureRakesh Shaunak, managing partner and chairman of MHA. Supplied picture
Rakesh Shaunak, managing partner and chairman of MHA. Supplied picture

Speaking to The Scotsman, Shaunak explained the motivation behind the deal and the synergies between the firms. He said: “To have a successful merger you need the right people coming together. One of the big wins for us was finding a firm in Edinburgh with the same ethos and culture as MHA.

“We see tremendous opportunities in the Scottish market, and particularly Edinburgh which we feel has great potential for a leading UK mid-market firm like MHA.

“We have a strong partnership ethos, with a culture where everyone counts and can make a difference,” said Shaunak. “We offer our clients long-term thinking. And our employer value proposition is about creating tremendous opportunities for growth and encouraging people to develop.”

Euan Fernie, partner with Geoghegans, expanded on the appeal of the merger. For the firm’s people it means they now have the scope to progress within a larger organisation.

For clients, they have access to a wider range of services and expertise across a bigger and more diverse geographical area.

Fernie also pointed to how his firm was attracted to the mindset and outlook of MHA . “We’ve seen plenty of mergers and acquisitions happen and we’ve had previous approaches, but we didn’t think the private equity model would suit our clients or people,” he said. “One of the things that was attractive about MHA is that it has a similar structure to ours - the people who own the business also run it on a day-to-day basis.

“If our staff and the clients are happy, you have a good, strong business with plenty of growth. The merger is really a marriage made in heaven for us.”

According to Fernie, while it is business as usual for the firm following the deal, clients will no doubt shortly see a significant change in the breadth and depth of capabilities that a merger with a leading firm like MHA provides.

As well as the added scale and expertise boosting to the firm’s position in Edinburgh, Fernie emphasised the advantages to staff of the merger.

“Being part of a firm offers more opportunities to our people, including those who might join from other firms,” he said. “Being able to tap into the MHA network provides a huge benefit on the training side too. There’s a large focus on training everybody from students right through to partners, and making sure we’re well equipped to go out and deal with all the matters that are coming out of the accountancy world at the moment.”

Staff recruitment is identified as a challenge for the accountancy sector in general by Fernie.

“Attracting and keeping people is something all accountancy firms are going to have to work on,” he said. “We will focus on training people, not just in accounting and tax, but also on softer skills such as management. We think that will make the firm attractive to people to join and develop as individuals.”

Clients from a range of sectors will be able to access a wide range of specialist services from the enlarged MHA group. For example, Shaunak points to the Edinburgh office’s experience in agricultural estates, family wealth planning that will benefit the wider firm.

He added: “Another significant growth area for us is financial services and Edinburgh is a hub for this sector with a strong client base.”

As well as organically growing its offices in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Shaunak said: “We’re quite keen on a third location in Scotland, ideally Glasgow. We see that as a desirable location and we would be creating a virtuous triangle. That will allow us to really penetrate the Scottish market to the extent that we want to.”