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It can only help to have a chartered accountant on board

7 July: Neil Wattam is a co-founder of Wattam Kirby Mee. He says that launching a business at any time – let alone during a pandemic – can only be enhanced by having a chartered accountant on board.

Wattam Kirby Mee is a financial planning and investment management firm. The advantage of one of its founding members being a chartered accountant is not lost on the team or its clients – but these advantages are not just specific to financial services; they apply across many startups in all sorts of sectors.

Wattam, his brother Ben and the rest of the founding team, Adrian Mee and Tim Kirby, had been planning their big move away from the corporate world and towards a startup for several years. Launching their boutique advisory firm in April 2020 was the plan, and in spite of the virus, that is exactly what they did.

They had all previously been successful in their corporate roles and eventually found themselves in a position where they could leave corporate life and set up on their own. “Not everyone can make the leap,” concedes Wattam.

“The others saw having a chartered accountant on the team as definitely adding depth. All of them had had interaction with accountants and were keen to have one on board,” he adds.

Wattam is insistent that the key to starting up – and in particular starting up a financial services enterprise – is financial planning. This is very much his bag. “We all knew the numbers were sound,” he says. “It was particularly helpful having a chartered accountant on the team to be able to produce financial plans across from the outset.”

Of course, this being a financial services operation, meant that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) required these plans across three years anyway, so Wattam’s involvement was a boon from the compliance point of view.

“The FCA was receptive to the team given our complementary skillsets,” says Wattam. “In fact, I was the outsider given that I did not have a financial planning background.”

Once planning turned to the reality of getting the business off the ground, Wattam assumed a quasi-finance director role. “I keep the ship steady,” says Wattam. “Chartered accountants are methodical. We like processes and we follow them.”

He adds: “People know chartered accountants and understand their status. It is a tick in the box, gives us more clout and helps get potential clients through the door. It has definitely made a difference.”

Wattam Kirby Mee has been trading for just over two months. The business ethos is all about treating clients as individuals and helping them achieve what they are seeking by helping them develop a roadmap. “People are receptive to help and information, not to being told what to do. We try to get people thinking,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the virus has been that marketing has been digital and not face-to-face, while client meetings and signatures have also been digital.

At the heart of the business continues to be financial planning. “We conduct monthly reviews,” says Wattam. “And we maintain that three-year plan. I like to keep everyone on their toes and keep them informed.”

He also keeps tabs on spending. “That’s all on me. I’m the information provider and the gatekeeper. But we’re all financial people so we all want the same thing,” he says.

“The trick is to bring the numbers to life. To make them visual. And to keep it interesting.”