In this edition, we interview Bentleys Tasmania Director Robin Allardice. As we go to press, Robin is running as an Alderman and Deputy Lord Mayor in the October Hobart City Council elections.
Robin Allardice | Director of Bentleys Tasmania
What is the history of the firm?
Bentleys Tasmania as it currently stands is the result of consolidating three firms which in the late 1990’s had split out of the Hobart office of one of the “Big 4” firms. In 2013, there was the original amalgamation of Anning & Associates and Kaizen Business Services to create Bentleys Tasmania and in 2016 merged in Tenuto Financial.
Ranked in the BRW Top 15 accounting firms, Bentleys is an international network with expertise in advisory, audit and assurance, superannuation, taxation, corporate recovery, financial planning, trusts and estates. The network consists of 19 offices in Australia, New Zealand and China.
You had 4 offices in Tasmania. How many directors and staff make up your team?
Until February this year, we had offices in the North and North West Tasmania, however in January we undertook a restructure whereby we divested ourselves of our interest in those offices and are now based solely in Southern Tasmania. We currently have six directors and about 25 staff.
Tasmania is enjoying strong population growth as more and more mainlanders “discover” the natural beauty and lifestyle opportunities. The Government’s growth target is 650,000 by 2050 (up from 520,000). What impact is this having in the accounting jobs market?
I expect most firms are finding it difficult to recruit quality staff, as are we. We have a number of strategies to recruit and retain staff, one of them being investment in the best technology so staff members gain digital experience that they will not be able to replicate elsewhere. We are constantly looking for new products we can implement to make us more efficient.
We also want staff who are the right fit for the organization; people spend a lot of time at work, so it needs to be an enjoyable experience. We try to make Bentleys an enjoyable place to work, it isn’t perfect, but as a leadership group, I think we try harder than most organizations.
What range of services does the firm provide? Are there any particular specialist services?
We cover the full range of accounting services, two of the services we provide that a lot of other firms don’t seem to are audit and corporate recovery.
We also specialize in providing what we call “Cloud Solutions”. This is assisting clients implement cloud-based systems. In 2010, I attended a technology conference for accountants where the cloud was being talked about as the next big thing. I came back with the view that we needed to have a position on the best cloud accounting package to recommend our clients. We undertook a major project over a number of months to identify the best product and ultimately partnered with Xero. This has been very successful for us as a “little” Tasmanian firm we were the third firm nationally to be listed as a platinum partner on the Xero website.
This was the start of wanting to be leaders in the adoption of new technology and our IT strategy of using the best product for each application rather than a single supplier. The downside of this strategy is that it requires maintaining multiple databases, so I have actively encouraged our providers to open their systems to allow linking between other suppliers’ products. This way users get the best outcomes.
Robin, as a busy director with a young family, why are you running for election in the upcoming City Council elections.
Our children are 16 and 20, so I do have more time than I used to. I find it frustrating that politicians at all levels regularly are less than honest and put their self-interest above those of the community. Early this year, I was asked by a former Lord Mayor of Hobart to join his group as a candidate and after much consideration I agreed to stand.
I am an introvert by nature and the first time there was an article in the local paper I struggled to walk out the front door to go to the gym.
I am standing on a platform of ethics, integrity and financial responsibility. As accountants, we are an ethical profession, I think a lot of people just don’t understand what behaving ethically entails. All boards have an Accountant on them, why shouldn’t council?
Hopefully, if I get elected, I can improve the level of respect the community has toward Hobart councillors. I am not passionate about getting on council, but it will be a dent to my ego if I miss out.
What are the firm’s plans over the next 5 years?
We are currently going through the process of updating our strategic plan. So rather than the BT vision, I will give my vision and hope that is what my fellow directors also want.
I would like BT to be recognized as the leading professional services business in Tasmania. To achieve this, we require further growth, but it will be with firms which can help us achieve this goal, not simply for the sake of growth. We need to keep improving and not sit back and bask in what we have achieved. We also need to continue to look to innovate. The profession is changing and I want to be up front, leading the way not following and copying what others have done.
I used to work for an entrepreneur who, once he had built a new product, didn’t want to build another one the same; it had to be bigger and better. I learned a lot from him. I like new challenges, but once it is no longer a challenge, I tend to lose interest and look for the next challenge. Maybe this is why I am trying for local government.
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