To all our HLB Mann Judd staff and clients,

2021 has been quite a year! It’s been a year of the status quo being in a constant state of flux, and continually having to adapt to a new way of working amid a multitude of restrictions.

It’s also been a year that has impacted all businesses and across every sector. Our firms in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji have all grappled at times with the many challenges presented.

In all my professional career, the only other comparable event in terms of sheer upheaval has been the Great Financial Crisis of 2008/09. Like COVID, the financial downturn was a particularly worrying time for our clients, but there was less we were able to do in offering assistance other than cashflow management. COVID, on the other hand, has allowed our firms to assist clients in a number of ways, including processing JobKeeper and JobSaver applications, assessing eligibility for various tax breaks, including loss clawback, and providing ongoing operational and financial-related advice.

At different times, one or multiple states – or countries in our network – would be having difficulties but, as an association, we’ve communicated and put in place systems whereby staff could work seamlessly in a home environment. Our IT infrastructure and processes have been tested more than ever, but our collective resolve to do the best during a challenging set of circumstances meant we could carry on in a way we could never have envisaged. I’m incredibly proud of the way our staff adapted to this forced change, and the uncertainty of these circumstances.

Our Victorian firm in particular has borne the brunt of lockdown periods and restrictions, and I express my appreciation and gratitude to managing partner Jeff Long and team for their resilience, patience and professionalism over the past 18 months.

Fortunately, most of our clients have weathered the storm reasonably well. There are some key sectors which have unquestionably been hit hard, but with the stimulus packages on offer, the majority are back to a reasonable level of trade. While the challenges were plenty, we used COVID has an opportunity to add real value; distributing electronic or virtual updates and contacting clients more frequently.

Pleasingly, our partners and staff came together and responded in the best and only way possible – by communicating clearly, effectively and regularly with our clients, and ensuring we continue to offer the best possible service.

Our success with the annual Client Choice Awards, as well as being awarded the Accounting Network of the Year at the Australian Accounting Awards, were highlights of the past 12 months. Accolades such as these reinforce our commitment to client service and the emphasis on delivering timely and expert advice to our clients.

So, what will 2022 hold for the firm and our clients? We expect the recovery to be ongoing, and the resumption of pre-COVID trading and growth will be slower than some people expect. There understandably remains a degree of caution, and while many are eager to connect with family, friends and colleagues once again, it will need to be done in a measured and safe way.

As a firm, we’re looking forward to future annual conferences and reconnecting with our colleagues from the different firms. Following a delay to celebrations, 2022 will also be the year we formally mark our 40th anniversary, and I look forward to sharing more details about the plans in the new year.

On behalf of the HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association Executive Committee, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of our staff and clients for their efforts and commitment over the past year. I know that all of you have experienced personal and family challenges, but I think we are able to look forward to a bright year ahead.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful festive season!

Tony Fittler
Chair, HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association