New Zealand can lay claim to some of the strictest lockdown restrictions imposed globally but for HLB Mann Judd Auckland, the established nature of the firm has meant its people have been key to navigating the pandemic. Managing partner, Jason Edwards, explains.

Prior to HLB, I was working for one of the Big Four as an auditor for ten years but, with a young family to consider, I instinctively knew the opportunity to join HLB in 2007 was the right decision.

The career progression was clear – and I was made partner two years after joining – but it was also the opportunity to advise SME businesses on their growth and ability to turn a profit. Being able to guide and influence a smaller team was also a major drawcard.

Working in an environment where you can enjoy a closer relationship with staff and clients has really come to the fore over the past couple of years. The circumstances of the pandemic have been so unique, that when management team has been tested, whether it be through navigating the process of working from home or the increased need for staff communication, we’ve benefitted from the fact we have a good rapport with our employees (30 staff including partners and administration staff).

Much has been reported about the recruitment issues within the accounting profession, particularly among the Big Four, who continue to struggle with securing staff in disciplines such as audit. Because of our size and the strong firm culture, we’re fortunate to have had little turnover over the course of the pandemic.

HLB Mann Judd Auckland is a long-established firm and we’ve been around for 70-odd years in a number of iterations. We are still involved with some of the corporates we used to advise, many years ago, which is testament to the strength of the brand and everything it represents.

The Auckland firm has been part of HLB International for many years – however we only joined the Australasian Association ten or so years ago. It’s been an important development as it has facilitated a more formal channel to be able to refer work across the Tasman, and vice versa. The synergies between how we conduct business here to that of the Australian firms has made the membership a logical, natural extension of our offering.

Our core service lines are business services and tax consulting, which comprise 75 per cent of our client work; audit and assurance (15 per cent); and, consulting, which accounts for ten per cent. This mix hasn’t changed much over the years – business services and tax are very much our bread and butter, and our reputation in being able to deliver for clients is well known.

However, in saying that, we expect challenging trading conditions for the remainder of this calendar year, and perhaps well into next year.

Underpinning all of this is the impact of rising interest rates and inflationary pressures, and how this will influence business sentiment over the coming months. The tourism and hospitality sectors in particular will continue to be badly affected and there will be further losses there, along with the international education sector.

Irrespective of the sector however and the economic conditions, we see our role as adding as much value to our clients as possible, and establishing ourselves as the trusted adviser. A high proportion of our clients are SME businesses, and need information and advice timely and efficiently.

Many of them have expressed concern about the what the next 6-12 months will look like, and unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball. But, having been operating for as long as we have, the quality of our relationships with both employees and clients should help to off set some of the roadblocks ahead.

This article was first published in the Autumn 2022 issue of Financial Times.