Haines Watts merges with north east RHK Accountants

Top 20 accountancy firm Haines Watts has merged with Gateshead-based RHK Accountants, a private client specialist with fee income of £1.6m, to strengthen its north east presence following a string of acquisitions, reports Sara White 

RHK Accountants is a private client specialist with annual fee income of £1.6m and has 23 staff and four partners, three of whom will retire or leave the business as part of the merger process, although they will all remain at the firm during the initial transition period.

The north east operation will be headed up by Haines Watts regional managing partner, Donna Bulmer and regional tax partner, Jonathan Scott; with RHK partner Bradley Thomas joining the management team. The merger will see the retirement of two of RHK’s four partners, including senior partner, David Hall, and corporate finance partner Geoff Miller. Audit and accounts partner Peter Storey will remain at the firm during the transition period.

Haines Watts, ranked 14th in the Accountancy Daily Top 75 Firms league table, has total fee income of £84m and the merger will strengthen the firm’s presence in the north east with a combined revenue for the region of over £7m and will bring the regional headcount to 75. This brings total staff numbers at Haines Watts to over 1,000.

The latest deal follows several years of sustained organic growth, with fee income up 16% year on year from £72.3m in 2017-18, and a recent management buy-out of Haines Watts Leeds in 2018.

In the last 18 months, Haines Watts has been on the acquisition trail, with a number of mergers with regional accounting firms, including Choice, Garners, Gutteridge Scanlon, Sally Reed, Sully Partnership, as well as London-based Westbury Accountants.

Regional managing partner, Donna Bulmer, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome the team at RHK to the Haines Watts family. With a long history of supporting business owners and a wide regional remit, RHK is an established practice whose culture, values and strengths complement our own. 

‘As a private client specialist, Bradley brings a vast expertise of strategic, structural and personal tax planning which will bolster our tax offering in the region. This merger further cements our position as leading advisers to business owners in the North East.’

With their eyes set on further growth, the leadership team is targeting an ambitious eight-figure turnover as part of their long-term regional development plan.

RHK Partner, Bradley Thomas, will join Haines Watts as a tax partner.

Thomas said: ‘This is an excellent opportunity for clients and staff alike. Our clients will benefit from a greater breadth and depth of services while continuing to enjoy the highly personal approach we offer, and our staff will have access to a wide range of training and development opportunities.

‘Our two practices are highly suited, with both placing a strong emphasis on supporting growing owner-managed businesses. I’m looking forward to working with the regional leadership team to expand our presence in the North East through our network of business relationships.’

RHK’s retiring partners will continue to provide support to their clients and team to ensure a smooth transition. Partner Peter Storey will remain during the transition and will then leave the firm to move out of practice and join an existing BHK client.

Retiring senior partner, David Hall, said: ‘While this is the end of an era for RHK, we’re confident that our clients remain in good hands. It was vital to us that we found the right firm to best service the needs of our clients and support the aspiration of our team.  We are happy to be handing over the reins to the leadership team at Haines Watts.’

Geoff Miller retires after 32 years with the firm. He said: ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at RHK, but I am now looking towards some new challenges. I wish every success to the new enlarged practice and its clients.’

Sara White

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