The modern SMP disrupting the accountancy profession

Content flinder SKI

flinder, UK

flinder is a London-based SMP founded by two business partners, Alastair Barlow and Luke Streeter. In three years, flinder has grown to 20+ staff and has become a multi-award-winning company.

Mainly focusing on fast-growth, equity-backed technology businesses, the firm actively uses various emtech applications and positions itself as a revolutionary finance function, providing a broad spectrum of services, from accounting services to providing senior staff to take on a ‘pseudo CFO’ role in board and investor discussions. The firm works only with clients to which it believes it can add real value. These clients get the equivalent of ‘an in-house finance team on steroids’, says Alastair Barlow.

Staff profiles in flinder are highly diverse, to reflect the different roles the firm takes on for its clients and allowing it to offer them access to a broader range of skill sets than they could create in-house. The firm generally hires from other practices to access candidates who have already experienced a broad range of clients and can immediately run multi-client portfolios.

‘When building a team, we brought in people of different levels and with different skill sets. We brought in apprentices, people who are more skilled in relationships, data scientists. We've brought people in that are more attuned to processes and controls; we have technology, data and RPA specialists. You're looking at very diverse skill sets that would be very hard to get in one person if you want to replicate this in-house’.

Rapid development has created organic opportunities for growth and the firm also encourages staff to move between its three main disciplines of accounting, consulting and data analytics to develop new skill sets. Team members are also encouraged to become ‘champions’ of particular processes, propositions and applications.

‘Recruitment was a challenge until the firm started marketing itself directly to candidates, exposing its working culture via various social media channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube’, says Alastair Barlow.

flinder social media posts show what it means to work with the firm from both an employee and client perspective, demonstrating the social life of the firm, including the flinder ski trips, which have become famous in the UK accountancy community, and music playlists.

‘Most firms work on marketing for the purpose of bringing in clients’, says Barlow. ‘But at early stages we realised that the biggest challenge isn’t winning the clients, the biggest challenge we had was bringing in the right people. So we essentially said our key target is potential team members.

Those publications are also of great importance for the overall transformation of the image of the accountancy profession, which is crucial for being able to attract talent to the profession in the future, and flinder has the ambition of being instrumental in that: ‘We want to disrupt and transform the profession’, says Barlow.   

‘When we set up flinder we put heavy emphasis on technology and data in order to provide much better insight to our clients, really leveraging technology and data to shrink human involvement, so that our team could add value to insight delivery, having time for more interesting work and richer conversations with our clients’.

‘Tech savviness’, critical and analytical thinking are of fundamental importance. Furthermore, flinder expects staff to be entrepreneurial and ready to challenge.

Along with soft and technical skills, authenticity – ‘being yourself’– is a quality that flinder very much nurture in their team, and this resonates strongly with the young accountants the firm wants to recruit.

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