Working with high net worth individuals sounds glamorous – and maybe it is. Could a high net worth accountancy role be right for you?
Although the term “high net worth individual” may conjure up images of the super wealthy or famous stars from the world of sport, TV, film or music, HNWIs are normally successful business owners or relatively high earners working in lower-profile industries.
Gary Heynes is a partner at RSM, the UK’s seventh largest business advisory firm. Having been with the business for 17 years, he is RSM UK’s head of private client services and European co-head.
An associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Gary advises UHNWIs, their families and wealth entities (most of whom are international) on various UK tax matters, while coordinating other professional services required by clients.
The ability to build relationships
“When advising HNWIs, you look at the whole family, as well as different entities associated with it,” Gary explains. “Initially, that might be a business, but it can grow into trusts, properties outside of the UK, investment holding vehicles, and luxury assets.”
As well as advice geared towards minimising tax liabilities and ensuring legal compliance, Gary says there are “softer issues that need to be negotiated”, for example, helping to draw up a succession plan for a family business. Gary stresses that success in his field also relies upon your ability to build relationships with HNWI clients, not just being able to “carry out technical work”.
Accountancy firms of all sizes, in locations all over the UK, can have HNWI advisory roles and clients, with pay determined by the firm, level of seniority, the complexity of the advice, and client type. “Some roles can be very well paid, and it is possible to specialise in UHNWI and private client work and rise to senior partner levels,” Gary says.
London-based Adam Rose is a UK chartered tax adviser and partner at tax, accounting and business advisory firm, Blick Rothenberg. “I specialise in providing in-depth tax advice to US and UK high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs, helping them to manage their affairs in the most tax-efficient way,” Adam explains.
“I was a business graduate with no specific calling for tax or accounting, but I knew I wanted to work in finance. I joined a specialist UK/US tax and accounting firm on their graduate scheme and spent my first year in a role split between corporate and personal tax, which gave me a good grounding in both.”
“You had no idea what might land on your desk from one day to the next,” he says. “I’m still learning something new each week because of the complexity of international tax and accounting.” Advising HNWI isn’t as glamorous as it may sound, says Adam.
“My clients tend to be the quietly wealthy people with extremely complex tax and accounting needs, but they’re not in the public eye. Other than the odd international tax conference or potential business opportunity, my role is very much London-based. That helps me to maintain a good work-life balance, which is very important to me.”
An average week for Adam involves juggling the school run with managing staff, keeping an eye on more complex cases his team is dealing with and financial management. “I’m lucky to have a very strong team around me.”
The thing Adam enjoys most about his job, he reveals, is helping his staff to develop their careers, while “working with clients who appreciate our work and value our advice”. One of the downsides, he adds, is the role can be very stressful. “In our industry, we have multiple pressures from constant deadlines. In the US and UK tax, there are more than 10 deadlines each year that we have to work with. There are also financial pressures from billing targets and recoverability targets, too, which can be mentally draining.”
Flexible and agile working helps, Adam adds. “But I am looking forward to technology helping resolve some of the low-complexity but time-heavy issues we have in the industry so that we can spend our time adding value to the client.”
When asked what advice he would offer to someone wanting to follow in his footsteps by specialising in HNWI private client tax advisory work, Adam replies: “Always keep asking questions and draw on the experience of others within your firm. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but just make sure you learn from them,” he concludes.
- 1. Where to start: Qualifications in accounting and tax will set you on the right track, as will the ability to build relationships.
- 2. Where you can work: Accountancy firms of all sizes, in locations all over the UK, can have HNWI advisory roles.
- 3. What you can earn: Pay varies and will be determined by the firm, level of seniority, the complexity of the advice, and client type.
- 4 Where you can end up: It is possible to specialise in UHNWI and private client work and rise to senior partner levels.
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