Accountants counting on further growth over the next 100 years

A Berwick accountancy firm is continuing to expand as it celebrates its centenary.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 18 April, 2019, 11:56
Partners at Greaves West & Ayre.

Greaves West and Ayre (GWA) now has around 120 staff and acts for around 5,000 clients from across the country with around 40 per cent of clients based outside the firm’s immediate catchment area.

It moved into new offices on Walkergate in 2017, having previously occupied six separate offices in Berwick town centre as well as two off-site storage facilities.

Managing partner Colin Frame said: “We wanted to remain in the town centre, close to the railway station, and continue to bring valuable spending to local business through staff and clients. We also pride ourselves on offering long-term careers and training for local people and wanted to maintain this.

“We have, however, also attracted talent from across the country to Berwick and as a result have a diverse cross-section of employees with over 50 per cent of our professional fee-earning staff being female.”

As the world and its client-needs have changed, Greaves West & Ayre has had to adapt.

Richard Ayre, the most recent member of the founding family to become a Partner, said: “The years ahead will be challenging for everyone and professional service businesses will evolve to meet those challenges.

“But with our talented partners and staff we are well placed to celebrate many more anniversaries in the decades ahead.

“We have already started to celebrate this special milestone and are looking forward to commemorating our centenary over the coming months in 2019 and meeting the many people who have played a part in the last 100 years. We are also relishing the prospect of being able to provide the same Quality Advice – Quality Service that has allowed us to thrive and grow in our next 100 years.”

The firm now employs around 110 staff at its Berwick office with another 10 at its Haddington office.

The company first establishing its offices in Berwick at the end of 1918. As the First World War drew to a close Arthur Greaves, an entrepreneurial accountant based in Newcastle, signed a lease for an office at 1/3 Sandgate.

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The Berwick office was to be a further expansion which already had branches in Alnwick, Amble and Carlisle. ‘Greaves & Armstrong’ opened its doors manned by a small handful of staff lead by Francis Rowley, supported by John T Ayre. In 1922 Greaves split with his partner Herbert Armstrong and the Berwick office then traded under the name of ‘Greaves & Co’.

Over the following 100 years the association with other firms fell away and ‘Greaves West & Ayre’ became an independent practice.

“Our reputation and success have always been founded on traditional professional values, matched with a passion to meet the changing needs of our clients,” said Colin.

“The entrepreneurial spirit of Arthur Greaves still thrives today. In addition to our core accounting and audit services we have built a strong tax team dealing with compliance and planning and added new services such as wealth management and IT support.”

The firm steadily established itself in the inter war years with Arthur West becoming a partner along with John Ayre. Disaster struck however in 1947, with the premature death of John Ayre at the age of 49. Gordon Ayre, John’s son, who at that time was enjoying a career in the Royal Navy, resigned his commission and returned to qualify as fast as he could to help ensure the firm’s survival.

Andrew Ayre, partner, continued: “We still act for many families and businesses who came to us during the inter war years. It is quite humbling what was achieved in that very difficult era, the building of a strong and enduring business whose legacy still continues today.”

The following decades saw rapid growth with additional partners and staff enrolled through training and recruitment. Ian Davidson and Jim Coats became partners in the 1960s, along with Brian Thomas later that decade. In the 1970s they were joined by Allan Rodger and Alick Hay, in the 1980s by Alan Patterson and Peter Ayre, and then Andrew Ayre, Graham Hush, John Coats and Robbie Dalgleish in the early 1990s. Colin Frame and Stuart Allister became partners in 1998. Stuart Faed, Craig Little and Roseanne Bennett joined as partners in more recent years. Richard Ayre, a fourth generation Ayre to become a partner in the firm, is the most recent having been invited to the position in 2017.

As well as achieving organic growth based on their philosophy of “Quality Advice, Quality Service”, Greaves West and Ayre also grew by acquisition and merger. The acquisition of Fleming & Wood in 1993 expanded the Northumberland side of the practice. The more recent merger with Haddington based practice N C Campbell & Co in 2016, reinforced the firm’s presence in the Lothians. Ewan Millar & Douglas Gould, originally with N C Campbell & Co, became partners in the merged partnership.

Andrew said: “We continue to live up to that legacy of Quality Advice and Quality Service. Our staff have always shared a sense of pride in providing the best advice and in return our clients have recommended Greaves West & Ayre to family, friends and business contacts over 100 years, allowing our reputation and the firm to grow.”

As the world and its client needs have changed, Greaves West & Ayre has had to adapt. Two of the more unusual roles the firm has played over the years have been as the Halifax Building Society agent in and the Danish Consular office.