Making history with Scotland’s first employee-owned full-service accountancy firm

Making history with Scotland’s first employee-owned full-service accountancy firm

Douglas Roberts

Douglas Roberts, partner in Lindsays’ corporate and commercial team, has advised another firm on its transition to employee ownership as the Highlands-based business, Reid & Fraser, became Scotland’s first employee-owned full-service accountancy firm.

All shares in Reid & Fraser Chartered Accountants have now been placed into an employee ownership trust (EOT), marking a milestone within the sector which has recently seen several Scottish firms bought over by international counterparts.

Mr Roberts, along with employee ownership specialist Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates, guided Reid & Fraser through the transition process to the succession model which will see all 17 of the business’s employees own a stake in the company through the EOT. The sector’s regulator, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), was contacted to approve the transition and were very supportive.

He said: “Reid and Fraser is a trailblazer, setting the path for other firms of accountants to follow. It is the first deal of its kind in Scotland and also possibly the first firm of full-service CAs in the UK to move to employee ownership. By opting for a sale to an EOT, Stuart has secured the practice in its local community. Employment is protected and the loyal clients will see no interruption to service.”

“As Reid & Fraser is a chartered accountancy practice, we had to seek approval from ICAS for the proposed structure, although that did not cause any delays. Overall it was a smooth transaction that has delivered positive outcomes for the sellers, the staff and the clients of Reid & Fraser. It was a privilege to provide advice in this memorable deal.”

Stuart Walker, director at Reid & Fraser Chartered Accountants, believes the move towards employee ownership secures the future for the firm.

Mr Walker said: “We have loyal employees who have developed with our clients, so adopting employee ownership felt like the obvious route to take. It was an easy transition. I would like to thank Douglas and Carole for all their expert advice, guidance and support in helping to complete this historic deal.”

Having spent 25 years at the company, Mr Walker has seen other firms within the region being bought over and relocated, leaving local professionals with little options, and thus felt it was important to maintain the accountancy’s independence.

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates provided expert advice on the structure and on the engagement with employees.

She said: “As the first employee-owned full-service accountancy practice, this is a landmark moment for employee ownership in Scotland. Stuart Walker has demonstrated great vision in transferring Reid & Fraser to his employees. We are seeing unprecedented interest in the model at the moment, precisely because business owners like Stuart want what’s best for the employees and customers, as well as define their own exit route.”

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