CASE STUDY – BDO LLP: SO MUCH MORE THAN JOBS AND OFFICES
When a business decides to invest in Liverpool City Region it starts a chain reaction that goes far beyond occupied offices and jobs employed.
BDO LLP are an international accountancy and business advisory firm, who operate in 162 countries. They had their pick of national locations from which to expand their UK operation but in 2016 they selected Liverpool as the base for their new ‘Shared Services’ facility.
The firm has already appointed a new 100-strong team, with a commitment to recruit 150 more by 2020. They’ve also tripled their office space, expanding their Temple Square location from one to three floors, signing a 10-year lease.
But these numbers only tell part of the story. BDO’s Shared Services team welcome relocators far and wide, from both within and outside the UK. People who’ve uprooted their lives to come and live in the Liverpool City Region.
How’s life changed for these people? What’s next for Shared Services? How can other people take advantage of the continued job opportunities the company offers? Invest Liverpool met with the Head of Shared Services, Nigel Britton and two members of his newly established team to find out.
Nigel, BDO LLP are well known international accountants. What sets you guys apart from the rest?
I think the sheer scale of BDO allows us to be experts across almost all international markets and business sectors. This ensures we have a depth of knowledge that is difficult to compete with.
We focus much of our attention and resources on helping business to succeed and by really getting to know our clients. Here at BDO we provide a whole range of services, across audit, accounting, tax and advisory and it’s the comprehensive nature of our offer that our clients really appreciate.
You head up the new Shared Services team. What’s its purpose and how are things going?
We play a really important role for BDO UK. We support services across our 18 national offices by bringing many previously disparate, but related roles under one roof.
Before Shared Services, each UK office had their own responsibilities around tax compliance, accounts preparation, client onboarding, audit support, research, and business process outsourcing. Now we manage any of these things centrally and it’s working out incredibly well.
We essentially free up our other national offices, giving them more time to get on with their primary functions. We also ensure that consistent quality standards are established and met, optimising both performance and cost, so it’s an important function.
You could have established Shared Services anywhere in the UK, what sealed the deal for Liverpool?
Liverpool just has the edge in so many areas. Firstly, for us, it was the availability of talent. Liverpool has three exceptional universities and their ability to enter the world of work and contribute with confidence right from the start has been incredibly useful to us.
Here at BDO LLP we’re looking for analytical, detail orientated people but we look as much at a person’s potential as we do pre-existing skills. Many members of our team start their career with us, after graduating, so access to this rich, high-calibre talent pool is really important.
The cost of office space and labour was also an important consideration. BDO’s professional services employ 4,000 people, more than 50% of these are in London and the South East, where wages are comparatively high, to compensate for the high cost of living.
Living well is much less expensive in Liverpool, bringing employee costs down and staff tell me all the time that their quality of life is better here.
It’s interesting that you mention quality of life. It’s is such an important thing for businesses and we often find it’s an area where the Liverpool City Region can really compete.
Absolutely. Liverpool just has this memorable character and cool, creative atmosphere. I’ve become a real ambassador because the city has been great for us.
Our office is minutes from the retail centre and we’re spoilt for choice with restaurants and bars. We have a young workforce and their social life is important to them and it really helps us to attract a high-calibre of candidate, because lots of young people want to work in Liverpool.
Speaking of friendly people, you worked closely with our team of Investment Managers. How did this relationship come about?
Invest Liverpool have been fantastic. We were introduced through our property agent. We met [Investment Manager] Ann Hopper and she provided us with all the information we needed on property, apprenticeships, workforce skills and local information to help inform our thinking.
Ann also introduced us to contacts within University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, which has been a really critical connection for us in securing talent.
And there are still plenty of available jobs on the horizon?
Yes, we have a commitment to increase our team by around 150 more people by 2020. We’re currently expanding by around 10-15 positions a month, with new posts being developed all the time, as teams expand and new services are considered.
We’re very keen on internal promotion too. People can easily progress here and that’s something that makes us really attractive to graduates who are looking to for an employer who invests in them and develop their career.
With such rapid expansion, how are you handling team-building?
I’m glad you asked that. This Thursday we held our first offsite, half-day strategy event. We’re going to be looking back on our achievements since March and planning ahead for the next two years.
We also train people in positions outside of their own, on an ongoing basis. Employees work in a new role, in a different department and we’ve had a great response to this secondary role model.
The team develop new skills and a better understanding of the business. They can also step-in when a colleague team needs extra support, which is great.
The team also regularly organise their own social events, through the company’s internal social media account, called Yammer, and our new internal newsletter. There’s always something going on.
Tell me about your charitable and social activities.
BDO Nationally have a dedicated corporate responsibility strategy, which is increasingly important to graduates, and this also helps with team-building too.
Everyone in the company can take up to ten days paid leave, on top of their annual leave, to support a charity or community-based activities.
We also regularly hold events on the first Friday of the month to enable the team to socialise as well as to raise money for different charities. Bingo nights, charity nights, cinema nights, pyjama parties, and the money raised goes to our designated charity.
So far this year the team has raised over £8,000 for Zoe’s Place; a local charity that provides palliative, respite and end-of-life care to babies and infants.
What’s next for Shared Services?
We’ve got big plans. We’ve already proved that we can improve services and save money on a national level and we’re just getting started.
Through our audit analytics team we’re now extracting 100 per cent of data, which means that the service we run here helps us to understand our market really well. As a business we can now make decisions with greater confidence, with a high likelihood of success.
Securing talent that can analyse data, help us understand our customer, save money and further improve services is central to our future plans. Liverpool has the talent and ecosystem to help us achieve our goals.
People look at offices and rent rates and monetary things when expanding or relocating – and Liverpool competes in all those areas, but it also has great, energetic people and it’s really these people that take our business forward.
FRESH RECRUITS ON THEIR NEW LIVERPOOL LIFE
Mozzam Siddiq and Lola Barlow left London to relocate to Liverpool and work for BDO LLP. During my visit to the company’s newly expanded office, I got the chance to briefly speak to them about how their life has changed since leaving the nation’s capital behind. Here’s what they had to say:
Supervisor in Data Analytics
The biggest change is that I now have a much better work/life balance. BDO’s teams are really supportive which helps to share the workload and ensure we can get things done within the time we have. They don’t overload you with work and when it’s time to go home, people go home.
I have more money now, as it’s much cheaper to live in Liverpool than London and my commute has gone from two hours to twenty minutes. The effect of all this is that I feel much more relaxed and I now look forward to work.
Recognition is a big thing for BDO. If a colleague nominates you for a job well done you can win a £75 voucher to spend in a shop of your choice. Staff can also offer feedback through an internal system, on any colleague, above or below, in the company structure.
It’s just a little thing, but it makes you feel appreciated and feel like all the staff are all on the same level. But what means the most to me is that I can see my career progressing here. BDO is a big company and they really invest in their staff and continually develop us.
Senior Learning and Development Officer
I already worked for BDO in London and I applied for a job in the company, that happened to be in Liverpool. I was a bit worried at first, mainly because I loved living in London so much. But I have to admit, I haven’t missed it since moving.
Liverpool isn’t what I expected at all. It’s smaller, compared to London, but it’s put together well. It has everything you could ever want, but here everything is much closer together. My family love it here too, they don’t stop visiting.
London was stressful, everyone in a hurry, running for the tube, people had less time for you, they don’t interact as much. But I can’t imagine anyone being lonely in Liverpool.
Living here has been absolutely brilliant. It’s such a warm and friendly place, people are really open and ready to engage. They’re genuinely interested in you and always look on the positive side of things.
This has made me much more open and positive too. I did a skydive for Zoe’s place, through BDO, LLP last month, but it’s funny, because I can’t picture me doing that in London.
For more information on BDO LLP visit bdo.co.uk/en-gb/home