Mark knew he wanted to train as an accountant from the age of 15, as he planned to join the family timber business in a finance role. In the event, by the time he had qualified, the business wasn’t there any more, but Mark had discovered he enjoyed supporting a range of clients in different ‘situations’.
“Variety is challenging and keeps you on your toes,” he says. “Over the years, I have realised that I like being a ‘trusted adviser’ and I’ve now worked with some families for more than 35 years, becoming a key part of their planning process. In some cases, I now support two – even three – generations of the same family.”
He adds: “Wealth isn’t something people find easy to talk about but it needs to be discussed if succession is going to work and that wealth is to be protected. My clients often find themselves having to think about the implications of their death. It’s a difficult conversation to have but as a third party and somebody they trust, then we find the right path for them. One of my strengths is the open communication I am able to have with my clients.”
Mark completed his training contract locally and, after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, he felt drawn to London and went to work for one of the UK’s leading accountancy firms.
“I thought this would show me how accountancy is ‘really done’,” says Mark. “In reality, I became disillusioned and realised that the local firm I had left looked after clients much better.”
Fed up with life in London, he applied for a role in the Paris office but, as he was about to head to the French capital, his old boss telephoned out of the blue and mentioned an opportunity back at his old firm in Kent. It came at the right time and Mark spent nearly 30 years there, becoming a partner in 1985.
Then, in 2012, Mark left the security of a larger firm and set up by himself.
“I had the opportunity to ask a number of my clients – some of whom I’d worked with for three decades – to come with me and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number who did,” says Mark.
He was joined in the business by Clare Cave Smith and his wife Sharon.
Three years down the track, he received a surprise phone call from Janet Pierce at Charter Tax – with whom he had worked at his previous firm.
“She invited me to lunch and, at the end, asked if I’d like to join Charter Tax,” says Mark. “It really made sense, as our two firms were a good fit. Charter Tax was focused on providing tax specific advice to non-domiciled residents and an outsourced FD service, while I could bring a more local focus with my private client work. Again, my clients followed me here.”
He continues: “Also, Janet was extremely busy and wanted somebody she knew and trusted to take the reins of the business here and I was that person. I always wanted to be a businessman – that’s why I studied accountancy in the first place – so I am really enjoying that element of my role here.”
When he’s not at work, Mark enjoys playing the drums and is a member of The Fabulous Blooz Band. He’s also very involved in life in his home village of Rotherfield, where he has lived for more than 25 years. He is a trustee of both Rotherfield St Martin, which tackles loneliness among older residents in the village, and Rotherfield Village Hall. He also enjoys watching historic motor racing.
In the four years Mark has been with the firm, Charter Tax has grown from 18 people to 32 with, he says, ‘a much stronger local footprint’.
Members of the Charter Tax team have started to network more locally and the firm has joined West Kent Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an organisation which Mark has been President of in the past.
“I’m really proud to be part of Charter Tax and it feels as if I’m exactly where I should be,” says Mark. “It’s also great to be back with team members I worked with previously, not only including Janet herself, but also Malcolm Brewer, Charlie Goss, Nicola King, Tracy Belton and Georgina Harrison, who all came across when they found I was joining Charter Tax.”
He adds: “We’re a reasonably sized accountancy firm in this area now and there’s a huge amount of expertise under our roof; gaining professional qualifications is really important to our ethos.”
Mark has been continuing with his professional development too and has recently obtained a Certificate in Probate and Estate Administration, ahead of Charter Tax launching a new probate service; the firm has recently become licenced to carry out non-contentious probate and estate administration work.
“For me, the relationships I have with my clients is absolutely key,” says Mark. “It’s what brings me the most pride; being that trusted adviser.”