Reflecting on 90 years of Whitley Stimpson

Aug 6, 2021

We’re celebrating 90 years of Whitley Stimpson. And despite the chaos of the last 16 months, this has been a great opportunity to reflect on our journey so far.

We couldn’t have reached this business milestone without our hardworking staff and loyal clients. So, we thought we’d share the journeys of some of our long-standing staff members and how they got to where they are today. These were initially shared internally in October last year.

Vikki Marzana

In 1994, I was due to leave the sixth form of Lady Verney High School having completed my A-levels. I had decided I did not want to go to University, but I wanted to move into Accountancy. My mum came home from work with a page out of the BFP with a job advertisement circled for a trainee accountant with F.B. Hale and Co. Following my interview, I was offered an apprenticeship with the firm, studying AAT, which was sponsored by Aylesbury College. Having studied and completed 3 years of AAT and qualifying in 1997, I moved on to study ACCA. I completed all of my studies studying at college in my evenings, alongside working full time. It seems a long way away from the Reed study package that a lot of our students have these days! I qualified as an ACCA in 2000.

Jonathan joined Hale in 1995 and became my manager, so I often like to tease him that I’ve been here longer than him! Working at Hale gave me such a wide experience of skills, from manual record jobs to audits, processing all the firm’s payrolls on my own, (long before RTI and Auto Enrolment!), VAT Returns, and of course the usual Statutory compliance work. Starting right from the bottom and working alongside my studies, I believe, gave me the groundworks for the knowledge and skills I have now, and enabled me to have the practical experience to help me study and pass my exams. I received so much support and training from Fred and Jonathan and all my various colleagues through the years. I hope that I can also show our trainees the same support that I had, as I know how valuable this support is.

In 2004, on my 10-year anniversary with the firm, I was offered a directorship of Hale Partnership Ltd, which I accepted. The firm arranged this small snippet in the Bucks Free Press. At that time, I was managing my own portfolio of clients as well as helping to train some more junior staff members.

In my time in the accountancy world, there have been a lot of changes. I witnessed the move to Self-Assessment (thanks Hector!) in 1996/97, in more recent times moving to RTI for payroll, iXBRL, cloud-based software, Making Tax Digital to name but a few – a lot can be said for advances in technology, but also a lot of changes in compliance – Money Laundering, tougher audit regulations etc all of which have made this a changing and evolving profession. We have to be able to keep up to speed with all of this to make sure we can advise and help our clients, do our jobs properly and make sure we don’t breach any rules ourselves. It’s a never-ending knowledge process.

In 2010, Hale Partnership Ltd merged with Whitley Stimpson and my employment with them became continuous – hence why I can proudly say I have been with the firm for 27 years. I still receive a high level of support from WS which allows me to still progress professionally and also enjoy a work/life balance.

My role has therefore changed moving from a trainee, through to manager, a director with Hale Partnership and now currently Director with Whitley Stimpson. A lot of my work is now as a reviewer/manager, as well as jointly managing the High Wycombe office. Unfortunately it’s not all about balancing the numbers now, although I like to do that too and get to do it every now and again.

So, other than school holiday jobs, this has been my only job! I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with both Hale and WS and this is partly because I love my job, partly because I work with, and have worked, with a great team of people and also because of the strong relationships I have built up with my clients – some dating back to my early days with Hale.

Personally, I am married with 2 children. My husband John is originally from Bolivia, South America. Pre-kids we loved visiting lots of nice exotic places and, of course family, in Bolivia. I took a one-month sabbatical in 2011 with John, spending 2 weeks in Cuba and 2 weeks in Mexico, which can be blamed for the pre-mentioned children! Post-kids, as they get older and travelling long journeys gets a bit easier, and obviously after COVID-19 restrictions, we hope to start doing more and more travelling/holidays with the kids and enjoying the experiences with them.

John Skinner

My first day as a Whitley Stimpson employee was at Reed College on August Bank Holiday Monday 1989 – the M40 hadn’t been built, a pool of secretaries produced accounts on type writers (one of them may have even used a word processor??), there was no right to holidays until after Christmas, and it would be two years before the world wide web was launched. For the youngsters amongst the readership, this period of time was also known as The Dark Ages.

I had graduated from St David’s University College that same summer – for the uninitiated, the College is in very rural Wales, but is where the first game of rugby in Wales was ever played, and it had one of the best geography departments in the country at the time (which was the attraction).

The College is unfortunately currently suffering a long, slow decline (the geography department ceased to exist years ago, and College students don’t even have to sit finals for their degrees). But I had had the honour of captaining the College team in my final year – you might be able to spot me in the pic.

Accountancy is the obvious (!) ‘next step’ for anyone with a with a degree in geography, and I was able to blag my way through my job interview by talking about rugby mostly. The office was in Peoples Park (almost) opposite the Police Station on Warwick Road when I joined, but we moved to Penrose House in 1992 and in the intervening 28 years, there aren’t too many rooms in the office that I’ve not worked from.

The office used to close at midday for the Christmas Party and we would descend en masse to The Moon & Sixpence in Hanwell (a village that used to be just north of Banbury, but will soon be swamped by the ever-growing metropolis) – a rather fancy Italian restaurant which used to be a client. Someone suggested it would be a good idea for staff to dress up for the party – judge the relative merits of this idea for yourselves.

Although we now all work with screens on our desks, and the UK has more tax legislation than any other country in the world, at least debits are still debits, and credits are still credits. And clients essentially have the same two questions as they did 30 something years ago – how much tax do I owe, and how much do I owe you?

We’ve certainly not come anywhere close to the impact of COVID-19 before. The lock-down was full of ups and downs, and following my heart attack last July, I was told by the cardiac rehab team at The Horton Hospital, opposite the office, that I formally fall into the ‘at risk’ category, although I certainly don’t feel like it. I’ve got to take my hat off to parents who were home-schooling – I was able to dodge that particular bullet but can’t imagine I’d have been a very patient teacher.

My two kids should have been doing GCSEs and A levels this year – in mid-April I asked my daughter if she’d prefer exam stress or lock-down boredom, without hesitation she went for exam stress, as she at least knew when her exams would be over.

If nothing else, lock down also demonstrated that my musical knowledge isn’t as good as I thought it might be. From 196 rounds of Radio 2’s Pop Master, my average score was 13.6 (out of a possible 39).

Ninety years and counting for top accountancy firm