Anne Hallowell joined UNW in 2013, growing the firm’s charity sector expertise and positioning the team as the go-to advisers for charities and not-for-profit organisations in the North East, before being promoted to partner in 2018. We recently spoke with Anne about her career journey, the benefits of working within audit at UNW, and how she wants to continue to grow the team in the future.
Could you expand a little on your background prior to joining UNW?
I started my training with Coopers & Lybrand in Leeds, working with a mixed-corporate audit portfolio. Two years after qualifying I joined the National Training Team, covering the North and Scotland, before transferring to the Newcastle office. As I was returning from maternity leave, the merger between Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse was underway, forming PwC. I continued to work for PwC until 2006, when I left to become the Trust Manager at a charity called the North of England Civic Trust.
How did you become involved in working with charities?
After I returned to work at PwC following maternity leave, I was given my first charity client in the form of the Northern Rock Foundation, who were in their first year of existence. There had been a change of emphasis at the time, with accountancy firms starting to realise that because of the specific challenges that charities and not-for-profit organisations face, they needed to be looked after by specialists, rather than spread across a group of people. This led to me picking up all the Newcastle-based charity clients, alongside some Yorkshire ones as well, and I started building my specialism from there. The sector is appealing to me because charities are always keen to see us. They don’t necessarily have a strong finance function of their own, like corporates, so they always value the advice and support that we give them.
What led you to joining UNW?
I had started to build a relationship with UNW whilst I was working for the North of England Civic Trust, as they were our auditors at the time. Because of this, I knew that their work ethos lined up with mine. When the previous charity manager at UNW left, they needed a charity specialist to look after the existing client base. As they were aware of my history working both within and for the sector, they contacted me about coming back into practice, and I accepted. I felt it was a great opportunity for me to continue to develop my expertise and work with a respected firm that shared my passion for the charity and not-for-profit sector.
Having been the Head of Charity and Not-for-Profit at UNW, you have progressed to Partner within the last year. What motivated you to work towards progression?
When I first joined UNW in 2013, I had been out of audit for several years. Despite this, the firm showed confidence in me and assured me that this was a role that would develop over time. Due to the level of support, training, and feedback available, I found I was gradually starting to take on more responsibilities. I would go out to tenders, started winning work and then applied for my Responsible Individual status, so I was able to sign off audits. At the same time, our charity presence was growing because of the seminars we were holding for charities and not-for-profits, and the regular newsletters we were issuing to them. As our portfolio grew, it became obvious that our clients needed a dedicated partner lead, which is when discussions about me becoming a partner began.
When I first joined the firm, I didn’t particularly have any ambition to become partner but the culture at UNW definitely helped motivate me. The firm really does bend over backwards to help its people to grow and develop new skills.
What do you think are the main benefits of working within the audit team at UNW?
Certainly the flexible working, which has been hugely beneficial to me. When I joined UNW, my children were still at school, and a lot of the audit managers were female and part-time. It’s a testament to how flexible to firm is, because you don’t often see that.
I think we also offer a very broad range of experience for our students – from smaller charities, to larger ones, right through to large corporates such as Ramside Estates and Lanchester Wines. The diverse range of clients is a huge advantage, considering that when I was training, some of the people were on the same job for about three months – meaning after coming out of university or college, they might only come in to contact with four or five clients a year. At UNW, that figure is more likely to be thirty!
How would you like to see UNW’s charity specialism develop over the next 3 years?
Over the last 5 years, with the support of the firm, I’ve been able to strengthen our presence in the charity and not-for-profit sector and develop a growing portfolio of clients who view us as the go-to firm for advice and support.
Looking at that, I’d like to build on where we’re at. We’ve reached a point where we now have such a strong presence that most of our work is through referral. Our aim is to continue to grow from here, and not to limit ourselves to the North East. We have a big enough reach now, combined with a vast depth of experience and a broad range of specialisms to match, to think on a national level.
The firm really does bend over backwards to help its people to grow and develop new skills.