Rural Accountants Celebrates 100 Years!
Local accounting firm Rural Accountants, a relative newcomer to Whakatane, celebrates its 100th birthday on October 1st this year, one of very few New Zealand firms able to do so.
Originally established in Dannevirke in 1919, Rural Accountants has a proud and long standing history, dating back to a firm who opened their door courtesy of past Dannevirke mayor Archie Runciman.
In the early 20th century, Dannevirke was known as a ‘sleeper’ town, providing as it did Totara sleepers for the Napier – Wellington railway line, with over 50 sawmills in the immediate area for this purpose.
The first New Zealand accounting firms were usually small private practices with up to three partners serving a single city or town. One of these, Dunedin’s Thompson, Lang and Associates, was established in 1900 by T. H. Thompson, whose grandson Kevin Thompson was a partner until 2008, which at the time, was claimed to be the oldest accounting practice in the world with a founding family member still involved. (1)
A proud history
Not much is left of the original firm or known about the founding partner and town’s former mayor Archie Runciman. Now owned by mother and daughter directors Christine Craig and Shannon Harnett, Shannon says hard copy still exists from that first firm.
“We have original paper ledgers that go right back to 1919. They’re just amazing to look at, they are all handwritten on old marbled paper. We have them safely stored” she says.
Rural Accountant's founding director, Christine Craig, joined the firm in 1996 and was particularly aware of the firm's history. “The year I started everyone celebrated the firm’s 75th anniversary, which was a pretty big deal. No-one else had that kind of longevity in the district or the region,” she says.
Shannon adds “I distinctly remember all the firm’s partners really were incredibly proud of its history. From what I understand, the firm’s always been known for being innovative, forward thinking and client focused in all its various incarnations.”
Now and then
Thinking back about what’s been lost to the industry, as a result of recent industry changes, Shannon makes an interesting point.
“Technology was meant to help with productivity, but I don’t think it has in the way it was meant to,” she says. “For example, journals or using a desk diary or wall calendar. We still do use these but they're electronic now. It’s our Outlook calendar, our iPad or tablet, and in our smartphones. Those tools have not been taken away by technology, we’ve not lost them – they just look different!”
Comparisons within modern times highlight two of the biggest changes to the accounting landscape in the last two decades are technology, particularly data entry automation, and the rise of Health & Safety.
Shannon mentions that global connectivity and the ability to work remotely from wherever you are is another industry game changer. Whereas Christine notices that amalgamation of accounting firms is on the increase, “something that may happen here in Whakatane in the coming years, as the partners of local firms decide to retire,” she says.
Christine goes on to say that one recently frustrating aspect "is the increasing compliance costs for us and our clients, due to the Anti- Money Laundering legislation that came in, in October 2018.”
Into the future
As for predicting what accounting firms may look like in the next 100 years, Shannon states the tax workload is likely to increase for accountants as tax becomes more complex, due to increasing legislation.
Shannon and Christine both firmly believe that compliance, or tax processing, will reduce as the IRD continues to become more connected to client information. “And this means that we, as accountants, will be increasingly needed by our clients for analytics, strategy and business intelligence,” predicts Shannon.
A final question - what is the one piece of advice you would give to up and coming accountants - is answered quickly by Shannon;
"Always keep learning and growing - keep stepping outside of your comfort zone!”
On that note, watch this space to see out how this mother and daughter duo start off the next 100 years.
(1) Colquhoun, 'Accountancy - Accounting and accountants’ organisations', 2010
As a farmer, Christine understands our business and how farmers and growers operate.
We use Rural Accountants to provide a full accounting service to an orcharding partnership which operates a number of orchards with a wide spread of varieties and management systems. Rural Accountants are always timely and accurate, and their annual financial accounts are extremely easy to understand and very grower-friendly.
Rural Accountants is a real asset to our business.
The team at Rural Accountants pretty much manage all our administrative tasks for the group including payroll and tax planning, ensuring we don’t pay any more than necessary. They are at the forefront of technology and have helped us get up and running with Xero and Figured which is much more efficient than the way we used to work.
Christine is very knowledgeable, great to deal with and knows our business well. She is also a sheep & beef farmer so knows the industry really well and understands our needs.
Rural Accountants keeps us on track through strategic and forward planning meetings throughout the year. Christine knows our business inside out so she can deal with our questions instantly.