New Office Now Open in Kilmarnock

By, Ryan Rowe

The location of the new William Duncan & Co office in Kilmarnock is a metaphor for the town – and the business – in itself. It rests on the upper floors of the 166-year-old former Bank of Scotland building, above Bar Luca, the latest addition to Kilmarnock’s vibrant nightlife. The ‘B’ listed building’s foundations are the cobbles of Bank Street, the major player in Kilmarnock’s successful attainment of a £43million grant from the Scottish Government in December 2015, thanks to the regeneration that has led to all properties on the street being occupied for over two years. This combination of old and new, history and development, tradition and innovation, make William Duncan & Co and Kilmarnock a match made in business heaven.

William Duncan & Co is a Chartered Accountancy firm with its roots in Ayrshire; its head offices are in Ayr and founder William Duncan himself was from New Cumnock. But from those humble beginnings, the firm is now – and this is no exaggeration – a leading light in the industry.

After walking up the staircase of the Kilmarnock office (typical of the Victorian age, when the building was built) one enters a plush and modern floor space. It’s 5.45pm and 20 years ago any office like this would’ve most likely shut up shop by now. But 9-5 is a rarity for accountants these days, and William Duncan is no different.

A right turn leads into the spacious office of Graeme Bryson, director at William Duncan. It’s here where we sit down to hear about the William Duncan journey. There are four of us present: Mr Bryson and Robert Fergusson, managing director at William Duncan, the editor of this magazine and myself. The carpet is a cool blue and while it would be a stretch to say the office makes you feel at home (despite the family pictures) it would certainly make any businessman feel safe and comfortable in the hands of William Duncan.

“We want William Duncan to be known as The Ayrshire Firm,” Mr Fergusson says. “I believe the Ayrshire story is one that still has a long way to go.”

Mr Bryson has been part of the company for 20 years and says that in those 20 years the firm has developed from a traditional practice to one of the “most modern and outgoing practices in the area.

“Our use of new technology and embracing of the latest techniques allows us to join up with our clients in a much more involved way to put us in the right position to take our clients forward. And if they’re successful – we’re successful.”

We talk about Ayrshire and the business community within it, specifically what makes it special. Mr Bryson says: “There’s a work ethic in Ayrshire, there’s a real hard-working approach.”

Mr Fergusson goes as far as saying that, in a bid for a new business, he believes Ayrshire could swing it in their favour due to the location and work-life balance. Mr Bryson says another unique selling point for William Duncan in Ayrshire is that there is no danger of a client simply becoming part of a wider “machine” with William Duncan, as can happen with some larger Glasgow firms.

William Duncan is a member of the 2020 Group, a UK-wide faction of “like-minded, forward-thinking accountants” according to Mr Fergusson. It’s headed by mostly London and other big city firms but it was William Duncan & Co that won the award for Most Innovative Firm in 2015.

The firm signed up to “stay at the forefront of services, keeping us ahead of the game,” according to Mr Fergusson. The 2020 Group gives William Duncan access to worldwide knowledge of best practice, as the world of accountancy journeys through the digital explosion.

“Is the world a harder place to deliver your services now?” I ask.

Mr Fergusson replies: “It is a lot harder. We do feel like we’re pedalling a lot harder but it’s more enjoyable.

“If you think about it historically: we were bookkeepers. Everything was done manually; it was all about people sitting behind desks.

“Gone are the days when you’d see a client once a year – they’d come in, dump a plastic bag with their stuff and come back six weeks later. With the Cloud and other software like Xero we’re a lot more involved with our clients now,”

“I get the impression you prefer that?” “Absolutely,” they both say affirmatively.

As proof of William Duncan’s progressiveness, Business Insider magazine contacted the firm for comment on the future of the industry. But it wasn’t just a dynamic approach that made the company stand out. The firm is fundamentally excellent at what it does.

William Duncan has guided some of the most successful businesses in Ayrshire, many of which feature in this magazine. This is only possible with the quality team that has been developed from Juniors though to Senior Managers who are all at the top of their game. Mr Bryson outlined we have specialists allowing us to deliver not only the traditional accounting and taxation services but also Cloud Accounting; Virtual Finance Director, Corporate Advisory; Specialist Tax expertise, Wealth Management advice, IT Support and also Business Recovery.

The expertise is available across all offices with staff being mobile between the offices due to the investment in technology to facilitate greater collaboration, support and assistance with a clients journey.

His use of the word journey is not an intended pun, as I’ve noticed it’s a word Mr Fergusson and Mr Bryson use remarkably often. So I ask about it.

Mr Bryson says: “The journey is all about getting beside our clients and understanding them – not just their business but as individuals too – because everyone has life goals and we want to get to know what those life goals are and then it’s a journey to achieving those life goals. It’s about guiding them along that pathway, mapping it out as we go along.”

Mr Fergusson reflects: “Seeing small companies growing into bigger companies, growing into Ayrshire names, you know there’s a great pride in being part of that.”