The Accountant Magazine and Accounting International Bulletin have announced that the winner of the “Personality of the Year” award for 2021 is the Chairman of The Corporate Finance Network and Accountant-In-Residence at Capitalise.com, Kirsty McGregor.
McGregor, who founded The Corporate Finance Network, a network of UK regional independent accountancy firms fifteen years ago, specialises in encouraging more accounting firms to develop their corporate finance offering to their owner-managed business clients. She was also appointed by the Capitalise team in 2020 to support their education and capital advisory product range for the accounting channel.
At the immediate onset of the pandemic, McGregor initiated a snap survey of her accounting firm members to assess the likely impact of the lockdown on SME businesses. Being the first credible survey to the market, her findings were used by BBC news as their lead story, also being picked up by several other media outlets in the UK and around the world. The Government subsequently instructed UK Finance members to refine their processes for CBILS applications to speed up business’ ability to access this government-backed loan as the research showed that it was too slow and funds weren’t flowing to businesses as easily as the Chancellor had stated when he initially announced this scheme.
A few weeks’ later the Government announced a further Bounce Back Loan scheme which was able to be self-certified and did not require banks to underwrite it. Between March 2020 and March 2021, when these schemes ended, 1.67m businesses have received one of these government-backed loans and on the first day alone of the Bounce Back Loan scheme opening, 69,000 loans worth over £2 billion were approved.
ACCA UK became co-host of this accountants’ survey which continued to assess the impact on SMEs and, as those findings continued, in July 2020 McGregor recognised that many businesses were not planning ahead with cashflow projections. She then brought several members of the wider accounting ecosystem together to launch a campaign called ‘Leave No Business Behind’ where free educational and practical resources were hosted on the capitalise.com platform along with regular skills webinars and podcasts. These were to support accountants to encourage all their clients to carry out some forecasting to ensure that they could firstly survive the ongoing disruptions, and then to have plans in place to be able to grow once again after lockdowns were released.
Economic statistics have shown recently that insolvencies and unemployment figures have not been as severe as had been initially feared and McGregor believes that accountants had a significant role to play in that “As soon as the pandemic took hold, accountancy firms from across the country immediately mobilised to assist their clients in accessing grants, loans and pivoting their business model to cope with the implications of lockdowns and rapidly changing customer demands. This work had a tremendously positive impact, and the SME business economy would have been far weaker had small businesses not been able to turn to their accountant for this advice.”
McGregor also raised awareness that the HMRC job retention scheme (furlough) process, was unwieldly and cumbersome for smaller employers, especially for accountants and agents processing grant applications for hundreds of their SME clients. It took some months to achieve a change in the process, but eventually HMRC did make the furlough scheme easier to access in its latter months.
McGregor was interviewed about her award for the Future Positive podcast.
An experienced and astute commentator on the state of the SME economy and the accounting profession, Kirsty is now available to speak to accountancy networks and firms, to share her experiences about how the most successful firms operate and what the future holds for the business population and the advisor community which supports it.