60 second interview with Frank Strachan of Edwin Coe
Tell me about your role.
I head up the tax team at Edwin Coe. The role has changed over the years as the team has developed. We have evolved from a team which specialised in one area of taxation to one which now has a far broader spectrum of services including HMRC dispute resolution, tax advisory, tax compliance and corporate tax. Strategically my role is now much more focussed on spotting the trends of the market and adjusting the strategy accordingly. However, on a day to day basis I still enjoy rolling up my sleeves as a tax investigation specialist and having a frank discussion or two with HMRC.
How has the private client industry changed?
The tax environment is more complex now than ever but I believe clients are more engaged in tax now than they ever have been before. They are also far more knowledgeable and willing to be part of the discussion. They are less likely to take advice on the hoof from a friend at the golf club, although a number of clients who approach me to represent them during HMRC investigations might have historically had that type of advice.
What lessons have you learnt?
It’s imperative to listen to clients – you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
You can be the most technically gifted tax advisor in the world but if you can’t listen to the client, understand their needs and find a way to impart your knowledge to the client in a way that they can understand, then you are merely on your own ego trip.
Tell us about interesting client instructions.
I once represented a member of a well-known band. On review of the case, it was clear HMRC were not covering themselves in glory so I pushed back in the strongest terms…that particular investigation was closed immediately but then the inspector phoned the agent and said he would close all the other open enquires in to the band and its various members just “so long as he didn’t let Mr Strachan loose on him again”. I lost a lot of potentially chargeable work but built a life time of trust with the agent.
What challenges do your clients face?
I am in awe of many of my clients and how they deal with the constant threats to their businesses from competitors, technology, changing trends…but if I had to pick one thing, I think it is succession. In many cases it is easier to line up succession outside of the family but for some this simply isn’t possible. Having built a successful business, some clients can find it difficult to find the right person to pass the reins on to.
Day to day many clients comment to me that they are very concerned about the threats from a change of Government and the challenges of leaving Europe (I won’t use the B word!)
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I still love winning new work – it’s such a competitive environment out there with so many excellent advisors but still I find it so rewarding when a client chooses to work with me and my team, over other more established ‘brands’.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Treat people the way you would want to be treated yourself.
Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?
Work – Singapore
Pleasure – Brazil
What was the last book you’ve read?
“Kaiser! – The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football” – One of my contacts was instrumental in getting the book published and the film made, so whilst in Brazil I thought it was apt.
Many Brazilians have never heard of this chap. This chap signed for many of the biggest clubs of that generation but never kicked a ball…at the press unveiling of his signing, when he was thrown a ball to do ‘keepy-uppies’, he simply caught the ball and threw it into the crowd!
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!
How do you relax after a long day?
I love spur of the moment dinners with my wife at new restaurants around London instead of braving the commute home.
When at home, I tend to pour a glass of wine and contemplate why, despite all that contemplation and my best intentions, on the first tee at the London Club, almost without fail, every Saturday my golf ball seems to violently veer off towards the trees. For those contacts reading this who have played golf with me, they will know why!