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From LDN to AMS

Patrick Evans Career Advice, Market Insight

I can still remember my first interview with Matthew Gravelle (Brewer Morris, Partner) and Michael Illert (SR Group, Continental Europe Partner).

I had met Matthew a couple of times during my time with my previous firm Pure Search, whereas Michael I hadn’t met before. He walked in, no tie, sculpted facial hair and with his iPad under his arm ready to take notes electronically. I thought how relaxed, how very European! Two years on and having since relocated to Amsterdam, I write this overlooking one of the many canals in the Jordaan with an equally relaxed demeanour, the facial hair perhaps still needs some work! Everything that was discussed back in London came to fruition.

The vision was to create a European tax offering, leveraging off the strength of our UK practice built up over the last 30+ years. The opportunity was apparent and one I felt I couldn’t walk away from.

So why did I take on the challenge of growing Brewer Morris’ European practice? I’d walked away from my seventh year in the UK tax market leaving Brewer Morris’ key competitor where things were progressing well. Nevertheless, I wanted a challenge, I wanted to develop my name across the European tax market rather than always sit beneath the UK partner.  I wanted to grow a business, to go out and win work and develop accounts rather than spend my time transacting on the searches a well-oiled UK business brought in. I knew I would need to “feel a little pain” until things were up and running but I saw the potential with Brewer Morris. A tax brand established in the UK as the number one having recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a European head office based out of Amsterdam, one of the most buoyant markets in the region.  The draw of at some stage being based out of Amsterdam was the key point of difference and the reason I joined Brewer Morris.  The plan was always to grow our brand from London before re-locating to Amsterdam to be closer to our client base across Europe, notably BeNelux, Switzerland and Ireland. Being here now is one of our key differentiating factors from other London based firms covering the European market. We’ve shown the market our commitment and two months in I’m already seeing the move pay dividends.

The first two years whilst a lot of fun were tough.  Monthly trips across Europe, 4am taxis to Heathrow often returning the same night having held six or seven meetings in each of the key international hubs we chose to initially focus on (BeNeLux, Ireland & Switzerland).  A lot of “knocking” and a lot of perseverance.  Matthew’s wife became increasingly concerned over the number of city breaks we were apparently having together!  I was convinced the brand would grow and that our proposition was unique.  I believed there was no specialist tax agency on the ground in Continental Europe who had a pan European focus. Someone who could connect clients to a diverse candidate pool whilst offering candidates the chance to move internationally. Keeping this at the forefront of my mind was the driving force to making the first two years a success and for us to arrive in Amsterdam as of April 1st 2019.

Professionally everything has fallen in to place as I had hoped. Clients appreciate the commitment we’ve made and the ease at which we can now meet. At the same time, as diversity continues to take centre stage combined with the international nature of the tax market, our shortlists have been well received. A combination of both local and international talent. It’s so rewarding hearing what I believed over the last two years being re-enforced.

So what’s next? Consolidate what we have achieved to date by consistently re-enforcing how our offering is unique to our competitors (who are either London based, domestic in their focus or are regarded as general finance agencies) and strategically add headcount in the right markets. At the time of writing we have just appointed my first hire to focus on the growth of our professional services offering, the intent being to hire a third team member by the end of the year to focus on our interim business. The ultimate ambition over the next few years is to mirror the success London has achieved by building a European practice covering Tax, Treasury and Senior Finance. After that we’ll have to see, the challenge and the opportunity which lies ahead is pretty compelling!