HCA Expands into London
HCA, a Manchester based independent accountant, is to expand and open a London office due to an increasing demand in forensic accountancy.
Lennie Harris of Whitefield identified the growing need and after a successful career in the profession working for some of the big players and running his own successful firm decided to specialise in the field.
Qualifying in Scotland in 1973, Harris immediately joined Deloitte and Co, now PWC, in Manchester. The road from Scotland was paved with success and the newly qualified accountant was rapidly promoted to a managerial position very soon after joining the organisation. He remained with the firm for four years before joining a smaller operation in the Centre of Manchester, with offices in Bury and Stockport. A move up the ladder followed and Harris was made an equity partner soon after joining the firm. From there he built a portfolio of clients made the decision to specialise in insolvency and debt recovery gaining accreditation as a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner.
His next move was more ambitious. He said: “I decided to set up my own Chartered Accountancy practice which I ran for 28 years building it up to a staff base of around 20 people. I recognised a need for specialisation so I sold the firm and established HCA Harris Confidential Limited, to offer various specialist services advising clients on business structures and tax planning, debt management and insolvency related matters, director disqualification advice and dispute resolution. I also help negotiate clients with personal guarantee problems.”
The firm, which trades as HCA Consultancy also undertakes investigation work and has developed a specialisation in forensic accounting. Triggered by the increased use of the Proceeds of Crime Act, Harris realised that those accused of crimes had limited resources and information to challenge excessive financial demands by the courts attempting to recover the maximum amount of money. Often part of the convicted person’s income would have been earned legitimately but they don’t have the ability to separate this from money they have gained illegally and its often their families that suffer unfairly. He cites one case where he was able to reduce a demand by the prosecution for £77,000 to a realisable amount of £15,000 from the available assets. Harris explained: “This kind of exercise isn’t an exact science but I was able to attribute what I believe was a fair value to the information and witness evidence.”
As part of this service HCA Consultancy often works alongside the defendant’s lawyers and he is keen to expand this area. Increasingly forensic accountants are being brought in at the early stages of proceedings by law firms acting for the defendants. The regulatory and complex crime team at Ison Harrison Solicitors have found that using a forensic accountant often results in favourable results, particularly in cases involving tax, fraud, false accounting, money laundering or confiscation proceedings.
Ian Anderson, Head of Complex Crime said: “Having an independent expert presenting evidence in a report or in person is a powerful way to persuade the prosecution, juries and judges that the defence case is stronger than the prosecution case. We have worked with forensic accountants for many years.” According to Lennie Harris, swift action by an experienced forensic accountant can be beneficial to the client and the lawyer.
He concluded: “It isn’t often we hear of smaller professional firms extending their operations into London but I believe that it is the right move. We will be at the heart of financial services and it will give us greater ability to extend our work with more law firms especially in investigative work and Proceeds of Crime cases.”