90 years of Lubbock Fine: Firm reflections

Lubbock Fine, 30 April 2019

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Old times 

1929 was quite a year. Amongst other notable events were these:

  • Age of Marriage Act 1929 raised the legal marriageable age to sixteen years for both parties
  • General election returned a hung parliament with the Liberals as King Makers
  • Thirteen of DH Lawrence’s paintings of nudes were seized on the grounds of indecency under the Vagrancy Act 1838
  • BBC made the first transmissions of John Logie Baird’s experimental 30-line television system
  • Wall Street crashed causing sharp falls on the London Stock Exchange
  • First Tesco store opened in Burnt Oak, Edgware
  • Acker Bilk, Jean Simmons and Graham Hill were born
  • Harry and Reggie Lubbock established Lubbock and Co

Over the years, things really have changed immeasurably. In these more complex times, no one would think of establishing their own practice immediately after qualifying, as Harry Lubbock did. These days we even pay our graduate and non-graduate trainees rather than demanding that they pay us for the privilege.

The firm’s dominating client at that time was Copes Pools. During the football season, Harry, Reggie and all of the three staff were totally engaged on that client from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon when dividends were announced. Weekend working was very popular as it meant overtime pay for the articled clerks.

By the late 1950s, Stanley Prashker and Philip Fine were both partners of the firm, now
expanded to around twenty staff, allowing Harry and Reggie to take more of a back seat. In 1959, the Lubbocks were bought out, the firm changed its name to Lubbock Fine & Co and the new management set about developing into a medium size, independent firm, through both organic growth and acquisition.

Changing times

In 1974, against a backdrop of unemployment exceeding one million for the first time, a miners’ strike that brought about serious fuel shortages and the 3-day week, a wage freeze, the University of Cambridge shockingly admitting female undergraduates for the first time and Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, the firm continued on its upward trajectory. Philip Fine retired in 1985 by which time the firm had considerably expanded. 1983 had seen the establishment of Russell Bedford International and, in 1990, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rejection of Communism in Eastern and Central
Europe, the firm moved from Bedford Row to City Forum. The 1990s were dominated by a serious economic recession leading to difficult conditions for everyone. After some difficult years, we emerged relatively intact, always retaining the independence on which we were founded.

Modern times

From the time Geoff Goodyear took over as managing partner in 2000, there was a concerted effort to make the firm leaner and more focused on the markets in which it operated. This was the year when, amongst other things, Cherie Blair was fined for not having a valid ticket on a journey from Blackfriars (she said she only had Portuguese currency and couldn’t find a credit card machine), Dr Harold Shipman was sentenced to life for fifteen murders, Charlie Kray died, Ken Livingstone was elected London Mayor and the Millennium Bridge opened to the public before closing due to its wobbles. Lubbock Fine’s efforts made during the tough times were paying off. We refined traditional markets and developed new business areas which, coupled with general growth in the business sectors from which we draw our clients, led to a renewed feeling of optimism.

In the last decade, we’ve had a wholesale restructuring and moved from partner-led teams to resource groups. That has streamlined the experience for clients and led to greater efficiency within the firm. It has also presented more opportunity for progression within the firm, more transparency and promoted a general sharing of good working practices, allowing us to develop specialist expertise within the groups. Along with
the whole world, we’ve embraced technology!

In conjunction with our move to Paternoster House, we finalised our shift to paperless working and so improved time taken for information retrieval and file sharing. Along with virtualising all of our servers, reducing onsite filing and implementing a number of other innovative systems, we operate more sleekly than ever. HMRC is rapidly catching up, as demonstrated by Making Tax Digital, meaning that from 1st April 2019, VAT accounting will go totally digital. Take that as a signpost about the direction of travel. We will need to continue to develop and support clients through this new technological revolution.

Paternoster Square times

Our move to Paternoster House in May 2014 had an obvious impact on the whole firm. In
2015, we won the British Accountancy Award for mid-tier firm of the year. That award highlights those that have demonstrated excellence in their profession, with a focus on professionalism, measurable success, innovation, people and profitability/growth.
We’re now in much better, more bespoke premises with well thought through space, enabling maximum interaction between teams. This all goes back to supporting clients through adjacencies … and lots of other new terms we learned through the moving process.

Brexit times (at the time of writing)

Every so often, throughout history, there have been unexpected events that shake things up. The firm was in existence when we joined the Common Market in 1975 and we’re still here to witness the biggest political and economic unknown since World War II. And are we Brexit proofed?

At the time of writing, we can definitively state that, along with the rest of
the country, we just don’t know. Planning for various different scenarios is in place and we’re working with many of our clients in terms of the problems and opportunities that our challenging divorce from Europe presents. For import, export, producer and manufacturing clients, it’s been important to try to legislate for whatever hits us if and when we exit and in whatever way we do that. What we do know is that once we know
for sure what’s happening, there’ll be a lot more work to do.

Future times

Buying habits are changing. Things are now far more relationship driven with clients
seeking ever more “relationship-based” service from their professional advisors. We continue to build our team as our client base grows.

The next generation of incoming staff have a different approach to life and work, as do
our newer clients. Getting the balance right and accommodating the new ways of doing
things is increasingly important. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data,
automation … all of this is helping clients to do more themselves allowing us to focus
our attention on added value work. Agility in the modern work place means keeping
pace with technology and allowing people to work where and when they want to. We’re
galloping toward being more project than time driven – a concept not even imagined
even twenty years ago. The world is smaller but more complex with increasingly better
communications. In the new space, it’s not difficult to do business on the other side of
the world. Together with our clients, we need to be nimble enough to embrace opportunities when they arise. Having trusted advisors to use as a sounding board before taking irrevocable action is a very valuable resource for our clients.

Find out more about the history of the firm here.