New Forest


Co-founder and director retires from HWB after 40 years

Co-founder and director of HWB Accountants, Alan Williams is to step down after dedicating the past 40 years to the firm.

It was back in 1985 that Alan teamed up with fellow chartered accountants Mike Hopper and Arthur Bell to form HWB, the name denoting the first letters of their surnames: Hopper, Williams & Bell.

The three had been colleagues at another accountancy practice in Southampton but decided to go out on their own, incorporating HWB on 15 July 1985.

Their first office was a sublease of space at Southern Ship Stores, by Dock Gate 4 in the Port of Southampton.

They then moved to an office in the Portswood area of the city, leaving there in 2002 for a new base in Chandler’s Ford where the firm remains.

Alan, who retires at the end of April, said: “I feel really lucky. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my professional career, hopefully delivering value, and I’ve met some absolutely brilliant clients.

“One of the things that I’ve really liked about it is that you never know what’s going to crop up in any given day. You can be speaking to directors of a big corporate in the morning and a bricklayer working on his own in the afternoon. We have such a wide variety of clients.”

Recalling office life in the early 80s and how accountancy has changed, Alan said: “People smoked at their desks back then, that was just normal. And it was a frequent part of a trainee’s job to be sent to find an ancient file from a dark storeroom.

“When we set up on our own, we had an Olivetti computer. The capacity of that would be insignificant now due to advances in technology and the never-ending growth of mobile phones.

“Not everything about the accountancy profession has changed but the world at large certainly has. I think we had a lot more fun in previous years. There are far more constraints in a professional office now, compared to then!

“The pace has certainly intensified. People work under more extreme time pressures and massively increased client expectations around delivery, though I quite like that.”

As well as being a chartered accountant, Alan is a registered auditor with specialist knowledge of sectors such as recruitment and FCA-regulated markets. He is known for his strategic expertise in corporate finance, business acquisitions and disposals.

Comparing HWB in the mid-1980s to now, Alan said: “We have grown steadily in a controlled manner. We started with six team members and are now hovering around a figure of 75. We’re a very different practice now, always striving to achieve higher levels of service for clients.”

Alan’s retirement follows that of Mike Hopper some 20+ years ago, while Arthur Bell remains active in the firm as a consultant.

Asked how he feels to be ‘passing on the baton’, Alan said: “The team is in very good hands. Fellow directors have been gradually taking over responsibility for my clients during the last year. It’s really encouraging to see the attitude, commitment and business focus of the younger guys taking equity in the firm and getting to know the clients.”

Alan was born and bred in Lyndhurst and lives with his partner of 14 years, Dallas, in Dibden Purlieu. His retirement plans include ‘holidays without taking a computer along’ and more time perfecting his swing at Stoneham Golf Club where he plays off a 10 handicap.

His message to young people thinking of accountancy as a career is clear. “I really encourage people to come into the profession. At a firm such as HWB, you get a really rounded training in all areas and about all sorts of businesses.”

Thanking him for his years at the firm, HWB Managing Director Tracy Jenkins said: “Alan’s, skills, expertise and experience have contributed to our considerable growth over the years and ensured we deliver the highest standards of service to our client base.

“We wish him a long and happy retirement, secure in the knowledge that the firm he co-founded is in safe hands and ideally positioned for continued growth now and in the future.”

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