John Moffat CA discusses how Benson Wood and Co is helping family-owned businesses
Since becoming Chief Executive of Benson Wood and Co, John Moffat CA has relocated the office and given the firm a digital overhaul while maintaining its SME focus
Keeping an accountancy practice going for 87 years takes skill, hard work and a great deal of knowhow. Benson Wood and Co has shown it has that ability to move with the times since 1937, when it first opened its doors in Airdrie’s town centre as JR Benson and Co.
Initially, it also operated as a Halifax Building Society agency: “The commission from the Halifax far outweighed the accountancy fees for many years,” says John Moffat CA, who became Chief Executive in 2020. In the 1970s, Robin M Wood joined the growing practice and it was renamed Benson Wood and Co. Today’s firm has a team of 12 and specialises in helping family-owned businesses in Lanarkshire, as well as in west and central Scotland more broadly.
When John joined the company 25 years ago one of his top priorities was to bring the firm up to date. “The practice at the time was not very tech savvy,” he recalls. “When I took over as Chief Executive, the business was very compliance-focused, but I’d observed over the years that the profession was changing rapidly and that big changes were required if Benson Wood was to survive and thrive.”
John addressed this by upgrading the firm’s technology to best-in-class and engaged a specialist accounting business coach. He also joined a support group for Scottish, English and Irish accountancy firms experiencing similar challenges. They still meet every Wednesday morning.
The tech focus continues, as the firm evolves into a digital practice, while developing a lively social media presence. “I’d say we’re up there with the frontrunners regarding tech and we’ve got no plans to slow down,” he says. “We’re already using AI in our client communications and see our use of it developing further.”
The firm’s services have adapted through this evolution, as John explains: “Compliance is still a substantial part of our business but we’re now acting more as trusted advisers to many of our clients, throughout the year. We hold our clients accountable and help them work towards their goals. It’s very satisfying when we see them succeed.”
Client expectations have changed too. “They expect quicker replies than in the past, so we use a range of digital communications,” John explains. “But we find an old-fashioned phone call is still appreciated by many of our clients.” He says they also value the firm’s automated book-keeping service: “Wasted weekends of preparing their books is now a distant memory for them.”
Looking ahead, John says: “My aspirations for Benson Wood are simple. We want to be the go-to business advisers in Lanarkshire and surrounding areas and to employ a team of highly skilled, local professionals who work in partnership with clients to provide a first-class financial and business service. Last February we relocated to Bellshill, where we have great meeting facilities and transport links – part of our long-term plan to grow the business and support our clients more.”
It’s not only about profits at Benson Wood, however: charity and community are important too, as John outlines: “We supported Scottish Huntington’s Association this year and plan to extend our partnership for another year. In May, we sponsored the charity’s Dance 100 event in George Square, Glasgow. Lots of families from the association and our team danced to 100 songs in a row and we raised about £3,000. It was amazing that I managed it because I’ve got two left feet and no rhythm.
“Scottish Huntington’s is quite small, so our support will make a big difference to them. We’re planning to raise £10,000 in 2024.” The firm has also supported a local hospice and food bank over the years.
Outside work and charity, John enjoys walking his border terriers, reading and spending time with family. “My granddaughter Millie has just turned one,” he says. “I love spending time with her and making her laugh. I’m convinced that Grandpa’s her favourite!”