Craig Maxwell CA on becoming partner and the aspirational accountant

Rutherford Cross goals and careers
Rutherford Cross By Sophie Randles, Head of Practice, Rutherford Cross

6 March 2017

The development of future partners and succession planning are some of the biggest challenges currently facing the accountancy profession. Craig Maxwell CA shares his insights and expertise on the journey to partner with Sophie Randles from Rutherford Cross, and gives his top tips for those aspiring to partnership.

In November 2016, Craig Maxwell, became the newly appointed Audit Partner for Mazars Glasgow office, joining the senior leadership team in Scotland.   

Spending the last 13 years working in Australia for a leading global accountancy firm, Craig returns to his roots in Glasgow bringing with him an excellent track record and a wealth of experience which, will aid in the development and evolution of Mazars Scotland.

1. What advice would you give to aspiring partners?

I’m very positive about the accountancy market and the opportunities it can provide aspiring professionals, especially given the calibre of professional and commercial organisations based in Scotland.

So don’t be shy, sitting back waiting for it to come to you won’t work, you need to be on the front foot and demonstrate a hunger to progress and contribute to the future of the organisation. Make it known what you want to achieve and what help you need from your firm to achieve it! 

The ICAS Professional Development programme can also help you develop your career with specialist qualifications and training tailored to your career and leadership aspirations.

Each firm I have worked with I have always looked for three things before joining:

  • Does the culture fit and will I enjoy who I work with?
  • Will it provide me with the opportunity to grow and develop as a professional?
  • What do I bring to the table, can I make a positive contribution?

I believe if you can tick these three boxes you’ve found a home where you will be able to develop and achieve.

2. “Partnership vs Finance Director” - why did you choose to remain in practice?

There are a few reasons, but for me the primary reason is the people you get to work with and the relationships you develop, at various levels. From the fellow partners that you work alongside to run your business and the close relationship you build with your team, to the experience of partnering, and working closely with a range of clients.

There is also the variety of people and businesses that you are exposed to - each day is different. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with small privately owned companies to large public multinationals across a variety of industries.  

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This exposure and experience has been invaluable and you get a lot of satisfaction when you go on a journey with a client and can help them at various stages.

3. Succession planning appears to be a challenge for regional accounting firms, what are your thoughts around encouraging professionals to remain in practice or return to the profession?

I feel that the perception around practice is that the role of partner is one that is, more often than not, unachievable, and there is an air of uncertainty to what it really takes to progress within these senior roles and what the benefits really are.

I have worked within audit and assurance my whole career, but as my career has progressed I have been exposed to various roles and responsibilities, allowing me to develop a set of skills more aligned with a business owner rather than a technical auditor. From the role of Manager to Partner you are part of a senior team that are running a business, responsible for all areas including business growth and strategy, financial performance, staff management and development, culture, marketing, IT, etc.

In order to deal with the issue of succession planning we need to be more open and honest with our staff, talking to them more regularly and understanding what their longer term life and career goals are. Craig Maxwell, CA

When I have worked with my teams in the past I don’t expect everyone wants to be a Partner, but as long as they achieve all they want to from their careers and when they make their career decisions they make it well informed and at the right time for them.  

4. Embracing change in the accountancy profession is a hot topic of conversation. In your opinion what impact will the advancement of technology have on accountancy firms with regards to a change in skill set required, and consequently a change in the future skills of a partner?

Our profession has come a long way from the days of paper audits and multi coloured pens, I know I’ve not used my abacus in a long time!! But seriously, I believe we do well to keep up with the advancement of technology, we have to as we are external facing and employ a lot of young professionals who have certain expectations around technology. 

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Our clients’ own internal systems are evolving too, so how we service and correspond with them has to change. We need to be more tech savvy so that the way we present and communicate with clients and targets is effective and current.

This is a change in mind-set and a way of working and one that the future partner will need to embrace, the next generation expects it. This is heavily linked with the environment and culture we wish to generate for our staff, which is one focused on empowerment, trust and performance. And also how we interact, communicate and service our clients, technology can help us be at the forefront of our clients minds and service them more effectively.

Saying that, I am still a great believer that people work with people, so that human element will never go away, thankfully!!

About the author

Sophie Randles leads the Audit & Advisory business for Rutherford Cross, bringing with her a strong track record of delivering retained assignments at Director/Partner level in the accountancy profession in Scotland.

Contact Sophie Randles from Rutherford Cross for further advice or a confidential discussion on opportunities available in the Scottish market

Contact Rutherford Cross

This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.


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