At Bellingham Wallace, we have a diverse range of clients and services who offer challenging, complex, and interesting work. We have a collaborative and supportive atmosphere, where people genuinely care about each other's success. Bellingham Wallace is committed to people’s growth and development - there are loads of opportunities to step up. Future leaders can contribute to the growth of others while growing their own skills too. It is a non-corporate environment that fosters growth and individuality.
Let’s get started, we’re really interested to hear about your experience before Bellingham Wallace and how you got your foot in the door here.
My family had a car wash in Tauranga so I was doing a lot of outdoor work in overalls. In terms of the accounting side, I was doing some tutoring and running some of the family books to some degree. I got my foot in the door as I had a mate who was at GT and Niketa was her Manager, I knew that Bellingham Wallace was looking so I applied. I got an online interview and now I'm here! I applied for the role in October and I got the graduate role really quickly and I got it straight away. I have moved up since I have been there and I am now an accountant! I think my life experience has put me in a position better than some other people. I have had a bit of real-world experience and have done a bit of written stuff around crypto, sports, uni, and tutoring.
Now you’ve been in the role since February, how has it differed from your initial perception?
BW has more freedom than what was expected, Uni is very rigid and when you get a job here it is talking to clients really quickly. In March I was on the phone with clients! They trust you which is great.
You’re at a BBQ: How would you describe what Bellingham Wallace does?
I have generally told people that we help people, have a personal touch with clients, are more hands-on and responsive and find out more about what they do. I mainly do advisory, When you start as a Grad you prepare annual accounts and then you move into vCFO, monthly accounts, and Xero but over time you move into the Advisory side.
What’s a day in the life at Bellingham Wallace like for you as an Accountant?
Really depends on the day, Comms council in Greys Ave, I work off-site which is great. I come into the office, talk to everyone, and find out what everyone has done on the weekend. Reply to clients, reply to emails, go to meetings, plan your day out, and board meetings here there, and everywhere! Sometimes you do the minute taking which is a really good learning experience. You go with one of the directors to the Board Meetings. I went with Aaron for a client acquisition. Lunch with people in the office, good learnings, accounting is a really good background for starting your own business too, you get experience to do the transition to the other side, being able to run things and making decisions for people.
You mentioned challenges that come up for your clients, what sort of challenges are your clients facing? How do you help your clients overcome these challenges?
Tax problems, maybe they don’t have cash flow, use tax trader to help them, simple things, how do you do something in Xero, cashflow is a big thing, forecasting, governance, making sure companies stay afloat and have enough capital to make it through the hard stuff, bank loans, housing, looking at their incomes, term deposits to put their money into.
"The senior team takes graduates to board meetings, trying to push people to get out and about with clients, watching and learning."
A broad range of issues, helping a guy who sold a property, working from home, helping take steps of what we will be doing, a lot of legal, and dealing with the AML team. IRD accounts, foreign tax. The variety makes it interesting!
Thinking about your career, what do you believe BW offers compared to other firms (Big 4, commercial role, etc.)?
Hands-on experience with client interaction, finding your own rhythm, not stuck to a routine, a lot free-er, and able to progress quickly. Most people tend to enjoy that freedom and tend to stay.
What training does Bellingham Wallace offer?
Hands-on training. A bit of everything, when you start as a graduate, how to use work papers, different parts of tax, FBT, tax – the basics to get you grounded. A basic rundown of all of the accounting practices. The senior team takes graduates to board meetings, trying to push people to get out and about with clients, watching and learning. Lots of opportunities to ask questions, and they pair you up with a buddy so you have a personal mentor, It's more personal, you make friends with your buddy, which is great.
How do you get support from leadership when you need it?
Walk into their office and ask. There if you need it. Open door policy if you or your buddy don’t know something. You go through your list, find one of the seniors then ask a manager.
How would you describe the culture at Bellingham Wallace?
Good. Everyone is very friendly and supportive, and with all the pressure and stress there is still a laugh, If you can have a laugh you can get through anything. Everyone looks out for each other, if someone is heading out for food, they will grab some for the others, drinks, and dinners, there is a camaraderie there. You can get through any job if you have good people. Good people make a hard job easy!
Thinking about Bellingham Wallace's values of Family, Betterment, We’ve Got This, and Excellence - which one resonates most with you?
All of them to some degree, the one that stands out is Betterment, as they egg you on to take on challenges when they see you are ready to take the next step. They fit people's personalities to a job that suits a bit of everything.
Perks, what’s one you love?
The events that they do are always great fun, having a beer on a Friday is great, that's when you get to know people, and most people head upstairs and socialise and mingle.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Gym, having fun, and blowing off a bit of steam on the weekend. Staying healthy, getting out and about, and getting outdoors, Turangi fly fishing was really fun this weekend. Skiing every year down in Queenstown, the Remarkables, is such great fun. Some weekends I go to Tauranga and the Mount where I am from to see family. I have had the privilege of being able to work down there a few times too which is great.
How do you like to keep up with your industry? Books, podcasts, etc?
Monthly reports people write, LinkedIn, big news spreads really quickly - you have to be living under a rock not to know some things, going to events in the industry, Mike is the president of the North Harbour Club ‘Next Gen Leaders’ - quiz, chance to mingle with people in the industry, listening to radio, read a bit of news, talking to people, getting out and about.
"Everyone looks out for each other, if someone is heading out for food, they will grab some for the others, drinks, and dinners, there is a camaraderie there. You can get through any job if you have good people. Good people make a hard job easy!"
Board meetings you hear more inside goss than what you hear on the radio! I don’t really listen to podcasts, my buddy Andy reads the business newspaper out to us in the office.
If you were an accountant looking for a new job would you choose Bellingham Wallace?,
They have a great location, a 10-minute walk to Newmarket, good people, hands-on, I was eager as it was icehouse and advisory which is more interesting than being an auditor. It is hard at the start, you wing it for a while and figure out what comes. Your first job is important, you would quit if you didn’t like it. They ease you into the areas where they think you would fit and then they get you working on the others. People who thrive are people who are eager to learn, a bit of an extrovert, want a laugh but are hard-working, someone who will make the most of the opportunity, have the soft skills to talk to clients, outgoing adventurous people.
What drives and motivates you? Where do you see your career heading?
Money! Ha ha! The opportunity, to get to know and be known in the business community, gets to a point where you are respected in the community for helping people. It is the most invasive of all professions, you get to know people's financials, you become a councilor, most people are not good for money, helping people at a stressful time, the help and the regular contact, we haven't forgotten about you. It can be a life-or-death situation for a lot of people. When you are a small business you have your house on the line, your kids are not old enough to support yourself, your wife is sick, and you are at the age it's too hard to come back from it.
If you gave advice to someone starting out here, how would you suggest to them so that they could accelerate their growth?
Ask a lot of questions, even the most outrageous and crazy ideas, if you don’t stump a manager, you haven’t asked a hard enough question. Think from a different angle, put your best foot forward, and try. You should put your hand up! If you have the capacity to go and look for work, go to all the social events, and talk to people, that's how you build up the familiar conversations that will help you, people will stand up for you when they like you. Ask questions, spend time figuring it out, ask if you're stuck, and don't be afraid!
What’s one word to describe what it’s like working for Bellingham Wallace?
Impactful! You are providing assistance, you will work for them, and there will be appreciation and thanks. You can see a bad situation and work that you have contributed to has impacted them, as they have come out okay at the other end. You’re not playing around with fake numbers, you are helping a charity, helping someone save their house, helping someone save tax fees, you are helping someone's issues. You are like a counselor, listening to people and helping them overcome their issues. You hear a lot about people's lives, you get more familiar with people. It's not just about the numbers. It is full in depth into what someone is doing in life, and what their actual position is. A lot of people run close to the wind.
Any other comments?
From entering as a graduate, you move up to accountant via a checklist. You need to be proactive and talk to your Manager about the one-month review, and goals for the next month. You need to justify, tick the boxes, and learn and grow. You need to self-review and get feedback. You will be stuck if you haven’t self-reviewed. It is really important.
We had one month where I hadn’t done GST, next month I had lots, I mentioned that I wanted to talk to clients more, and next month I am chucked out and meeting with clients. Next part of growth, the managers are very intuitive, they can tell people's personalities and push people into situations that will best suit their skills.
You want to push forward and get to the highest point possible. At BW it is possible to move through, get your CA, and more experience, and show what you're made of, and you will get pushed up and move up the ranks. The sky's the limit!
The further you go through the more flexible, as a grad you couldn't work from home. I have been lucky to work occasionally from Tauranga but in general, I like being in the office.
You mentally prime yourself, get your suit, get your coffee.
Learning a lot from the directors with board meetings and client acquisitions, a push to make it more enjoyable for staff. Aaron is very good at giving his talks and speeches. Watching the interaction shows you a good way of doing things, watching people who are good at it is great and helps you to learn.
I gave a presentation to a company and Mike jumped in when necessary to explain things in a bit better way. You feel supported, they have your back.