60-second interview with Ian Raspin

Monday, 14 September 2020
This area of practice has opened doors that I would never have dreamed possible, says Ian Raspin TEP, one of last year's PCA winners.

What is your role within your firm?

I’m the Managing Director.

How did it feel to win a STEP Private Client Award last year?

It was humbling being in a room with nearly 700 senior leading STEP peers from around the world. The entire vibrancy and atmosphere of the evening was how I imagine it would be to attend the Oscars; it was a very professionally-conducted evening, which was unquestionably a personal career highlight.

Why is winning a STEP PCA important to your firm?

The beauty of this award, which was for Accountancy Team of the Year (midsize firm), is that it recognises and rewards the collaborative efforts, dedication and teamwork of the entire BNR team. Our very success and ability to practice is only possible as a result of the team’s contributions, and so my colleague Irene Liew TEP and I were really proud and honoured to accept it on their behalf. They are an amazing group of people whom I have the pleasure and privilege to work with every day.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation at the moment?

Our work continues to grow exponentially every year, so one of our major challenges is how to manage this growth whilst meeting the needs and expectations of our clients. In particular, this requires continued work on our systems and processes, and attracting quality staff who both fit our culture, and are happy to specialise in a growing niche of the market.

We practise in a relatively small market in Australia, working predominantly with other professionals such as legal practitioners and trustee companies. It is therefore critical that our level of professionalism and ability to deliver is maintained, as news travels fast in these circles.

How will you deal with these challenges?

This area of practice is not well understood by the general accounting community in Australia, and it is therefore almost impossible to obtain professional staff who have an understanding this area.

Accordingly, we identified skill sets critical for each role, and then invest heavily in training the successful applicant. Much of this takes place in-house as there is very little that’s suitable externally. Continued professional development is a large focus of the practice.

Attracting professionals into a narrow but deep market niche is also very difficult and means that it is essential we can communicate and present a clear vision for the practice, together with both the career and professional opportunities that exist for potential staff by joining the firm.

We recently appointed a dedicated Business Manager to ensure we have someone whose sole responsibility is to oversee and review our operational systems and processes. We were fortunate to be able to make this appointment in-house from our existing management team, with someone whose attention to detail and professional focus will ensure success in this role.

What do you like best about your job?

On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to work in a field that I feel very passionate about, and have the honour of working with leading industry legal practitioners and trustee companies across the country. Together, we are able to work and resolve both complex and simple estate matters, assist people in need of professional advice, and generally add value by providing a trusted and reliable service.

.. and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

To me, people, and building trusted relationships is the key to everything. Focusing on these relationships, building mutual respect and going those extra miles to assist and support other practitioners, together with delivering high standards and results to assist their clients, provides a real sense of achievement, pride for the team and establishes valued long-term relationships.

What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?

With the evolution of technology, outsourcing and big data, typical general practices (be that legal or accounting), are significantly changing and will continue to reduce in numbers. It is therefore critical that individuals develop a strategy on their career path choice to ensure they remain professionally relevant. One strategy that I subscribed to myself, was to become a specialist and to dive deep into a particular area of our profession.

Estates and trusts are globally becoming more interconnected, and unquestionably a growth market that requires specialist expertise. This entails working with other professionals on client matters, interpreting tax law and resolving complex and challenging matters. It is a really exciting area of practice, and even after nearly 20 years, not a week passes where we see situations and issues that we have never seen before, or even contemplated.

This area of practice has opened doors that I would never have dreamed possible and provides daily challenges and variety. I have met and worked with amazing and influential people, undertaken pro bono work, travelled the world and I continue to learn and grow every single day.

Where do you see future growth, both in terms of sectors and jurisdictions?

One of our long-term strategies has been to invest heavily in providing education and awareness of estate taxation issues to the legal community across Australia. This has worked well and is now starting to provide a return, with referrals being received weekly both nationwide and abroad. I am confident this will continue to grow our practice, as both our brand and market awareness on estate taxation issues continues to grow, and indeed we have had matters referred to us directly by the Supreme Court of Australia.

Like many OECD countries, Australia has an ageing wealthy population and we are starting to see the highest-ever intergenerational wealth transfer starting to occur. Given almost half of the population are either first or second generation immigrants, the complexities of these estates containing international assets, executors or beneficiaries is also increasing significantly. This is an area where we benefit from having access to a global network of capable and reliable STEP members, to whom we can refer or consult.

With the increasing complexities of individuals affairs, the international aspects of many families, an ageing population and estate litigation being one of the highest growth areas in litigation in Australia, I truly believe that this is a very exciting and growing area of practice.

Which social media channels do you use and why?

Our main social media focus is via LinkedIn. As a predominantly professional platform, it attracts legal practitioners who are our major client focus. We use it to assist in delivering a small part of our educational strategy and an awareness of legislative or regulatory changes on estate tax issues.

We find that traditional social media platforms such as Facebook are seen as more of a social connection and whilst we do accept appointments from individuals acting as executor/trustee, they are not our primary market focus.

Author block
Ian Raspin
Ian Raspin

Ian Raspin TEP is Managing Director of BNR Partners in Victoria, Australia. He joined the Victorian State Branch in 2016 and also became a Director of STEP Australia in 2016 where he now serves as a National Director and Treasurer. He regularly presents technical papers at STEP events around the country, and abroad, on Australian estate taxation matters. BNR Partners also regularly sponsors STEP events throughout Australia.