To understand the Firm’s core values today and how they became inculcated into its DNA, one has to look back to its origins in 1933 and all that has happened since. The Firm has been shaped not just by events themselves but by the choices made in response to those events by the rich tapestry of individuals who have served the Firm as partners over the years. Rawlinson & Hunter is rather unusual as an accountancy Firm dedicated largely to services to private clients, many of whom have been as unusual, eccentric and exceptional as the partners of the Firm. The Firm’s rather individual history, from the early careers of its two founding partners up to the start of the first Coronavirus lockdown, has been recorded in detail in a private publication authored by partner Andrew Shilling, ‘Rawlinson & Hunter 1919-2019 – Taking the Road Less Travelled’. If you would like a copy, let us know. In the meantime, we hope that you find this interesting as historical background to the Firm.
The Firm was established in London in 1933 by Alfred Rawlinson and Robert Hunter. They were chalk and cheese. Hunter, who was a forceful and assertive character and a first class tennis player, dealt with the administration of the Firm and took most of the decisions, while Rawlinson was a quiet, gentle and unassuming personality who took no exercise as a result of injuries sustained in the 1914-18 war. Yet they found that they could work together very well and the practice flourished. In the early days of the practice, the Firm dealt with a combination of international corporate work for cases such as Nestlé together with a smattering of personal tax cases. In 1934, Felix Chivers, who had won the tax prize in the Institute’s exams, was recruited to the Firm. He became a partner in 1941 and served as partner for 30 years.
It was Chivers, rather than Rawlinson or Hunter, who was responsible for the Firm’s orientation towards private client work for wealthy individuals. He began to advise in depth on Estate Duty and attracted many influential new clients to the Firm. This type of work led him to become involved in family trusts and trust work, which became an important part of the Firm’s service offering, as it remains today. He was by all accounts a real character who was very closely and intimately concerned with the affairs of his clients. On one occasion he was left babysitting a client’s young child and on another, he was responsible for arranging the repatriation from abroad of the body of a deceased client. The Firm offers a ‘partner-led’ service, and Chivers was perhaps the first proponent for this style of client relationship.
During the Second World War, working conditions in London became difficult. Hunter recounts; ‘We had hardly any staff left, and those we had were all arriving late or leaving early because of the threat of bombing. So I set out to find a refuge outside of London, and found an old house, Masons Farm, with 13 rooms in a small beautiful village in Oxfordshire. My family were installed there and the rest of the house was used as our offices.’ We consider this to be an early example of working from home, 80 years ahead of its time. A few members of staff continued to work in the Firm’s office in Aldwych, which survived intact in spite of damage caused by a V-1 flying bomb attack on 30 June 1944.
As the Firm emerged from WWII, it began to look beyond Britain’s shores for business opportunities. A client asked the Firm to deal with the accounting affairs for his hotel in Bermuda. Work permits were obtained to enable staff to spend all year there, which led to the establishment of the Bermuda office in 1963. The partners continued to look for expansion opportunities and future senior partner, Peter Hetherington, spearheaded the establishment of the Jersey office in 1972 after his biggest client moved there to escape Chancellor Roy Jenkins’ imposition of a 136% tax rate on investment income exceeding £15,000 (the highest tax rate in British history!).
The Firm’s entrepreneurial spirit was demonstrated with the opening of offices in Cayman, BVI, Guernsey, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and, in 2013, in Singapore. This brought a significant number of international clients to the Firm and many of the London Firm’s clients to this day are individuals with overseas aspects to their tax affairs. Partners are encouraged to develop clients in sectors where they have a personal specialism or interest, and the Firm currently has a number of clients in the art world, motor sport and private equity, to name but a few.
Rawlinson & Hunter is a Firm which is rich in history, a history which has shaped not just what we do but the core values which we apply in doing it. We are all, partners and staff, proud of the Firm, its independence, our clients and the quality of the service which we offer.