VETERAN Newcastle business advisor Kellie Wright is the new chief executive officer of Maxim Business Advisors following the union of Maxim and Forsythes Accounting.
Ms Wright, a former partner at Forsythes Accounting, describes the union of the two firms as a "true merger" due to their operational synergies and like cultures.
The merger coincides with a "super busy" time in her profession.
"We are heading into a busy time of the year anyway but we are requested at the moment for a lot of client support, there's a lot of discussion around what's happening in their business, the effect of lockdown, government grant support, ongoing financial viability discussions, helping them wade through that," the 47-year-old says.
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Ms Wright says on a whole, her clients are travelling well, but uncertainty remains the biggest inhibitor.
"People are unsure of what the future will look like, whether they are going well or not ... It goes from everything to, 'I'm not sure when my kids return to school so I'm not sure when I can run at proper capacity,' through to, 'How long will we be in lockdown, will the economy recover, how long will the government support continue," she says.
Prior to the merger, Maxim and Forsythes Accounting operate across the hallway from each other in their Watt Street offices.
"We each have expertise that the other might have been lacking, or experience. We just saw an opportunity to provide opportunities to our clients and staff and ourselves in a larger organisation," she says of the merger.
Maxim brings a larger financial planning business to the merger, and Ms Wright said the new entity would largely remain the same as far as clients are concerned.
"We don't want to disrupt those relationships but over time, new clients will be shared, our people will work for different directors at different times and we'll make sure of the synergies of both," she said.
Ms Wright's first job out of university was at then PWC. She joined Forsythes in 2001 and was made a partner nine years later.
"I have been over my career fairly ambitious one step at a time though and I got to a point where it was that was the next challenge and that's what I wanted to do. That's why I left PWC, I never would ave been a parter probably in a multi-national firm and I wanted flexibility to have that. "
Her core work is to assist SMEs or, as she says, "mum and dad businesses".
"That's what I enjoy, I like advising people and working with them to improve and grow their business," she says.
With two children at high school, she understands the effect of the pandemic on staff working from home and says the firm has a "reasonably casual and really balanced" culture that sees them "work hard but not for long - we have a good work life balance and we have not got staff who work until midnight each night as I understand other firms may have".
Ms Wright says she has mostly felt supported and respected as a woman in a male-dominated industry and she's proud of her appointment.
"I think it doesn't really matter whether I am female or male and I don't feel that matters to my directors either but I'm proud of the appointment and proud to lead a really, really good team that does really good work with good clients," she says.
She hopes her appointment sends a message to younger women that "you can make it into a leadership role, that there really isn't anything stopping you if that's what you want to do, other than your own drive, confidence and abilities".
"I think it's good to see a female leading one of Newcastle's premier financial services business because accounting does traditionally have a lot of female employees but we don't have a lot of female leaders," she says.
Ms Wright will be supported in her role as CEO by directors Warwick Turnbull, Chris Sneddon, Steve Roxby, Scott Norrish, Damien Cameron, Cassandra Sharp and Scott Brooks.
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