Clearhouse LLP Accounting
Taking into ‘account’ the client while meeting industry demands
Business View Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with executives from Clearhouse LLP to talk about trends in the accounting industry and how the company is meeting these demands for our focus on professional services
Although competition remains fierce in the accounting world, the cream always rises to the top. Proving this time-old adage to be true, Clearhouse LLP has worked hard to earn its place among the big players. Carving its niche in the market, Clearhouse LLP offers clients the expertise of a Big Four public chartered accounting firm with the hands-on familiarity of a smaller company.
“Generally, if you want someone to deal with complex tax issues, restructuring type work, and even international type work, you would need to go to some of the bigger national firms. But with us, we’re all from some of the bigger firms and we got a lot of experience from those firms,” says Clearhouse tax partner Karndeep Sandhu.
“Our competitive advantage, generally, is the fact that we’re not this large firm like Deloitte and Touche, but we do have a similar skill set and that’s really helped us grow.”
The Toronto, Canada-based tax firm was founded as a small two-man project in 2013 by Sandhu and fellow partner Sarb Cheema. The third partner, Pat Kenney, joined the ranks in 2017 and from there the business took off.
“Over the years we grew from working in a basement to moving into a shared office space and at that point there were five or six employees in just one small room, and then we transitioned to a 1500 square-foot office and again we outgrew that,” Sandhu recalls. “Now we’re at a 7500-square-foot office and we’re close to outgrowing that as well.”
Today, the company has grown to more than 50 employees that divide their time between working from home and in the office. The full-service chartered accounting firm is made up of three main departments – Assurance run by Kenney, SME run by Cheema, and Tax run by Sandhu. Assurance works on audits and reviews, providing public company audits for 47 public companies and counting. “We do a lot of public company audits,” Sandhu says. “These are companies that are on the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange), Venture, and whatnot.” The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) division understands how accounting and financial reporting can be complex for private companies. We provide three main services that are essential to business’ success, including year-end tax filings, financial statement preparation, and business advisory services.
The company’s tax division focuses on corporate restructuring, including things like setting up family trusts, helping clients with purchase and sale transactions, amalgamations, and more. They also provide international tax work as well.
“So any type of complex type of work, that’s kind of where we jump in,” Sandhu explains. “We actually have other accounting firms that reach out to us to help with some of the complex work. What ends up happening is that instead of having to go to some of those big firms, clients end up using us because we’re not as big as some of the other firms, we don’t obviously have as much overhead, but we do provide the same expertise they do.”
“What we found is that sometimes at the bigger firms you don’t always have access to the partners because they’re big organizations. They’re dealing with Fortune 500 companies and that’s their priority,” Sandhu explains. “With us, a lot of the clients, we’re dealing with them directly. And sometimes clients do want a lot of handholding when it comes to some of these intricate tax plans. They just want someone that has the ability to listen and communicate complex tax terms with ease and in plain language.
“We’re accessible, but at the same time, we’re providing the same expertise that some of the big firms provide. It really goes a long way.”
Having the ability to speak one-on-one to clients helps them feel heard and allows them to be part of, and understand, some of the complexities of the process.
“They really appreciate that,” Sandhu says. “Instead of being left in the dark, where we just do the transaction and then we go our separate ways, there are conversations that need to take place. If there are questions to be had, we try to be there for them because, at the end of the day, not everyone is going to understand some of the intricacies that are involved in some of the work that we do. We explain why we do things and we have found that clients really do appreciate that.”
That human touch has helped the firm grow exponentially over the years, largely just through word of mouth.
“A lot of our clients have really partnered with us, they’ve appreciated the expertise and the level of service,” Sandhu says. “We’ve had all organic growth. We don’t really do any advertising. Our existing clientele, our family, our friends have really been there for us in the sense that they’ve kind of helped us get out there and have referred a lot of clients to us.”
It’s not just their clients who are recognizing Clearhouse’s success. The firm was recently named one of Canada’s Top Growing Companies of 2022 by the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s most widely-regarded national newspapers.
“That’s something we are really proud of,” Sandhu says. “We are really excited about this award.”
Sandu redits the firm’s staff with helping to make Clearhouse into the firm it is today.
“What makes us unique is that we’ve got great staff,” he says. “They’re very intelligent and very dedicated individuals. Without our staff, I don’t think we would be where we’re at. They bring that level of expertise to the table. The type of work we do isn’t done by a medium-sized firm. That type of work is usually saved for some of the bigger firms. The fact that we are able to help clients with some of the more complex issues whether it’s international tax, public company audits, doing IPOs, and stuff like that, that’s really helped us go a long way. And it’s because we have a really great staff. We have really bright individuals that have helped us really grow the practice.”
In addition to its knowledge base, Clearhouse also works to stay ahead of the game when it comes to technology. “Our team is tech-savvy and are up-to-date with the latest technology offerings,” Sandhu says, which often makes our client service delivery very smooth,” he adds..
“We do try to stay ahead of the curve,” he says. “For example, in audit, we’ve started using some software that helps us with the selection of sampling risk assessments and journal entry testing. That’s something that’s really sped things up. So we’re always trying to look for ways to use technology to improve the process and speed things up.”
When they’re not focusing on their client’s needs, Clearhouse is focused on bettering the community around them. In October, the firm got together to help prepare meals for a charitable organization. Partners are on the boards of, and they help provide financial education to, local charities as well.
“That’s something that we’ve really put in place and something we want to continue to grow on,” Sandu says.
Though they’ve made tremendous progress in the short amount of time the firm has existed, Sandhu has his sights set on even bigger growth for the future of Clearhouse.
“We want to continue the trajectory of our growth,” he says. “We really do want to be seen as one of the bigger firms out there. We want to constantly evolve. We want to refine some of our processes at the firm just to make things run a little smoother. But we definitely do want to see ourselves as one of the bigger firms and that’s something we are really striving towards.”
“As we continue to grow our hands-on touch will always remain the same.” Sandhu elaborates.
“That’s been our competitive advantage and it really is part of the mission and vision that we have as a firm,” Sandhu says. “As we grow, we are focused on developing and promoting our existing team and recruiting bright and ambitious people to join us. And to support our growth, we anticipate adding more senior roles into our structure and possibly more firm partners. Investing in our existing staff and bringing on new talent is a key business imperative for us.”
“Part of the mission we have really does try to take advantage of the fact that we’re a lean organization, we’re nimble. We are able to deal with the client issues, we’re accessible and part of that is just refining some of the processes so we have more time to deal with more clients, but not take away from what has helped us to get here.”
AT A GLANCE
What: A full-service chartered accounting firm
Where: Toronto, Ontario, Canada