Making it Work

Investing in community pays off for award-winning accountancy firm

Ashbourne-based FAH Chartered Accountants puts time and effort into corporate and social responsibility in the Co Meath town

Fiona Hickey of FAH Chartered Accountants: ‘I come from a family of entrepreneurs. There’s a long history of self-employment in the family.’ Picture: Barry Cronin

Starting out on your own when there are safer options available with far more resources is always brave, but few things are quite as validating as outperforming all of those alternatives in the eyes of your peers.

That’s what Fiona Hickey achieved last year with FAH Chartered Accountants, the business she started in Ashbourne, Co Meath, in 2014, as it was named small practice of the year and overall practice of the year at the 2022 Irish Accountancy Awards.

“One of the things we specialise in is personal and business tax planning. If a parent wants to hand over a business to a child, we help them manage that. Likewise, a family may have a lot of assets and we help them manage the estate,” Hickey told the Business Post.

“I’m fourth generation Ashbourne. The office is close to where I was raised. The area the office is in used to be a field that I played in.”

Those close ties to her home town meant that Hickey always wanted to start something there despite the opportunities that came with larger companies in her field.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. There’s a long history of self-employment in the family. I trained in and worked in Deloitte, then with US multinationals, but I always had the sense that I would come back to the grassroots of dealing with people,” she said.

“Really, it was that sense of wanting to help people – whether it was in business or personal situations – that drove me.”

Having started as a sole operator, Hickey’s business has grown to now have seven staff.

“When I started my practice, it was a big change. I didn’t know what I was setting myself up, for but the biggest challenge was training myself into what a small practice looks like and what services were needed,” she said.

“I started with no customers. My brother was the first, helping his company. It grew from him to his friend, to a third person, and on from there. It was all organic through referrals. The more people I got, the more referrals I got.”

Hickey earned her professional tax qualification in 2016, which allowed her to take on more tax-related work and engage with a broader client base.

“Most of my clients aren’t Ashbourne-based because my network is in Dublin, but I have local clients. I’ve got a strong brand in the town and I’m invested in the community, supporting the sports clubs, schools and charities,” she said.

“I give a lot of time and effort to corporate and social responsibility. I feel that if we lead by example then our clients will see importance in it. When you live and work somewhere and it’s part of your heritage, you become invested in it.”

The double win at the Irish Accountancy Awards was special to Hickey as it showed validation from peers for her approach to helping her community.

“In terms of small practice of the year, our submission was based on how quickly we had grown and how we were servicing some specialised areas through upskilling, along with our local CSR work,” she said.

“The story just resonated with the judges. It has been a huge assistance to how our existing clients view us. We always hoped they thought they were with the best – now they know they are with the best.”