Iain Wright graduated with an LLB in Law from the University of Birmingham in 1993. Since then he has gained almost 25 years’ experience in the tax and accountancy profession. Formerly a Tax Director with both KPMG and RSM Tenon in Birmingham, he founded the independent consultancy firm Claritas Tax in 2012. As the firm expands, Iain continues to recruit graduates, including other Birmingham alumni.
What first attracted you to study at the University of Birmingham?
The University of Birmingham had a really good reputation, and I was also attracted to living in a big city, with lots of new people. I remember being impressed during an open day, including the fact that the university had its own train station! I met a lot of the staff in the Law School, and liked the fact that there were lots of ex-lawyers and barristers working there.
And what did you most enjoy about your time at Birmingham?
It’s the people you meet and friends you still have, years after graduating, which matter most. I still see four other Birmingham alumni on a regular basis, and another five every year or so. I had a great social life at Birmingham, including Friday nights at the Guild. I also felt very supported as I moved from school into the real world.
What career aspirations did you have whilst studying at Birmingham?
I started Birmingham with the thought that I wanted to be a lawyer but this changed over time, as I began to enjoy different aspects of the course.
What was your first graduate job?
I started my working life in a small business in Derby, where I’m originally from, working in a sales role. I had decided that I needed to gain experience selling. After a year there, I set up my own business, bringing together my background in law, with accounting and finance.
And you trained as an accountant at KPMG?
Yes, from there I decided to join the graduate trainee scheme at KPMG in Birmingham. I knew I needed to gain more business experience. Over three years I trained as a Chartered Accountant, with the aim of working in tax long-term. I ended up spending 13 years at KPMG and became a Tax Director in the Birmingham office.
When and why did you set up Claritas Tax?
I had already gained the experience of running my own business during my 20s. In the early years I realised I needed to gain more business skills, and moved to KPMG, but I always knew that I would want to run my own business again in the future. You see people like Mark Zuckerberg, who start businesses from scratch, but most people need to work in a range of businesses first, and set up their own companies in their 30s and 40s. By the time I set up Claritas Tax I had excellent contacts, experience and industry knowledge. I started out sharing an office with a friend who had a law firm in Redditch. After a year and a half I started to take people on, and moved to the city centre. We are now a team of 16, including 4 graduate trainees.
Why did you stay in Birmingham?
After my short stint in Derby, I made the conscious decision to come back to Birmingham. There’s a great commercial centre, with law and accountancy firms, in the city. I’m not a Brummie by accident; I chose to live and work here, and that makes a difference.
Can you tell me about your current role?
There are two sides to my job: problem-solving and working with clients. A lot of what I do touches on company and corporate law, and keeping up-to-date with tax law changes every year. I help businesses looking to grow internationally, to acquire other businesses, to incentivise employees to grow their businesses and, ultimately, to enable their owners to sell or pass them on to the next generation. Typically, a client will talk to us about their ambitions for their business and we will work with them to achieve those ambitions, creating a road map that they, their lawyers and other advisers can follow to achieve the objective. I work closely with a number of corporate law firms, family businesses, and private equity houses, helping them to grow their businesses. The greatest sense of satisfaction comes from helping clients.
And what is your vision for Claritas Tax?
We are growing: I see the firm developing into a team of thirty people in Birmingham in the next three years. As we expand, I imagine we will also open an office in London. We take on two graduate trainees each year; we invest in their training and want them to stay on with us afterwards.
Do you have any advice for current students and recent graduates?
Whether you want to go into law or a legal-related sector such as tax, your law degree is very marketable. Law is not for everybody, so don’t cross other options off too soon. Other careers you can explore include accountancy, finance, private equity and the commercial sector, as they require many of the skills you learn during your law degree. For example, adopting a proactive way of looking at problems and critical thinking can be applied across a multitude of jobs.
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