A fast-growing team of accountants has taken on more new members of staff after creating its own traineeship programme which has produced four new apprentices.

The Durham franchise of national network Certax has been based at Parson’s Court on Aycliffe Business Park since August 2013.

After impressive growth, partners Matthew McConnell and Jonathan Tait decided to buy their own premises at the end of 2015 after renting part of a nearby office block for two years

They paid a six-figure sum to purchase a two-storey building, previously leased by construction firm Southdale which had gone into liquidation, from Cheshire-based owners Gladman Developments.

In September 2016, Certax Durham added eight new employees to its growing team and has since added another four.

They include new payroll director Craig Holmes and apprentices Nathan Ebblewhite (accounts), Ellis Tait (accounts), Shelby Raine (admin) and Aran Wilkinson (tax), who have completed a new training programme with the firm.

Certax teamed up with a local recruitment consultant to advertise the traineeship scheme, which received 60 applicants who were initially whittled down to 10.

Seven of those then took part in the six-week training programme leading up to Christmas 2016. The four successful applicants started their apprenticeships in January, with three of them studying at New College Durham and one at Bishop Auckland College.

Partner McConnell said: “We wanted to come up with a training programme to give young local people the opportunity to get a foot in the door of accounting and finance.

“During the six-week training programme the applicants got a general feel for how the business works. They’d spend the morning with us doing some basic work experience – answering the phones and general admin – and in the afternoon they spent time with a tutor, learning some basic accounting and VAT return analysis.

“We’ve invested a lot of time and money into the programme but it has already paid dividends. When the successful applicants started with us in January, it was like taking on four new members of staff who have really hit the ground running and have been a breath of fresh air.”

Along with the appointment of Craig Holmes as payroll director, Certax has also promoted three junior staff to account managers.

The move will enable McConnell and Tait to spend more time on business development while also completing their studies to become fully-accredited chartered accountants.

McConnell: “We have ambitious plans to grow the business so we’ve appointed three accounts managers to manage our bank of clients, while Craig will also be solely responsible for existing payroll clients as well as winning new work.

“It will enable us to spend more time with our clients and develop the business, as well as complete our studies to become fully chartered accountants.

“We started studying two years ago – to become ACA-accredited chartered accountants and CTA-accredited chartered tax advisors – but we had to put more time into growing and developing the business.

“Becoming fully chartered will enable us to win more new clients and grow the business again.”

Certax’s team at Aycliffe is now up to 20, while the firm has grown its client list from 700 to more than 1,000 customers.

It’s now one of the best performing franchises in the UK, of around 200, and is dealing with a range of clients, from sole traders up to £5m-a-year companies including multi-national sports clothing brands among others.

It’s an impressive success story for entrepreneurs McConnell and Tait, who were aged just 23 and 22 respectively when they launched the business with one administrator.

They currently have a total of eight apprentices, while three other apprentices have completed their training and left for other work.

Certax Durham can help businesses with all elements of finance, from audits, self assessment tax, payroll and VAT returns, accounts for sole traders, partnerships and limited companies, personal and business taxation planning, company formation and corporation tax compliance and planning.

Certax also uses and offers free training in the KashFlow accounting system, which saves businesses precious time by providing a quick and easy-to-use online system which helps them keep on top of their finances with invoicing, cash flow management and automatic VAT return generation and filing at the touch of a button.