AMBITIOUS plans have been revealed to create 250 jobs at the Scottish arm of an international accounting firm over the next five years, lifting its current headcount by 50 per cent.

Azets, which incorporates the former Scottish accountancy firms Campbell Dallas and Scott Moncrieff, unveiled the target as it declared its aim to increase turnover from its Scottish operation to more than £60 million by 2026. The division currently turns over around £40m.

While those expansion hopes are “heavily-weighted towards organic growth”, the firm opened the door to “bolt-on” acquisitions, including in parts of Scotland where it is presently under-represented.

The targets were disclosed as Azets, which currently employs around 500 staff and partners in Scotland, announced a “multi-million-pound” investment in a new digitised, hybrid working model.

Campbell Dallas became part of the global accounting organisation now known as Azets when it was acquired by Cogital Group in October 2017. Scott Moncrieff, which could trace its roots back to 1792, followed suit in April 2019. Cogital was rebranded as Azets in September, with the group employing more than 6,500 staff and 600 partners across 160 offices in the UK and Europe.

Asked to comment on the reasons for the firm’s optimism, Peter Gallanagh, chief executive of Azets for Scotland and The North, said: “I just feel, when we speak to clients, there is a bit of a coiled spring in the economy at this point in time. There is a lot of cash around. Good businesses have been very frugal so I think there is an opportunity when businesses open up.”

Mr Gallanagh said Azets has identified an opportunity to pick up audit work for small and medium-sized enterprises from the ‘big four’ accounting giants, following recent reforms to the profession.

It is also seeing an increase in demand from family businesses – “the bedrock of the Scottish economy” – seeking advice on matters such as selling or passing companies on to the next generation.

Mr Gallanagh said: “For me, we are well suited to take advantage of that. Also, as we move towards the digitalisation of the compliance side of the business, we will be able to move up the advisory chain and provide more advisory services. That is what clients are after.”

He added: “I just think we have a massive opportunity in the Scottish marketplace.”

In geographical terms, Mr Gallanagh said Azets would consider “bolt-on” acquisitions to build on its position in Ayr and the area south of the town, and around Inverness and north-west of Scotland.

However, he said the projection to lift turnover to £60m in five years does not depend on acquisitions, noting that if deals were done the Scottish operation could raise sales even further.

Confidence levels among clients is currently “mixed” and dependent on the sector they operate in.

“Clearly, the high street is suffering,” he said. “These people need some sort of support and help.”

Meanwhile, Azets said that its staff will be encouraged to work from anywhere under the new hybrid working model, which it hopes will help open career opportunities for people in their local areas.

As part of the investment, the firm said it will be making a multi-million-pound investment in its office network, including the opening of new premises in Aberdeen’s Albyn Place, and The Reel House in Glasgow, based in the former Odeon cinema on West Regent Street. It will also carry out refurbishments at its 25,000 square foot premises in Braehead, where it plans to establish a flexible working environment, with remodelling work also planned for its offices in Perth and Edinburgh.

Mr Gallanagh said the new hybrid working model has been developed in response to feedback from staff, who have welcomed the flexibility that working from home during lockdown has brought.

He said: “They have been saying to us that they would love to have that form of flexibility and we have listened to them. I think that is the way the business is going now. We have got to listen and give that flexibility.

“It is a natural extension. Yes, at times they need to be in the office, that is how you build the ethos, the culture of the business… but at the same time they need to have the flexibility to be able to have that work-life balance.”