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Long service awards are not unusual at PKF Francis Clark, but one colleague has eclipsed them all by reaching an amazing half century with the South West’s largest independent accountancy firm.
Partnership private secretary Mary Hooper, who retires this month after 50 years with the firm, started her career as a junior typist at the age of 16 in September 1973. Subsequent promotions saw her take on a variety of secretarial roles, supporting numerous partners and managing partners over the years, as well as working in event management, HR and marketing.
I’ve made some long-term friendships during my 50 years and it has been a privilege to work with the partners and colleagues – a great place to work.
Mary, who recalled being interviewed as a nervous 15-year-old, said: “I cannot thank Derek Swann and Tony Pitkin enough for offering me the job back in 1973. Francis Clark has gone from strength to strength over the past 50 years, has faced some challenges but continued to prosper. The collegiate culture and ethos of a true partnership has remained constant in that time, happy to act for the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, as well as AIM-listed companies.
“Francis Clark has been an amazing employer; understanding, progressive, supportive, innovative, challenging, and I’m sure will continue to thrive over the coming years. I’ve made some long-term friendships during my 50 years and it has been a privilege to work with the partners and colleagues – a great place to work.”
Mary started her working life in the original Newton Abbot office where the firm’s founder Francis Clark opened his accountancy practice in 1919. She later moved to the firm’s offices in Torquay and latterly Exeter, where she has been based since 2016, as personal assistant to managing partner Andrew Richards. She described her current role as partnership private secretary as the pinnacle of her career, adding that former managing partner Les Burnett and retired partner Steve Collins, with whom she worked for 40 years, were two of the biggest influences on her working life.
Since joining Francis Clark, Mary has seen the firm grow from 50 people in three offices to more than 950 across nine offices today. Reflecting on how working life has changed over the past five decades, she said: “You certainly didn’t call partners by their first names in those days, and the wearing of trousers by female members of staff was a definite no-no.
“One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the firm since I joined 50 years ago is in the technology we use. I’ve managed to embrace and learn new skills as we have progressed from manual typewriters to computers and from an old-fashioned switchboard to Microsoft Teams, but I remember fondly the good old fashioned typewriter.”
Among the highlights of her career with PKF Francis Clark, Mary lists helping to organise the firm’s centenary celebrations at Powderham Castle in 2019. She also recalled having to hastily rearrange a partners’ conference in Jersey when fog prevented attendees from flying to the original venue in Guernsey.
Mary’s wide variety of roles, her knowledge of the history of the firm and most of all her personality have had a significant and positive effect on our business and all those who have worked with her.
Managing partner Andrew Richards said: “Mary’s contribution to the firm has not only been over a long time but has been influential. The wide variety of roles, her knowledge of the history of the firm and most of all her personality have had a significant and positive effect on our business and all those who have worked with her.
“From a personal point of view, Mary helped me in the transition to becoming managing partner and has been an important confidant who has helped me over the past seven years. Along with the firm and the many colleagues who have worked with and befriended Mary, I wish her a happy and healthy retirement and thank her for her significant contribution.”
Mary lives in Newton Abbot, where she volunteered in a number of roles with the town’s rugby club for over 20 years. She is looking forward to the birth of her second grandchild, which happily is due to coincide with her retirement.
“Whilst I’ll be busy spending my retirement with our grandchildren, I will really miss coming to work every day,” she said. “I’ve always looked forward to each day in the office.
“I had two short spells of maternity leave to have my children and came back to work, initially on a part-time basis. I was always able to be flexible around childcare when my children were growing up, allowing me to be a mum and have a successful career.”
Find out more about careers at PKF Francis Clark.