The following is an extract from the Welcoming Address at William Buck’s 120th Birthday Celebration delivered by Nikolas Hatzistergos, Chairman of William Buck International, to over 160 Directors and Managers.
“Tonight is an exceptional evening as we celebrate William Buck’s 120th Birthday.
Over the past few days we have been focused on building pillars for our future and our aspirational growth. So if you’ll permit me, I’d like to take short look how we got here in the first place.
We start, of course, with Mr William Buck.
Born in Launceston in 1870, William Buck was a very capable and resourceful man. He was only 25 when he started his own practice, younger than many of us here. It was 1895 and one can only imagine the drive, energy and vision it must have taken to establish a new business in the midst one of the country’s worst economic depressions.
But William Buck was no ordinary man, and his firm was no ordinary firm. With a passion for helping people and their businesses reach their full potential, he soon built an irrefutable reputation as the firm of choice among the Melbourne business community.
With a desire to raise the bar within the accounting profession and with nine children to fend for, he went onto found his own school of accounting. Mr Buck would spend the day tending to his clients’ needs and the evenings teaching aspiring accountants.
Under his tutelage between 1906 and 1927, hundreds (if not thousands) of students prepared for the Final Examination which would see them admitted to the Incorporated Institute of Accountants in Victoria - the forerunner of what we know today as Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
Described by his students as courteous, generous and a ‘true friend’; he took a personal interest in each of his students, providing a life changing experience which paid dividends, as many went on to excel in the business and academic communities.
Mr.Buck remained committed to the firm he founded, where he remained a Principal until 1947 when he moved back to Launceston.
With such a notable father one might wonder how William Buck’s son would fare in the profession. William Walter Buck, affectionately known as Bill Buck Jr was an impressive figure in his own right.
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Bill joined his father’s firm in 1925 and took the helm shortly thereafter. Known as an entertainer and a man of ‘ever ready’ wit, Bill Buck was popular among his clients and the wider Melbourne community.
Like his father, Bill believed life was for living. A renowned sportsman, he was the youngest member of the first eighteen at school, and when playing for the Camberwell Methodists, he was spotted by a talent scout for Collingwood.
Bill went on to play first grade for the mighty Collingwood Magpies from 1920 to 1924 (a dream many of us would love to fulfil) and then held the position of honorary secretary which he no doubt undertook with the thoroughness and rigour handed down by his father.
It’s clear from correspondence at the time, that Bill took the lessons learnt from the sports field and applied them in running his accounting practice. Letters from the period describe him as a man of clear thinking, good advice and logic.
Under the sound leadership of Bill Buck, the firm continued to make a difference to individuals and mid-market businesses throughout the 50s, 60s and early 70s. And with his passion for helping people, Bill remained a consultant and then a friend of the firm until his death in 1980.
Those who are old enough, will remember that the late 70s were a challenging time for many Australians and their businesses, our firm was no exception.
With the Buck family no longer involved and another recession looming, the firm’s leaders faced a period of difficult transition. In order to survive, the firm went through period of contraction; moving from the city to Hawthorn and focussing on its two core strengths of tax compliance and audit.
The early 80s heralded in a young Fausto Pastro and Peter Harrison – both ex-Arthur Andersen managers they had taken the leap and set up their own successful practice; which after a mere two years was looking for a counterpart to merge with.
William Buck, then under the leadership of Ian Lee, had all the right characteristics for our two entrepreneurs; and in 1983 Ian, Peter and Fausto came together with a vision which was set to change the course of William Buck forever.
With the foundations of a strong firm having been built, this next generation of leaders set about creating the framework for William Buck to become a firm of substance.
With Fausto’s background in tax and Peter’s experience in audit, they introduced the idea of speciality services to William Buck; and started recruiting accordingly. With a wider range of services William Buck was able to help its existing client base to grow and prosper in more ways than ever before. This multi-disciplinary approach became the start of the 360 degree support offered today.
One can only imagine the excitement as Ian, Peter and Fausto sat around the board table in Hawthorn planning the future of William Buck. They were going to take it national!
This started with Fausto who volunteered to set up the Sydney office, building a name and a client base in a new city.
Peter Harrison, our first National Chairman commenced the campaign to recruit firms from across Australia to join the network. And while finances, skill sets and clients were important, the number one criteria was a sense of accountability. He was looking for firms making a positive impact of those around them
Over the course of the next decade William Buck steadily achieved its goals increasing the firm’s footprint across Australia.
With a larger group came the need for legal framework and good governance. In 1997 the William Buck board was created, consisting of the managing partners of each firm. The network now had decision making power, and stepping into the role of Chairman, Ian created William Buck International Inc., giving the network its legal structure and formally recognising its brand and intellectual property.
The William Buck brand was born.
Through the late 90s and 2000s, William Buck truly became a growing network of substance.
Which leads us to the present day and the stewardship of our current Board. With the same pulse of vison, energy and drive, the Board has maintained William Buck’s footprint in Australia, expanded into New Zealand, and established the capability to assist clients overseas through our international alliance, Praxity. Activities which allow our clients to pursue their dreams within and beyond the borders of Australia and New Zealand/
With a goal of becoming a leader in the middle market, the board has taken a consistent national approach to branding, quality and training. With these three pillars coming together to ensure William Buck has an outstanding reputation for changing lives through quality advice and excellent service.
And so after 120 years of strong leadership we find ourselves celebrating your firm’s birthday this evening. And as the next generation of William Buck’s leaders I’d like to pose you a challenge; what will be our legacy? What will William Buck be celebrating in the next 10 years?
I would like to propose a toast to Mr. William Buck our founder and his living family members who join us tonight and I would also propose a toast to our Firm and the next 120 years.
Thank you for listening to me.”
Chairman, William Buck International