Kevin reflects on 40 years of service and teamwork

It’s been 40 years since Corporate Advisory Services director Kevin Pitfield rolled up to our Auckland office for his first day of work. Back then he was a raw 17-year-old, unsure whether he wanted to be an accountant.

Time to read: 5 mins

Today he’s a young senior statesman variously described by colleagues as a legend, fun, authentic and a guru. Instantly recognisable with his white, wavey locks, he is hugely popular and a valued mentor.    

The teenage Kevin had completed one year of fulltime tertiary study, but his friends worked in the trades and his aversion to suits and ties “probably didn’t fit too well in the office or traditional accounting mould of the era”.

Back then, our Auckland office had a lean, busy team of around 20, including five partners. The office lady had resigned the week before, so newbie Kevin became messenger and general dogsbody, doing Document Exchange (DX) mail runs, changing lightbulbs and lugging back printouts from an outsourced computer bureau at the top of town.

“It was a fairly strenuous exercise, sometimes, to bring back a bunch of general ledger printouts on the old A3-sized gold-bar continuous print stationery,” he says.

Kevin joined the office early enough to work with the founders of our earlier iteration, Staples Rodway. While he describes Charlie Staples as more of a rainmaker for the firm, he had a closer working relationship with Frank Rodway, who he says was more of an academic, and the person to whom he attributes his life-long passion for working with tax.

Then there was the no-nonsense, hard-working John Wadams, who was utterly dedicated to his clients. Kevin considers John the single biggest influence on his career and undoubtedly his most important mentor. “I think back to the conversations with John and the trust that he put in me, letting me loose on his client base. I feel privileged to have worked with the founders, but I will be eternally grateful for the guidance provided by the powerhouse of the firm’s growth, which was John.

“You pick up the best traits of the people who go before you. Frank told me (in terms of reading tax legislation) that you must read and analyse every word to get the best for your clients, because it’s not always black and white.”

Kevin took their teachings on board while continuing his accounting qualification through part-time studies and gaining a better understanding of basic human nature. It’s one of the key things he’s carried with him to today: Never have a day that you’re not learning something and always take time to read the situation you find yourself in.  

His early questions about career choice were answered when he started to see the benefits of career progression, a full professional qualification and the diversity of working in a chartered accounting environment with exposure to many different industries. But it wasn’t just that – he was developing relationships with clients and seeing the difference he could make.

“I’ve always been one who, once taking on a responsibility, is hugely focused on discharging that responsibility. When you get clients who are demonstrably appreciative of what you’ve done, that makes it all worthwhile – all the efforts and late nights you might have put in to achieve those objectives pale into insignificance.”  

He’s not kidding. Kevin has pulled all-nighters to get work out on time. “Some things are absolutely time-critical and you need to deliver. It might be the sale of a business, something that is life-changing to your client, and you’ve got a responsibility to get the best outcome for them that you can.”

Over time, he has segued into multiple accounting disciplines – taxation compliance and consultancy, valuation and litigation support work, estate planning and trust specialisation, insolvency – everything but auditing, which he still did enough of to know it wasn’t for him. “It’s one of the joys of working for a firm that had small beginnings – not getting pigeonholed into a particular role.”

He also enjoys the social occasions, the enduring relationships with former team members and the many good memories that both have brought. One very enduring relationship is with Natalie, his wife, who he met when she undertook a fixed-term contract with the firm. While they both love animals, Kevin credits Natalie as the primary caregiver for the alpacas, goats, pigs, chickens, cattle, dogs, cat, parrot and water dragons on their 16-acre lifestyle block.

He also loves the fast world of motorsport and in particular V8 Supercars, coming armed with the usual repartee of the Ford enthusiast. “Never mind. You’ll see the light soon” he says of Holden fans.

As for his 40 years with us, the anniversary date was swallowed up by COVID-19, but he received plenty of accolades and we’ll give him the floor here on what he associates with a few key terms…

Integrity

“A key word for accountants. In my view, if our business values can be summed up in one word, that would be it. It underpins everything we do, in terms of dealing with clients, the team, regulators and ourselves.”

Discipline

“Discipline reminds me of school days, the strap and canes – which wouldn’t be tolerated today, but certainly provided context to the phrases ‘cause and effect’, ‘actions and consequence’ and the like. I think this, and the concept of accepting personal responsibility, is something many people appear to have lost touch with.”

Trust

“I’m a trust maniac! Trust has two meanings to me – the trust that you build up with your clients and other team members, which is another value that accountants won’t get by without – gaining the trust of their clients.

“But I’m also a huge advocate of discretionary family trusts.  Regulators have looked to force a lot more transparency around trusts, which in some respects is understandable, but the flip side is encroachment on individuals’ privacy and what feels like unnecessary interference from the State into people’s personal affairs. Many people have questioned ‘is it really worth having a trust now?’. I would say, ‘all day long. Absolutely’ – as they provide such flexibility when dealing with intergenerational asset ownership and planning for one’s mortality.”

DISCLAIMER No liability is assumed by Baker Tilly Staples Rodway for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly upon any article within this website. It is recommended that you consult your advisor before acting on this information.

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