By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas’ entry into the digital assets space sparked two well-known accountants to speed up their reunion after a decade apart by merging their two firms with effect from yesterday.
John Bain, the now-former UHY Bain & Associates managing partner, told Tribune Business yesterday that the need to gain scale and increase competitiveness had prompted him to reunite with Philip Galanis under the HLB Galanis name some ten years after they went their separate ways in 2012.
Known then as HLB Galanis Bain, Mr Bain said the decision to team-up once again was given extra impetus by the increasing inquiries he and Mr Galanis were fielding from investors in the digital assets space interested in establishing a Bahamas’ presence following this nation’s passage of the Digital Assets and Registered Exchanges (DARE) Act in 2020.
“I’m not big enough at UHY, Phil’s not big enough at HLB,” Mr Bain, who will become HLB Galanis’ advisory partner, explained of the rationale for their latest tie-up. “With the merger, we are able to take on bigger assignments. There’s a lot of things happening with the new digital asset and crypto laws.
“That was a shot in the arm. We were talking for the last year, but when the DARE Act came out we got so many calls, so much was happening in The Bahamas. The contacts we have been getting about setting up in The Bahamas for crypto, and doing audits for crypto. We’ve been getting at least two calls a week about setting up in The Bahamas, doing crypto audits, verification of offshore digital assets.
“That’s been coming up a lot. A lot of current clients have assets in crypto. We’re expanding the practice in that area to be able to value the assets etc, and getting on with the blockchain digital ledger. Blockchain is a digital ledger, and we are learning about that technology and how to apply that to the accounting profession,” Mr Bain continued. “Blockchain is going to have an effect on the whole accounting profession.”
The ability to create an electronic record trail that cannot be abused or misused could help The Bahamas address long-standing issues with land title and theft, he added, confirming that all respective staff at UHY Bain and HLB Galanis have been retained in the expanded firm that will be 25-strong with ambitions to expand it as business ramps up.
“HLB is going to be a significant player in the accounting profession in The Bahamas. Outside of the ‘Big 4’ we could be a significant player in the market,” Mr Bain said. Mr Galanis, who will assume the managing partner title at the merged firm, said their revived combination will create multiple “synergies” to make the new firm greater than the sum of its parts.
The merged HLB Galanis, which will be based at Caves Village, aims to offer clients “a one-stop shop” for all auditing, accounting and advisory services. “When we bring the two together we really think we’re going to be a dynamic and perfect combo,” Mr Galanis said, adding that the merger will also help facilitate succession planning and the firm’s long-term sustainability.
In a joint statement, he and Mr Bain said: “We believe this merger will significantly expand the firms’ combined service offerings to our existing and future clients, and will greatly enhance our ability to create a one-stop shop for our clients’ financial needs.” Among the services to be offered by the merged firm are accounting, audit, corporate finance, forensic investigation, litigation support, business valuation and advisory services.
Boasting 75 years of licensed practice, the duo said reaching an agreement to merge was a natural course between colleagues who had once practiced together and always remained friends.
The partners said reaction among clients to the merger has been positive. “In some cases, they said, ‘Well, it’s about time’, “ Mr. Galanis said. “They were just happy we were keeping the phone numbers they already knew.” Both companies’ former websites will continue to be active.