Bright Side of (Downtown) Business: Century-old Ottawa accounting firm Welch LLP continues to adapt

Jim McConnery, managing partner at Welch LLP. Photo by Zenith Wolfe.

Founded more than a century ago, Ottawa-based accounting firm Welch LLP has survived two pandemics and several recessions. The secret? An intimate connection with the local community and a passion for the evolution of accounting law, says the managing partner.

Welch has provided accounting and tax services to Ottawa businesses since 1918, later expanding into other communities such as Pembroke, Almonte and Gatineau. Welch works with clients in a range of fields, from car dealerships to not-for-profits, as well as with individual professionals.

Welch has what managing partner Jim McConnery calls a symbiotic relationship with Ottawa’s economy: the success of Welch and its clients and partners helps Ottawa grow, which in turn encourages other businesses to seek accounting services.

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He adds that the firm is most successful when it gets to know clients and the surrounding communities intimately.

“We have a strong affiliation with Invest Ottawa. Part of that is an opportunity to meet and collaborate with early-stage companies, and often it’s the starting point of long-term relationships,” he says. “Being connected to entrepreneurs at an early stage of their business activity is a win for them, and for us.”

McConnery says the staff at Welch are motivated to learn about new regulations to help their clients. Several businesses have asked, for example, about implementing cryptocurrency into their services, as well as how to report them for tax purposes. Welch has researched recent policies that have complicated tax compliance in Canada, such as the 2022 Underused Housing Tax or the bare trust reporting requirements implemented in 2023.

“When I started in public accounting in the early ‘90s, we probably had more of a bias to just get the work done,” McConnery says. “Individuals who come to Welch and start their careers here have a strong aptitude. They’ll often express that they’re keen to learn more about the types of things I do, and sometimes they’ll find it complicated, but they’ll also find it interesting.”

Welch has also had to adapt to the shifting post-pandemic market. Once a fully in-person business, Welch, based downtown on Slater Street, has adopted a flexible work environment that McConnery says has improved the relationships between partners.

“Most clients find us pretty efficient,” he says. “They know they can deal with us in-person when required, but people are getting more and more comfortable with virtual meetings.”

Over the past year, the firm has established a technology consulting practice to help local businesses with cybersecurity. McConnery says most national firms offer these services primarily to large companies and government bodies, but Welch is providing it locally, as always.

“We’ve seen that lots of our private company clients need that same kind of support. It’s a win at Welch that we have the ability to provide it.”

This flexibility, combined with the ongoing demand for tax services, has allowed Welch to continually grow over the years, despite the challenges.

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