29th January 2021Q&A with Rafi Saville, Forensic Partner

Rafi Saville joined HW Fisher 24 years ago. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a partner after only 8 years and now leads the firm’s busy forensic accounting department with fellow partner Stuart Burns. HW Fisher Forensic’s client list boasts more than 160 well-known companies, brands and individuals, including some of the UK and indeed the world’s largest businesses  such as JCB, BMW and AstraZeneca, as well as host of other fascinating companies – Liverpool FC, Playboy, Paul Smith and Lamborghini, to name but a few.

Rafi puts much of his success down to a chance meeting with a colleague working in the firm’s forensic department. Rafi had started with the firm straight from university on a three-year training contract, and after having done audit for a couple of years he was looking for a change…


How did you begin your career in Forensic Accounting?

I was walking around the office and came across this guy working in the forensic department.  He told me about this case he was working on which was a money-laundering drug dealer who had been caught crossing the channel with lots of cash.

I immediately thought that this was much more interesting than standard audit… And the rest, as they say, is forensic accounting history.


You specialise in Royalty Audits. Tell us what this is all about

We act for businesses and individuals that receive royalties from 3rd parties. That could be media conglomerates, brands, authors, pharma companies, authors or musicians – anyone that creates Intellectual Property.

We audit these 3rd parties, using our forensic accounting skills and advanced technology techniques, to make sure that they have reported completely and accurately and complied with the terms of their agreements.

We recover tens of millions of pounds for our clients each year, which goes straight to their bottom line.


Tell us about some of the top trends you have been following in the past year – is there something that businesses should be aware of?

In Royalty Auditing, we’ve seen significant growth in pharma, music and gaming during the pandemic.

The growth in gaming, in particular, reflects the increased revenue streams directly resulting from more time spent indoors.

The increased interest in music royalty audits probably reflects the downturn in touring income, with musicians and writers ensuring that their other revenue has been fully reported, particularly from streaming.

For the large licensors, who generate billions of pounds of income from products using TV and film characters, we’ve seen some sectors do better than ever. The pandemic has accelerated trends across home improvement, online clothing and grocers, while a significant minority of licensees have seen sales fall (e.g. fancy dress). This has changed priorities for selecting licensees for audit for our clients.

After an initial slowdown of audits in March and April, licensee audits have increased in volume across all industries.


What has been the greatest lesson you have learned as a business leader through Covid-19?

You have to be adaptable, flexible and ready to pivot to different areas, sectors, techniques and business models. Things didn’t look good in March / April as travel was the fundamental part of our business, but as Covid restrictions have continued, we have had to adapt our approach.


What is one piece of advice you would give to businesses at the moment?

Many businesses have had to change at an exponential rate to face the challenges of the new world. When life is back to normal, please don’t go back to the way you used to do things. Take and run with the positives, of which there are many – embracing technology, less business travel, less formal and more personal business relationships and banishing presenteeism in favour of a focus on work completion.


What are your goals for HW Fisher over the next 12 months?

I don’t like to set goals. I prefer to take as many decisions as possible, together with our talented forensic team, that will improve what we do and how we do it. You then have to trust that improved results will flow through. Like most Leeds United fans, I am in awe of Marcelo Bielsa. He passionately believes in a certain way of training and playing and focusses entirely on the process rather than overly worrying about results.


Tell us something about you that might surprise people?

People are often interested that I have stayed at HW Fisher all my career. I can list many rational reasons – opportunities, people, quality of clients and work – but when other opportunities have come up, I am surprised and fascinated by my own capacity for my apparently irrational internal logic!

For example, one absurd reason for rejecting lucrative job offers elsewhere over the years is my pride and enjoyment running our cricket team that regularly beats the Big 4 accountancy firms and banks with their 10,000+ employees.

Similarly, I know that the many employees that regularly attend our weekly yoga class (both pre and post pandemic) feel more of a connection to the HW Fisher community than they might get at other firms.


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

On my year-off before going to university and working on a kibbutz in Israel I decided to go for a swim rather than laying some pipes for an irrigation project (it was 40 degrees in my defence!). My boss caught me and, with a smile, he said in Hebrew a phrase which roughly translates as “Rafi, enjoy yourself, everyone has a replacement”.

There is always space to build and nurture new talent and we are delighted that during this year, we have added some brilliant people, including pharma and music specialists.


Contact Rafi for any queries or if there is anything we can do to support you and your business.

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