Frazer Nicol

Frazer Nicol
From “howler” tax implications to career opportunities, the ability to roll with change has been a consistent for 2012 Accountancy and Finance graduate Frazer Nicol.

Finishing up secondary education at The Gordon Schools in Huntly, Frazer was set to study Physical Education in Edinburgh but realised quite quickly that it wasn’t the path for him. He soon returned back home to rethink his options and picked up a temporary role with local facilities manufacturer and hire business R.B. Farquhar. It was here his taste for numbers started.

“I had never studied anything accounts related before – I did business management at school but that was the extent of it”, Frazer shares. “After a few weeks in the role, I soon realised that finance was one of my strengths.

“During my year with R.B. Farquhar, there were some people on secondment from an Aberdeen firm who I talked to about the accounting and finance qualification that sparked my interest. It sounded like something I could envisage myself doing, so I applied to study Accountancy and Finance at RGU. The fact RGU was a more practical Scottish university rather than just theoretical is really what drew me to the course.”

The career path

Frazer didn’t have a clear picture of what his career path looked like for him – after all, a career in finance and accountancy was a new concept for him. Toying with the ideas of working within industry or practice, it wasn’t until his placement year that the road ahead started to be paved.

He reflects, “When I first started the course, I really thought I would work in industry as that’s all I had known at that point. I was probably a little naïve at the time and didn’t know much about the world of practice. All I knew about tax was that it came off my payslip every month.

“Fiona Duncan was our course leader and was a constant stream of enthusiasm and knowledge. She gave us all an insight to different career paths and demonstrated passion for the subject - she's someone that I still remember fondly from my studies at RGU.

“Fast forward to my placement year with Anderson, Anderson & Brown LLP (AAB), I was fully immersed in the world of tax and I loved it. There was so much opportunity to engage with clients of all sizes and industries.

“I was offered a graduate role at AAB to work in corporate and international tax which I was delighted to accept. After getting a taste of working in that remit, I could formulate an idea of where my career would take me.”

New opportunities

After honing his skills in corporate and international tax with AAB, a move to Edinburgh presented itself when wife Emma Jane had to relocate for her teacher training.

“At that time AAB didn’t have an Edinburgh office so I had to get on the job search and secured a role with chartered accountants, Johnston Carmichael. I loved that experience of working with the firm. It was great fun with great people – much like AAB. There I focused on managing the tax team as well as a portfolio of clients and developed my own skills and had some great mentors and support.

“After a year in the role, Emma Jane got offered an art teaching role at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen so a move back up north was calling.

“I was offered a position to stay with Johnston Carmichael in the Aberdeen office which put me at a bit of a crossroad. I had been approached about a role in industry at the same time - I could continue to progress with the company or see the move as an opportunity to change paths and work in an industry role. I just had a feeling that I wanted to try that before I got to a more senior role when it would be more of a risk to change direction at a later stage.

“So, I moved on to work at Wood PLC at the time when the acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler had just happened. It was an interesting time to be working with the company and, again, I learned a lot. Following the transaction, my role was set to change and an opportunity to return to AAB popped up and I wanted to go back to what I knew and to a path that was more structured.”

Whilst back to where he started his career, Frazer welcomed the arrival of his first child and just when all seemed set in stone, an unrivalled role with accountancy and advisory group Azets came up to lead and develop a tax team in Aberdeen.

“The chance to start something from the ground really motivated me and sparked my interest. Thinking about team structure, working with our Scottish and national tax practice, looking at risk management, procedures, developing a team, as well as advising clients on all things tax felt like a career defining role. The role brought in all the aspects that I enjoy and value.”

Frazer seized the opportunity and became Director in August 2021 and was promoted to Partner in the March 2022 following a successful team launch.

A lot can change in 10 years

Where the climb up the career ladder has been prosperous for Frazer, the financial landscape has been a little – let’s say – taxing. From the downturn of the oil and gas industry, Brexit, the pandemic and a chaotic political landscape, the past decade has come with challenges for the world of tax.

“Even in my decade or so in tax, so much has changed. Especially in the last year with the amount of potential changes, changes that are actually happening, changes that aren't going to happen anymore and the flip flopping of the political landscape.

“And we as tax advisors need to be ahead of the curve. Anytime there's a tax change or a threatening of a tax change we need to get up to speed on that to best advise our clients.  We’ve had four Prime Ministers in a relatively short period of time, all with differing agendas and tax policy - you can imagine the conversations we’ve been having with clients over the past months.

“Naturally there are changes every year at the budget, but the last couple of years have seen some absolute howlers!”

An open mind for opportunities

So after a busy ten years in tax, it’s clear that rolling with change, grabbing opportunities and daring to try are key themes for Frazer. But what’s his take on it all?

He shares: “Studying accountancy and finance at RGU really does expose you to endless opportunities and expertise. I'm quite a big believer in that things will end up where you want them to – ultimately you are in control of that. It was my decision to pursue a career in tax but my placement year at RGU was absolutely vital to where I am now.

“Take control of your career and push forward in any way that you want it to go - and don't be afraid to do so. Even if the route you choose isn’t what you want to do long term, you will still gain a lot from that experience.

“If the last decade has taught me anything, it’s that there’s always time for change and there's always the ability to change.”

2023 marks 25 years of BA (Hons) Accountancy and Finance at RGU, read more stories from the course’s alums:

If you are an alum of the course, register to attend the reunion event on Thursday 26 January:

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