In Inspiring Buckinghamshire

The Heart of Bucks ‘Inspiring Buckinghamshire’ series gives local people from a range of sectors a chance to share their knowledge and insights to help inspire others.

Here we are speaking with Luke Hanratty, Director, Saffery.

Tell us about yourself and your connection to Buckinghamshire.

I grew up near Bristol, studied Physics at Oxford University and then a PhD in particle physics with CERN and the University of Birmingham. Having met my wife at Oxford, I decided in 2012 to move to High Wycombe with her – a fair commute to Birmingham and longer when I needed to be in Geneva!

Working on a PhD was tough, with self-discipline and a lot of black coffee needed to see it through to the end. It took 4 years to complete my inch thick thesis, at which point I was a world expert in a very specific area of particle physics. If you want to know about strange particle production in quark-gluon plasma, I am happy to help!

After this, I wanted to work on something that would have more variety, a real-world impact, with the chance to work in a team, so in 2014 I decided to train as an accountant with Saffery in High Wycombe. I’ve been with the firm ever since because it invests strongly in its employees. I am delighted to say I’m now a director after my recent promotion.

What personal achievements are you most proud of?

On a personal level, I think completing my PhD and successfully transferring to advising business owners as an accountant are my biggest achievements. I’ve found that the skills I developed as a particle physicist have transferred well, which might seem surprising, but ultimately, both disciplines are dedicated to solving problems, analysing figures and using them to tell a story.

Professionally I’ve worked with several Buckinghamshire charities, including The Horse Trust, Inland Waterways and The Clare Foundation. It is always satisfying to get under the skin of a charity and help it to achieve its goals. In a similar vein, I have particularly enjoyed working with The Ralph – a new veterinary hospital in Marlow. It has a great ethos in caring for the animals and its team. To help it develop from a startup to a thriving hospital has been hugely rewarding.

What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?

I think most people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers, however, if you keep progressing, chip away at problems and work systematically, my experience is that you will get there in the end.

Knowing when to ask for help is also vital. Often when a problem seems insurmountable, it just requires teamwork, seeking different perspectives and maybe a brisk walk to find a way through.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“This too shall pass,” which is never more appropriate than when you’re dealing with young children, their inevitable teething and the sleepless nights that many parents experience. You may feel that the problem is going to last forever, but often the most productive solution is to keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and know that it will pass.

“It takes a village” – there is little in life that can’t be done better with a strong team working with you. Learning to trust people who think differently, welcoming their perspectives and believing in their decision-making abilities, will ensure that more creative, efficient and rounded solutions are provided.

What is your greatest hope for the future for Buckinghamshire?

It’s vital that Buckinghamshire retains its own identity and doesn’t morph into an anonymised region, absorbed into London’s commuter belt. To achieve this, we need to support our local industry, for instance in developing the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge technology arc.

Investment in skills and training is also important; and employers need to be involved to ensure that there are jobs available for those skills, to help avoid a ‘brain drain’ to London. At Saffery, we are playing our part by investing in school leaver apprentices who we train on the job while supporting them when they’re studying for qualifications. In return they are making a real contribution to the sector and to our business, with their flexible thinking and willingness to learn.

Follow Luke on LinkedIn here.

Find out more about Saffery here.

Read more of our Inspiring Buckinghamshire interviews here.