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The History of Alex Picot – The Early Years

Friday 01 July 2016

Here at Alex Picot Trust, we take pride in our longstanding residence in Jersey and service to its community. Our practice has been a landmark of the island for over one hundred years, and we’ve spent the decades committed to the generations who have come to us, time and again, for help with their accounts and trust work.

As an established trust company not everybody realises quite how long we’ve been Jersey’s first port of call for accounting and fiduciary work.  Initially an accounting practice the business has evolved over the years to now be a trust company alongside the accounting practice.

It’s been a long and eventful journey to our current status as a  trust company and accountancy practice, beginning back in 1885, when the premises at number 12 Hill Street was registered as a firm of ‘agents for commission.’ The address was attributed to one Mr. Charles G. Roberts, the founder of the firm, who by 1891 had moved his office just up the road to number 24. In 1898, the title ‘accountant’ was added. During this period, Roberts seemed to practice alone, and spent a good twenty or so years this way.

However, the next summer brought the arrival of a Charles H. Brocklehurst onto the accounting scene, qualifying as an Associate Member of the Society for Incorporated Accountants and soon founding his firm at number 26 Hill Street – right next door to Roberts’ already established accountancy practice. This undoubtedly ruffled some feathers at first, but it would seem that the men ultimately became close friends during their years as business neighbours. When Roberts elected to retire in 1904 due to failing health, he appointed Brocklehurst as his successor, and left the firm to him.

Continuing in the lone-ranger fashion of his predecessor, Brocklehurst continued the accountancy practice alone for several years before looking to take on a new trainee chief clerk to fill in the gaps. In his new recruit, Brocklehurst managed to find not only an excellent accountant, but a man who would commit his life, and most of his family, to the firm. Alexander Picot was an ambitious and capable young fellow with an already impressive record. Placing 11th in the Society of Incorporated Accountants finals of 1913 and receiving a Certificate of Merit, he was of the quality Brocklehurst sought in a colleague, and would go on to transform the firm over the course of decades.

Pleased with his trainee’s aptitude, Brocklehurst invited Picot into partnership with him in 1915, establishing Brocklehurst & Picot as Jersey’s resident accountancy firm. The partnership boosted the firm’s profile, and two prominent local businesses - the Ann Street Brewery and Le Riches – engaged their accountancy services. This expansion into local industry saw the partnership’s reputation and reach flourish.

Over the next decade, Brocklehurst and Picot’s partnership went from strength to strength, gaining close relationships with their many local clients, and a status as the go-to accountants for Jersey-based businesses. As 1926 rolled around, Brocklehurst began to consider retirement, and lined Picot up to take over as the sole practitioner. With this, it was decided that a few extra hands were required, and as the firm became Alex E. Picot & Co., some new recruits were brought on board.

Advertising for an ‘experienced audit clerk’, Alex was quick to take on Sam Seymour, a successful and committed chartered accountant from County Tyrone, who was to be one of several long-standing figures of the firm. With him came Alex’s eldest son Donald, who was indentured and began training on the job alongside his father. Accountant Fred Olliver and typist Lilian du Feu completed the firm’s lineup for the time being, and Alex’s acquisition of the Hill Street property marked completion of the firm’s first metamorphosis.

The firm’s expansion extended to premises as well, with an office being opened up in Guernsey and the Jersey staff taking the early morning mailboat over to man the new building, where Guernsey-based clients were taken on. Alex’s younger son Leslie was soon brought on and began to train under his father, as his brother Donald had previously. Eventually both sons qualified and were admitted to the Picot partnership – Donald in 1935 and Leslie in 1939.

Despite expectations, Picot’s sons insisted that they received no preferential treatment from their father or colleagues, and Alex kept his firm operating in a very traditional manner, with high desks, stools and inkwells, and absolutely no talking in the office. But although Alex’s reputation as an authoritarian preceded him, he is remembered as a good and compassionate manager, and sometimes was described as ‘the cleverest man on Hill Street – and the worst dressed!’

The odd absence of the elder Picot was often taken as an opportunity for office high jinks. Cricket matches would take place, and one winter brought about a particularly memorable snowball fight, which culminated in Leslie putting his foot through the ceiling of the office and managing to cover his tracks before his father returned.

The occupation of the island brought imminent disruption to the Picot firm, but the steadfast tenacity and dedication of the group supported the practice, and saw it through a very troubled few years. Next time, we’ll take a look at the post-war years of the Alex Picot firm, and how the more recent decades have transformed the group to what it is today.