By 1940, the Alex Picot firm had built a strong local reputation and close-knit group of reliable staff, and was moving from strength to strength. However, the June occupation of the Island by German forces threw Jersey and its way of life off-balance, and prompted the majority of the Picot staff to seek safety with their families abroad.
The threat of occupation caused many local companies to cease trading, including the Picot client the Ann Street Brewery. One day in June, Alex addressed his employees about the looming threat, giving everybody their wages and imploring them to “Do what you think best.” The following morning, Lilian du Feu and Alex were the only ones remaining. Alex’s sons Leslie and Donald fled to the UK, where Leslie became chief accountant for Meaker menswear, and Donald worked for the Board of Trade. Leslie would later go on to become a trustee of Meaker’s charitable trust, which distributed several million pounds to charities around the UK and Jersey.
Never one to accept defeat, Alex and Lilian decided to brave it out and do all they could to keep the firm afloat while Jersey was under occupation. This was a courageous undertaking, given the uncertainty of business, money, and life in general under the circumstances. During the Occupation, curfews were introduced, and novelties such as spirits and wireless radio banned. Farmers and fishermen were kept under watch, and their harvests controlled by German troops. The only part of Britain ever to be occupied by the Germans, the Channel Islands were a dangerous and difficult place to be during WWII.
Alex and Lilian tried to make the best of things, and looked to take on a couple of employees who could help them keep everything on track. A young man named Norman Perchard – who later became brother-in-law to Rodney Picot and company secretary to Le Riches – was brought on board immediately upon leaving school. He showed promise, but was forced to return abruptly to his family’s farm when his father was incarcerated for being rude to the invading troops.
While making efforts to keep the Picot firm alive, Alex and Lilian were also busy trying to make some improvements. With the assistance of Mr Hedley Luce, local insurance policyholders were maintained, and premiums collected, resulting in a sizeable insurance pool ready to be turned over to the appropriate insurance companies. Not only did this help to preserve a feeling of normality on the Island, but it also enhanced the firm’s reputation for trust and reliability. Their hard work was met with queues of very grateful UK insurance company representatives after the Liberation, cementing Alex Picot as an unshakeable firm.
The Liberation of 1945 brought a very welcome end to the Island’s occupation, and set in motion the healing process of Jersey, and of the Picot firm. Some familiar faces were happy to return home, and Donald and Leslie came back to their father’s firm to resume their positions. Sam Seymour went to Guernsey to oversee the practice of the other office, and later Fred Olliver would return to the beloved firm. The strong foundation that Alex and Lilian had maintained in the others’ absence offered a stable platform for a new incarnation to form from, and upon Alex’s death in 1948, Leslie and Donald took over the firm as Alex Picot.
In its later years, the firm continued on as a very family-oriented business, with even more Picots being inducted into the practice. In 1957, the Society of Incorporated Accountants merged with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, allowing students to take the examinations of the latter body. With this, two of Donald’s sons, Anthony and Rodney, took up articles with the firm, and were among the first of an impressive burst of young local talent being admitted to the Picot group at this time.
In our final piece, we will look at the most modern expansions and transformations of Alex Picot, and how its long and sturdy history has nurtured it towards its current status as on of the best and most committed accountancy firms in the Channel Islands.