Fergus Cleaver is a seasoned New Zealand accountant with more than 10 years of experience in the field. Based in Auckland, he is a shareholder in Cleaver Partners, which counts some of New Zealand’s top corporate names as clients.
Cleaver has prepared nearly his entire life to take the reins at Cleaver Partners. Cleaver majored in business (with an economics minor) at the University of Auckland, not far from his childhood home. He subsequently moved halfway across the world, to British Columbia, Canada, where he studied graduate economics at Simon Fraser University on a partial scholarship.
When he returned New Zealand, Cleaver accepted an entry-level position with his family’s accounting firm, whose principals at the time had several decades of combined accounting and business financing experience under their belts. At Cleaver Partners, he quickly put his extensive education to work serving clients in a variety of industries. He credits his first year on the job with properly introducing him to the rough-and-tumble world of accounting and business finance.
“I received a first-rate education at university, but nothing can prepare you for the reality of serving clients like actually serving clients,” says Fergus Cleaver. “As soon as I began working out in the ‘real world,’ I realized just what it takes to work as an accountant on a global basis.
“Many of our clients do business outside New Zealand,” adds Cleaver. “And that means we must have working knowledge of the issues that affect companies in other parts of the world.”
After several years of what he describes as intense “toil in the trenches,” Cleaver became an equity partner at Cleaver Partners in 2013.
Since coming on board with Cleaver Partners, Cleaver has cultivated an impressive range of accounting specialties. His core accounting and business advisory services include bookkeeping, business financing, budgeting and financial forecasting, and taxation.
Cleaver’s wide range of client services also includes matters that indirectly impact business accounting, including management consulting and succession planning. He is particularly committed to mentoring and counseling small businesses and their founders, many of whom are overwhelmed by the requirements of new business formation or simply unsure where to start.
“Getting your business structure correct from the outset is critical,” said Cleaver in a 2012 statement. “You need a framework which is cost effective to set up and run, and also has the flexibility to grow with your business.”
Fergus Cleaver stresses the importance of involving an accountant with a long record of success with similar clients. “By working with an accountant right from the start, you dramatically increase your chances of success,” he said in the statement, adding that it’s cheap to make mistakes and very expensive to fix them.
In fact, Cleaver and his team see themselves as hands-on business guides, not buttoned-up bookworms. In Cleaver’s telling, Cleaver Partners is committed to helping clients who have little to no accounting or finance experience. That comes through in Cleaver’s approachable style. He explains complicated concepts in plain English, helping clients understand the potential ramifications of their decisions.
“When you explain these complicated or, frankly, boring concepts to clients in a way that they can truly understand, their eyes light up and you can tell they ‘get it,’” says Cleaver. “For me, that’s the most satisfying thing about what I do.”
Cleaver works with a diverse range of New Zealand-based businesses. His clients include property developers, general construction firms, travel agencies, trades, professional services providers, hospitality companies and independent hotels, freight and logistics companies, legal services providers, and marketing and advertising firms.
Fergus Cleaver works hard, but he’s been known to have some downtime to spend with his family and on personal pursuits. If he’s not at the office, chances are that he can be found traveling around Asia and the Australia-Pacific region, skiing his favorite slopes, advocating for sustainable development practices in New Zealand and beyond, or simply spending a quiet moment with his family.
Cleaver is also a committed patron of a number of New Zealand-based charities. He favors a diverse range of causes, including local arts and culture organizations, disaster and humanitarian relief groups, children’s protection groups, social justice organizations, animal welfare charities, poverty alleviation causes, science and technology incubators and more. Additionally, Cleaver provides pro bono services to a number of charities, work he regards as akin to—and perhaps more helpful than—direct financial support.