There are many correlations between accounting and athletics. Kelly Diprose should know. He’s a natural at both. The founder of Diprose Miller Chartered Accountants reflects on 50 years in the industry – a milestone the former owner turned consultant has been acknowledged for with a Fellowship to the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ).

Kelly Diprose has always been good with numbers. He’s run a 4m 6s mile on grass, a 2m 58s three quarter mile, and a sub 1min 54s half mile. In 1963 in Hastings he took first place on the podium, beating a fellow athlete by the name of Peter Snell to the finish line.

Two years later Kelly opened his own accountancy firm in Te Aroha, but it was by no means his first foray into the industry.

A natural ability

Born in Matamata to a farmer and a nurse, Kelly Diprose showed natural ability in two things: mathematics and athletics. Upon leaving school at the age of 16, Kelly found work at local accountancy firm, CB Candy Chartered Accountants, appropriate employment for a young man with an aptitude for figures. Over the next five years, Kelly turned this aptitude into a qualification, studying accountancy part-time via correspondence school.

“My alarm would go off at 4.45am every morning and I would study for two hours,” recalls the founder of Diprose Miller Chartered Accountants Ltd. “I always came to work early then would head to the athletics track to train after work. During the winter I’d run 100 miles a week. It was build up for the summer athletics season. I don’t need a lot of sleep.”

A calculated risk

A brief foray overseas followed, during which Kelly worked for the British Printing Corporation in London, before he returned to New Zealand and with briefcase in hand took a carefully calculated risk to open Candy Diprose Accountants in Te Aroha in 1965.

“There were two accountancy firms in Te Aroha at the time so we weren’t without competition, but we saw an opportunity to offer a whole service,” Kelly says. This service included professional accounts presentation, a futuristic outlook on tax planning, the ability to negotiate with banks, and innovative thinking in relation to succession planning and structures.

And the clients came running through the door.

“At the time, Te Aroha was one of the wealthiest towns in New Zealand,” recalls Kelly. “The Inland Revenue Department had an office here, Thames Valley Electric Power Board had a presence, and of course there was the Dairy Factory and surrounding dairy farms.”

Doing the hard yards

But Kelly knew success, much like fitness, needs to be worked at, so he put in the hard yards… and miles. Over the years, Candy Diprose Accountants grew and in the early 1990s, the firm rebranded to Diprose Miller Chartered Accountants in recognition of Kelly’s partnership with fellow Te Aroha accountant, Keith Miller.

Today, Diprose Miller has two offices in Morrinsville and Te Aroha, six partners and more than 60 staff. Kelly is no longer at the helm; he sold his interest in the company in 2011 and now works two days a week as a consultant, but he certainly has presence. His position of consultant gives him the prestigious back room, complete with 1970s décor, possibly left over from the days when the Hauraki Catchment Board worked out of the premises at 53-61 Whitaker Street, Te Aroha.

His knowledge and guidance is still highly sought after if the number of times his cell phone rings is anything to go by. But then that’s to be expected when one looks at Kelly’s list of accolades:

He is a member of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management and a Fellow of the New Zealand Trustees Association; he was the original chairman of NZ Dairies and is a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics.

Closer to home he’s the past president of the Te Aroha Athletic Club, a former chairman of Athletics New Zealand and a life member of Athletics Waikato/Bay of Plenty. He is also a trustee and founding member of the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Athletics Children’s Supporters Trust.

Industry recognition

It is this passion, enthusiasm and utter dedication to athletics that placed Kelly at the start of the 200metre mark in Hastings last year when he received a phone call from CAANZ North Island manager, Neal McDiarmid.

“When I saw his number appear on my phone I thought what’s gone wrong,” chuckles Kelly.

But there was no wrong doing. Much the opposite in fact.

Neal was ringing to inform Kelly he had been honoured with a Fellowship to the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), a prestigious accolade which goes someway to reflecting the influence Kelly has had on accounting during his five decades in the profession.

Kelly says Neal’s announcement took him by surprise though he couldn’t spend too long pondering the honour; one of the many athletes Kelly coaches voluntarily was about to run. “I had my stop watch out and the race was about to start,” Kelly says.

The best service

Kelly’s commitment to the growth and success of Diprose Miller has instilled in the company the importance of keeping up with innovation in the industry; something the accounting firm’s current owners and directors are passionate about.

On the evening of Friday 18 May, 2018, Kelly’s commitment to, and influence on, New Zealand’s rural accounting scene will be acknowledged when the CAANZ holds its celebratory dinner. Extremely humbled by the accolade, Kelly is looking forward to an evening in the company of those who share his passion for numbers, though the stopwatch will be left at home.