New Role, New Perspective: IPA Spotlight on … Mary Elliot

INSIDE Public Accounting has reached out to Warren Averett’s new CEO Mary Elliott, subject of an IPA Spotlight last year, to discuss the rise of advisory services, firm threats and challenges, and the future of the profession.

Name: Mary Elliott

Mary Elliott

Mary Elliott

Title: CEO

Firm: Birmingham, Ala.-based Warren Averett (FY17 net revenue of $133.3 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Became CEO in January 2018 as the first female CEO in Warren Averett’s history.
  • Worked her entire career at Warren Averett, serving clients in the firm’s health care consuling division for 33 years.
  • Appointed as Warren Averett’s Chief Operations Officer in 2012.
  • Developed operations board for the firm, and served as chair for six years.

Among the IPA 100, accounting and audit revenue is declining, and non-traditional services are on the rise. Which practice area is growing fastest at your firm and how do you plan to continue expanding this niche?

Warren Averett embraces a holistic view of client relationships, with the focus on WA360 – a client-centered approach to understanding and addressing client needs. With this focus, all areas of consulting are continuing to grow, especially in specific industries like health care and government contracting. We have sought to hire more specialists outside the accounting field in areas such as IT consulting, HR consulting, staffing services, M&A, and transaction advisory services. Simultaneously, we make it a priority to hire accountants to work in traditional roles, and then develop their strengths and passions to later transition into our niches and consulting roles.

What’s the biggest threat facing your firm today?

The accounting industry is facing a situation where you must be innovative and evolve with the market in order to grow and be successful. Our clients are becoming more complex and savvy, our competition is progressing, and technology is going to replace some of the compliance work that our firms are executing.

How do you intend to overcome threats the firm is facing?

Successful firms are the ones who will see these trends, and adjust their approach, technology and talent to meet these changes. Warren Averett focuses on innovation. Our communications and programs within the firm encourage and reward team members who show an entrepreneurial mindset when working with a client, improving a process or developing an out-of-the-box solution or service.

How do you envision CPA firm services evolving over the next 10 years?

As technology evolves with the introduction of blockchain, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, the entire business ecosystem will change. Technology will provide us with nontraditional ways to serve our clients, and that is always the goal – to focus on the client and put them at the center of everything we do. With clients having more accessibility to their data, we believe that our focus will evolve into interpreting the data, solving problems and creating solutions to help clients succeed.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.