BKR Survey: Five Types of Flexibility Young Professionals Desire

AJ Johnson

By: AJ Johnson, executive director, Americas Region, BKR International

More accounting firms are promoting flexibility as a benefit when creating job descriptions and recruitment materials. However, the concept of flexibility can mean different things to different candidates, as BKR International discovered when surveying its current Leadership Institute participants at a recent training event in Las Vegas.

Flexibility is not just one thing – such as a flexible schedule. We found that it has a broader definition to young professionals, who view it as an important part of the firm culture.

According to the survey, here are five ways that accounting firms can promote flexibility and communicate it to candidates and their current professionals:

  1. Flexibility in scheduling

Young professionals have led the trend in flexible workdays that allow them to schedule appointments or run errands or handle a family issue without missing deadlines. This kind of outcome-based management provides autonomy for the employee and leverages technology in ways that the strict 9-to-5 mandate never could.

It’s a two-way street, of course, and professionals need to demonstrate respect for firm goals and client needs within a more agile schedule. That means sometimes working late and on weekends or attending unexpected meetings to handle workloads.

  1. Flexibility in approach

We’re not talking about the strict protocols and procedures in some areas of public accounting. It’s more about what young professionals contribute to efficiency, tools and ideas. Employees who believe that their ideas are taken into account, and even adopted, have a greater sense of ownership and purpose in the firm.

Even if your firm has tried something in the past, don’t be quick to dismiss the input from new or younger employees. They may surprise you with their logic and ability to fill in knowledge gaps you didn’t even know you had.

  1. Flexibility in dress

This isn’t a new area of flexibility, but firms may need to stretch a bit from “blue jeans Saturdays” to “dress for your day” options. Employees appreciate choosing dress that matches their responsibilities from day to day. For example, if they are visiting a construction site, it makes sense to dress for the client environment.

In addition, on days when employees are working behind a desk all day with zero client contact, comfort is a nice perk. It’s easier to transition to the gym or pick up young children for appointments after work. Keep the dress code, but define how people can flex it.

  1. Flexibility in self-expression

The most enlightening definition of flexibility I heard was flexibility in self-expression. It means that their opinions matter to firm leaders. It also means that they aren’t marginalized for their interests or personal values, which will help to maintain talent.

Whether a person is devoted to a faith tradition or has a beloved pet instead of a child, the firm environment should feel welcoming and equal in its opportunities. There is a difference between written employment policies and how the culture truly demonstrates openness to differences. Keeping in mind that personal values don’t interfere with the mission and integrity of the firm, differences can also be great for business.

  1. Flexibility in career trajectory

As firms hunt for talent and work to keep great people, they are exploring ways to remain flexible to change. Remote work arrangements, job sharing and part-time work are evolving from options to a permanent career choice in some cases. Examples include retaining a professional who moves to another state or providing the option for a formerly full-time employee to transition to part time (and back to full time later).

It’s important to discuss flexible career paths case by case. Clarify how the change in position ties to promotions or career growth at the firm, and make sure the rest of the team understands the role change too. What I’ve noticed in my interactions with members is that flexibility has a different meaning to each employee. As a result, firms are challenged with meeting a diverse set of employee needs while establishing and maintaining systems that make sound business sense.

Overall, young professionals view flexibility as a cultural must. Second only to enjoying the people and clients they work with, it’s a primary reason that they love and stay with their firms.

AJ Johnson is executive director of the Americas Region of BKR International, which represents more than 160 independent accounting and business advisory firms in over 500 offices and 80 countries. The BKR Leadership Institute has graduated more than 300 leaders of member firms.

Collins Barrow Rebrands as Baker Tilly Canada

Grant Galbraith

Collins Barrow National Cooperative Incorporated, the largest group of independent chartered accounting firms in Canada, will take on the name and visual brand of its global network, becoming Baker Tilly Canada Cooperative.

As Canadian leaders in audit, tax and advisory services, Baker Tilly Canada’s 20 firms have a long history of serving clients from coast to coast with excellence and are known for their entrepreneurial drive and mindset. Their unique network model allows each firm to retain autonomous ownership and management, while simultaneously investing in national initiatives and representation.

At a global level, Baker Tilly Canada has been the Canadian representative of the Baker Tilly International network of independent business and accounting firms since 2009, providing clients access to an international platform. With members in 147 territories and a combined worldwide revenue of $3.4 billion USD, Baker Tilly International is a respected and thriving brand on the global financial stage.

On Dec. 3, 2018, Baker Tilly International introduced a new brand and visual identity, which is now in turn the foundation for Baker Tilly Canada’s rebrand. A new tagline and purpose is at the heart of this brand evolution: “Now, for tomorrow.” It signifies the dedication and investment – at both a global and national level – to build a solid foundation of growth in the present, for the future.

The National chair of Baker Tilly Canada, Grant Galbraith, explains the value of this rebrand for the network’s firms and clients alike. “In a rapidly changing and complex financial environment, nationally and globally, our independent network is agile and evolving,” he says. “We are deeply committed to our investment in local expertise and service excellence, while embracing the power of global perspectives and connections. In doing so, we are strategically augmenting the value we provide to clients in all industries.”

“The new Baker Tilly brand is a symbol of our capacity to adapt to the ever-changing needs of clients around the world,” says Ted Verkade, CEO of Baker Tilly International. “We invest in great relationships and conversations to achieve great futures. By embracing the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow, in the present, Baker Tilly Canada is creating a catalyst for innovation, growth and client success.”

Allinial Global Launches New Program to Help Small Firms Grow

Terry Snyder

The accounting association Allinial Global has launched a new division for early stage or entrepreneurial smaller firms, called AG AdvantEdge.

This new division will help members scale up operations to compete more effectively with larger firms. Resources include technical tools, learning and development options, and networking opportunities. AG AdvantEdge also allows peers to share best practices, technical expertise and information on operational and management issues from larger Allinial Global firms.

Allinial Global’s president and CEO Terry Snyder says, “These are exciting times for Allinial Global, and we are thrilled to introduce yet another innovative approach to connecting independent firms with the resources and peers who help them grow, compete and thrive. When members collaborate to provide the best possible service and solutions, it’s a win-win for members and clients alike.”

Moore Stephens North America Appoints Three New Board Members

Bruce Zicari

Bruce Zicari

Members of Moore Stephens North America (MSNA) have voted in three new members to join the MSNA Executive Board.

“The Bonadio Group has been proud to be part of the MSNA Team for over two decades, delivering great value to our firm, our people and our clients,” says Bruce Zicari, incoming MP at Pittsford, N.Y.-based The Bonadio Group (FY18 net revenue of $97.9 million). “I am honored to be appointed to the MSNA Board and look forward to working with my fellow board members, as well as the member firms, to collaborate, innovate and improve.”

In addition to Zicari, Patrick Fuelling, partner at Troy, Mich.-based Doeren Mayhew & Company (FY17 net revenue of $72.6 million), and Dan Natale, managing partner at Segal LLP of Toronto, Ontario, joined the board, effective Jan. 1.

Patrick Fuelling

Patrick Fuelling

“At Doeren Mayhew, we see the benefits of being a member firm with Moore Stephens on a daily basis. Leveraging a network of specialized resources across the globe has helped us gain opportunities we might not have otherwise been able to,” says Fuelling.

Natale says, “Since joining MSNA, Segal LLP has developed strong, mutually rewarding relationships with member firms across the association and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board to help MSNA and its members meet our goals.”

The executive board is democratically elected by their peers to set the direction for North America, so clients are assured the same professional standards and quality services are provided everywhere.

Dan Natale

Dan Natale

“Each new board provides a unique set of insights and perspectives to propel our association forward, and the addition of Bruce, Pat and Dan will certainly keep that momentum going,” says Tony Szczepaniak, chief executive officer of MSNA.

The executive board consists of nine members. In addition to Zicari, Fuelling and Natale, Andy Armanino, MP of San Ramon, Calif.-based Armanino LLP (FY17 net revenue of $242.7 million), and Tony Caleca, MP of Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Brown Smith Wallace (FY17 net revenue of $46.3 million), will remain as chair and vice-chair, respectively. Also retaining their seats on the board are Lou Grassi, CEO and MP of New York-based Grassi & Co. (FY17 net revenue of $59.6 million), Rick Davis, CEO of Greenville, S.C.-based Elliott Davis (FY18 net revenue of $119 million), Cheryle Burke, COO of Woburn, Mass.-based DiCicco Gulman & Company (FY17 net revenue of $26.4 million) and Beth Leonard, MP of Lurie LLP of Minneapolis (FY17 net revenue of $28 million).

Leaving the board is Greg Hutchins, partner at Los Angeles-based Holtin Carlin & Van Trigt (FY17 net revenue of $135.9 million).

Troubles for International Accounting Firms in UK

Dave Dunckley

Two of the largest firms in the UK are facing extraordinary difficulties.

About 188 Grant Thornton partners are being forced to take an 8% pay cut to £373,000, down from £407,000 last year, amid a slump in sales and profits, reports Business Matters. Revenue fell 1.8% to £491 million, while profit dropped 7% to £70 million, the magazine reported. “These 2017/18 results are below our expectations and, whilst there were many positives, we know we can drive improvement moving forward,” says chief executive Dave Dunckley.

The backdrop for Grant Thornton includes the loss earlier this year of former chief executive Sacha Romanovitch, following leaked criticism from colleagues. In addition, the firm is the subject of a Financial Reporting Council probe into its audit of Patisserie Valerie. It was also fined £3 million for misconduct over its audits of Vimto-maker Nichols and the University of Salford.

Grant Thornton is likely to come under further pressure when rivals BDO and Moore Stephens merge. The enlarged firm will overtake Grant Thornton to become Britain’s fifth largest accountant, behind the Big 4.

Meanwhile, The Financial Times reported that Deloitte’s chief executive recently announced that the firm has fired about 20 UK partners over the past four years for inappropriate behavior, which includes bullying and sexual harassment.

Deloitte is the first Big 4 firm in the UK to disclose dismissals for inappropriate behavior in response to the #MeToo movement. Chief executive David Sproul told The Financial Times, “We will fire people for any inappropriate behavior. No one is protected. There has been unfortunately a number of partners who have been fired for inappropriate behavior, be it of a sexual nature or of a bullying nature. I’d like to say there weren’t any, but there are.”

Laura Empson

He continued, “You can’t meet someone more junior to you in a bar on a Friday evening after work and assume she or he is attracted to you [and is seeking] a one-night stand. You just can’t do it,” he said. “Some people definitely would have to have that explained to them. So we’ve been very clear on what is acceptable in our firm.”

Laura Empson, professor in the management of professional services firms at City University, said it was “fantastic” Deloitte had been open about the problem. “That is really good and a sign of change, because these firms are extraordinarily discreet,” she said.

The other Big 4 firms declined to say how many partners had left over inappropriate behavior.

RSM Canada Launches Alliance Network

Terri Ellis

A year after entering the Canadian marketplace, RSM Canada has launched its Canada Alliance program.

The alliance program is the first of its kind in the country, and is modeled after RSM US’s Alliance program, which was launched almost 30 years ago, and includes more than 75 members in 38 states, the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico, RSM announced.

Member firms are able to build and enhance their practices by leveraging the infrastructure, expertise and best practices of Chicago-based RSM (FY18 net revenue of $2.14 billion). The RSM Canada Alliance will be led by Terri Ellis, previously partner for growth and market development at RSM Canada. Before that, she held the same role at Collins Barrow Toronto for four years, which became RSM Canada a year ago.

As members of the new program, firms gain access to RSM Canada’s technical resources, marketing and business development, practice management, talent management, client services and networking opportunities. The Canadian member firm of RSM International has offices in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. Allied firms maintain their independence as separate business entities from RSM Canada. The first two members of the Canada Alliance are DJB, an accounting firm with offices in Burlington, Grimsby, Hamilton, St. Catharines and Welland, and NVS Chartered Accountants in Markham, Ontario.

“The Alliance model is a new concept to Canada, but it is especially suited for our marketplace,” says Harry Blum, MP of RSM Canada LLP. “The realities of our geography and our business landscape mean that small businesses are at the heart of our country’s economic engine. When these firms join this program, they will be able to stay true to their Canadian roots while enjoying the benefits and resources of a global firm.”

Trio of New Members for DFK USA

Three firms have joined DFK USA, taking the national group’s membership to 27.

The new members are Lauterbach & Amen, Reynolds + Rowella and Ridout Barrett.

Lauterbach & Amen is a mid-sized public accounting firm established in 1997 in Napervillle, Ill., by partners Sherry Lauterbach and Ron Amen. The firm’s foundation is in the governmental sector, and over the years, it has extended client relationships to other entities outside of government, providing accounting, compilation, assurance, actuary and consulting services.

Ridgefield, Conn.-based Reynolds + Rowella, also has an office in New Canaan, Conn. It was founded in 1985 as a result of the merger of the CPA practices of Tom Reynolds and Frank Rowella. The firm provides consulting, tax and assurance services and acts for businesses across all industries.

Ridout Barrett, with offices in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, founded in 1986, provides professional accounting, tax and business advisory services to businesses of all sizes and across a range of sectors.

Harriet Greenberg, president of DFK USA and deputy president of DFK International, says that 2018 has been a time of growth for DFK International. “The addition of Ridout Barrett and Reynolds + Rowella provide an additional tax-centric layer to the community, while Lauterbach & Amen bring a targeted audit-based view with a specialized focus in government auditing.”

As deputy president of DFK International, Harriet’s vision is to grow membership both in the U.S. and internationally, and she hopes this latest recruitment will act as a springboard for attracting more firms to DFK USA.

“We are doing some really amazing things in DFK USA in collaboration with DFK International. As we continue to execute our powerful initiatives, I’m confident that our members will grow across the nation in major cities,” she says.

Abacus Worldwide Appoints Former MSI Global CEO To Advisory Board

James Mendelssohn

James Mendelssohn

Abacus Worldwide, an international association of 58 accounting and legal firms in 31 countries, has appointed James Mendelssohn to its advisory board.

In addition to his strategic development role on the board, Mendelssohn will assist with membership recruitment efforts with specific focus on the region encompassing Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Prior to his appointment, Mendelssohn was the CEO and chair of MSI Global Alliance.  Julio Gabay, Abacus Worldwide president and CEO says of Mendelssohn, “He brings a wealth of knowledge and practical experience from his previous association management roles. Combining his wisdom with Abacus Worldwide’s dynamic membership will only lead to great things ahead in terms of growth and strategy.”

PrimeGlobal Welcomes Miller Grossbard Advisors

Brian Miller

Miller Grossbard Advisors of Houston (FY17 net revenue of $10.2 million), an IPA Best of the Best firm, has joined PrimeGlobal, an association of 300 independent public accounting firms in 80 countries.

“At MGA, our approach is simple,” says partner Brian Miller. “We’re not about services rendered. We’re about relationships. Our highly experienced professionals – the best in their field – expertly help clients navigate every financial intricacy, from tax preparation and planning to assurance services to business sales to a sound succession plan.”

Michelle Arnold, the chief regional officer for North America, says, “PrimeGlobal member firms and their clients will reap immediate benefits from the knowledge and expertise that MGA demonstrates, especially in the proactive and innovative way they run the firm. We share a mutual belief with their firm: that lifetime relationships, pioneering technology and quality are key to business success.”

Moore Stephens North America Announces Marcil Lavallée As New Member

The accounting association, Moore Stephens North America (MSNA), has announced the addition of the Candian firm Marcil Lavallée to the MSNA association. Marcil Lavallée joins the 39 member firms that make up MSNA, with over 110 offices in most major North American cities.

Marcil Lavallée was founded in 1980 with headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, and an additional office in Gatineau, Quebec. Marcil Lavallée’s team is comprised of approximately 85 public accountants and tax specialists, providing services across a variety of industries. A francophone firm, they pride themselves on tailoring solutions to best fit their clients’ needs.

Tony Szczepaniak, CEO of MSNA, says, “Adding Marcil Lavallee to our North American landscape has been extremely valuable. Their strong presence throughout the Ontario and Quebec regions will be instrumental in expanding our member service and collaboration efforts.”

“We are convinced that MSNA will support us in our strategic planning, our continued growth and our aim to continuously improve our client service offering,” says partner Valerie Marcil.