PwC Uses Drone In Audit of U.K. Energy Client

Not only has PwC piloted a drone to cut time from a U.K. audit – a first for the Big 4 firm – it is also helping clients tap the technology to gather data themselves.

The drone, controlled from the ground by PwC, was used to assess coal inventory for the German energy giant RWE in Aberthaw, South Wales, the firm says. At the same time, the firm predicts a “drone economy” will employ 500,000 people by 2030 and is studying drones to eventually help clients extract insights from drone data.

Now, however, recreational drones have proven troublesome for air traffic and are strictly regulated. In the future, PwC predicts that a regulated commercial fleet of about 76,000 drones will be used for a range of different tasks, reports Consultancy.uk. To prepare, the firm has gathered a team of drone experts and set up a global center of excellence to study drones’ potential.

UK Drone company’s QuestUAV’s fixed wing drone, ready to take flight

As a test, PwC used a drone to measure the volume of RWE’s coal reserves to determine value. In 30 minutes the drone captured 300 images, which were used to create a “digital twin” of the coal pile to measure its volume. The value of the coal was then calculated to within 99% accuracy. The traditional method of hand-counting inventory would have taken four hours, the firm asserts.

“While the traditional method remains reliable and will still be used for RWE’s formal year-end financial statements, the drone trial was conducted to explore ways of challenging the traditional method of stock counting,” says audit partner Richard French in a statement. “It was a classic example of new technology challenging the old – and based on our results, the potential is groundbreaking.”

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, adds, “Sectors with large assets in hard to reach areas are the most obvious starting points for expanding this kind of work further – from mining to agriculture and forestry… In this case, drones have allowed us to trial a more efficient service which has the potential to save both money and time, while allowing us to deliver greater insight too. There is also a clear health and safety benefit to using drones for this type of work, without someone having to climb over the coal pile.”

Pisenti & Brinker and Zainer Rinehart Clarke Announce Merger

Betsy Stewart

Pisenti & Brinker (P&B), with offices in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Napa, Calif., and Zainer Rinehart Clarke (ZRC), located in Santa Rosa and St. Helena, Calif., announce their merger under the Pisenti & Brinker name.

ZRC partners Betsy Stewart, Linda Kachiu and Danielle Sandoval will maintain their titles and leadership positions in the new firm with P&B partners Jim Perez, Ray Pounds, Tim Moratto, Brett Bradford and Josh Moore. The merger was effective Jan. 1.

The new P&B has a combined 92-year history in the region and has 31 CPAs and nearly 80 employees.

“When we began to look at this opportunity we realized just how similar the two firms are in terms of core values, client composition and services,” says Perez, P&B’s co-MP. “This is no surprise given the history of leadership and community focus at both P&B and ZRC. We have long respected Betsy, Linda, Danielle and the work of their team at ZRC, and we welcome the diversity they will bring to the new P&B. This is an incredible opportunity for our current and future employees as we will be able to offer them more pathways in their careers. Our clients will benefit from the convergence of the best practices of each firm and the additional depth and technical resources that will be available to North Bay businesses and individuals.”

The newly formed P&B will provide businesses and individuals with tax planning, management advice, audit and assurance services, valuation and litigation support, and estate and succession planning. P&B works across various industries, including construction, real estate, wineries, vineyards and other agriculture, manufacturing, nonprofits, retail, food and beverage, hospitality, and governmental and municipal agencies.

ZRC MP Stewart says, “I am confident that our clients will not only be comfortable with still being able to work directly with the team they know, but they will also greatly benefit from the additional resources we will be able to provide. We have been looking for ways to support our employees and recruiting efforts in terms of additional training and opportunities, and blending with the larger, well-rounded team at P&B allows us to do just that.”

P&B is a member of the RSM U.S. Alliance, and ZRC has also long been a member of DFK International.

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.”

Sklar Heyman Hirschfield & Kantor Merges with Block & Block

Jeffrey Sklar

Bellmore, N.Y.-based Sklar Heyman Hirshfield & Kantor LLP, a CPA firm specializing in tax preparation, audit, and advisory services has merged with Block & Block of New York, into the firm. The new name of the firm is Sklar Kantor Block LLP.

In making the announcement, Jeffrey Sklar, MP of the firm says, “This merger is a strategic opportunity to join two firms with knowledge and familiarity in a variety of areas. It and also gives us an established office in New York City. I am pleased to welcome Mike Block as a partner to the firm and know his experience and expertise will be an asset and a strong complement to our practice.”

The firm’s mission is to provide superior accounting and business advisory services to clients large and small, from well-established businesses to start-up enterprises. Sklar Kantor Block provides an array of services including: general accounting & financial statements; tax preparation; audit services; consulting; mergers & acquisitions; asset protection; investment review; bankruptcies; cash flow forecasting & budgeting; and litigation support.

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.”

CBM Names Drolet as Chair

Patricia Drolet

Patricia Drolet, executive vice president of Bethesda, Md.-based Councilor Buchanan & Mitchell (CBM) has been elected board chair. She took the post Jan. 1.

Drolet has served on the firm’s executive committee for four years with CBM president and MP Peter B. Reilly, tax practice director Richard E. Morris, and financial planning practice director Debora E. May. The addition of Drolet as chair brings a new perspective to decision-making, which will help determine the future direction of CBM, the firm announced.

Drolet has served as an executive vice president at CBM since the Washington, D.C.-based firm she founded, Drolet & Associates, merged into CBM in 2014. She continues to serve as one of the firm’s experts in not-for-profit and professional services tax and accounting.

“I appreciate the confidence of the other leaders on CBM’s executive committee,” says Drolet. “This reflects the benefits of having new voices in a decision-making capacity and also of focusing on the strength of CBM’s diversity at the highest levels of our practice.”

Approximately 60% of CBM’s staff is female and 22% are minorities, while 50% of CBM’s leadership group is female.

“On the cusp of celebrating our 100th year anniversary, the partners at CBM elected our first female chair of the board of directors,” says Reilly. “I congratulate Pat on demonstrating outstanding leadership and providing pertinent insights. Personally, I look forward to assisting Pat in executing her vision and goals for CBM.”

CBM has nearly doubled in size since 2014. In 2018, the firm merged in the practice of Chaconas & Wilson, a Washington, D.C.-based tax and advisory firm, and the investment management firm, May Barnhard Investments. CBM also opened a new downtown office in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1.

Trust and Business Insight are More Critical than Ever in the Digital Age, CPA.com CEO Says

Erik Asgeirsson

Technology is transforming all major practice areas within the accounting profession, and CPAs will increasingly adopt a more strategic role in delivering trusted information and insights, the chief executive of CPA.com said.

“Our priority is to help build an ecosystem that allows CPA firms to succeed in delivering both the trust driven by compliance work and insights from emerging advisory services,” says Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com, in a keynote speech at the recent 2018 Digital CPA Conference. “This has been an effective approach with client accounting advisory services, and the same lessons are now being applied to tax, audit and assurance services.”

Asgeirsson went on to speak about how the cloud, artificial intelligence and digitized data are reshaping practice areas:

  • Client accounting advisory services (CAS) – Virtual CFO and controller services are becoming firmly established and firms are embracing best practices. The focus is now on automating data inputs, building scale and deepening advisory insights with high-value business intelligence.
  • Audit and assurance services – “You can’t have cloud auditing, with the power of artificial intelligence-driven efficiency and insight, without cloud accounting.” On the assurance side, CPA.com, AICPA and CaseWare International this year launched OnPoint PCR, a dynamic, smart solution for preparation, compilation and review engagements. In a major commitment to innovation, the AICPA, CPA.com, CaseWare and a consortium of leading CPA firms are collaborating on the development of a Dynamic Audit Solution, elements of which would benefit all audit practices.
  • Tax – Driven by client demand, CPA practices are moving beyond tax compliance to integrated planning services that incorporate retirement and other financial and life planning services.

The AICPA and CPA.com are planning expanded training and curriculum to support the continued extension into advisory services. CPA.com also continues to play a key role in fostering innovation through thought-leading initiatives, such as its executive roundtables – including one at this fall’s World Congress of Accountants in Sydney, Australia – with key accounting technology providers, firm leaders and influencers from within the profession. The company also oversees, in collaboration with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, a startup accelerator focused on early-stage companies in fintech and educational technology.

Survey: Flex Programs Are ‘Minimum Ante’ to Attract, Retain Talent

A survey by ConvergenceCoaching shows that 99% offer some or all the option to flex where they work (remote work), up from 94% in 2016, and that 96% allow some or all team members to , down from 97% in the prior survey.

Consulting firm ConvergenceCoaching has been surveying firms for four years through its Anytime, Anywhere Work™ questionnaire to measure whether firms are allowing employees to have more control over when and where they are working.

According to this year’s survey, with 175 firm respondents, “flex programs are becoming table stakes, or the minimum ‘ante’ required to attract and retain top talent,” ConvergenceCoaching reported.

Highlights include:

  • 85% offer part-time options
  • 83% have an early/late start program, offering team members the opportunity to choose a start and end time that better fit his/her lifestyle
  • 83% allow for day-to-day flex of time, offering as-needed flexibility to attend doctor’s appointments, for instance, and other non-recurring obligations
  • 82% of firms who have a remote worker retained an employee when they moved to a different geography, up from 42% in 2016
  • 70% offer day-to-day anywhere flex, where team members can adjust their workplace as needed to meet personal obligations that are non-recurring (like meeting the repair person at home)
  • 63% employ a team member in another geography, up from 57% in 2016
  • 58% no longer mandate Saturday office hours, up from 39% in the 2016 survey
  • 56% believe that leadership sees flex as a strategic advantage, up from 44% in 2016

“Firms must seek ways to expand and improve the types of programs offered, create buy-in and support for use of Anytime, Anywhere Work options, and develop a culture that embraces flexibility and mobility across the organization, at all levels.”

Download the full survey results summary here.

Murray Wamsley & Schrader Joins HeimLantz CPAs and Advisors in Merger

Carter Heim

Effective Jan. 1, Murray Wamsley & Schrader of Lexington Park, Md., will be merging with Annapolis, Md.-based HeimLantz CPAs and Advisors.

“The addition of Mary Ann Murray and Jenny Wamsley, and all of the team members at Murray Wamsley & Schrader, will have a significant impact on the combined organization as we continue to strive to better serve our clients and the communities we operate in through our growing practice,” said Carter Heim of HeimLantz. “We are enthusiastic about continuing the high level of service and expertise their firm has been known for.”

The principals of MWS CPAs, Murray and Wamsley, will continue in their existing roles as partners in the combined firm. Murray and Wamsley serve the government contracting sector, serving the southwestern shore of Maryland. The combined firm will operate as HeimLantz CPAs and Advisors. MWS team will work from their existing office.

“We are very proud of the more than 20-year history of our firm. But we recognize that the next step for our team and clients is to merge with a firm that is just as committed to high quality, enabling us to expand the platform of services we can offer to our local and regional clients. We look forward to staying on the cutting edge of the change so prevalent in today’s consulting and accounting services markets,” says Murray.

Wamsley adds, “HeimLantz, its partners and professional staff share our philosophy of helping our clients grow and succeed, and this merger will broaden and deepen our existing industry specializations, enabling us to offer even more comprehensive business advice tailored to our clients.”

HeimLantz is a full-service public accounting and business advisory firm serving the greater Maryland, DC and Virginia area. The firm specializes in business planning and valuation, executive team coaching, employee benefit plan audits, forensics and litigation support, succession planning, internal controls and outsourced CFO services.

Two Upstate N.Y. Accounting Firms Merge

Two Schenectady, N.Y., accounting firms have merged ­– Watson Peterson & Company CPAs and Colleen Campoli CPA.

The firm will now operate as Peterson Campoli & Associates CPAs.

Partners Heather Peterson and Colleen Campoli have over 50 years of combined accounting experience. The new structure allows the firm to serve a more diverse client base and offer expanded services including tax preparation services for individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, assurance and advisory services, estate and trust planning, fiduciary taxation and concierge finance services for seniors.

The firm has moved into its new location at 1473 Erie Blvd. and employs six CPAs and five support staff.