Armanino Launches AI Lab

An IPA Best of the Best firm, San Ramon, Calif.-based Armanino LLP (FY17 net revenue of $242.7 million) has launched the Armanino AI Lab, designed to help businesses interested in using AI technologies.

“More than 75% of companies believe AI is fundamental to their future success, but the majority of those aren’t taking advantage of AI technology today and don’t know how to,” says Tom Mescall, PIC of Armanino’s consulting practice. “Armanino’s AI Lab will serve as a one-stop shop that enables its members to harness the opportunities that AI offers without being left behind by their competitors.”

The announcement came May 20 at the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Executive Roundtable, hosted by Armanino at its offices for C-level executives to see a demonstration of AI and discuss practical ways to apply it.

The three components of AI are predictive analytics, robotic process automation and virtual assistants. Members of the Armanino AI Lab can access peer-to-peer meetings, exclusive product and vendor reviews, Armanino’s data scientists and AI developers and consultants. Members can also learn about AI best practices and execute on AI proof of concepts.

The firm says that in a survey of the Roundtable event attendees, more than 75% ranked predictive analytics as most important to their organizations. Additionally, 83% believe their data infrastructure will need further improvement to achieve the best results. Meanwhile, 60% of event attendees have not started their first initiative.

Prior to launching its AI Lab, Armanino researched the most common business cases for using AI – from finance, supply chain, customer experience and talent management to compliance and privacy.

“As we continue to build out the Armanino AI Lab, we are proud to align ourselves with many of the world’s technology and software leaders in the AI space,” says John Horner, PIC of Armanino’s data and analytics practice. “This makes it easy for clients to access our knowledge and relationships, thereby decreasing their investment time and increasing their benefits of embracing AI technology.”

Armanino has already accepted several existing clients into the Armanino AI Lab and will continue to add members. To submit your membership application, visit: learn.armaninollp.com/ailab.

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Neil Keller Named 2019-2020 WICPA Chair

Naperville, Ill.-based Sikich (FY18 net revenue of $168.7 million) announced that Neil Keller, PIC of tax services, is the new 2019-2020 board chair for the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs (WICPA), which gave him a scholarship as a senior in high school that launched his accounting career.

Neil Keller

“When I got into the career I really admired the past chairs of the WICPA, but I always looked at them and said, ‘That’s never going to be me.’ I just didn’t think I had what it took or had that same passion that they showed,” Keller says in a Sikich video. “Then I found myself on Capitol Hill talking with congressmen about the profession and realized, ‘Man, if that’s not dedication to the profession, if that’s not passion for the profession, I don’t know what is, and that was kind of the trigger for me saying, ‘Yeah I  can be a WICPA chair.’ ”

In his role as board chair, Keller will help the organization fulfill its mission of enhancing professional competency, promoting the value of the profession, advocating on behalf of the profession and building community.

At Sikich, Keller assists clients in choosing an ownership structure and assessing the tax impact when buying or selling a business. Keller “prides himself on listening to and learning about his clients’ needs and goals in order to develop successful strategies,” the firm says.

Marcum LLP, Hofstra Survey Shows CEOs Planning to Invest in Future

New York-based Marcum (FY17 net revenue of $469.5 million) and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb of Business are partnering to survey business leaders on their perspectives on the business environment, short-term plans for growth and investment, and selected business or news developments.

The survey is being conducted as part of the business school’s MBA curriculum. Results will be presented in three installments this year.

Results from the first survey found CEOs to be “strongly bullish,” both in their current and short-term future outlook, Marcum announced.

“CEOs whose companies realized a tax savings in the first year of the new tax law described how they plan to invest the funds back into their companies, citing business expansion, debt reduction, operational improvements and increasing employees’ salaries as their first priorities,” the firm announced. The CEOs surveyed stressed recruitment and availability of talent as top priorities in capital spending and business influences.

Marcum CEO and Hofstra alumnus Jeffrey Weiner says, “It is a very positive signal for the economy and the national mood that the first Marcum-Hofstra survey revealed CEOs’ strong optimism about the business environment, despite the economic and policy flux that has characterized the past year, and the complex new tax code that has changed the dynamics of commerce from the local to the international level.”

Janet Lenaghan, dean of the business school, says, “Partnerships like this one between Marcum and the Zarb School are vital to training the next generation of business leaders. This survey, with its in-depth, real-time insight about the business climate, help us provide a pipeline of talented students who are poised meet the demands of industry and prepared to take their place in C-suite.”

Highlights of the first Marcum-Hofstra survey include: 

  • 49% rated the availability of talent among their top influences for business planning over the next 12 months.
  • 29% said talent recruitment will be one of their top capital investments in the next year.
  • 18% of CEOs gave their outlook on the business environment the highest rating of “10” and 96% rated their outlook at “5” or higher.
  • 64% of CEOs plan to invest more in their companies over the next 12 months. Technology was most frequently selected as a top-three investment priority (47%), and equipment was the No.1 priority overall (20%).
  • The three greatest influences on business planning selected by CEOs were technology (53%), economic concerns (53%) and availability of talent (49%).
  • The top external issues cited by CEOs as impacting their businesses included economic trends (76%), cost of labor (49%), cybersecurity (38%) and inflation (38%).

CEOs were also asked whether their jobs were harder now than in the past. A majority, 57%, answered “no.” Of the 43% who said the CEO job is harder now, the most frequent reason given was the challenge of “attracting and retaining customers/clients” (18%).

CEOs were also asked about the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on their business’ tax liability. More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said their companies’ tax obligations decreased in the first year under the new tax law, while 18% said their companies’ taxes increased. About half (46%) saw no effect on their taxes.

Zarb MBA students designed the questionnaire, analyzed the survey results, and reported on the influence of these factors on executive decision-making. “The students, in addition to honing their research skills, gained a deeper appreciation of the role that external forces play in the evolution CEOs’ strategic priorities,” says Andrew Forman, associate professor of marketing and director of the co-op MBA program.

C-suite executives at 255 companies in more than a dozen industries participated in the Marcum LLP- Hofstra University CEO Survey.

For the complete Marcum LLP-Hofstra University CEO Survey and an archive of prior surveys, visit www.marcumllp.com.

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Janover Partner Elected an Officer of NYSSCPA

Joseph A. Maffia

Joseph A. Maffia

Garden City, N.Y.-based Janover LLC (FY17 net revenue of $30 million) announces that Joseph A. Maffia will be installed as a vice president of the board of directors for the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA). His one-year term begins June 1.

Maffia has practiced public accounting for over 38 years. He serves businesses and individuals across a wide array of industries, including technology and software development, sports, arts and entertainment and charities, foundations and not-for-profits.  At Janover, Maffia serves as co-chair of the quality control committee, having previously served on Janover’s executive committee.

Maffia has served on NYSSCPA committees, is involved in the AICPA and serves on the boards of several nonprofits in New York.

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Inaugural Leadership Growth Academy Program Recognizes 19 Graduates

Moore Stephens North America’s (MSNA) Dynamic Growth Academy, formerly the Leadership Growth Academy, has completed its first program, graduating 19 participants from nine North American member firms.

Nine of the graduates are from Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Brown Smith Wallace (FY17 net revenue of $46.3 million): Kevin Boeving, Scott Brandt, Todd Goldenhersh, Amy Ribick, Anne Ritter, Dan Schoenleber, Greg Smith, Jen Vacha and Debbie Vandeven.

Two graduates are from Demers Beaulne of Quebec, Montreal: Francys Brown and Isabelle Lemieux. Two are from Itasca, Ill.-based CDH (FY18 net revenue of $12.7 million): Phil Lampugnano and Yoko Yamamoto.

Additional graduates are: Chris Leikert, Beene Garter of Grand Rapids, Mich., (FY18 net revenue of $14.5 million); Daniel Gaudet, Woburn, Mass.-based DiCicco Gulman & Company (FY17 net revenue of $26.4 million); Chris Tull, Troy, Mich.-based Doeren Mayhew (FY17 net revenue of $72.6 million); Pete Jones, Frazer LLP (FY17 net revenue of $15.4 million); Stephen Rollins, G.T. Reilly & Company of Milton, Mass., and Eli Gembom, Segal LLP of Toronto, Ontario (FY17 net revenue of $15.8 million).

The program features leadership and business development training from The Center for Character-based Leadership and LVG Advisors. The program includes four two-day sessions, alternating leadership and business development sessions, as well as individual coaching, peer coaching and mentor support.

“The question on my mind was are we able to connect?” says participant Francys Brown. “The end result was that we really connected…and the reason was that we were all on the same journey to partnership. We share the same amount of challenges, the same goals, and it was clear when we were talking together that we were in the same boat.”

The program included participants from nine member firms. The sessions were held at several different member firms in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago, providing members with the opportunity to visit other firms and make new connections.

“I haven’t really had a voice,” said participant Anne Ritter. “And that was figurative voice. I wasn’t outspoken with my peers, and that was something I learned in my leadership group. We spent a lot of quality time together, made a lot of great connections…and I highly recommend every bit of this program.”

The Center for Character-based Leadership provides coaching focused on the complexity of leading in the top two to three levels of organizations and the talents needed. LVG Advisors provides business development training, business development coaching and SAM-Pro services for professional service firms. These services are aimed at building firm revenue, strengthening practice professional confidence and maintaining client loyalty.

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Dalby Wendland & Co. Names Chris West as CEO

Christopher L. West

Grand Junction, Colo.-based Dalby Wendland & Co. (FY18 net revenue of $13 million) announces the election of Christopher L. West as the firm’s CEO, effective July 1.

“We are positioning Dalby Wendland for a dynamic future,” says firm president Greg Keller. “Chris has shown strong leadership, insight and is committed to our people, clients and communities. He is the right person to lead this organization and successfully implement our firm’s vision.

As CEO, West will focus on firm leadership and vision direction, including operations, people, client service, technology and overall growth strategies. He is a Colorado native and started with Dalby Wendland in 1996. He became a tax principal in 2009.

Dalby Wendland & Co. has six offices in Colorado: Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Montrose, Rifle and Telluride.

RKL Introduces De Stefano as New CFO

Michael De Stefano

Lancaster, Pa.-based RKL LLP (FY17 net revenue of $67.9 million) has announced that Michael De Stefano has joined the firm as CFO, succeeding Kevin Lightner, who retired from the firm April 30 after 18 years as CFO.

As CFO, De Stefano will lead and manage financial operations in close collaboration with RKL leadership.

De Stefano’s new role marks his return to the firm where he began his career. In 1995, he began as a staff accountant and rose to the position of audit manager. De Stefano became the controller of a large transportation and logistics company in Middletown, Pa., in 2009, and most recently served as the company’s CFO and vice president of finance.

“We thank Kevin Lightner for his dedication and service to RKL, and wish him the best in the future,” says RKL CEO Edward W. Monborne. “We’re proud to welcome Mike De Stefano back to RKL and we look forward to his contributions toward RKL’s continued growth and success.”

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EY Names New Chicago OMP

Jud Snyder

Jud Snyder

Big 4 firm EY has named Jud Snyder managing partner of its Chicago office, replacing Kim Simios on July 1.

This transition is part of a planned rotation succession, the firm announced.

As OMP in Chicago, Snyder will support a team of approximately 3,500 professionals across the assurance, tax, transaction and advisory service lines. Snyder will be “responsible for developing and engaging EY’s people, creating high-performing teams, driving market leadership and amplifying the EY brand through strong engagement in the Chicago market,” according to a statement from the firm.

Snyder most recently served as deputy assurance MP in the central region. He was responsible for performing quality audits, driving growth, managing resources and developing 1,800 staff across the regional assurance practice that spans 17 offices and 15 states. Prior to that role, he served as the COO for EY in South America, based in São Paulo, Brazil. While there, he worked with the organizing committee of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Baker Tilly Partner David Duffus Appointed President of Nonprofit

David Duffus

David Duffus

Chicago-based Baker Tilly (FY18 net revenue of $578.4 million) announced that partner David Duffus has been appointed president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Turnaround Management Association (TMA).

TMA is a global non-profit organization comprised of turnaround and corporate renewal professionals with 9,000 members in 49 chapters, including 32 in North America. TMA members are a professional community that seeks to strengthen the global economy by working to save distressed businesses, and help companies manage the challenges and avoid pitfalls in the future.

“It is an honor to be named president of TMA Pittsburgh,” Duffus says. “I will work closely with TMA Pittsburgh members and TMA Global to ensure that our influence on the restructuring industry and community continues to grow in both value and importance.”

Duffus specializes in applying forensic accounting techniques for damage analysis and valuations. Additionally, he provides services related to forensic investigations and frequently serves as an expert witness in federal and state court and in alternative dispute settings.

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Betina Dufault Joins UHY LLP as National Director of Financial Reporting and Quality Control

Betina Dufault

Betina Dufault

Chicago-based UHY Advisors Inc. (FY17 net revenue of $140.8 million) announced that Betina Dufault has joined the firm as the national director of financial reporting and quality control.

As a member of UHY’s national office, Dufault acts as a technical resource for the firm’s audit practice, working with UHY professionals as they adopt new audit procedures and review new accounting principles. She also oversees the firm’s quality control and internal inspection programs and will facilitate external inspections conducted by AICPA peer reviewers, the PCAOB and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prior to joining UHY, Dufault was an associate director at the PCAOB in the division of registration and inspections, where she spent 15 years working on developing inspections and reporting matters including, for the last seven years, overseeing the remediation program for the country’s largest accounting firms.

“Betina brings over 25 years of work experience in assurance, accounting, advisory and regulatory matters and is a proven veteran of quality in the audit process,” says Cynthia Scheuer, MP of UHY LLP.

Prior to her tenure at the PCAOB, Dufault was a senior manager at a Big 4 accounting firm, where she led audits of public and private companies, and advised clients on technical accounting matters. Dufault also completed a two-year fellowship position at the SEC.

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