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 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.”

BeachFleischman, GMLCPA Launch Virtual Firm

Gabby Luoma

Tucson, Ariz.-based BeachFleischman (FY17 net revenue of $26.9 million) and GMLCPA, an outsourced client accounting and advisory services firm, announce the formation of a joint venture to launch a virtual firm, MOD Ventures. 

MOD Ventures combines GMLCPA with the client accounting services department of BeachFleischman to form a company that will serve entrepreneurial clients from small and mid-sized businesses all over the U.S. and internationally. Clients who have received outsourced accounting services through BeachFleischman and GMLCPA started receiving those services through MOD Ventures on Jan. 1.

Gabby Luoma of GMLCPA has been named MOD Ventures’ CEO and will lead a team of 18 professionals who will use the latest technology to operate virtually, leverage automation and provide clients with the most accurate, timely and relevant financial and operational data, the firm announced.

MOD Venture’s cloud-based accounting system offers easy-to-understand information designed to help clients gain confidence around processes and systems. MOD Ventures will also offer pricing options for clients to decide which level works best to accomplish their goals.

“This creative partnership with BeachFleischman was made from a desire to build a practice with the depth and backing of a large firm that shares a belief in the business model and entrepreneurial culture,” says Luoma. “Clients want advisors who can help their businesses be more effective, and MOD Ventures will give them access to expanded services should they need help with multi-state and/or international ventures, financial forensics, succession planning, valuations and strategic services, just to name a few. Additionally, we can offer more industry-specific guidance to help clients navigate through the unique issues impacting their operations.”

Marc Fleischman, BeachFleischman’s CEO says, “We are excited about the incredible opportunities that emerging business models are bringing to our profession and we have a proven industry thought leader in Gabby Luoma, who will leverage the talents of our staff to help clients accomplish great things.”

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Friedman LLP Launches Qualified Opportunity Zone Consulting Practice 

Steven Bokiess

New York-based Friedman LLP (FY17 net revenue of $101.5 million) has announced a new offering: Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) consulting services.

The QOZ program, created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is a tax-incentivized investment initiative meant to spur economic growth in low-income communities while providing investors with additional capital to expand existing businesses, form new businesses or fund real estate developments, the firm reports.

Leading the new practice group will be partner Steven Bokiess, who brings more than 20 years of experience advising prominent real estate organizations involved in a wide range of properties. He has provided tax consulting and compliance services to a variety of real estate and asset management clients, including REITs, real estate partnerships, private equity funds, hedge funds, investment advisors, broker/dealers and mutual funds.

“With QOZs currently spanning 12% of the land area of the nation, there is a tremendous opportunity for individual, trust or corporate investors to reap significant tax advantages,” says Robert Charron, partner and tax practice leader at Friedman. “The expansion of our service offerings to include this new practice group further demonstrates our commitment to staying on the pulse of industry and policy changes to deliver excellent client services.”

KPMG Moves into Small Business Tax and Accounting Services with Spark

Zach Olson

New York-based KPMG LLP (FY17 net revenue of $9 billion) has launched KPMG Spark, a tax accounting solution for small and mid-sized businesses.

The Big 4 firm says KPMG Spark “blends innovative technology, intelligent automation and ‘human in the loop’ personalized service” to help clients from the pre-revenue stage to upward of $50 million annually to comply with last year’s domestic tax reform legislation.

Spark uses the technology platform KPMG acquired last summer when it purchased a business then known as Bookly, which at the time solely provided cash-basis accounting assistance to small companies.

“Robotic process automation, intelligent automation and other emerging technologies are just beginning to disrupt the accounting and tax services industries,” says Jeffrey C. LeSage, Americas vice chairman of tax at KPMG. “KPMG Spark reflects KPMG’s commitment to bringing innovative solutions to an expanding range of clients so we can help them drive growth, gain efficiencies and create greater value.”

KPMG Spark provides online bookkeeping, tax preparation and related services, supported by staff.

“The KPMG Spark solutions are designed to give business owners the tools they need to gain back the time they are spending on finance management, so they can pursue their passions and grow their businesses,” says Zach Olson, who joined KPMG as a managing director as part of the Bookly acquisition.

Keiter Announces Combination of Two Groups to Form Keiter Advisors

Carroll Hurst

Keiter (FY17 net revenue of $26.9 million) of Glen Allen, Va., announces the combination of Keiter Stephens Advisors, a food service distribution specialist, with Keiter Transaction Advisors, an investment banking firm launched in 2017. The combined group will be called Keiter Advisors, an affiliate of Keiter.

The combined group will focus on mergers and acquisitions for lower middle-market companies with revenues between $20 million and $200 million. Keiter Advisors brings together senior professionals who have closed over 100 lower middle-market M&A transactions nationwide and across a variety of industries, including food service distribution, specialty chemicals, health care, wireless communications and traditional media.

Additionally, Carroll Hurst, a founding partner of Keiter and head of the firm’s M&A team, will become a director of both Keiter and Keiter Advisors on Jan. 1. In this dual role, Hurst will continue to provide tax consulting, strategic planning and business consulting services to clients of Keiter, while also providing financial advisory and investment banking services to clients of Keiter Advisors.

“For the first time in our firm’s history, we will be housing all of our M&A expertise under one roof,” Hurst says. “This will ensure new opportunities and greater access to talent for our all clients.”

Keiter Advisors will offer middle-market companies a host of services including: advising clients through the sale of a company, acquisition targeting, capital raises, shareholder valuation options and strategic planning.

Other team members include Jim McGrath, Mathew Austin, Bill Beattie and Scott Zickefoose.

GBQ Offers Fraud Hotline for Clients’ Employees

Columbus, Ohio-based GBQ (FY17 net revenue of $31.4 million) is introducing a fraud hotline to help companies protect against fraud, waste and abuse.

The GBQ hotline service allows employees at clients’ companies to report their suspicions of wrongdoing anonymously. Nearly half of all frauds are detected through a tip, GBQ reports.

Tips will be handled by certified fraud professionals and CPAs, and GBQ will provide training on the importance of reporting concerns and suspicions.

“We believe that an organization’s resources are better used protecting against fraud, waste and abuse versus investigation after it is too late,” says Rebekah Smith, director of forensic and dispute advisory services. “GBQ’s fraud hotline offering provides an important line of defense by providing an easy way for employees to report concerns. In addition, simply having a hotline tells employees that your organization takes fraud seriously.”

GBQ Expands Services with Keep Financials

Columbus, Ohio-based GBQ (FY17 net revenue of $31.4 million) has launched Keep Financials, a comprehensive outsourced accounting and bookkeeping practice.

The aim of Keep Financials is to remove the burden of back-office tasks from business owners while offering “financial intelligence” to help move the business forward, the firm says. Entrepreneurs and business owners have told GBQ that there’s a gap in the market for basic accounting and bookkeeping services.

Managing Director Darci Congrove says, “By creating a virtual bookkeeping service, we’ve rounded out our GBQ offerings to serve every financial need a business owner might face, from basic accounting and financial statement preparation to tax planning and advice, special project assistance, business valuations and transaction assistance.”

Marks Paneth Launches New Cybersecurity Services

New York-based Marks Paneth (FY17 net revenue of $131.4 million) has launched a number of new cybersecurity and risk mitigation services to address clients’ data security issues. Services include incident response, cyber risk assessments, business recovery plans and compliance with payment card industry (PCI) and HIPAA regulations.

“We are passionate about helping our clients succeed and finding ways to keep their businesses moving forward,” says MP Harry Moehringer. “Providing cybersecurity support alongside our other advisory services makes it easier and more accessible for our clients to determine the best way to protect their sensitive data and reduce risks to their business continuity.”

Marks Paneth’s cybersecurity offerings are provided through a strategic alliance with Sylint Group, an internationally recognized cybersecurity and digital data forensics firm and one of only 15 firms in the U.S. accredited by the National Security Agency (NSA). The new suite of services also includes digital forensic, expert witness and private investigation services that aid in uncovering fraud and preparing for potential and pending litigation.

Bonadio Group Plans Expansion into Texas Market

Jeff Wexler

Pittsford, N.Y.-based The Bonadio Group (FY18 net revenue of $97.9 million) announced it is entering the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, market.

Bonadio is opening an office in Irving, Texas. The office will be led by Jeff Wexler, a Bonadio partner. He says the firm will be adding several new hires in the coming months to serve the firm’s Dallas-area clients.

“We have many clients with a presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, so this office will not only better serve these existing clients but also allow us to build on this foundation and introduce our firm to a new client base,” Tom Bonadio, CEO of Bonadio Group, said in statement. “Our growth has historically been the result of a mix of high demand, solid strategy, and acquisition. Jeff’s leadership ensures this office will be a fit for our culture from day one.”

The firm’s focus in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will be private-equity firms and their portfolio companies, construction contractors, real-estate developers and manufacturers.

The Bonadio Group now has more than 750 employees.

Kerkering Barberio Offers International Tax Consulting in Tampa Office

Chris Corneroli

Sarasota, Fla.-based Kerkering, Barberio & Co. (FY17 net revenue of $16.7 million) has recently expanded its Tampa, Fla., office to include international tax consulting and advising. Christopher Corneroli will provide individual and business tax compliance and consulting to clients with international reporting requirements who are seeking to navigate the U.S. tax system.

The Kerkering Barberio international tax team offers consulting and advising to both U.S. citizens and residents who have financial assets and holdings in foreign countries, as well as non-U.S. residents who invest in the U.S. With the recent implementation of new laws under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, many potential pitfalls exist for U.S. citizens, residents and non-residents.

“A lot has changed with our country’s new tax laws, and it’s important to understand the tax implications faced by when making personal and business decisions,” says Corneroli.