Illinois CPA Society Announces 2020-21 Board of Directors

The Illinois CPA Society has appointed the following professionals to its board of directors for the term of April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021:

  • Chairperson: Dorri McWhorter, YMCA Metropolitan Chicago
  • Vice Chairperson: Thomas Murtagh, BKD
  • Secretary: Mary Fuller, Shepard Schwartz & Harris
  • Treasurer: Jonathan Hauser, KPMG
  • Immediate Past Chairperson: Geoffrey Harlow, Wipfli

“As we work to ensure CPAs are positioned to continue providing valued assurances and insights to clients and companies for generations to come, I am honored to have this team of strategic business advisors guiding our organization during this time of unprecedented change,” says Todd Shapiro, Illinois CPA Society president and CEO.

Mark Baer to Take Reins as Crowe CEO Next Year

Mark Baer

Mark Baer

Chicago-based Crowe (FY19 net revenue of $951.9 million) has announced that firm veteran Mark Baer will be appointed CEO effective April 1, 2021, when current CEO Jim Powers completes his second and firm-mandated final term. The firm’s CEO succession plan includes a one-year transition period for Powers and Baer to work together.

Baer has been the MP of Crowe’s audit and assurance services area for the past five years. He has also served the firm as a member of Crowe’s firmwide management committee, CEO advisory council and partner screening committee. Baer worked with a Big 4 firm for 10 years before joining Crowe in 2001 and being admitted as a partner in 2003.

“Mark was chosen to lead our firm for many reasons but primarily due to his visionary mindset with a focus on our digital transformation, his track record of successful leadership of our audit and assurance practice and his commitment to audit quality,” says Dawnella Johnson, Crowe board chair. “He’s a strong communicator and inspirational leader, with a concentration on building talent and teams.”

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Alexander Thompson Arnold Names CIO

Alan Watson

Alan Watson has been appointed to the newly created role of chief information officer at Union City, Tenn.-based Alexander Thompson Arnold (FY18 net revenue of $26.6 million).

Watson previously served as principal consultant at Digital Simplicity and EVP-CIO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy & Education. He was also awarded a Citrix Innovation Award for excellence in collaborating, networking and virtualization for his work creating customized learning resources in a secure, highly regulated environment.

“As ATA continues to grow and evolve, we saw a need to position ourselves as an innovative accounting firm that uses technology to create a strategic advantage for our firm and our clients,” MP John Whybrew notes on the creation of the CIO position.

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Cotton & Company Names New MP, Structural Changes

Steve Koons

Steve Koons has been elected MP at Cotton & Company of Alexandria, Va. (FY18 net revenue of $30 million), succeeding Matthew Johnson, who had held the post since 2006.

Koons joined the firm in 2010 after working for the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and was elected partner in 2014.

The firm also announced that it has restructured its legacy Financial and Information Assurance (IA) practices into new assurance and advisory practices in a realignment that is expected to be largely completed by April. With the aim of enhancing its collaborative, multi-disciplinary service offerings, the assurance practice will focus on federal financial statement audits and related performance audits, while the advisory practice will focus on consulting engagements.

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HORNE Admits Two to Partnership

Ridgeland, Miss.-based HORNE (FY18 net revenue of $91.3 million) has admitted Alethia Thomas and Lee Klein III into the firm’s partnership.

Thomas is a partner in government services. She is responsible for assisting government agencies with planning, managing and implementing programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery. She has experience in project oversight, policy and procedure development, and compliance.

Klein specializes in the construction industry, providing assurance services, tax strategy and consulting services, and management advisory services related to bonding and job costing.

KPMG Names Rick Arpin OMP in Las Vegas

Rick Arpin

Rick Arpin has been named OMP of KPMG’s Las Vegas office and is now responsible for its strategic direction and market growth.

“Rick Arpin brings more than 25 years of strong leadership and experience providing audit services to public and private global corporations in a broad array of sectors, including gaming, hospitality, entertainment, retail and sports,” says Mark Hutchins, KPMG’s Pacific Southwest regional MP. “Rick’s deep commitment to serving our clients, developing our people and making a difference in the Las Vegas community makes him the perfect fit for the managing partner role.”

“I am honored and I look forward to working with our tremendous team of partners and professionals across the firm to help our clients adapt and thrive in today’s environment, whether driven by economic forces, changing customer patterns, disruptive technologies or the rapidly evolving regulatory environment,” says Arpin.

Arpin arrives at KPMG from NRT Technology, where he served as senior vice president of its interactive division. Prior to that, Arpin spent 16 years with MGM Resorts International, holding several key leadership roles.

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H&CO Merges in EFA CPAs & Business Advisors

Emilio F. Alvarez

H&CO (FY18 net revenue of $14.5 million), with three offices in South Florida, has merged in EFA CPAs & Business Advisors of Miami.

The merger is expected to strengthen H&CO’s newly formed audit division and will allow the company to provide specialized audit and consulting services as well as grow EFA’s existing construction accounting niche, the firms announced. H&Co operates from Coral Gables, Brickell and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Armando Hernandez

“We welcome Emilio F. Alvarez and his team to our family,” says Armando Hernandez, H&CO CEO and president. “The cultures of our two firms are a perfect match. EFA takes the same level of pride in the services that they provide to their clients as we do.”

By combining the specialized international tax expertise of H&CO and the construction accounting experience of EFA, this merger creates a larger and more comprehensive offering of international construction accounting. “By combining our talented professionals, there are no limits to what we can accomplish,” says Hernandez.

Alvarez, EFA founder and MP, will join H&CO as MP of the audit division and will be responsible for the overall strategic function and objectives of the audit team.

“H&CO and EFA are two firms with very similar cultures, identical views of the future and practices that complement each other. It was only logical to get together. Our strength together is bigger than the sum of the parts,” Alvarez says. “With a stronger tax and auditing platform and a well-trained staff we will continue to provide excellent service to many industries as well as to domestic and foreign high net worth individuals.”

PBMares Admits Two Partners to Lead Retirement Plan Services Team

Gary Kitts

Gary Kitts

Newport News, Va.-based PBMares (FY18 net revenue of $41.4 million) has admitted two partners to lead the retirement plan services team – Gary Kitts and Cindy Kochersperger, based in Norfolk, Va.

CEO Alan Witt says, “Their years of experience combined with their technical and industry knowledge will undoubtedly aid our growth. They are problem-solvers and solution-providers and are valued resources for PBMares’ clients seeking retirement plan design, administration and audit services.”

Kitts has more than 25 years of experience, including leadership of a retirement plan third-party administration practice serving more than 1,200 plans. Areas of expertise include compliance services and employee benefit plan audits under the laws and regulations of the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974, or ERISA, the IRS and the Department of Labor.

Kochersperger has more than 20 years of public accounting experience including service as a partner in retirement plan administration. Focusing on 401(k) and profit-sharing plans for businesses of all sizes, she consults with clients on plan design and provides ongoing assistance with plan administration and compliance. Areas of expertise include daily valuation products, investment platforms and traditional balance forward plans.

The expanded PBMares practice includes administration services, benefit plan-related tax compliance services and a portion of its employee benefit plan audit services.

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Create a Wow Factor Workplace for Remote Employees: Ways to Nurture Employee Engagement

When you create a culture of ‘wow,’ it makes a powerful impact on all employees – including the growing number of people who work away from the office. Deb Boelkes shares a few of her best practices for inspiring and empowering your remote workforce.

In 2020, there’s a good chance at least some of your employees work from home, a coworking space or some other distant location. And while the arrangement has benefits for all parties, the trade-off is that remote workers get far less (if any) face time with leaders and coworkers. This may lead you to wonder: Can you truly engage remote employees? Is it possible to shape a positive company culture that encompasses everyone?

Boelkes says yes – and the solution lies in your ongoing pursuit of the “wow factor.” This is her terminology for those “Best Place to Work” leaders who consistently motivate and inspire employees, fill them with purpose, challenge them, and make them feel safe and supported.

“Many companies don’t work to deliberately shape a positive culture,” says Boelkes, author of The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture. “They think it will just happen, but that’s rarely true even when everyone is in the same place. And if a company has remote employees, the need to get intentional about culture-building is intensified.”

Engaging remote employees comes down to making them feel like they belong and are part of a cohesive team. They should feel valued and understand that their contributions are seen and appreciated, and that they are making an impact. That’s job No. 1.

Boelkes says there are plenty of simple engagement practices that make your virtual team members feel supported, connected and empowered.

Make sure remote employees know why they’re there. All employees should know (and embrace) the mission, vision, values and objectives of the company. They are a big part of how you convey the sense of meaning and purpose that’s so vital to engagement. Talk about these guiding factors explicitly and regularly. These things can change and when they do you need everyone in the loop. Additionally, make sure remote employees understand how their work aligns with and supports goals of the company, division and department.

“All team members need to know what they do really matters and that their efforts ­– and results – make a difference,” says Boelkes. “Acknowledge them in the way they prefer to be acknowledged.”

Never leave them hanging or assume they know what’s going on. This is vital, says Boelkes, especially regarding decisions made at upper levels. The biggest complaint most large or multi-site companies hear from employee satisfaction surveys is lack of communication from senior leaders. Don’t be a micromanager but do communicate, communicate, communicate…and be consistent in your messaging from the top down.

Make yourself available (on their timetable). Managers need to make sure meaningful one-on-one conversations with remote reports happen. Out of sight (and off-site) should not mean out of mind or out of the loop. Be willing to be flexible versus forcing employees to adapt to your schedule and communication style.

“Find out what works for your remote reports,” says Boelkes. “Some team members may prefer to establish a fixed time each week to catch up while others may prefer to call in for a quick update as project schedules permit. Let the employee know when you will be available and how they can get a message to you if it’s critical. Otherwise, be there for them.”

Be proactive about removing their roadblocks. If something is preventing a remote worker from being able to do their job efficiently, make sure they know to immediately come to you. In fact, ask them regularly if they need anything. It’s the manager’s job to remove any obstacles impeding team members’ efforts and to get them the resources and information they need.

Bring all team members together often. If possible, have an all-hands, on-site meeting at the start of a major project or at the beginning of the fiscal year. At the very least, schedule weekly all-hands team calls to update everyone on what’s going on, to see who needs help, to announce major accomplishments and recognize team members, and to brainstorm new approaches.

“Team members need to know each other,” says Boelkes. “They need to know what the other members are working on, and how they can help one another. They need to trust each other. Regular meetings can help achieve all of that.”

Remember: face to face matters, so make it happen however you can. You may not be able to meet in person often, but try to make it happen at least occasionally. And of course, conferencing technology like Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime can be incredibly valuable in helping remote employees connect and engage with the rest of the team. “Observation of facial expressions and body language can be just as important as hearing the words being spoken,” says Boelkes.

Don’t let meetings become time-wasters. Call meetings only when necessary and keep them succinct. When preparing for a remote team call or video conference, ask individual members ahead of time what, if anything, they want to present, what they want to hear or learn, and if they have anything to share. Then stick to the agenda.

Encourage team members to connect with one another regularly. “Feeling like part of a team is vital,” says Boelkes. “The boss doesn’t have to be the one who coordinates everything. Make sure they feel free to text, phone or email each other when they have questions or need guidance or feedback.”

Pair new employees with a “buddy.” Newer employees need more hand holding – especially if they’re telecommuting. Among other training, the buddy’s job is to make sure the employee knows who does what on the team, who is an expert at what, and who to go to for what.

Be sensitive to cultural differences. Not everyone interprets communications the same way. Cultural differences can occur regionally within the same country but may be especially problematic between major geographic regions and countries. If this occurs, managers must really listen for understanding, then reframe and restate what they heard, and ask the remote worker to do the same.

“Managing multi-country team members can be difficult if members never have on-site meetings over multiple days during which people can get to know each other,” says Boelkes. “When possible, it’s helpful to know locals or expats who are from the remote region and can interpret what may be intended or how things could be interpreted in various situations.”

Occasionally, oversee employee/client interactions. From time to time, managers should try to participate live when an employee has important events with a customer or client; listening to the clients’ feedback is just as important as employee feedback. While it is important to show trust and confidence in the team members serving the client, it is equally important to acknowledge when things need improvement or when action must be taken.

When in doubt, reach out. If things aren’t feeling right with an employee, they probably aren’t. Meet in person for a heart-to-heart off-site and talk through their concerns or problems. And again, as a general rule try to get together in person at least once a year if not quarterly; these meetings keep the lines of communication open.

Request feedback (from your customers AND your remote workers). During one-on-ones with each remote employee as well as during one-on-ones with clients, ask for honest feedback. Then based on that feedback, strategize ways the organization could better leverage the skillsets of the team members while moving the organization closer to its goals.

Know when an employee isn’t suited for remote work. Pay attention to signs that an employee is not cut out for being a remote team member. For example, they may frequently turn in work late, get distracted or lose sight of the project at hand, or need frequent interaction with coworkers.

“Some workers need daily live interaction to do their best work,” says Boelkes. “Be attuned to this and don’t be afraid to make changes to ensure the employee is in the right environment with the needed support and/or freedom.”

Finally, make sure every employee knows you have their best interests at heart. Be a heartfelt leader.

You can’t inspire anyone – in-house or otherwise – until you start leading with your heart,” concludes Boelkes. “Check in with your own passion and make sure it informs all of your interactions. Your heart-driven engagement will spread to your workers near and far, and together you will make a difference.”

Herbein + Company Admits Jeff Johns Jr. as Partner

Jeff Johns

Reading, Pa.-based Herbein + Company announces that Jeff Johns Jr. has been admitted as a partner in its financial outsourcing solutions division.

The division provides risk management services to financial institutions. He will oversee IT risk management services and provide expertise in data mining for audit teams and clients.

Previously, he was employed at a public accounting firm performing year-end audits, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and information technology control assessments.

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