IPA Vendor Spotlight On … Chandra Bhansali, AccountantsWorld

Name: Chandra Bhansali
Company: AccountantsWorld
Title: Co-founder (with wife Sharada) and CEO


Chandra Bhansali

Chandra Bhansali

  • Introduced the first Windows-based based professional tax system in the 1990s.
  • Created the first payroll processing solution exclusively for accountants.
  • Used cloud technology to create Accounting Power for firms to offer client accounting services, countering the impact of do-it-yourself accounting systems on accounting practices.
  • Named one of the “100 Most influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today for over 10 years.

You’ve been “in the cloud” for much longer than most and seem to have a knack for identifying emerging technologies. Can you offer any practical advice on how accounting firms can be more ‘future-ready’?

I’d tell them, “You are your clients’ most trusted advisor. What makes you their most trusted advisor? Your ability to analyze all the facts and help your clients make informed decisions based on those facts. To be future-ready, you need to use this important trait. It’s a fact that migration to the cloud is inevitable. Given that fact, when will you benefit the most from the migration? Should you wait until you are pushed to the wall, or move to the cloud sooner, in a more strategic way, to make the most of the migration?” It’s ironic that many of the same accountants who are their clients’ best advisors falter when making some of the most important decisions about their own practices.

Client accounting services seems to be a growing niche. Are accountants taking better advantage of the power of technology to help their clients?

Very few accountants are taking full advantage of technology to help their clients. Part of the problem is that most accountants don’t realize the capabilities of professional cloud solutions like Accounting Power. Given the choice, a large percentage of small businesses would not want to do their accounting in-house. They consider accounting to be a hassle and would love to offload it to their accountants, but most accountants don’t offer client accounting services (CAS), because functions like bill payment have traditionally been low-margin services. But with programs like Accounting Power, an accountant’s staff can now do everything their client’s staff did, only much faster and more accurately – all without leaving the office. Because of advances like this, many accountants are currently offering highly profitable CAS, which will ultimately become a major growth area.

What’s the biggest mistake firms typically make when making the move to the cloud?

The biggest mistake firms typically make when migrating to the cloud is to make a lateral move in which they move from desktop to cloud, yet their practices realize only marginal gains. That happens primarily for two reasons. First, these accountants don’t do their homework and learn about all the available solutions. Second, they are stuck in their current processes. To take full advantage of the cloud, you need to change your processes. If you keep an open mind and align your processes for optimal performance, then you will be able to take your practice to new heights that were never before possible.

There’s been lots of talk about the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on the accounting profession. What’s your view?

My view about Artificial Intelligence is very simple – accountants with “Predictive Intelligence” will actually benefit a lot from AI. I’ll give you a simple example. AI will certainly minimize mundane tasks like data entry. If you let your clients offload their accounting work to you today, your fees will be based on what they currently spend on their bookkeeper or in-house accountant. When some of the capabilities of AI kick in to virtually eliminate data entry, that will greatly reduce your staff’s work and you will reap the benefits of that productivity gain. That’s “Predictive Intelligence.”

Final thoughts?

You know you have tremendous influence with your clients. Until now, accounting software vendors and payroll service providers have used your client relationships to make themselves billions of dollars. Would you like to continue doing that, or would you rather use your client relationships do what is in your, and your clients’, best interest? If you prefer the latter option, then download and read my whitepaper, “Forget Value Billing. Think Value Building.”  It will show you how you can use the cloud to greatly raise your bottom line, better serve your clients and feel the pride of being an accountant. Please visit www.AccountantsWorld.com/value to download the whitepaper.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

Kucera Named AAM’s 2017 Marketer of the Year

Laura Kucera

Laura Kucera

Laura F. Kucera, chief marketing officer at New York-based Citrin Cooperman, has received the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) 2017 Marketer of the Year award, sponsored by INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA).

The winner was announced by IPA June 14 at AAM’s 2017 Summit in Las Vegas. The Marketer of the Year presentation was the highlight of the 23nd annual gala, which also honors winners of dozens of marketing achievement awards.

Kucera leads strategic marketing, communications and business development strategies for Citrin Cooperman, which is ranked among the top 25 largest firms in the country, according to IPA.

Citrin Cooperman CEO Joel Cooperman, who nominated Kucera for the award, praises her “marketing and business acumen, analytical mindset, motivational leadership skills and innate client-focused approach.” He says that her leadership has contributed to the firm’s significant growth of 17% in 2016, which included the joining of two firms and three new offices in New England, the development of four new consulting practice groups and the restructuring of the firm’s advisory services line.

Kucera led integration efforts for the newly joined firms, developed in-depth marketing and business development strategies for the New England market, formed a new international strategy group and launched a global go-to-market plan with Mark Fagan, MP of the firm’s Norwalk, Conn., office and board member of Moore Stephens N.A.

Kucera played an important role in pulling together a new technology and risk advisory consulting practice. She created a four-hour cross-selling class with Fagan and taught it to more than 100 staff. Finally, Kucera developed an in-house design team and launched a new visual identity for the firm.

“Citrin Cooperman’s brand awareness has grown tremendously under Laura,” says IPA Publisher Kelly Platt. “She’s a great communicator, mentor and morale-builder who has unified all professionals to do their part to grow the firm. She richly deserves this award.”

“I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for this recognition,” Fagan says. “Not only does Laura have a full-scale understanding of marketing principles, she has a deep understanding of the firm’s business goals and works relentlessly to implement strategies to achieve those goals.”

Alan Badey, MP of the Citrin Cooperman White Plains, N.Y., office, says Kucera “gets it.” Her knowledge of the profession, the marketplace and what differentiates the firm “has completely changed the look and feel of Citrin Cooperman both internally and externally,” he says. “She created our brand, ‘Focus on What Counts,’ which says everything about us and everything that our clients have come to expect from us.”

He adds, “Not only is she running our marketing and sales, she is involved with most significant initiatives in the firm – from mergers, to service line restructuring, to staff mentoring and infrastructure upgrades.”

This is the fourth year that IPA has sponsored the Marketer of the Year award. A panel of independent judges, who are themselves leaders in the profession, were selected by IPA to review and score each of the nominees.

Deloitte Study: Only 13% of U.S. Workforce Is Passionate About Their Jobs

Despite 2017 corporate spending estimated at over $100 billion for training and over $1 billion for employee engagement, 68% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged at work, a new Deloitte’s Center for the Edge study says.

Further, the study found that only 35% of the workforce had the disposition to seek out challenges in their organization; even among engaged employees, more than 60% didn’t seek challenges. This lack of passion for work exists at all levels surveyed and job types in the workforce with 64% of all workers and 50% of executives and senior management surveyed being neither passionate nor engaged in their work.

These findings indicate that employers might be focused too narrowly on employee engagement, rather than developing a workforce with the necessary passion to solve complex challenges and pursue new opportunities during this period of rapid technological change. In addition, the findings indicate a shift to new types of learning and collaboration environments could in fact address key barriers to a more engaged and passionate workforce.

“We are in the early stages of a shift in the global economy that will require us to transition from an angst economy, driven by fear and erosion of trust, to a creative economy focused on markets with expanding opportunity,” says John Hagel, managing director, Deloitte Services LP and co-chairman, Center for the Edge. “Worker engagement may no longer be sufficient for performance improvement. In an environment of mounting performance pressure and increasing unpredictability, companies need a workforce that embraces challenge. Worker passion is becoming a key attribute for employees with the skill set that will contribute to sustained performance improvement for companies in increasingly competitive markets.”

According to the study, passionate workers generally exhibit three attributes: long-term commitment to making a significant impact in a domain; questing disposition that actively seeks out new challenges in order to improve faster; and connecting disposition that seeks to build trust-based relationships with others who can help them get to a better answer.

Respondents fell into three clusters:

  • Passionate Employee – 13% of respondents have all three attributes of worker passion.
  • Contented Employee – 23% of respondents score high on an index of engagement indicators, but do not have all three attributes of worker passion.
  • Half-hearted Employee – 64% of respondents do not have all three attributes of worker passion and do not score high on engagement.

The study found that only 38% of engaged employees had the questing disposition, and nearly half of engaged workers also lacked a desire to make a significant impact in their industry, function or specialty. Engagement seemed to have the most significant effect on workers’ tendency to reach out to others to solve challenges and improve their own performance.

Of those employees who are “passionate,” the study revealed the following:

  • 71% report working extra hours.
  • 89% report feeling focused, immersed and energized in their work.
  • 68% are optimistic about the future of their company.
  • 71% feel they are encouraged to work across the company.
  • 67% the company collaborates well with customers.

Furthermore, while position had some effect, with those in senior positions being more likely to be passionate, age wasn’t a significant factor: Millennials don’t have an edge when it comes to passion.

The study showed that respondents who were not passionate reported a lack of autonomy, inability to work across teams and a lack of involvement in decision-making.

Worker passion clearly needs to be “activated” in the workplace. To begin with, business leaders should evaluate whether they are acting with passion in taking on difficult challenges and pushing boundaries in potentially exciting directions. Tapping into this kind of passion can shift individuals from the fear of change or failure – to excitement about the opportunity to test boundaries. Additionally, some workers would benefit from guidance and role models who can serve as practical examples of how to quest, connect and create impact within the context of a specific organization.

The study suggests that trends such as automation, could open up new opportunities to drive worker passion. As more and more mundane, repeatable tasks are automated, the study identified opportunities for existing employees to focus on high growth areas that tap into capabilities that are uniquely human: curiosity, imagination, creativity, and emotional and social intelligence. Ultimately this has the potential to move the U.S. workforce toward higher levels of engagement and worker passion.

Holtzman Partners Welcomes Tax, Audit Partners

Jon Rausch

Jon Rausch

Holtzman Partners of Austin, Texas, (FY15 net revenue of $8.7 million) has expanded its leadership team by admitting Jon Rausch as a tax partner and Rusty Hale as an audit partner.

Rausch, who most recently served as MP of Montgomery Coscia Greilich’s Austin office, joined Holtzman Partners on June 1, and Hale, formerly a partner in MCG’s audit practice, will join Holtzman Partners on July 5.

“Holtzman Partners’ market reputation is extremely strong and rightfully so. I look forward to contributing my experience to the firm as we strive for continued success,” Rausch says.

Rusty Hale

Rusty Hale

In addition to adding four partners and a director to its leadership team this year, Holtzman Partners has also increased the size of its Austin footprint with the addition of buildings at 1700 and 1706 W. Sixth St., on the same block as its headquarters.

Holtzman Partners has grown to 70 professionals, including 11 partners, since its inception in 2004.

MP Chris Perkins says, “The growth of our partner group and acquisition of more office space really reflect our commitment to Austin’s business community and all of our clients across Texas. We’re planning to grow with Austin for decades to come.”

BDO International Network Announces New CEO

Keith Farlinger

Keith Farlinger

Keith Farlinger, former CEO of BDO Canada and a member of the network’s Global Leadership Team in the role of CEO Americas, will succeed Martin van Roekel as CEO of the international BDO network.

Martin will step down as CEO Oct. 31, having been in the role for more than six years. During Martin’s time as global CEO, the BDO network has seen impressive growth and development, accomplishing global coverage.

“I am grateful to all BDO firms and their partners and staff for their great cooperation in the past years, supporting the ongoing changes and being very helpful and accommodating in the process of investing and building an even stronger and more successful BDO network – all the time maintaining our unique BDO culture,” says the outgoing CEO, who will continue with BDO in the capacity of vice chairman.

Farlinger was the CEO of BDO Canada for seven years and the Canadian member of the network’s global board from 2008 until 2015. Prior to that he was active for many years as an audit partner in BDO Canada. Immediately after completing his CEO term at BDO Canada, Keith joined BDO’s Global Leadership Team as CEO Americas. He remains heavily involved in the multiple audit innovation and IT developments within the BDO network.

“I intend to continue the same pace of development and level of activity that he has set in motion and trust that I can actively contribute to the further growth and success of the BDO network,” Farlinger says.

The global board’s agreement to appoint Farlinger as the new CEO of BDO International Limited was unanimous.

Freed Maxick Names New Firm Leader

Henry Koziol Jr.

Henry Koziol Jr.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Freed Maxick (FY16 net revenue of $45.2 million) has announced that Henry Koziol Jr. has been named managing director, effective July 1. Koziol has been with Freed Maxick for more than 30 years and has served in a leadership role at the organization for more than 15 years.

“There is a long legacy of strong leaders at Freed Maxick who have guided us to serve our clients and our community by building personal relationships and I look forward to carrying on that legacy,” states Koziol. “What differentiates us is our people and depth of knowledge and I am committed to continued development of both to better serve our clients every day.”

The current firm leader, Timothy McPoland, has decided to return to a director role focused on business development as the firm expands its geographic footprint. He will also support the directors leading the assurance, SEC, litigation support and business valuation practice areas.

McPoland states, “I’m looking forward to getting back to what I really enjoy doing – business development and working directly with clients. This is where my passion is and I look forward to using my strengths in these areas to help our clients and continue the firm’s growth.”

Freed Maxick is an IPA 100 firm, with 36 directors and more than 300 employees in five New York offices – Buffalo, Batavia, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

New President at New Mexico Society of CPAs

Kelcy Flanagan

Kelcy Flanagan

The New Mexico Society of CPAs has announced that is has selected Kelcy Flanagan, the society’s continuing professional education and communications director, to serve in the role effective July 1.

Flanagan will replace John Carey and was chosen by the society’s search committee. “Kelcy has taken on every assignment she’s been given with efficiency, dedication and thoroughness,” Carey said in a statement. “She is richly deserving of this promotion. I look forward to working with her to ensure a smooth transition during the next few weeks.”

Established in 1930, the New Mexico Society of CPAs is an association uniting professionals who provide their time, talents and resources toward strengthening and enhancing the CPA profession in New Mexico.

Sneed Named President of DHG Wealth Advisors

Will Sneed

Will Sneed

Will Sneed has been named president of DHG Wealth Advisors (DHGWA), an independent investment advisory firm owned by Charlotte, N.C.-based Dixon Hughes Goodman (FY16 net revenue of $394 million).

Since joining the firm in 2006, Sneed has served in various leadership roles and most recently has served as managing director, working closely with Woody Hoyle, former president, to ensure continuity of leadership. While stepping down as president, Hoyle will continue working with his individual clients.

“I have worked with Will for many years now. His knowledge, paired with his ability to truly inspire others, makes him the ideal person to lead DHGWA into the future,” Hoyle says.

As a 30-year veteran of the investment industry, Sneed says, “With the incredible team of professionals at DHGWA, the culture we have established and the everyday synergies of working with DHG, I could not be more excited about the future. We have witnessed tremendous growth these past few years and I look forward to building upon the success of the past 16 years.”

Hall Joins Cherry Bekaert as Tax Partner

Jason Hall

Jason Hall

Richmond, Va.-based Cherry Bekaert (FY16 net revenue of $164 million) welcomes Jason Hall as a tax partner in the firm’s expanding Raleigh-Durham practice.

Hall brings to Cherry Bekaert more than 15 years of public accounting experience. As partner, he will provide tax consulting and compliance services to promote the growth aspirations of middle-market businesses and high-net-worth individuals. He will advise clients in the real estate, health care and venture capital sectors regarding tax minimization, complex transactions and accounting methods. In addition, Hall will serve as a member of THInc, Cherry Bekaert’s specialty practice catering to the innovative needs of the technology, health and life sciences and industrial sectors.

“Jason is a distinguished tax professional with a proven track record of helping clients reach their business objectives,” says J. Scott Duda, MP for the Raleigh-Durham practice. “Adding Jason is a key ingredient in our plans to expand our presence in the Research Triangle Park area.”

Prior to joining Cherry Bekaert, Hall was a tax director at a national CPA firm in Raleigh, N.C. His background also extends to working at Big 4 firms for a combined nine years.

Hood & Strong Admits Kisriev as Partner

Maga Kisriev

Maga Kisriev

San Francisco-based Hood & Strong (FY16 net revenue of $16.1 million) has announced that Maga Kisriev has been admitted as a partner in the firm.

Kisriev joined Hood & Strong in 2013 and has served as tax director with the firm’s not-for-profit practice. He has 16 years of public accounting experience and spent nine years with national accounting firms, managing exempt clients. Prior to moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010, Kisriev worked for RSM US Alliance (formerly McGladrey) in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, where he oversaw the regional exempt organization tax practice.

This year marks Hood & Strong’s 100th year of providing comprehensive accounting services to a diverse clientele of start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses, corporations and non-profits in northern California. As the firm recognizes this important milestone, the leadership team is addressing evolving client needs and preparing for the next century.

“We are pleased to welcome Maga to the Hood & Strong partner group,” says MP Robert J. Raffo. “His expertise in non-profit tax is a tremendous asset for our clients and the firm. As we look ahead to our next 100 years, we will continue to develop successive generations of leaders from within. It’s good for the firm and good for our clients.”