Big 4 Approaches to Bitcoin Vary

While some of the largest accounting firms are pushing the development and implementation of private blockchains, New York-based Ernst & Young (FY16 net revenue of $11.2 billion) is leading the Bitcoin industry to the mainstream, according to Cointelegraph, an independent publication covering cryptocurrencies.

EY has already provided EY secure digital wallet applications to all EY employees in Switzerland. The digital wallet allows users to send and receive Bitcoins in a safe and secure ecosystem. EY also installed a Bitcoin ATM in their public office in Switzerland, enabling its clients and employees to purchase and sell Bitcoins.

Starting in 2017, EY Switzerland is accepting Bitcoin payments for all of its consulting services.

Marcel Stalder, the CEO of EY Switzerland says in a statement, “We don’t only want to talk about digitalization, but also actively drive this process together with our employees and our clients. It is important to us that everybody gets on board and prepares themselves for the revolution set to take place in the business world through blockchains, two smart contracts and digital currencies.”

According to Cointelegraph, only EY, of all the Big 4, is allocating its resources and capital for the development of Bitcoin. Others are focusing on the so-called “permissioned blockchain,” or private blockchains.

BDO Consulting Expands Forensic Technology Services

BDO Consulting, a division of Chicago-based BDO (FY16 net revenue of $1.3 billion), announced an expansion of its forensic technology services practice through the addition of the e-discovery practice of Key Discovery, a Boston-based litigation support provider.

The practice provides electronic data collection and processing, hosted review, production, project management and consulting to leading law firms and corporate legal departments.

Key Discovery will continue in its primary business of paper discovery and corporate solutions, while maintaining an ongoing strategic alliance with BDO. This transaction is effective immediately.

“We are extremely pleased to build on our presence in the Boston market by adding these e-discovery resources to our national forensic technology services practice. Key has an impressive client base – including many members of the American Lawyer 200 and U.S. News Best Law Firms in Boston lists – who have growing demands for e-discovery. We will expand this practice and, more importantly, provide these clients with additional capabilities and resources – in areas such as digital forensics, cyber investigations, data analytics and expert testimony,” says Carl Pergola, partner and executive director of BDO Consulting. “Since we have already been collaborating on client work and business development with Key’s e-discovery team, we anticipate a seamless integration of the practice and its clients.”

“Key Discovery has built a strong brand in the Boston marketplace as a premier provider of litigation support services. Our e-discovery practice has been an important component of that success, but for it to reach the next level of growth in this expanding space it requires the national brand name and resources that BDO can provide,” says Tom Washburn, CEO of Key Discovery.

This transaction represents BDO’s second this year in the Boston market. Earlier in 2016, the firm expanded its Boston practice through the addition of 105 staff, including 15 partners, from Feeley & Driscoll.

Recruiting and Retaining Young CPA Professionals

Attracting and retaining talented staff is top of mind for firms across the country. Join Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), who will offer ideas on keeping under-40 CPA professionals involved, engaged and excited about their work.

IPA is sponsoring a webinar for the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) at 1 to 2:15 p.m. EST Nov. 29. The AAM High webinar is free for members. Register for the webinar.

Retaining this critical demographic has never been more important. IPA’s annual survey of more than 540 accounting firms shows average turnover among all non-Big 4 firms is nearly 14%. At firms of $75 million or more, it’s even higher, at 17%. While some turnover is healthy, extra emphasis needs to be focused on making sure the right people stay.

Platt will discuss results of an extensive survey/study of more than 700 professionals aged 21-40 on their key motivators and “stay factors.” IPA partnered with ConvergenceCoaching to conduct the research survey, which uncovered what young professionals like (and don’t like) about their jobs, and how the firm can position itself to appeal to this key demographic of future leaders.

This webinar will offer analysis from the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” Attendees will learn:

The best and worst parts of working in public accounting, according to Millennials (21-33) and Gen X professionals (34-40).

  • The top reasons they would make public accounting a long-term career.
  • The types of financial information they would like leaders to share with them.
  • How often they prefer feedback about their performance.
  • Their ideas on how different generations can work together more successfully.
  • Their top firm weaknesses and strengths.

After attending, listeners can get a better understanding of what role they can personally play within their firm to retain young professionals, encourage a culture of openness and transparency, and involve young staff in firm initiatives. New and experienced marketers alike can benefit.

Platt’s Perspective: Ready Or Not: The Future Is Here!

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

The future is here whether we are ready or not. I was in Las Vegas last month presenting at and attending an international association conference, which happened to be at the same hotel where IBM was hosting its World of Watson convention with more than 15,000 attendees.

Like many, my introduction to Watson was in 2011 when Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings famously played the computer and lost. And, like most outside the tech world, I hadn’t heard much about Watson since then. I walked down to the convention center to see what I could see, and came away from that experience with a jaw-dropping “WOW!”

Cognitive learning, augmented intelligence – whatever you want to call it – is signaling an epic shift in how humans interact. One World of Watson exhibit featured a new app for the insurance profession that aims to streamline the auto claims process by 80%. Tapping into Watson’s capabilities, a photo of the damage and a scan of an accident report starts the process of scheduling repairs and estimating damage. The programming for this app began the end of August, and within eight weeks it was ready for display.

Watson has already infiltrated the professional services world. Earlier this year, two developments will affect the way professionals conduct business in the future. In the legal world, BakerHostetler hired a “robotic legal researcher” named ROSS – built on the IBM Watson platform – to work with the firm’s bankruptcy team, scouring through thousands of precedents and articles to prepare for cases.

ROSS started out as a research project at the University of Toronto in 2014. The project goal was to build a legal research assistant to help scale the capabilities of lawyers through the use of artificial intelligence. From the start, it took ROSS 10 months to learn the entire body of bankruptcy law.

In the accounting world, KPMG announced plans to apply Watson’s cognitive computing technology to its professional services offerings. The March 8 press release touts: “Many of KPMG’s audit, tax, advisory and other professional services rely heavily on judgment-driven processes. Adding cognitive technology’s massive data analysis and innovative learning capabilities to these activities has the potential to advance traditional views on how talent, time, capital and other resources are deployed by professional services organizations.”

Technological transformations are coming at a rapid and accelerating pace. Some firms are now using drones for inventory observation. North Carolina State University is experimenting with virtual reality in its accounting classes. Blockchain technology, which underpins crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, provides an instantaneous verification of transactions, assuring that the accuracy of the transaction can be trusted and verified. Hmmm, does that sound like an auditor’s job?

In talking about the many disruptive technologies that are coming online daily, Barry Melancon, president of the AICPA, told Council members gathered in Orlando in October, “Who are we to think that these rapid changes in technology are going to somehow sidestep our profession?” What was my takeaway from the designs, experiments and applications on display at The World of Watson? Simply this: “Ready or not, here it comes.”

A Managing Partner’s Guide to Social Media

By: Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Guest Blogger

As a managing partner or top executive, you’re probably more focused on taxes than Twitter. Growing your firm, finding great talent and fostering profitable client relationships are probably at the top of your to-do list. But what you may not know is that social media can play an important role in all of those areas.

In my decades of work with accounting firms, I have witnessed the impact of social media on growth, profitability and recruiting. And this observation is supported by the research my company has been conducting into professional services firms. Those that use social media stay ahead of the game. They’re the playmakers, the fast growers.

Social media is important in today’s competitive and increasingly Internet-fueled marketplace. If you’re not harnessing the power of social media, you are missing key opportunities.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a tech guru to put social media to work for your firm. But you do need to understand how and why it’s being used – and you’ll need a basic working knowledge of one or two key tools, starting with LinkedIn.

In this article I focus on the role social media plays in the marketplace and why you may want to consider upping your social game.

Here are six ways to think about it:

  1. Social media is here to stay.
    Like it or not, social networking is not a fad. It’s only going to become more important to firms like yours. For instance, social media is being used today to vet potential employees, expand firms’ networks, nurture prospects, develop visibility, demonstrate expertise and position executives as thought leaders. If you aren’t doing these things today, you will be at some point in the future. The question is, can you afford to be much later to the game?
  2. Your competitors and prospects are already using it.
    I get it. Not everyone at your firm is going to be excited about social media. Even if you or other top executives don’t want to participate on LinkedIn or Twitter, you can still benefit from being on social media. That’s because your clients and prospects use social networks to do everything from research to finding and vetting possible vendors. If your firm isn’t visible, it is missing out on a growing source of new business. In fact, six of 10 buyers use social media to check out a firm before they do business with them. So long as someone on staff is paying attention to your firm’s social media, you’ll at least be on people’s radar. Many of your competitors have embraced social media. If you want to compete, so should you.
  3. It is the new “face” of networking.
    Social media is just another form of networking. You still may prefer to meet with colleagues or prospects over lunch or at an in-person event, but face-to-face networking isn’t the only way to forge connections. Sure, social media isn’t as personal as traditional networking, but it offers other advantages. It’s the perfect medium to build a thought leadership following, for example, and you can use it to reach far more people with less effort. Keep in mind that your clients are using social media to network – if your firm isn’t part of the conversation, they are likely being influenced by a firm that is.
  4. All social media is not created equal.
    Social networking encompasses a wide range of platforms that use different formats – micro-blogging (Twitter), photos (Instagram), videos (YouTube) – each designed to reach different kinds of audiences. It can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you can safely ignore the vast majority of these platforms. If you focused only on one, LinkedIn, you’d cover most of your bases. LinkedIn offers a variety of channels designed with businesses in mind. LinkedIn Pulse is a great place to publish articles, while LinkedIn Groups is where like-minded people gather to share ideas, discuss their business challenges, and offer up possible solutions. Other platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have their place, but you can add them to your mix over time as you need them. When it comes to social media, figure out where your audiences interact and put your energy there first.
  5. Using social media requires an investment.
    Creating a social networking profile may be free, but you still have to invest in it. How? You’ll need a strategy, one or more writers, social media policies, someone to post messages and someone to manage the whole thing. While it’s fine to start small, to make the most of a platform you’ll need to commit real resources to it. That’s when you’ll begin to see a real return on investment.
  6. It can boost morale – and much more.
    If you want your team to tout your business, let them loose on social media. This process has a name – employee advocacy – and it can turn your employees into powerful brand ambassadors. We’re not talking about bald-faced bragging. Rather, it’s a way staff can share industry insights, client success stories, and expert advice. Getting them involved cultivates a sense of “ownership” in your firm. According to our research on employee advocacy, firms with a formal employee advocacy program grow faster and see more benefits than those without one. In fact, high-growth firms are twice as likely to encourage staff to use social networking.

In particular, employee advocacy encourages Millennial staffers to get involved in marketing the firm using a medium they are already comfortable with. If they balk at the prospect of attending a networking event, why give them an equally valuable way to contribute? Our research finds that Millennials want to participate in social media more than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers because it helps them develop relevant skills, differentiate themselves from their peers and boost their career opportunities. And of course, the younger members of your firm can probably teach you a few things about using social media in the process. Win-win.

Social media can help the modern accounting firm in many ways. From marketing strategy and operations to employee development and recruiting, social media is changing the way firms grow.

Lee Frederiksen is managing partner of Hinge Marketing, which focuses on professional services firms.

Dean Dorton Technology Named to Cisco Winner’s Circle

Cisco Systems has named Dean Dorton Technology, of Lexington, Ky.-based Dean Dorton Allen Ford PLLC (FY16 net revenue of $25.6 million), to the Cisco Winner’s Circle.

Of the more than 50,000 Cisco partners worldwide, only 350 top-performing Cisco commercial partners received the Winner’s Circle honor, signifying double-digit growth in the midmarket with Cisco. Dean Dorton Technology is the only Cisco partner in Kentucky to achieve this distinguished honor, the firm announced.

Dean Dorton Technology helps modernize networks, maintain security and offer unified communication systems through the latest state-of-the-art solutions.

“Companies are seeking ways to respond faster, empower their workforce and personalize their customers’ experiences,” says Jason Miller, director of business consulting services. “The digital transformation is creating boundless opportunities, but in order to reap the benefits companies need trusted technology advisors that understand their business, goals and keys to success.”

Postlethwaite & Netterville Honored with Two LEA Awards

Baton Rouge, La.-based Postlethwaite & Netterville APAC (P&N) (FY15 net revenue of $53.2 million) has received two awards from the Leading Edge Alliance  (LEA) for its commitment to innovation.

The firm won an award for 2016 Internal Technology Innovation. Also, P&N and P&N Tech received an award for 2016 Innovative Firm Initiative at the LEA Global annual conference in Houston.

P&N received the Internal Technology Innovation award for its use of Atlassian’s JIRA to enhance project management visibility and efficiency across the firm’s multiple service areas and departments. This technology helped provide visibility with real-time project dashboards, resource capacity calendars, and cross-project dependency linking.  It also increased efficiencies by helping the application development team to automate manual processes, streamline business workflows and simplify the business team’s project review processes.

JIRA was initially implemented for use by P&N’s application development team, but they quickly realized JIRA’s potential for managing internal and external client engagements. The flexibility of JIRA allows the P&N team to manage complex projects or simple day-to-day tasks all within in the same system. P&N now offers JIRA implementation consulting to clients to assist in managing ongoing operations as well as projects of varying size and scope.

P&N and P&N Tech also received the Innovative Firm Initiative award for its development of Pounce®, an innovative and easy-to-use, web-based system designed for service providers in the accounting, business consulting, legal and architect/engineer/contractor (A/E/C) industries. The purpose of the system is to provide employees access to marketing collateral and resumes to aid in business development and sales efforts. The development of Pounce® was a collaborative effort between the application development team of P&N Tech and the marketing and business development professionals of Postlethwaite & Netterville.

“Innovation is one of our firm’s core values, and we are proud to foster a culture in which creative thinking and problem-solving are encouraged and recognized,” says P&N’s CEO and Managing Director William Balhoff. “By bringing a unique perspective to problem-solving and using technology to improve our processes, our clients, our firm and our profession benefit.”

P&N is a founding member and active leader of LEA Global, the second largest international association of independently owned accounting and consulting firms.

Cherry Bekaert Launches Cloud Solutions Practice with Doucet at Helm

Richmond, Va.-based Cherry Bekaert (FY16 net revenue of $164.2 million) has launched a cloud solutions practice to help companies understand and migrate to the cloud in three main areas: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and e-commerce.

Paul Doucet

Paul Doucet

Heading this new practice area is Paul Doucet, the firm’s first national managing director of cloud solutions.

The initiative is part of THInc., Cherry Bekaert’s practice area focused specifically on innovation in the technology, health and life sciences, and industrial sectors.

The firm’s cloud solutions practice will help clients implement companywide processes and systems that are aligned with their company’s strategic plan, helping define a pathway to success and transition to the cloud in less than 100 days.

Formerly a CPA, Doucet possesses extensive knowledge of technology and managing organizations. He has been a leader in the early evolution of technology trends, including SaaS, cloud, mobile and digital solutions. In addition, Doucet founded a global award-winning technology consulting company that provided strategic direction and integrated cloud-based business management solutions to clients for over 15 years. Prior to joining Cherry Bekaert, Doucet was a cloud practice leader at Capgemini, one of the world’s leading providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services.

“Paul has so much experience working with various companies that when he’s making recommendations, you know they are solutions that really work within an organization’s structure and work culture,” says Kip Plowman, the firm’s MP of strategic markets. “He brings a holistic perspective implementing technology that helps businesses grow and thrive.”

POUNCE® Team Recognized as 2016 Innovative Practitioners by CPA.com

P&N Tech, the information technology subsidiary of Baton Rouge, La.-based Postlethwaite & Netterville (FY16 net revenue of $57.6 million) has announced that Rachael Higginbotham and Caitlin Lacher, two of the project team members behind the development of Pounce®, have been named winners of the Innovative Practitioners of the Year Award by CPA.com.pouncelogo_pn_2016

The annual award recognizes innovations in process, services or technology implementation in public accounting firms.

The development of Pounce® was a collaborative effort between the application development team of P&N Tech and the marketing and business development professionals of Postlethwaite & Netterville. IPA wrote about Pounce® in a wide-ranging panel conversation on innovation at the Association for Accounting Marketing annual conference in New Orleans.

Pounce® is an easy-to-use, web-based system designed for service providers in the accounting, business consulting, legal and architect/engineer/contractor (A/E/C) industries. The purpose of the system is to provide employees access to marketing collateral and resumes to aid in business development and sales efforts.

The Pounce® team will be recognized in December at the 2016 Digital CPA Conference to in Las Vegas.

Learn more about Pounce® at www.GoPounce.com.

In Canada, Deloitte is Now Running a Bitcoin ATM

Big 4 firm Deloitte is hosting a BTM, or bitcoin transaction machine, which was unveiled recently in the Toronto office of the firm’s Rubix blockchain division, CoinDesk.com reported.

Much like an ATM, the machine can exchange currency for bitcoin.
Iliana Oris Valiente, strategy leader of Rubix by Deloitte, told CoinDesk: “We see this as being an important milestone for us as an organization. It’s a move to improve accessibility and hands-on learning as first step toward greater blockchain adoption.” Rubix by Deloitte is the accounting firm’s blockchain technology offering based in Canada, which works exclusively on enterprise blockchain applications with clients around the world, CoinDesk explains.