Cherry Bekaert Names Thompson as Firm MP

Michelle Thompson

Richmond, Va.-based Cherry Bekaert (FY17 net revenue of $174.8 million), named Michelle Thompson firm MP and chief executive officer. Thompson will transition from her current position as MP of assurance services practice and assume her new role effective May 1, 2018.

“I am thankful to all the leaders of the past and present who have built this firm, and I am honored to have been selected by the partnership to lead the firm into the future,” says Thompson, who is based in the Raleigh, N.C., practice.

Her leadership will include serving as chairman of the executive board, in addition to the day-to-day administration and financial management.

“My vision is ‘sustaining success through transformation and innovation.’ I want to honor our 70-year history by positioning the firm to quickly absorb, process and respond to the changing world through the services we offer and the way we offer them,” Thompson says. “We cannot ignore the impact technology has and will continue to have on our firm and our clients. We must form a close partnership with technology to be truly effective guides for our clients.”

Thompson will succeed Howard Kies, who will be stepping down on May 1, 2018, as firm MP after serving in this role for the past 27 years.

“I am pleased that Michelle is the one my fellow partners have chosen to lead Cherry Bekaert into the future,” says Kies. “During a time when the firm is experiencing unprecedented growth and planning for additional expansion, I am confident Michelle will be an asset as firm managing partner and guide Cherry Bekaert forward for many years to come.”


Former MP of Hawaii Firm Receives 20-Year Prison Sentence

According to Honolulu Star Advertiser, Patrick Oki, previous MP of Spire Hawaii (formerly PKF Hawaii), was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing more than $400,000 from the company.

Circuit Judge Rom Trader gave a mandatory prison term of 20 years after Oki was found guilty on all counts, including money laundering, theft, forgery and using a computer to commit crimes during a two-week nonjury trial in February.

Oki admitted to claiming false reimbursements and lying to his partners. However, he said he took only what PKF owed him.

The judge decided to delay Oki’s restitution payment of $440,178 until the rightful recipients of the money can be determined. The state has asked the judge to order Oki to pay the money to his former partners at PKF.

PKF Pacific Hawaii changed its name to Spire Hawaii following Oki’s indictment and arrest in October 2015.

Cohen & Company Announces Addition of John Butler to Insurance Team

Cleveland-based Cohen & Company (FY17 net revenue of $67 million) welcomes John Butler as a managing director for the U.S. insurance asset management platform and global insurance-linked securities program, effective Nov. 1.

Butler has 20 years of industry experience in global investments in insurance companies as well as investments in insurance-linked securities, and specialized in the origination, analysis, structuring and portfolio management of private fixed income, catastrophe bond and reinsurance related transactions.

“The combination of his extensive product knowledge, strong industry relationships and deep management experience make John ideally suited to take on this role. This strong addition to our team exemplifies our continued commitment to Cohen & Company’s global insurance related investment strategies,” says Lester Brafman, CEO.

The Seven Rules of Fearless Growth: What Fearless Companies Are Doing to Grow Faster and Smarter

Amanda Setili, author of Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets, is president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates. According to Setili, when the rules we used to live by are becoming obsolete overnight, which doesn’t foster calmness and confidence.

“To be able to respond quickly and intelligently to the fast pace of change, all levels and functions in your businesses must be creative, responsive, and agile,” says Setili. “You’re going to feel fear, sure—and yet you must act in spite of it.”

In her work as a strategy consultant, Setili says she has found there are seven rules to help you navigate the new economy and achieve fearless growth.

  1. Embrace uncertainty.
    Uncertainty creates opportunities to pull ahead of the competition. Having the right risk mentality and moving quickly gives you an advantage over competitors that are slower to respond. Repeat past successes and keep budgets realistic and proportionate to projects.
  1. Get in sync with your customers.
    When you allow your customers to customize the products and services you sell, you’re able to learn a lot about them. This gives you the information you need to innovate new products, services and ways of doing things, and stimulate growth. You can also observe and cater to your outlier customers – the ones who use your products and services in unusual ways – to gain insights. They can provide you with a window into emerging market trends and ideas for new products and services.
  1. Partner, borrow and share.
    If you can collaborate with others outside your company, you can experience rapid adaption when the market changes. It benefits you to outsource things that are not your distinctive competency. All of this can leverage the ideas and capabilities outside your organization, while strengthening the people, processes and capabilities inside it.
  1. Connect and strengthen your ecosystem.
    Figure out who’s already in your company’s ecosystem and whom you would ideally like to have there. Then determine what value you would like each member to both give and receive. Consider creating a technology platform to enable richer interactions between ecosystem members and facilitate and nurture their real-life relationships with each other as well. Building the strength, size and participation in your ecosystem can fuel growth, build customer loyalty and insulate your company from market upsets.
  1. Open the floodgates of employee creativity.
    Be sure to continually pose new questions and challenge assumptions by introducing competition or games to stimulate new ways of thinking and free people to take risks. Allow new ways to work by encouraging collaboration and forming project-based groups, rather than top-down structures. Communicate your values clearly and frequently, so employees know what you expect, even when no one is looking.
  1. Learn fast and fearlessly.
    Keenly observing the business environment, taking action before you feel fully ready and incorporating what you’ve learned immediately into your strategy are all tickets to playing in today’s fast-changing global economy. Make sure you are constantly experimenting, learning from successes and failures, and applying your knowledge. Anticipate the changes in your business environment and set specific learning goals based on those changes.
  1. Build trust into all you do.
    Trust speeds innovation and growth and improves efficiency. To begin building trust, work to neutralize fear in your organization, making it psychologically safe for employees to voice their ideas and opinions, make decisions, take action, gain new skills and try new things. When you give people challenging but realistic goals, act in a transparent way, show vulnerability, grant people discretion about how they do their work, and show appreciation for work done well, you’ll be amazed how much your team can accomplish. Finally, foster and expect creative conflict by encouraging employees to disagree and challenge each other.

“Like it or not, it’s time to throw out the old rule book and start fresh with approaches that make sense for the new economy,” says Setili. “The strategies that help you facilitate trust, learning, creativity and partnership seem counterintuitive at first, but will soon pave the way to success not only for you but for your team and your customers as well.”

Novak Francella Acquires Buckley Frame Boudreau & Company

Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based Novak Francella announced that Buckley Frame Boudreau & Company of Killingworth, Conn., is joining its firm.

“As we continue our expansion in New England, we recognized Buckley Frame Boudreau as a firm that shares our commitment to the market and shares the core values of our firm,” says Peter Novak, MP of Novak Francella.

“We are both dedicated to providing exceptional client experiences through a highly engaged, effective and dedicated staff. Although we already enjoy a strong presence in New England, merging our practices means clients have greater access to resources and staff,” Novak adds.

Robert Boudreau and Gerard Frame, partners with Buckley Frame Boudreau, share the same vision regarding the New England market.

“Our firm has been a proud provider of audit, tax and advisory services to the labor and multi-employer benefit plan market,” says Boudreau. “Merging with Novak Francella will allow us to immediately expand our service area and provide additional advisory and consulting services to our clients.”

Katz Sapper & Miller Announces New Directors

Indianapolis-based Katz Sapper & Miller (FY16 net revenue of $72.4 million) announced new directors: John Estridge, John Henne, Karen Hill and Zeeshan Malik.

Estridge is a member of the firm’s real estate services group. Working with both locally based and nationally recognized real estate owners, his responsibilities include tax planning, research and compliance as well as financial statement compilation and financial modeling.

Henne is a member of the firm’s audit and assurance services group. His responsibilities include transaction services, fraud examinations and internal controls analyses.

Hill, director of talent acquisition and staffing, leads all campus and experienced hire efforts. Her responsibilities include understanding firm needs and market dynamics; setting strategies; developing key relationships with faculty, staff and students; and screening for the best and brightest applicants.

Malik is a director in the firm’s audit and assurance services group. He serves clients in a variety of industries, including those in transportation and construction advising clients on accounting, auditing, compliance and internal control matters.

Raich Ende Malter Welcomes Misuraca as PIC of Forensic and Dispute Advisory

Yasmine Misuraca

Yasmine Misuraca

New York-based Raich Ende Malter & Co. (FY16 net revenue of $47.1 million) welcomed Yasmine Misuraca as the PIC of its forensic and dispute advisory practice. Misuraca has more than 20 years of public and industry accounting experience and specializes in forensic accounting. Her experience includes testifying on a large, high-profile case for the SEC, as well as working as a consultant for major law firms and publicly-held companies. She will be located in the New York office.

“Ms. Misuraca will focus on the growth of our firm’s forensic accounting practice,” says Ellis Ende, MP. “Calculating and analyzing economic damages, conducting fraud investigations and forensic examinations, and analyzing financial issues as part of case strategy are what many attorneys, government agencies, and private clientele need from accountants.”

“Due to an increase in cases involving asset misappropriation, financial statement misrepresentation, and securities and regulatory compliance violations, our focus at REM will be to provide clients with the analysis and support needed to achieve positive dispute resolutions, as well as advising clients on how to take preemptive steps to protect their assets,” says Misuraca.

Houston Business Journal and the Leading Edge Alliance Honor Non-CPA Owner

Karen Love

Karen Love

Karen Love, director of practice growth at Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas (FY16 net revenue of $24.2 million) of Houston, was honored in the Houston Business Journal’s C-Suite awards as Top Chief Marketing Officer. The next week, she was chosen for the Leading Edge Alliance’s On the Edge Innovation award, alongside two others.

Top Chief Marketing Officer is awarded to the individual who achieved exemplary growth in their company through their marketing initiatives. Love is also a finalist in the Houston Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business awards.

Love was chosen for the Leading Edge Alliance On the Edge Innovation award for her impact on the marketing function of public accounting, helping to elevate it from an administrative-level task to a strategic and executive imperative.

“As she elevated the marketing function of public accounting, she elevated those around her as well, whether those people were CPAs or fellow marketers who she has taught and mentored,” says Karen Kehl-Rose, president, Leading Edge Alliance.

2017 IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm Profile: Bennett Thrasher

With impressive organic growth of 14.5%, Bennett Thrasher of Atlanta jumped five spots up the IPA 100 list this year to reach No. 83, and is one of the fastest-growing firms among the largest accounting firms in the nation.

INSIDE Public Accounting asked MP Jeffrey Eischeid to offer his insights into his firm’s success, growth goals, top clients and predictions on how the accounting profession may change over the next 10 years. Congratulations to the entire Bennett Thrasher team.

To what do you attribute your ability to grow the firm so significantly?

Bennett Thrasher continues to grow through our investment in talent and new services offerings that deliver value to our clients. We embrace a culture of collaboration and commitment to client service and place a high value on our core values of integrity, family and clients. We constantly seek ways to innovate our benefits to attract and retain our professionals. By continuing to build and maintain our strong “people first” culture, our firm is able to attract great associates and clients.

Tell us about the types of services you provide to your top three clients.

In addition to traditional tax and assurance services, Bennett Thrasher offers a variety of specialty services such as international tax, transfer pricing, dispute resolution and forensics, transaction advisory, risk advisory, technology, wealth management and other consulting services. Our top clients are full-service assurance and tax clients that also use a mix of these specialty services.

What are your growth goals for the next five years?

Bennett Thrasher has a unique market approach that is led by our cross-functional industry segment teams. Each of those industry segment teams expects to continue their double-digit compound growth for the next five years.

What type of client is an ideal fit for your firm?

Ideal clients for Bennett Thrasher are middle market, privately held businesses that have complex business needs as well as the families or funds that own them.

Can you predict how accounting firm services will change over the next 10 years?

Accounting firms must continue to embrace technology. Firms need to understand how technology will impact our traditional compliance services as well as how technology will enable us to deliver value to our clients by helping them achieve success in accomplishing their objectives.

Guest Article: Navigating Through Preliminary Merger Discussions

Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

Joseph A. Tarasco, CEO of Accountants Advisory Group

Most merger and acquisition deals typically go through five stages: preliminary discussions; transactional detail meetings and negotiations; an initial agreement outlined in a memo of understanding or letter of intent; due diligence; and the transaction agreement and signing of the partner / shareholder agreement.

Quite often, I am asked what are the pertinent types of questions that should be asked by the selling firm in a merger and acquisition transaction in the first few meetings. The following are some examples:

Vision, Strategic Planning and Future of the Firm

  • What is the vision and strategy for the firm for the next five years?
  • What is the culture of the firm?
  • Does the firm have an annual partner retreat and/or strategic planning meeting?

Partner Compensation, Management and Risk

  • How is partner compensation determined?
  • Do partners have annual goals and objectives? If so, how often are the partners counseled?
  • Are partners held accountable?
  • Describe your partner governance structure.
  • When was the last time you updated your partnership agreement?
  • Do you have partner meetings?  How often do you meet?
  • How is partner equity determined?
  • What are your average partner billing rates? Staff rates?
  • Has the firm gone through a de-merger or terminated any partners in the last five years?
  • Do you have any professional liability claims that have not been settled?
  • What has been your claim experience in the last five years?
  • What is the structure of your IT department?

Succession Planning and Professional Staff

  • How many equity and non-equity partners do you have?
  • Are any partners planning to retire in the next few years?
  • Do you have partner retirement payment projections for the next 10 years? Does the firm have a “cap” on retirement payments?
  • What is your staff turnover rate?
  • Describe your training program.
  • How often do you counsel staff?
  • What methods do you use to recruit staff?  Have they been successful?
  • Do you hold staff meetings?
  • What is your current staff-to-partner ratio?
  • Who oversees scheduling?
  • What is the structure of your HR department?

Partner Marketing Activity

  • What is the source of most of your new business? (If it is from referrals, what types of individuals and companies?)
  • How many partners bring in new business? How many are “rainmakers”?
  • For marketing purposes, is your firm organized into industry / service teams?
  • Are the partners held accountable for their marketing efforts?
  • Do you have new client acceptance criteria?
  • What does the firm do to identify additional service opportunities with existing clients?
  • Have you ever conducted a client satisfaction survey?  If so, what were the results?
  • What is the structure of your marketing department?

Service Offerings

  • What are the firm’s strongest niches?
  • Is the firm known as an expert in any industry?
  • What percentage of the firm’s revenue is compliance vs. consulting/advisory services?
  • What percentage of revenues is assurance versus tax?
  • Does the firm offer financial services? If yes, to what extent?