Two CPAs Win Innovation Awards

Two CPA firm leaders – one an early champion of blockchain services, another an advocate of artificial intelligence in the audit process – have been named recipients of CPA.com’s 2018 Innovative Practitioner Award, which recognizes innovation in process, services or technology implementation in public accounting.

The honorees are:

Samantha Bowling

Samantha Bowling

  • Samantha Bowling, partner, Garbelman Winslow of Upper Marlboro, Md. – Bowling is chair of the Maryland Association of CPAs. Bowling and her team of small firm practitioners are successfully integrating artificial intelligence (AI) in auditing for small businesses, nonprofits and local government. Using an external AI platform, the firm has improved the audit process and helped reduce the risk of material misstatements for its clients. As an early adopter, Bowling is providing valuable input to help make the technology more usable for other firms.
  • Jagruti Solanki, senior manager, Atlanta-based Aprio (FY17 net revenue of 85.1 million)Solanki helped launch the firm’s blockchain services group and has been instrumental in developing best practices for accounting and financial reporting related to the digital distributed ledger technology. Among other services, her team helps clients navigate blockchain implications for domestic and international accounting, as well as tax obstacles associated with tokenization, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency. Solanki is being admitted to the partnership next year in recognition of her leadership on initiatives such as blockchain that drive growth and profitability for the firm.
Jagruti Solanki

Jagruti Solanki

“Samantha and Jagruti define what being an innovative practitioner is all about: the ability to assess where the profession is going, incorporate emerging technologies to either imrove an existing service or launch a new one, and then successfully position the practitioner’s firm as a leader in that area,” says Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “Both blockchain and AI stand to make a big impact on the profession and our honorees are both advancing strategies around these technologies for their firm.”

Frabotta Receives Distinguished Service Award

Anthony P. Frabotta

Anthony P. Frabotta

Chicago-based UHY (FY17 net revenue of $140.8 million) announced that its chair and CEO, Anthony P. Frabotta, has been recognized with The Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants.

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to those who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession. Honorees have shown exceptional leadership and service, making a lasting impact in their industry and their communities.

“As a true advocate for the profession, Tony has mentored hundreds of young CPAs, both at the firm and on the campus of Wayne State,” says Guy Gordon, WJR radio host and the emcee for the night. “Beyond the profession, Tony is a strong supporter of Detroit and its surrounding communities through involvement in several area charities”

Frabotta helped establish UHY Cares, a nonprofit organization run exclusively by employees. Over the entirety of his 44-year career, he has been an outstanding leader in the MICPA family.

Abacus Worldwide Wins Rising Star Award

Abacus Worldwide, an association or accounting and law firms, has received the “Rising Star Association of the Year” award from The Accountant & International Accounting Bulletin.

The Abacus Worldwide award recognizes their impressive development and regional initiatives, the magazines announced. Abacus connects accounting and law firms globally, facilitating knowledge exchange and better assisting clients with cross border and multi-jurisdictional needs.

Julio Gabay, Abacus Worldwide president and CEO says, “Abacus was founded only six years ago and today this award acknowledges the star members within Abacus. Without their engagement and desire to better service client needs, this could not be possible.  We are creating a truly unique global business association and are confident Abacus will have many more rising-star years ahead.”

The awards celebrate the best among firms, associations, networks and individual professionals in the accounting market globally that are successfully serving their clients through innovation and thought leadership as well as those that are strengthening the profession relevance in its mandate to serve the public interest. This year’s winners were commemorated at a gala at the Waldorf Hilton in London Oct. 4.

Wipfli Enlists Cybersecurity Partner Program

Milwaukee-based Wipfli LLP (FY18 net revenue of $317.9 million), a top 20 national accounting and consulting firm, has joined the NormShield partner program to expand its current cybersecurity solutions.

NormShield provides on-demand and standards-based cyber risk scorecards. The enhanced portfolio will provide Wipfli with a powerful tool to improve and reduce the risk associated with its clients’ supply-chain partners, third-party vendor networks and sensitive data.

“Many business leaders understand that cybersecurity is a moving target, and we firmly believe it’s our job to prepare our clients to manage their risk, circumvent potential consequences and protect their bottom line,” says Robert Cedergren, PIC of Wipfli’s risk advisory services practice.

According to a recent study conducted by Ponemon Institute, external cyber risks are some of the most dangerous companies face: The study indicated that more than 56% of companies experienced a third-party breach in 2017 and, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

“The NormShield cyber risk scorecard provides an objective, external measure of an organization’s cyber risk posture,” says Mohamoud Jibrell, CEO of NormShield. “We’ve taken a ‘new school’ approach to supply-chain risk monitoring that’s easy to understand and includes online, dynamic risk scorecards with straightforward letter-grades based on defined risk categories. The risks are then prioritized with detailed information on the severity of the risk and through the portal. From there, the NormShield scorecard details how to mitigate and remediate each identified risk.”

Through its relationship with NormShield, Wipfli will leverage the company’s ability to gather data in a non-intrusive way, classify the data into security risk categories, apply advanced algorithms to analyze and convert data into risk intelligence, generate easy-to-understand scorecards and dashboards, and provide detailed remediation steps to secure the networks from outside attack.

Banc Compliance Group Joins Saltmarsh

Pensacola, Fla.-based Saltmarsh Cleaveland & Gund (FY17 net revenue of $18.5 million), with four offices in Florida and one in Nashville, Tenn., announces that Banc Compliance Group has merged with the firm.

As a new shareholder, BCG’s former principal Connie Edwards will lead Saltmarsh’s financial institution practice in Tennessee. The practice is dedicated to advising financial institutions of varying sizes and complexity.

“This merger allows us to expand existing services into Tennessee and related markets in order to further our mission to help financial institutions navigate the important challenges facing the industry today,” says Lee Bell, Saltmarsh president. “The Bank Advisors at Saltmarsh have a long-standing reputation for providing great service to financial institutions, as does Connie.”

The combined firm offers accounting, audit/assurance, tax, wealth advisory and many levels of specialized consulting services to clients throughout the U.S. and overseas.

King Tripp & Henry to Join Eide Bailly

King Tripp & Henry of Phoenix will be joining Fargo, N.D.-based Eide Bailly (FY18 net revenue of $299.2 million) on Oct. 29.

The union will bring two partners and four staff to Eide Bailly, which is ranked No. 20 on the 2018 IPA 100 list. The new staff members will work from Eide Bailly’s existing Phoenix office.

Eide Bailly CEO/MP Dave Stende says, “This firm has a long tradition of exceptional client service in Phoenix, and their culture and dedication to being a leading firm in the region fits right in with Eide Bailly’s mission and goals.”

Two North Carolina Firms Merge

Charlotte, N.C.-based McClure CPA has joined Greensboro, N.C.-based Bernard Robinson & Company (FY17 net revenue of $16.1 million).

This union extends BRC’s presence in North Carolina by expanding into the Charlotte and North Wilkesboro markets. BRC now has more than160 employees and six locations in the state.

Combined under the name Bernard Robinson & Company, the newly expanded firm will be in an even better position to serve its clients, its communities and its employees. “Their firm and people have a great reputation in Charlotte, North Wilkesboro and beyond,” says Alisa Moody, CEO of BRC.

“In adding their skills to ours at BRC, we will greatly reinforce our assurance, tax and business advisory offerings,” says David McClure, MP of McClure. “A lot of thought and consideration was put into this effort. BRC’s commitment to maintaining a great place to live and work matches perfectly with our culture.”

Wade Pack, BRC’s MP, adds, “Our firm has always been committed to continuously enhancing the depth and breadth of our client-service capabilities and this combination of professionals will do just that. Plus, we look forward to continuing to be a valued community partner and expect a seamless transition as our team grows.”

Runge Named COO of Elliott Davis

Greenville, S.C.-based Elliott Davis (FY18 net revenue of $119 million) announces that Luanne Runge has been named chief operating officer. She is based in the headquarters office, and will provide strategic guidance and oversight for the entire company.

“Luanne is a respected visionary who brings a wealth of experience in organizational leadership and operations management,” says Rick Davis, CEO of Elliott Davis. “Her knowledge, passion and drive will help to propel Elliott Davis to even greater heights as we fulfill our mission of making a positive impact on our clients, our people and our communities.”

As COO, Runge will serve on the firm’s executive leadership team and oversee all aspects of day-to-day operations. She will also work to ensure the company achieves objectives that align with the strategic business plan, budget and firm culture. In addition, Runge will serve as Elliott Davis’ human resources team leader and general counsel.

“The chance to join an organization that combines nearly 100 years of service excellence with a forward-leaning, entrepreneurial mindset is an incredible opportunity,” says Runge. “Elliott Davis has progressive plans for the future, and I look forward to helping the company achieve its goals while strengthening its position in the marketplace. I’m equally excited to work with a group that’s committed to making the communities in which it does business better places to live and work.”

Before joining Elliott Davis, Runge served as president and CEO of Liberty Fellowship, a statewide values-based leadership initiative affiliated with The Aspen Institute. For more than four years, she provided the leadership, management and operational oversight of all facets of the organization. Prior to Liberty Fellowship, Runge practiced law in Greenville with Gallivan, White & Boyd for 21 years.

INSIDE Public Accounting Unveils The 2018 Pyramid Awards

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) announced that three 2018 Best of the Best Accounting Firms will be recognized with Pyramid Awards this year at the eighth annual PRIME Symposium, Oct. 23-25, in Dallas.

The award recipients this year were: Miami-based MBAF, Pasadena, Calif.-based KROST and Little Rock, Ark.-based Frost PLLC.

MBAF was the recipient of IPA’s “Pyramid of Excellence” award. This high-performing firm ranked No. 1 among the elite 50 Best of the Best Firms selected by IPA. The rankings are based on data from the 29th annual IPA Survey and Analysis of Firms, which covers finances and operations in dozens of areas. This $124.3 million, IPA 100 firm, with 66 partners and 563 staff, has been named a Best of the Best firm 17 consecutive times.

KROST, once again, received the IPA Best of the Best “Fastest-Growing Pyramid Award.” With a 29.6% growth rate, this firm has demonstrated impressive results with no mergers to enhance that number. This is KROST’s third consecutive year as an IPA Best of the Best firm and Fastest-Growing firm. The $33.1 million firm ranked No. 110 on the IPA 200 list.

Frost PLLC received the IPA Best of the Best “Pyramid Award.” The $29.4 million firm, ranked No. 124 on the IPA 200 list, first appeared as a Best of the Best firm in 1996. Since then, IPA has named Frost a Best of the Best firm 21 times. Frost sustains financial and operational excellence year after year.

View a complete listing of the 2018 IPA Best of the Best.

Subscribe to the INSIDE Public Accounting Newsletter.

Order the 2018 Benchmarking Report.

IPA Spotlight On … Gary Wallace

Name: Gary Wallace

Gary Wallace

Title: MP-Elect

Firm: Glen Allen, Va.-based Keiter (FY17 net revenue of $27 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Elected MP to start in new role in January 2019.
  • Joined Keiter as partner in 2010 and currently leads tax practice and is member of executive committee.
  • Worked in public accounting for 30 years at KPMG and now Keiter. Has also served as CFO for a prominent family office.
  • Specializes in taxation, including transaction structuring and consulting with business owners.

You will take over as MP on January 1st. How are you preparing for the transition from Mike Gracik?

Our firm has taken a systematic approach to succession including my new role as managing partner. Our process began over a year ago and Mike has done a great job in preparing me with everything from “shadowing” to participating in key firm decisions. His approach has been very effective for me personally as well as with our team, clients and our community.

You haven’t ‘grown up’ professionally in accounting firms alone. Do you believe your private sector experience will aid you in guiding the future of Keiter? If so, why? What do you feel you need to learn about the profession?

My career in public accounting will be very valuable in leading our firm. I learned from many great leaders and role models as well as from working through my own situations. On-the-job experiences will significantly benefit me because I have gone through many of the decisions and life lessons that I may potentially face. However, my private sector experience as a CFO broadened my breadth of business understanding and was a great learning experience on how to operate a business. As a past CFO, I participated in business decisions, which will assist me with firm decisions at Keiter and will also give me a better understanding of our clients’ decision-making. The combination of public accounting and private industry experience provides a unique perspective for leading our firm.

What are your growth goals for Keiter?

Growth is important for our firm, primarily because it allows and provides rewarding opportunities for our current partners as well as our future leaders. I am enthusiastic about growing our practice areas and seeking new service opportunities to support our clients, as well as our people and community. Accounting firms are experiencing many changes, from technology to client needs. Embracing new opportunities comes with our entrepreneurial spirit and will guide us for our growth goals going forward.

You’ve said that one of your priorities as MP is to expand support to the Richmond, Va., community. What do you have in mind?

Keiter has a great reputation in our community. I hear the appreciation that our clients and community leaders have for us every day. I want us to be more focused on how our services and support makes a difference. Our community deserves our effort and our team feels the rewards from such support. There is no master plan to expanding our support. It’s simply to keep our clients and community top of mind as we conduct our business and volunteer our time.

Final thoughts?

Why do I look forward to this new opportunity? It’s simple. I am excited to be making a difference for our team, clients and community.