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Firm Leaders Offer Perspectives to Accounting Marketers

June 24, 2010

It’s hard to keep a crowd hungry for networking focused on listening during a lunch panel, but Tuesday’s session at the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit fed marketers some useful perspectives, trends and predictions about the accounting profession.

Moderated by Marc Busny, vice president of the Association for Accounting Marketing and managing director and chief marketing officer at CBIZ Tofias in Boston, the hour-long panel included five speakers discussing how marketers influence, affect and support major issues sparking the profession today.

Ed Offterdinger, managing partner and vice chair of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause; Rich Devine, chief financial officer of Asian Bank in Philadelphia; Greg Anton, founding partner of the Denver-based firm Anton Collins Mitchell and the American Institute of CPAs’ incoming vice chair; Tim Reason, editorial director at CFO Magazine; and Suzanne Verity, vice president and director of growth strategies at PKF North America and one of the summit’s tri-chairs, were grilled — nicely — on their perspectives. Here are some highlights:

Devine wanted his firm’s marketing endeavors to focus more on customers and less on trinkets flashing the logo.

“We never audited SEC companies; we left that to the Big Four,” Devine said. He was previously with Smart Business Advisory and Consulting, which merged with LECG earlier this year.

“We wanted to provide every other service to large publicly held companies as well as hospitals and universities, so we wanted to make sure our branding was very consistent,” he added. “And, as we went through due diligence with private equity, we made sure that branding was very consistent throughout the firm and that everybody had the same thoughts in their mind about where the firm was and where the firm was going.”

Anton was asked about International Financial Reporting Standards and what marketers will need to know going forward. He told the audience that come 2015 there will be a tremendous amount of opportunities “dumped in the lap of CPA firms.” Approximately 120 countries either require or allow the use of IFRS, he said, and of the largest 500 global companies, only 155 of them report using U.S. GAAP.

“Those opportunities, you need to be aware of from a marketing perspective, because whenever there is change, there is opportunity,” Anton said.

Verity talked about the difference between an association and network, an area that she still described as emerging and gray. “There is a new definition that has come into play, and it has to do with the independence of firms,” she said. “There are a lot of aspects that are tied to balancing risk and opportunity,” she said. “We [at PKF] have struck the word ‘network’ from our logo. That just shows you how sensitive of an issue it is. We are an association.”

Offterdinger was asked how he measures the effectiveness of his marketing department. “We set objectives, targets, goals for the year,” he responded.

He added that IFRS could either be the next Sarbanes-Oxley or the next Y2K problem. “From the marketing perspective, I think it’s more likely to be a SOX and you can’t be a ‘me too’ firm,” he said. “You better get on it now.”

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