Tax-prep giant H&R Block has named long-time Arthur Andersen audit veteran Charles Elliot "C.E." Andrews as president of its RSM McGladrey unit.

Andrews succeeds Steve Tait, who stepped down as president of the firm, based here, on April 30. At press time, Andrews, who will be based in Chicago, was expected to take the reins at the end of June.

As president, he will lead efforts to enhance the McGladrey brand and market share among middle-market firms. "McGladrey is already a great firm with a strong brand," he said. "My goal and my role is to enhance that, to grow it, to make us larger, more profitable and more successful than we are even today."

McGladrey operates in an alternative practice structure with McGladrey & Pullen; together, the two had nearly $1.5 billion in revenues and a No. 5 ranking on Accounting Today's 2009 Top 100 Firms list.

Andrews did not say whether that practice would change under his stewardship: "That's the structure of the organization and so certainly it would be my expectation to continue that. But I wasn't a part of putting that together. I think it has certain advantages, but I've got to get in and get to know it."

Though Andrews said that it was premature to disclose if the firm would expand under his leadership through mergers and acquisitions, he did point to a focus on organic growth.

"The first order of business for me is to get in and listen and learn since I am coming in from the outside," he said. "The worst thing I could do is come in with all the answers. Clearly one way to grow and one emphasis will be organic growth, which has been an emphasis of McGladrey and is an emphasis of any firm. I believe there are probably some things I can bring from my experiences that will enhance even organic growth."

Andrews worked for nearly 30 years at Arthur Andersen in several capacities, including head of worldwide audit and the business advisory practice.

Until his appointment, Andrews had been out of the accounting profession for six years, and most recently had served as president of student loan lender Sallie Mae.

"I love Arthur Andersen; if it was still around, I'd still be there. I think we got a raw deal," he said of the firm's dismantling after Enron. "One of the attractions, as I got more knowledgeable with McGladrey, was that I found a similar culture and commitment to client service and its people like Andersen had. Its Midwestern roots are similar to how Andersen started. Its focus on the middle market is how Andersen grew. That helps me feel very comfortable."

"You've got to be relevant in terms of the information you're being associated with and opining on, you've got to be relevant in terms of timeliness, relevant in terms of responsiveness to its users," he said. "The accounting profession is constantly challenged to make sure it maintains a sense of importance, a sense of purpose and a sense of integrity in the marketplace."

Describing his leadership style as "hands-on" and "people-oriented," with a belief in leading by example, Andrews said that he doesn't have a high tolerance for careless mistakes. "In a business like ours, you're not successful by knocking the ball out of the park every day," he said, adding that his aim is to create an environment where his staff enjoy working with him. "You're successful by doing all the little things well continuously. I'm not someone who likes to finish second. If you are going to be a successful organization, your people have to think that way. You always want to be first at whatever you're doing."

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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