Charles Weinstein serves as managing partner of regional accounting powerhouse Eisner LLP, which ranks among the top 25 largest firms in the country and is the second-largest regional firm in the New York metro area, with fiscal 2003 revenues of $71.9 million. In the past year, the firm has expanded its service offerings to include Section 404 services, a dedicated retirement solutions practice, and a wealth management practice, among others.


In an e-mail interview with WebCPA editor Melissa Klein Aguilar, Weinstein talked about the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley on the firm, which has several publicly held audit clients, the areas on which Eisner plans to focus its resources in the coming year, and how the firm differentiates itself from competitors in what is quickly becoming a crowded space -- the middle market.


Briefly describe your career in public accounting:

I spent one year with a small accounting firm that had a staff of 10. I then worked for 10 years with a midsized national firm that merged with a Big Four firm. I turned down a partnership offer from the Big 4 Firm to work with clients in a hands-on environment.


I have been with Eisner LLP for 15 years. I joined Eisner as a partner in 1989, [and served] the last six years as managing partner.


Why did you choose this profession?

I have always wanted to be an accountant, ever since I was six years old. Accountants were always held in high esteem, and as a profession, accounting provided you with a chance to learn about many different businesses. The CPA designation always stood for integrity, honesty and intelligence. You had to be a great to be a CPA.


Describe the firm’s biggest challenge under your stewardship and how you met that challenge:

Our firm’s biggest challenge has been to maintain our terrific culture and extraordinarily high level of work, while at the same time running a professional services practice as a business. As we have found out in reaching these goals, it can all come together to have a great firm. Because the firm is successful, we have been able to attract very talented people who share our firm’s values and fit well with our culture. The key for us is to continue to attract talented people at all levels.


How have regulatory changes since the passage of SOX impacted the firm, and what changes has the firm made as a result?

Working with publicly held companies is a substantial part of our practice. As a result, SOX has had a significant impact on the way we practice. We have had to become an expert in the implications that SOX has for both our publicly held audit clients and those other public companies that we advise. As a Firm, we have substantially increased the amount of training at all staff levels and reinforced the “tone at the top,” which is so critical to our partners.


SOX has created great opportunities for the firm and we have created a significant consulting practice around SOX requirements. We are working on SOX compliance engagements with large international companies. We have brought in new partners and staff for this practice area.


What practice areas does the firm plan to focus on in the next year?

Over the next year, the firm will be focusing its resources on growing our financial services practice, our Securities and Exchange Commission practice (including SOX Section 404 compliance), our law firms and venture capital practices, and our services to high-net-worth individuals.


Eisner has positioned itself as the “middle-market alternative.” How do you define that market and how does the firm differentiate itself from competitors in that space?

We define that market as entities with revenues of up to $500 million. Of course, we work with companies that are much larger in size, but our “middle-market” clients range from start-up companies to $500 million businesses. Eisner tries to differentiate itself from its competitors by the quality of our clients, our heavy partner involvement with our clients and by the level of expertise that we can bring to clients. Our philosophy is that we want to be the best at those things we do. Therefore, we don’t do everything. For example, we don’t take on banks or insurance companies as clients. By focusing on industry expertise, we can add value to our clients. Our level of talent is outstanding.

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