Cherry Bekaert has installed Michelle Thompson as its new managing partner and CEO, the Top 100 Firm’s first female chief executive.

Thompson succeeds Howard Kies, who has led the Richmond, Virginia-based firm for the past 27 years. She was previously managing partner of Cherry Bekaert’s assurance services practice and was voted in as head of the firm at Cherry Bekaert’s annual partners’ meeting last October (see Cherry Bekaert elects Michelle Thompson as managing partner and CEO).

Thompson is joining the small group of women who have reached the top spot at accounting firms in recent years, including Cathy Engelbert at Deloitte and Lynn Doughtie at KPMG. Last December, Ernst & Young appointed Kelly Grier as U.S. chairman and managing partner-elect, and she is set to take the position at the end of this year when the current MP, Steve Howe, retires. A boutique CPA firm, Perelson Weiner LLP, announced a female CEO, Lynne Born, in February.

Michelle Thompson
Michelle Thompson

As managing partner at Cherry Bekaert, Thompson is expected to drive the overall strategic planning and direction of the firm while overseeing operations and financial performance. She plans to transform the 70-year-old firm through innovation and new technology. She will also be chairing Cherry Bekaert’s Executive Board.

“I look forward to extending the success our firm has achieved in its 70-year history, as well as continuing to provide leadership that is aligned with Cherry Bekaert’s mission of making a difference for our people and our clients,” Thompson said in a statement. “Building on existing relationships will be essential to carrying out this mission, along with promoting innovation and helping the firm and clients adapt to the ever-changing world of technology.”

There are other changes happening at the firm as well. Kurt W. Taves, CPA, will assume the new role of chief operating officer. He previously served as managing partner of both Cherry Bekaert’s Hampton Roads practice and its tax services practice. He will oversee the firm’s tax, assurance and advisory service lines. Tax partner Christine W. Pierce will replace Taves as managing partner of tax services.

Taking over Thompson’s former role as managing partner of Cherry Bekaert’s assurance services practice is Collin G. Hill, an audit partner and North Carolina regional service line leader with the firm’s Assurance & Accounting Services Group.

“I’m excited to work alongside these talented professionals in helping shape our firm’s future vision. Each one of these individuals is committed to making a difference to our people and our clients,” said Thompson. “Their exceptional leadership is essential to the future success of the firm.”

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Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.