During my extended stay in college, my idea of prudent financial planning was to put enough aside to order extra cheese at Pizza Hut on Friday nights. Several decades later, Friday is still pizza night for me, and I've upgraded a bit since then. Now, in a week without any unforeseen expenses like a brake job or a cut and highlights for my wife and daughters, I can splurge on a double order of garlic knots.My rather modest financial portfolio aside, I saw recently that financial planning perks have swelled among the chief executives of Fortune 100 companies. Last year, more than 74 percent of Fortune 100 companies disclosed that their CEO received financial planning-related perks, versus just under 30 percent in 2005.

I mention this surge because many firms in the accounting profession that have carved out a place in financial planning services have steadily and quietly amassed mind-boggling amounts of assets under management.

In our first-ever ranking of CPA firms in terms of assets under management - which appears this month in our sister publication, CPA Wealth Provider - there are, incredibly, 11 (yes, 11) CPA firms that currently have more than $1 billion in AUM, with Michigan's Plante Moran and its financial planning affiliate arms overseeing more than $5 billion. Other members of the billion-dollar club include Gilman Ciocia, Virchow Krause, Moss Adams Wealth Advisors and Honkamp Kruger. There are also 41 CPA firms that are members of the "$100+ Million Club," led by SVA Wealth Management and Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, with $925 million and $880 million, respectively. At their current pace, both should crack the billion-dollar barrier by the 2008 AUM census.

Rounding out this first-ever feature are those we labeled the "Rising Stars" in PFP, firms just below the $100 million barrier of entry, but quickly forging a solid reputation in the field.

Which, albeit circuitously, brings me to my point.

In our last issue, which contained Accounting Today's annual Top 100 Most Influential People, the bannered theme focused on the age of specialization and how CPA firms are gradually distancing themselves from a quasi-generic perception of simple tax and audit services into an age of specialties.

When I first assumed the editor's post here seven years ago, the feeling was that financial planning was on the cusp of becoming the next big trend among firms. It was for that reason that we launched CPA Wealth Provider for those CPAs who look after their client's investments. But for myriad reasons, financial planning didn't experience the exponential growth that was once predicted. It grew, to be sure - just not as quickly as forecast. But like other specialty niches such as litigation support, forensics and valuation, financial planning has become one of the stalwarts in this era of specialty practices.

And from our AUM survey, I gather there are quite a few of you out there who can order the extra garlic knots.

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