Moss Adams CEO Chris Schmidt sees more M&A ahead

Moss Adams, a Seattle-based Top 100 Firm, is fresh off a string of four mergers last year, and CEO Chris Schmidt anticipates more M&A deals to come.

“Moss Adams has always been focused on two-prong growth,” he told Accounting Today. “The first is making sure we’re doing the right thing, expanding our business through our industries. The second piece is looking at strategic combinations, like a new market we want to be in.”

Last November, Moss Adams announced it was adding Baker Peterson Franklin, an accounting and consulting firm in Fresno, California, and the deal took effect in the New Year. In October, Moss Adams expanded in New Mexico by adding BPW&C, a firm based in the Albuquerque area. In September, the firm announced another merger, adding AsTech Consulting, a San Francisco-based cyber risk management firm. In the spring, Moss Adams also acquired Transacction Partners, a firm that specializes in outsourced finance and accounting services.

Moss Adams' offices in Seattle
Moss Adams CEO Chris Schmidt

Moss Adams ranks in 12th place among the Top 100 Firms. Schmidt said the firm does due diligence to make sure any combination fits in with Moss Adams’ strategic plans. The merger with BPW&C, for example, gave the firm more of a presence in the Albuquerque market, while the combination with Baker Peterson Franklin built its footprint in Fresno, while also enhancing its expertise in the agribusiness space. The AsTech deal allowed Moss Adams to add to its cybersecurity services in the Bay Area. “That team brought some great skill sets into our practice,” said Schmidt. The Transacction Partners merger allowed the firm to get into the area of outsourced cloud-based accounting and finance for clients, which Schmidt sees as a hot area right now.

“Our general growth strategy when you look at it in 2019, 2020 and beyond is to make sure we’re getting the right organic growth inside the firm,” he said. “The second is to get our partners and team members wrapping our minds around a good selling-service culture.”

He also wants the firm to expand further in California and Texas. “We have specifically said we’re going to continue to look for combination activity in California in our existing markets,” said Schmidt. “I believe we’re probably the fifth largest firm in the state of California as far as revenue and people. We’ve done a great job over the last 20 years of trying to build our presence in California. We’ve been in Texas now for about four years, and we’re focused on Texas as we are in California. We continue to look at our consulting practice, adding services, partners and business lines to fit our clients, to be able to serve them in the consulting practice.”

When doing a merger, he likes to look at the other firm’s culture to make sure it will be a good fit with Moss Adams. The firm’s biggest M&A deal in recent years was with Hein & Associates in 2017.

“When we did our combination with Heine that got us into two new markets, Denver and Houston, and it also expanded our presence in Dallas,” said Schmidt. “The focus in Texas would be to continue to grow organically and also to look into firms and individuals who might be able to come into those locations and be additive to what we’re doing there. In California we’ve got a big footprint, but we’re always looking for the right combination. Our strategy is to look in those different locations up and down the coast.”

Moss Adams is looking to enter the Salt Lake City area as well. “A market that we’d like to be in and we continue to look for opportunities is Salt Lake City,” said Schmidt. “That’s a great technology hub and private equity hub, and there’s a banking sector. It’s a market we’re interested in. I would rather try to find a strategic combination than greenfield something. That’s the most logical area.”

Beyond geography, Moss Adams has also been expanding the range of industries it services through its M&A deals. “When we did the combination with Hein, they got us into the energy sector, which was one of the last remaining industries we wanted to fill out,” said Schmidt. “We had the utilities practice, but for exploration and production and field services, the team members who came over from Hein brought a strong skill set. When you look at our industries today, we’re in a good position. We feel we have the right leaders and the right industries.”

Schmidt doesn’t expect to announce any new M&A deals in the immediate future, although several combinations are under discussion. “We’re always talking, and we always have a pipeline of new opportunities, but we don’t have anything immediately,” he said. “Obviously there’s a big trend where firms are combining and looking to grow in different markets. That’s not going to slow down. We want to make sure we’re keeping our eyes open and look for the right options for Moss Adams. We feel like we’re in a really great slot in our footprint. We have a strategic plan that’s very focused on delivering the best experience to our clients, making sure we’re innovative and creative in solving their problems. I’m very grateful to be in a profession that the public trusts.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.