Marcum LLP expanded to California and Hong Kong this month after merging in Stonefield Josephson, and the next target for the New York-based firm is likely to be Chicago.

[IMGCAP(1)]Managing partner Jeff Weiner told me Thursday that the firm is looking to expand to the Windy City next year, though he hasn’t started talking with any merger candidates yet. The Chicago move would be the next in a string of mergers and expansions in recent years.

“We set out in 2008 to go from being a regional firm in New York to really create a national firm to service the middle market,” he said. “We want to be looked at as the middle market alternative to the Big Four. We started in New York in 2008, then we expanded into New Jersey, then in 2009 we expanded to South Florida and to Philadelphia, and in 2010 earlier this year we went up to New England. We had earmarked the West Coast, Los Angeles, San Francisco as areas we wanted to be in. Stonefield filled that need for us, and we’re looking at expanding into Chicago next year.”

The integration process with Stonefield should be similar to the other recent mergers for Marcum, with Rachlin LLP in Florida, Margolis & Co. in Philadelphia, and the three offices in Connecticut and Massachusetts that it bought from UHY Advisors (see Marcum Merges in Stonefield).

“We’ve been through this a couple of times,” said Weiner. “We put together an integration team on all levels, whether it’s administrative, audit, or tax, that basically will work with Stonefield to assimilate them into our policies and procedures over the course of time.”

The two firms share some similar technologies, but others are different. “You don’t have to change everything day one,” Weiner said. “We’ve learned that if you assimilate over time with a plan, it could be a three-month plan or a six-month plan, you can’t change everything day one. It’s just impractical. There’s too many things, there’s too many people involved, there’s too much of a learning curve. But depending on what it is, whether it’s the audit software or the tax software or time of year determines how long the integration process will take.”

So far, the transition has been going well since the merger took effect on October 1, according to Weiner. “Any of the firms we merge with, but Stonefield in particular, they’ve been around a long time, and they have a viable up-and-running business," he said. "Day one, other than changing the name on the door, nothing’s changed. It’s the same people and the same place. We don’t get rid of people. We don’t do an overnight upheaval. We do things over time. We try to make it as least intrusive as possible, both for the people who work there and the clients. We want it to be seamless, so we want the change and the integration to be almost transparent.”