BKD, Moore Stephens Frost Keep Places at Nos. 1 and 2 on List

(To see the list of the top accounting firms, click here. A spreadsheet version is available here.)

Despite some jostling among the largest accounting firms in Arkansas, BKD LLP of Little Rock retained the top spot in 2008, as it has since 2001, when it was formed through the merger of Baird Kurtz & Dobson of Springfield, Mo., and Olive LLP of Indianapolis.

Moore Stephens Frost PLC of Little Rock again showed up in second place, as it did in 2007, but both BKD and Moore exhibited strong growth in personnel compared with last year's numbers. Each firm added 10 certified public accountants, giving BKD 63 and Moore 51.

Part of the growth of Moore Stephens Frost came through the acquisition of the practice of Rick J. Tanneberger of Fayetteville on Aug. 2, 2007. The accounting firm, which also has offices in Raleigh, N.C., and suburban Atlanta, consolidated its two northwest Arkansas offices on Aug. 1 of this year, moving to the Lindsey & Associates Building in Fayetteville.

JPMS Cox PLLC of Little Rock took third place from Beall Barclay & Co. PLC of Fort Smith, which held that spot in 2007.

Perhaps the biggest change to the order of the list was the decline of Deloitte & Touche LLP of Little Rock, which dropped to a tie for 19th place this year from 11th place in 2007. Deloitte & Touche reported seven CPAs this year versus 12 last year. Its ranks of "other professionals" remained the same at eight.

The expansion at BKD and Moore Stephens Frost reflects the continuing appeal of accounting as a profession and a nationwide boom that has lasted several years. A recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants reported that enrollment in college-level accounting classes has risen 19 percent since 2004.

Dan Peregrin, managing partner of Moore Stephens Frost, in noting his firm's growth in northwest Arkansas also said that the "symbiotic relationship we have between that office in Raleigh and here has caused some growth."

Peregrin agreed that the accounting field remains popular and cited technology as one of the reasons. "As our world becomes more techno-oriented, I think it is appealing more to Gen Y, etc., because we're essentially a paperless environment," he said.

"Most of what we do is on the Web today," Peregrin said. "That in connection with it's a high-paying field ... and a rewarding career are keeping it somewhat in demand."

Peregrin added: "We practice in 40 states, so our staff enjoys getting to see the country."

An increasingly global economy and a heightened emphasis on corporate accountability in the wake of a series of high-profile, high-cost scandals have also led to greater demand for certified public accountants.

Now, as the profession transitions from the U.S.'s GAAP - or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles - to International Financial Reporting Standards, CPAs will have even more to learn.

Peregrin said the transition had not yet affected his practice but that it was inevitable.

"I hope it's a good thing," he said. "It's obviously driven by international commerce, and we all need to speak the same language, so I'm absolutely in favor of it."

Peregrin said Moore Stephens Frost will adjust through continuing professional education and in-house training.

This list of largest accounting firms in the state is compiled through surveys sent to firms throughout Arkansas and relies on self-reported data.