Posted 11/9/2012 08:59 am
Updated 6 months ago
Two of the largest accounting firms in Northwest Arkansas will mark significant anniversaries in the coming year. Both companies have offices in Rogers and Fort Smith, and say close collaboration between these locations has contributed to their longevity.
BKD LLP, a national firm based in Springfield, Mo., was founded in 1923, making 2013 its 90th year in business. BKD’s Fort Smith location, which opened about 1968, was one of its earliest branch offices, said Don DeSoto, the partner at the Fort Smith office.
On the other hand, the firm’s Rogers office is among its newest. Mark Lundy opened the Rogers location in 2009 when he and several members of the Lundy Allard firm joined BKD, bringing about $1.2 million in revenue with them.
“It’s the smartest thing I ever did,” Lundy said about joining BKD. “The amount of expertise that’s just really a phone call away, it’s just unbelievable to me, and how helpful everybody is.”
The firm now has 19 professional staff between the Rogers and Fort Smith locations, including 13 CPAs.
Also observing a big anniversary next year is Beall Barclay & Co. PLC, a homegrown firm stemming from a marriage of businesses in Rogers and Fort Smith.
Beall (pronounced bell) Barclay topped this year’s Northwest Arkansas Business Journal list of largest accounting firms, with 47 professional staff members including 27 CPAs. It also has six professionals in its wealth management division, which was started in July 2002.
Staff from both BKD and Beall Barclay say their respective offices in Rogers and Fort Smith naturally make for a regional approach, and make possible a sharing of personnel and expertise to better serve the needs of all of Northwest Arkansas.
BKD stands for Baird Kurtz Dobson — three men who originally marketed their practice to miners in Pittsburg, Kan., Lundy said.
In 2001, the firm merged with Olive LLP of Indianapolis.
It now has about 2,100 employees, including about 250 partners, and earned $402 million in revenue in fiscal 2012. BKD has 29 offices in 12 states.
Besides the Fort Smith and Rogers offices, BKD’s Arkansas presence includes a Little Rock location.
BKD’s wealth management subsidiary, BKD Wealth Advisors LLC, reached $2 billion under management and supervision in September, the company said late last month. Other subsidiaries include BKD Corporate Finance LLC, BKD Insurance LLC and the nonprofit BKD Foundation.
Despite its size, though, Lundy said partners in other offices are very accessible and readily lend their expertise on any topic that arises.
“It’s a big firm with a small-firm feel,” he said.
Lundy said the firm is “absolutely” in recruiting mode, with two new hires set to start in January and another already lined up for September.
One new recruit, Kyle Boyd of Rogers, earned his master’s in accounting from the University of Central Arkansas in August. Currently taking his CPA exams, he’s looking forward to starting work for Lundy in January.
Boyd said he got to know some of the BKD staff through their recruiting efforts at UCA, plus his mother and Lundy are longtime friends and he went to school with Lundy’s son.
So when he found out Lundy’s office was hiring, it seemed a natural fit for him.
“This area has a lot of economic opportunity for me and my profession,” Boyd said, “and knowing Mark was here, it made me feel good to know someone who’s familiar with me and my family, and who I know understands the culture up here.”
A Rogers native, Lundy said he’s glad to be able to create jobs for the city and contribute to the local economy.
“I feel really good about leaving this legacy here,” he said.
Lundy said he and DeSoto agreed from the start that they would be sister offices, and he feels they’ve accomplished true regionalism.
“On any given day, somebody from the Rogers office is in Fort Smith or vice versa,” he said.
DeSoto said Rogers and Fort Smith are fairly small offices compared to many in the company.
It just makes good sense to look at these offices as combined to provide quality services for quality clients, he said. That gives them the flexibility to match the staff member with the most expertise in a particular area with the client’s needs.
“We just pick whoever the best person is and go from there,” he said. “And our staff embraces that.”
It’s an easy one-hour drive, he added, and the staff likes the change in scenery.
“We basically refer to ourselves as being Northwest Arkansas partners, and that’s rubbed off on our staff, too,” he said. “It’s basically a Northwest Arkansas practice, and we do whatever we have to do to serve our clients and serve them well.”
One factor that sets the firm apart from its competitors is “we’re very industry-niche focused, such as real estate, governmental and nonprofits,” DeSoto said. “That allows our staff to truly become experts in that industry. That’s what we tell our clients when we send an accountant out to a job,
“Our focus is to be very value-added, and tell the story behind the numbers.”
Two Become One
Dick Barclay, one of the founding members who is now retired but serves as a consultant to Beall Barclay, started the Rogers side of the firm in 1961 as a partnership with his brother.
Over the years, the firm’s name changed as it underwent mergers and partners came and went. In 1985, when John Evans joined the firm, it became Barclay, Yarbrough and Evans.
In the mid-’90s, Barclay had the opportunity to work in then-Gov. Mike Huckabee’s administration. He eventually became director of the Department of Finance and Administration, and spent several years in Little Rock.
Barclay’s absence, along with Roger Yarbrough’s retirement, led to the search for a merger partner.
“That’s when we had the opportunity to meet with the partners of Beall and Co. in Fort Smith,” Barclay said, “and we were very fortunate when we were able to work out the details of the partnership.”
The deal was completed in 1997.
“Today we have strong offices in Rogers and Fort Smith, and some outstanding partners,” Barclay said.
The Fort Smith side of Beall Barclay began as Vail & Beall CPAs in November 1963. It, too, underwent several name changes until becoming Beall & Co. PLC in 1990.
Besides its wealth management division, Beall Barclay has added some evaluations work in the last few years and hired a certified fraud examiner, partner Deana Infield said. She said the Rogers and Fort Smith locations consider themselves one office, and, like BKD, often travel between the cities to serve clients.
Infield said the next few years promise to be challenging as businesses and individuals face changes in tax law due to new, proposed or expiring provisions, as well as increased levels of regulation and compliance requirements.
All the unknowns are stressful for people trying to make business decisions, Infield said.
“Our intention is to assist our clients through this process,” she said.
Regarding future plans, Infield said, “As always, we will continue to look for opportunities to grow through mergers and acquisitions and to position our firm to support clients. We do feel that our community involvement is a key to our stability and our long-term success.”
Evans said the company’s vision is to “stay an independent CPA firm forever.
“And so in order to do that, we have to develop high-quality staff that are able to advance up to eventually become partners and be able to run the firm when the current partners are ready to retire,” he said.
Many of the staff have been with the company for 20 years or more, Evans said.
“I think that’s a reflection on the quality of the firm and the culture of the firm, that people want to stay here for long periods of time,” he said.
Barclay said it’s gratifying to see the continued success of Beall Barclay.
“The firm now is made up of partners that have been with the firm a long time and have close personal relationships with many of the clients,” he said, “and today if we went through the client list, we would see clients who’ve been clients of the firm for many years.”