The economy was also a key player.
“When the economy is not thriving, you
tend to see more forensic-type engagements
as well,” Pollack noted. “There’s more bank-
ruptcy, insolvency, restructuring, and that
kind of work for troubled companies.”
While mergers and acquisitions only
moved up one spot to 10th on the list, the
number of firms reporting a spike in that
niche rose nearly 8 percentage points from
2010. The recent expansion of M&A activ-
ity is a main driver for this increase, ac-
cording to Tommy Lawler, managing part-
ner and chief executive officer at Weaver in
Fort Worth, Texas. It also led the firm to in-
crease staff in this practice area. “When
things were not as hot as they used to be,”
said Lawler, “sellers had to adjust their idea
of what their companies are worth.”
MIDSIZED AT THE TOP
Midsized businesses again topped the list
as the largest growing client category,
though the percentage of firms reporting a
rise in business dropped nearly 3 percentage points. Nonprofits saw a dip of almost
2 points, while still retaining its No. 2 spot.
The manufacturing category, however,
grew more than 2 percentage points, propelling it up two spots to third place.
Nonprofit clients now comprise 10
percent of New York-based Marks Paneth
& Shron’s practice, an increase that has
happened in the last decade, said Michael
McNee, partner-in-charge of nonprofit
and government services in the Westchester, N.Y., office. “I’ve gotten more re-
Top client categories Percentage of firms increasing their business with these types of clients (of 80 firms responding)
Insurance agents and brokers
Finance companies/mortgage banks
Brokers/Dealers in securities and commodities
Investment cos./mutual funds
Banking and thrift cos.
Colleges and universities
Hotels and restaurants
State and local government
10 20 30 40 50 60
quests for proposals in the last seven to
eight years, on a weekly basis at times, than
I’ve seen in my entire career,” he said. The
firm built traction with the adoption of Sar-banes-Oxley policies in the nonprofit
world, as well as taking on clients no
longer working with the Big Four and their
decreased presence on the nonprofit side.
Jerald Murphy, partner-in-charge of
the manufacturing and distribution practice in the Aurora, Ill., office of Sikich, credits the technology team’s investment in infrastructure and enterprise resource planning software for the upswing. “
Manufacturing and distribution keeps investing in
that technology to prepare themselves for
growth in the near future,” he explained.
Health care facilities jumped three
slots and nearly 8 percentage points to garner the No. 6 spot. Chris Champ, principal
and director of Eide Bailly’s health care industry practice in Fargo, N.D., said that
successful competition with the larger
firms brought his firm gains in this area.
“We have a team with more experience
working with the client day-to-day than
the Big Four’s variety of newer, younger
staff who work in more of a pool concept,”
he revealed. This, in combination with
service pricing, allowed the firm to pick up
larger clients previously served by the Big
Four, Champ said.
Another client service area that made
a steady climb was banking and thrift companies, which rose nearly 4 percentage
points, earning it the No. 14 spot.
JoAnn Cotter, partner-in-charge of the
financial institutions practice in the Green
Bay, Wis., office of Wipfli, attributes the
firm’s gains in the vertical to its “survive and
thrive” mentality in the face of a poor economy and regulatory-weary environment.
“We developed and further expanded
around advisory areas,” she said. “We built
a strategic plan toward governance, a capital plan to turn the organizations around,
and were responsive to their needs.” This
response included adding staff to the
strategic planning and risk advisory services within the practice. AT