BKD Sees Future in Investing in Employee Benefits

The management at accounting and advisory firm BKD LLP believes the way it can best serve its clients is by investing in its own employees.
BKD, which celebrated 85 years in business Jan. 2, started the new year with a life/work balance program called “Refresh, Recharge & Reconnect” that brings a number of enhancements to its employee benefit package, including additional holidays, more vacation time, added personal flexibility within specified work schedules and the ability for designated partners to reward high performers with additional time off.
“We are enhancing the concept that has driven our success since day one – putting people first,” said Eric L. Hansen, partner-in-charge of BKD’s Tulsa office at Two Warren Place, 6120 S. Yale Ave., Ste. 1400. “We find the best people we can, take good care of them by encouraging life/work balance and furnish high-quality resources, training and development opportunities so they in turn can provide another hallmark of our success: unmatched client service.”
Springfield, Mo.-based BKD ranks as one of the 10 largest CPA and advisory firms in the U.S. with net revenues of $318 million and 1,900 personnel, including about 230 partners, based in 27 offices in 11 states in the central United States.
Its Oklahoma offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Enid, employing a total of 113, were expected to generate $20 million in revenues in 2007, Hansen said.
He said the new employee perks, which also include a unique travel reward providing additional compensation to employees for overnight, out-of-town travel on firm business, are designed to enhance employee retention, loyalty and time.
“We are in the business as a professional services firm to sell our peoples time,” he said. “Our No. 1 asset is people. The quality of our people and what we make out of people who join BKD really is a reflection of how successful we can and will be in the future.”
“We know that the investment we make in our people translates into success both financially as well as from a client service standpoint to the extent that we get better employees and they are happy and they want to be a part of our organization,” Hansen said. “As we look at really protecting what we believe is the most valuable asset that our firm has – our people – we are continually looking for ways in which we can invest in those individuals.”
The “Refresh, Recharge & Reconnect” program builds on BKD’s People First initiative, which it started about five years ago “to study the issues that we are challenged with,” Hansen said. “We have made a lot of adjustments with the intent of hiring the best, giving them the best possible training and keeping them as a part of BKD.”
Hansen said despite a tight market for talent in public accounting, BKD has been successful in recruiting and keeping employees.
“Our industry, particularly the public accounting industry, is really challenged with talent and resources. There is definitely a talent war out there for top quality individuals,” he said. “We have been very fortunate in that we have been successful in recruiting as a firm.”
Lisle Compton Cole & Almen LLP of Oklahoma City was merged into BKD June 1, 2007. Hansen said that office has helped with the firm’s recruitment efforts from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.
“We get a lot of kids who want to live in Oklahoma City, and that is fine because with the way our practice is now most everything we do is paperless and Internet-based,” he said. “They can live in Oklahoma City and work on clients for us here in Tulsa and vice versa. That has really given us a recruiting advantage from what we have had in the past.”
To help manage the demands of client service and continually developing professional expertise, personnel benefit from BKD’s new coaching program, matching everyone with performance coaches for insight and advice, the company said. The program is “crucial in today’s fast-paced and challenging work environment,” which goes beyond tax and audit services to include increasingly specialized areas in wealth management, corporate finance, forensic accounting, health care, not-for-profit and government, manufacturing and distribution, financial services, risk management and technology, BKD said in a release.
Hansen, who has worked for BKD for nearly 24 years, 10 as the partner-in-charge of the Oklahoma offices, said it will be increasingly important for firms to understand and respond to the changing attitudes and priorities of its employees.
“My generation is very different from the generation of students that we hired 10 years after I started,” he said. “They are very different from the generation that we are hiring now and the generation we will be hiring five years from now is going to be different from the ones we are hiring today. The challenge for us as leaders in our firm is to understand those generational changes.”
He said companies sometimes have a tendency to stick to the old way of doing things.
“That is not going to attract the young people of today who are looking for a different environment,” he said. “They have different expectations for how they are rewarded. We find in talking with our employees, and studies tell us as well, it’s not all about money with these people, although they all want money – they want time off, they want personal life balance, and flexibility of schedule is as important if not more important than the economic package we can offer.”
“Looking ahead, those things will be even more important as we look at the workforce that is going to populate our industry five, 10, 15 years from now,” Hansen said. “Combine that with the demographic forecast of the shortages of the professionals in all the skilled workforces in America and it is a little daunting in terms of where we are evolving into as an industry as well as a country. We have to be dynamic, and we have to change.”
Although the company has diversified its business beyond the primarily health care orientation prevalent when Hansen moved into the Tulsa office a decade ago, the target client has not changed dramatically.
“Our target is the large, privately held companies right beneath the tier that the big four and GT (Grant Thornton) are serving,” he said.
Hansen said the big four and Grant serve the tier one market and are looking to move upstream into the Fortune 500 and Fortune 250 public client.
“That’s their sweet spot in the marketplace where they are investing their time and resources,” he said.
As the 10th largest firm in the country, “our goal is to be right underneath that big four and serve that tier in the market that is just beneath the where they fit. That’s going to include some public clients,” he said.
Hansen said as a firm, BKD serves just under 100 public clients, which allows them to stay in the three-year rotation for inspections by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Firms that audit more than 100 public companies are required to be inspected annually.
“So, we are not aggressively going out and trying to build our public practice. But, right underneath that public practices space in the market is where we feel we fit. We have clients that have up to $5 billion in sales that are private companies – that is kind of that alternative to the big four,” he said.

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