Joseph Kask serves as New England managing principal for CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, which announced a merger with Blum Shapiro & Co. PC that closed Jan. 1. He formerly served as CEO of Blum Shapiro, where he worked since 2007. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Connecticut.
PBN: The deal between CLA and Blum Shapiro was intended to help grow services across Rhode Island and the New England region. How specifically has or will the company increase its footprint and reach in Rhode Island?
KASK: We remain as committed as ever to Rhode Island and the surrounding New England region, and we believe there is a significant opportunity for growth in this market. We are currently evaluating opening a new office in Providence and are actively recruiting in the areas of tax, audit and consulting to address the growth we are anticipating within the state. Under the Blum Shapiro brand, our diverse group of professionals built a strong reputation in this market, and we look forward to continuing to build on that as part of the CLA team.
PBN: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for growth, in terms of geography, types of services or types of clients, that the firm can tap into in Rhode Island?
KASK: We see growth coming from all of our service areas: wealth advisory, outsourcing, audit, tax and consulting. A good example of an area of growth is within our outsourcing practice. Many businesses and organizations are telling us that it has been both time-consuming and expensive to bring in the talent they need to help with their back-office needs. Utilizing a fractional service model has helped companies spend their resource dollars efficiently, while still obtaining top talent and gaining access to the latest technologies in finance, bookkeeping, tax and information technology.
Startups tell us that they need to focus their attention on expanding their customer base and product development, and not be distracted by their back-office needs. Likewise, not-for-profits need to focus on their mission, and established companies need to focus their resources on driving growth and increasing profitability. The fractional model can drive value for each.
PBN: How has the pandemic impacted demand for these types of services?
KASK: We have continued to see demand across all of our major service categories during the pandemic. As we mentioned earlier, the most noticeable change we have experienced at CLA has been in the area of outsourced services. Many organizations have been forced to work virtually but may not have the infrastructure and the necessary security in place for them to operate at the level they need to. Organizations have also been leveraging our financial and operational realignment-related services to capitalize on new opportunities and adjust their current business models.
PBN: How has the former Blum Shapiro worked to retain and maintain its existing client relationships under a new company name and attract new customers who may not be familiar with the CLA name?
KASK: First and foremost, CLA and Blum share a common culture and mutual set of values. CLA’s purpose is to create opportunities for our clients, our people and the communities in which we work and live. The CLA promise is to know you and help you. Both these principles represent the fundamental elements that our clients have come to expect from our firm and our people. None of that will change, nor will the people that currently serve those clients.
We will continue to be part of the fabric in the community and look for opportunities to provide insight, thought leadership and create greater awareness in the market. We will also be expanding upon our long-standing commitment to giving back to the community through the CLA Foundation.
PBN: How much of the deal between Blum and CLA was prompted by COVID-19? Do you expect to see more mergers and acquisitions of local accounting companies due to the pandemic?
KASK: The pandemic had no financial or operational bearing on our decision to merge. This opportunity was not sought out by either CLA or Blum but manifested through our collaborated efforts to address the challenges facing our industry. Through that process, it became apparent just how closely our two organizations were aligned in regard to vision, strategy and the philosophy of how we focus on our clients, people and communities. Seeing these similarities, the discussions around how we could do more working together rather than apart came naturally.
The positive response we have received from the market and our people has confirmed that we made the right decision. I believe we will continue to see consolidation within our industry. I don’t believe we can directly relate that to the pandemic but rather the fundamental changes of our industry driven by the demands of clients and technology.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.