CPA Firms See Money in Financial Planning
By Robert Cole
May 21, 2008 (The Kansas City Star, Mo.) Accounting firms typically spread their expertise over a variety of core services, from audits and taxes to consulting and business valuations.
But an increasing number of CPA firms are boosting their bottom lines by catering to clients that need help planning their financial futures.
CPA financial planning and investment advisory practices are expanding at a faster rate than their non-CPA competitors, according to a report released last month by the AmericanInstitute of Certified Public Accountants and Moss Adams LLP, a Seattle-based accounting firm.
Between 2004 and 2006, average revenues increased by nearly 35 percent per year at firms offering planning advice. The survey results are based on responses from more than 400 CPA and CPA-affiliated firms.
About half of the respondents began offering financial planning services between 2000 and 2007, compared with 35 percent that began in the 1990s.
The growth is due in part to demand from clients seeking objective financial advice, according to the report, but accounting firms also are looking for new revenue streams in a competitive industry.
In some cases, accounting firms have invested in an entire staff of new talent to build their financial planning practice.
Many CPAs were initiated into the investment business earlier in the decade when they were recruited by big brokerage houses, said Victor Swyden, an Overland Park CPA.
Mize Houser & Co., a Topeka-based firm with offices in Overland Park, is affiliated with Prism Financial Group, which assists clients with retirement planning, insurance and investment management.
Adding financial advisory services can be a philosophical decision for many accounting executives, Swyden said.
Accounting execs may appreciate the plans offered by investment advisers, but feel reluctant offering plans that involve insurance or investment products.
"The firms that are comfortable offering financial advice have a tremendous advantage because they recruited CPAs," Swyden said. "But I like the fact that tax accounting is an easily definable product each year."
Miller Haviland Ketter in Westwood provides advisory services related to income and estate taxes, but doesn't do a comprehensive job of financial planning, said Doug Miller, president. The firm balks at advising clients when the sale of a product is involved because it suggests a conflict of interest, he said.