RBJ – Davie Kaplan appoints new president and CEO

Davie Kaplan appoints new president and CEO

By: Gino Fanelli July 25, 2019

Davie Kaplan CPA P.C. has switched up its executive team, dividing the president and CEO into two positions and appointing two managing partners to fill the roles.

The role of president is now filled by Scott Kogler, while Jennifer Jones, the first female managing partner at the firm, will serve as CEO. Responsibilities will be divided between the two, with Kogler leading the strategic growth plan, revenue growth and more of the external components of leadership, while Jones will serve as the internal-focused leader, including risk management, staffing, work culture and managing partners.

“As we were looking at this transition, we, as a group, got together and brainstormed what do we need and want out of these positions—how to make the next steps occur,” Jones said. “We decided that we all had skill-sets in different areas and that Scott and I would complement each other in this way and that, for us all to manage our clients and continue to do so at a high level, it would be better served to have the two of us work together.”

Davie Kaplan’s roots stretch back to 1934, with the current version of the firm forming in 1972, albeit with some variations on the company’s masthead based on partners at the time. Jones was named partner in 2010, while Kogler was tapped several years earlier. Now with about $10 million in annual revenue, Davie Kaplan is the fifth largest CPA firm in the Rochester area, behind The Bonadio Group, Insero & Co. CPAs, Mengel, Metzger, Barr & Co. and Deloitte LLP.

With plans for growth on the horizon, Kogler and Jones see a number of factors playing into a competitive landscape in the Rochester region.

Rochester’s market is “healthy financially, but it’s not booming the way, say, the Carolinas are,” Kogler said. “A lot of growth is in consolidation—absorbing practices that are single member, couple member firms—probably the biggest single area where growth is.”

Kogler pointed to other local firms performing such acquisitions “up and down the Thruway.” The Bonadio Group is a prime example—in the past couple years, that firm has acquired High Probability Advisors and Buffalo-based Vincent J. Muffoletto, among others. It’s a trend Davie Kaplan aims to follow, with the motivation primarily focused on finding new talent.

Acquisitions can be difficult to bring about, although when the opportunity arises Davie Kaplan is ready to act, Jones said. But day-to-day, “my focus is growing our people and developing from within.”

There’s a tricky economic balance between the number of accountants available and industry demand. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 4,370 accountants or auditors operating in the Rochester metropolitan area in 2018. On a national level, the BLS expects to see a 10 percent increase in employment from 2016-2026, totaling 139,900 new jobs. However, consolidation into large firms makes competition for that talent tight.

“It’s very difficult to find people at an experienced level, especially in the tax area. What most firms are looking for is high-level tax expertise,” Jones said. “You don’t typically get people hopping firms for that—if they’re happy at their firm they stay there.”

From Jones’ perspective then, the goal is to grow from the inside. The firm is really focused on that and has put programs in place to expand coaching, mentoring and development, Jones said.

On top of vying for talent is an economic landscape that makes competition for clients “fierce,” in Kogler’s word. Davie Kaplan currently has a client base of about 4,000.

Typically, “we’re not getting big clients moving into the area,” Kogler said, noting that new business comes mainly from customers switching firms. Competition is “certainly stiff, but with that said, I don’t see a lot of pressure for mergers on the regional firm level.” Smaller firms, with $200,000 to $1 million in revenue, are the ones more likely to consolidate, he said.

For Jones and Kogler, the steps ahead for growth are based fundamentally on balance. That means fostering an atmosphere of organic growth and working to grow the company both inside and out. Above all, that growth is hinged on creating the best client experience as possible.

“What sets us apart, with the size of a firm we are and our measured growth, is really to have the partners focus on clients,” Jones said. “We really want high partner involvement with our clients— we feel it’s the best way to serve” our customers.

gfanelli@bridgetowermedia.com/585 775-9692