By: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read March 2020 — Investment advisory, cybersecurity, business planning and strategy and other related advisory services are seeing a steady demand in the accounting and finance sector. Another change driver in the industry has been the advances in technology and AI. In separate interviews with the Invest: team, Reynold P. Cicalese, managing shareholder at Alloy Silverstein, and Carl H. Bagell, managing partner – Southern NJ at Friedman LLP, spoke about the areas of growth in their firms and how they are leveraging technology.
What services are seeing the most demand at your firm?
Carl H. Bagell: As a multidisciplinary firm with a growth mindset, we provide a wide variety of services and seek new opportunities to better serve our clients. In South Jersey, we focus on tax preparation, business valuation, forensic and matrimonial, international tax and tax controversy, and every area is expanding. For example, we expanded the number of our international tax practice partners in response to our clients’ growing needs in the face of ever-evolving global trends; the qualified Opportunity Zones segment of our real estate practice is seeing an increased demand for investment advisory; and our cybersecurity division is one of the fastest-growing areas in the region and abroad due to the cyber-threat landscape.
Notably, SEC audits consistently play a major role in driving revenue for the firm and as such, we have offices in China with about 50 team members to address our clients’ needs.
Not only has our client base expanded, but so have our employee numbers. To accommodate this growth, we almost doubled our size by relocating to a new office in Marlton. We have a lot of room for expansion and an amazing, flexible space where we can hold seminars, staff meetings and business events. We have a great collaborative working environment.
Reynold P. Cicalese: All our consulting-related services are seeing growth. Business planning and strategy has been steadily growing. Our business analytics area is also in high demand. These advisory areas help to get our clients the information they need to make informed decisions.
We have engaged with a significant number of new businesses. We are getting more opportunities from nonprofit organizations. Giving back to the community is important for us, and we find we are getting more and more clients from the nonprofit sector. We are also getting more work from the for-profit sector. For the region, in the last six months there has been a big influx of micro businesses. As a result of e-commerce, there are more small, micro businesses starting out of their houses. These businesses may not need retail or office space, but they do need financial and tax advice.
What impact is technology having on the accounting and financial sectors?
Bagell: Technology is a crucial part of our workflow. We have advanced technology at Friedman that allows us to leverage data to support our clients and attract new clients. Our cloud-based accounting software allows us to have faster, more effective internal communication. We also have a team specialized in cryptocurrency and blockchain, and we are now seeing more and more clients coming to us for advisory services.
Cicalese: Technology has brought significant changes to our industry, allowing us to better serve our clients beyond just preparing a tax return or financial statement. We are on the cloud ourselves, encourage our clients to be on the cloud, and use technology to help and collaborate with clients on a daily basis. Our advisers are proactive in helping design our clients’ future, as opposed to only telling them what they historically have done. We use software and apps that allow us to create KPI dashboards for our clients so they can have real-time data to make better decisions based on today’s information – not from last month or last year. We also have clients all around the world and we use meeting apps to constantly communicate with them.
Artificial intelligence is severely disrupting the industry. The investment in AI will significantly increase within the next five to six years. We need to keep an eye on this trend and make sure we remain competitive. With regard to audits, for example, it is expected that AI can look at every transaction and provide an efficient audit report. For regional and smaller firms it will be a challenge to compete with larger firms that have the capacity to invest in AI.