opens IMAGE file 2 min read January 2021 —Technology is setting the stage for unparalleled professional services with the highest caliber of quality, talent and value. Seth Siegel, managing partner of Grant Thornton’s South Florida office, shares the factors that have made the region a high-growth, high-impact market.
How would you characterize the South Florida market for professional services?
South Florida has become a high-growth, high-impact market for a couple of reasons. First, Europe and other parts of the Americas have seen how resilient South Florida is during economic tumult. Second, recent tax reforms have made this region attractive to businesses and executives from other parts of the United States, especially those from the Northeast drawn to our favorable tax climate. In addition, there has been an uptick in areas such as financial services, technology and healthcare. Even with COVID-19, we’ve seen an influx of inbound interest, as showcased by several major New York financial-services players relocating their operations here.
How did your business approach change with COVID-19?
In my 24 years of experience, it was by far the most unique and challenging year that I’ve ever faced. We’re incredibly proud of our firm and our people. We did not skip a beat. In fact, we are not aware of a single client engagement we could not complete. When COVID-19 shuttered American businesses in March, we adapted quickly. We scaled our network capacity immediately and made a host of other technology changes – such as moving toward a completely remote and secure platform. It was not easy. The accounting and consulting profession has relied on an in-person model for over a century. You graduate, go to work and sit side by side with experienced people who teach you how to do your job. You meet with clients in person and navigate issues in teams. So, the challenge is obvious: How do you do this when everyone is stuck at home? At Grant Thornton, we found that we could make the adaptations necessary to serve our clients remotely, and even win new business, without traveling or face-to-face contact. The longer-term challenge has been keeping people engaged after being home for months on end. In response, we are rolling out additional benefits, such as enhanced childcare resources, subsidized meal-delivery services and tutoring benefits for parents with children at home.
What regulatory trends are you keeping a close eye on?
First and foremost, we are focused on how the new administration in the White House might change tax policy – and we are watching for potential legislative changes coming out of Congress. Our Public Policy group is actively engaged on Capitol Hill and in our state and local governments, looking at policy impacts on our client base and our target markets. We’ve spent significant amounts of time using our government insights to help our clients. For example, we’ve conducted hundreds of briefings to help clients keep pace with the government’s break-neck implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program.
How are you sharpening your competitive edge in South Florida’s crowded professional services market?
It will start and stop with our people. We will hire the best and brightest people – those who want to serve our target market and believe in delivering value. We look for people who find solutions to problems, including problems our clients do not even know they have. Our professionals serve as trusted advisers for the life cycles of our clients’ businesses. The way we do business and build relationships makes it easier for our clients to do business with us, which is backed up by our clients’ feedback: They say we are more user friendly, we care more and our teams go above and beyond to help. That is our competitive advantage, parallel to our quality, which ranks among the top of our profession. In fact, for the past three years in a row, government regulators in Washington have ranked Grant Thornton’s quality-inspection results among the Top 2 for large U.S. accounting firms.
What is your outlook for 2021?
We are incredibly bullish on the South Florida market. Why? Look at GDP growth and population shifts – and look at the competitive landscape and the pro-business environment here. It’s fertile terrain for growth-minded companies. Of course, we do have to keep our eyes on a few things. There are some potential technology-driven disruptors coming down the pike, including nanotechnology, fintech and cryptocurrencies powered by blockchain. And remote working is here to stay. We could see remote work evolve into a hybrid at-home/in-office model once the pandemic subsides. So we are going to have to embrace a new way of delivering services. Moreover, professional-services firms will need to use technology and data to offer more cost-effective and forward-looking solutions to their clients. And firms will need to provide their clients with relationships that drive maximum value.
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