Illustration of a woman looking overly stressed at work. It reads "Wipfli Series Disruption in the accounting industry"

Wipfli Article Series: Disruption in the accounting industry

Jessica Barnas (nee Hall), Partner, outlines how Klein Hall, a Chicago-based accounting services provider and family business, prioritized its people to become more productive and efficient in the lead up to its successful acquisition by Wipfli, one of the top 20 accounting firms in the United States. 

Excerpt: This article was originally published in CPA Advisor – read the full article. (Link)


Public accountancy has been one of the top industries ripe for disruption over the last decade. It’s a topic that SEC’s Commissioner Kara Stein used as her focus for an international address at the Chartered Accountants Hall in London back in 2015. And it’s a point that I remember discussing with my parents, the founding partners at Klein Hall, when I joined the business back in 2013.

As a fresh graduate, my parents had counseled me to steer clear of joining any of the big firms. So naturally, I did the opposite of what they prescribed for me, and I went to work at one of the big four. It only took a few months to realise it wasn’t for me. It was early exposure to some of the environmental factors that contribute to annual turnover rates upward of 25 percent in our industry; for context, this is more than double the national average of 11.6 percent across other industries.

Many external commentators have focused on the technology disrupting the industry and rightly so. Automation and the growth in services such as IBM’s Watson, have resulted in clients expecting more and the pressures on firms to deliver value has ratcheted up.

We’ve known that to survive as an industry we needed to pivot, as clients have become less concerned with seeing returns completed in front of them, and focused more on the empowerment that mastery of financial forecasting can bring. However, it’s the finessing of people management that I believe will have the biggest impact for businesses like ours, and six years ago, our founders, my parents, agreed. So Klein Hall, prior to acquisition, reprioritized and I’d like to share some of the results.