Amped Up

National accounting firm is bullish on South Florida

By Kevin Gale

South Florida is keen to build out its financial services infrastructure by attracting hedge funds, private equity firms and venture capitalists, but it also needs professional support services to have a full-fledged ecosystem.

Enter EisnerAmper.

The rapidly growing accounting firm moved to South Florida in late 2015 with the acquisition of Mallah Furman & Co., which had about 70 employees and offices in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

“Florida’s population is growing rapidly. There’s a tremendous concentration of wealth. The marketplace is booming. A lot of high net worth individuals are coming to South Florida from South America, so it’s a natural fit for our strategy,” EisnerAmper CEO Charles Weinstein said during a recent visit to South Florida.

States with tax advantages such as Florida will continue to attract hedge funds and private equity funds, Weinstein says. “Everything is seamless these days. Your geographic location is driven by talent and opportunity. If one of those opportunities is a very favorable tax climate, that is going to continue to drive business in Florida.”

EisnerAmper, which is an auditor for 1,300 hedge funds, has brought in significant expertise to provide accounting and advisory services to the region’s financial services firms.

Take a trio that has relocated from New York firms to join EisnerAmper in South Florida.

Michael Mazzola became a partner in EisnerAmper’s financial services group, while Julie Nemirovsky became a director in the group. Steve Kreinik brings expertise in high net worth individuals and multigenerational families as a partner in the firm’s personal wealth advisory group.

EisnerAmper’s South Florida partner in charge is Barry Gould, who was chief operating officer at Mallah Furman. He has 20 years of public accounting experience, including working with individuals and closely held companies. He is on EisnerAmper’s executive committee and is director of the firm’s family office services department.

EisnerAmper’s move into South Florida coincides with a change in the capital markets nationally, Weinstein says. Few companies are going public, and private equity is filling the void, which is providing a lot of growth opportunity in Florida.

“If you have a successful manager at one hedge or private equity fund, they split off and then they form their own funds. So when you do great work for one fund, it gives rise to a lot more clients. We are seeing a lot of that in Florida,” Weinstein says.

EisnerAmper’s strategy appears to be paying off. Weinstein was looking at double-digit growth in the market as the end of the year approached.

From a megamerger

While EisnerAmper is a fast-moving firm these days, its roots go back to two firms in the 1960s—Eisner LLP and Amper Politziner and Mattia, which merged in 2010 to become a $250 million multistate firm. Weinstein has been with Eisner since 1989.

Weinstein described the deal as the first of the megamergers among large regional accounting firms. “We opened Pandora’s box,” he says.

EisnerAmper is now the 18th-largest U.S. accounting firm, with 1,500 employees. It has added key offices since the merger, including San Francisco, Dublin, the Cayman Islands, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Bangalore. The overseas offices are partnerships with local talent.

EisnerAmper’s top industry is financial services, which includes hedge funds, private equity, venture capital and broker dealers. HFM Week, a hedge fund industry publication, in October named EisnerAmper the best advisory firm for client service.

EisnerAmper has a large insurance company audit practice, too, Weinstein says.

The technology practice has 400 clients from startups to public companies, while the high net worth practice includes family offices, entrepreneurs and closely held businesses.

The company also offers forensic litigation and valuation services and helps with business restructurings.

Its No. 2 focus is real estate. The firm’s clients include public real estate investment trusts, family-owned real estate, commercial real estate, development and construction companies.

EisnerAmper already has a great base of real estate expertise in South Florida, but Weinstein is interested in adding to that. “We have a number of active conversations that are ongoing,” he says.

The firm’s fastest-growing areas include health care and specialty service lines. Specialty services include including international tax and transfer pricing as goods move between countries. The health care practice includes hospitals, large physician groups, nursing homes and surgery centers.

International reach

EisnerAmper’s international growth is based on sustainability and following the changing needs of clients, Weinstein says. “As our clients have gone global, their needs have gone global,” he adds.

To access foreign capital, for example, businesses sometimes need to keep money in other countries. Ireland works for the European Union while the Cayman Islands are home to a broad array of international financial companies.

Tel Aviv helped the firm’s technology and venture capital practice. “There are so many Israeli companies coming to the U.S. for capital and support. Having a presence in Israel is key to us to help grow and service the tech community,” Weinstein says.

India is used for outsourcing, which helps the company be more cost effective for clients. “Since everything is in the cloud, it’s easy to be anywhere. It’s all about technology today,” Weinstein says.

EisnerAmper uses IBM’s Watson supercomputer, machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive projects, Weinstein says. Watson can take client information and run it though a storehouse of marketplace information, rules and regulations to develop recommendations for accounting. EisnerAmper works with clients to tweak contracts to maximize revenue recognition. Watson is also being used for lease accounting and internal controls.

“It’s a very efficient way of helping your clients from both compliance and security,” Weinstein says.

EisnerAmper has a team of nine application developers working on ways to make it easier for clients to work with the firm. That includes custom dashboards, automated reporting and real-time alerts.

The firm’s partners made a significant investment to stay at the leading edge of technology, Weinstein says. “We think everything we do is going to be impacted by technology. This business stands on the verge of disruption like so many businesses, and we would rather be a disrupter.”

Charlie Weinstein

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