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May 18, 2009

Snyder profile: Helping firms

PKF North America Network will
adopt a three-pronged strategy that focuses on building
infrastructure, helping member firms handle growth and improving
service capabilities. New president Terry Snyder discusses his
vision with
Arvind
Hickman.

PKF North America Network (PKF NAN) is at a crossroads following 28
years of leadership under Rudolf Beilfuss. The association of firms
is developing a strategy, which includes attracting larger member
firms.

To lead this transition, Terry Snyder, an
accountant with more than 25 years experience, will take on the
role as PKF NAN president. Snyder has worked in firms of all sizes,
from a small 15-person entity to a former Big Eight firm. His
professional career began with Arthur Andersen in the mid-1980s. He
has also worked at RSM McGladrey, former regional firm Olive LLP as
well as Clifton Gunderson, where he was both managing partner of
the downstate Illinois region and partner-in-charge of the Peoria,
Illinois office.

Outside of the profession, Snyder has managed
a software business to profitability, steered a technology business
through a turnaround and most recently served as president of
Commerce Bank in Champaign, Illinois.

Focusing on success

In his new role, Snyder will be
responsible for strategic planning, financial performance and the
overall success of the association.

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“It’s a chance to blend my true love, which is
the accounting profession, with my industry experience. Those
skills allow me to refocus our efforts and move us upstream into a
more progressive practice group,” he says.

Snyder will lead a team of 19 associates,
including six directors, at the PKF NAN secretariat. This includes
vice-president/director of international support Job Dieleman. The
team spends a lot of time visiting member firms and engaging with
their issues on site.

“We focus not only on training and HR, but on
marketing, and we’ve got over 170 different events that we take to
our membership so we can make sure that they are briefed in
strategic areas,” Snyder explains.

PKF NAN is building infrastructure to help
member firms grow their domestic and international service
capabilities. This includes setting up a committee to co-ordinate
corporate finance opportunities when the economy recovers.

“Last year, we established a corporate finance
committee representing member firms in major regions around the
world,” Snyder says. “This committee and its initiatives position
us to capitalise on imminent opportunities and will remain in force
even through this worldwide economic downturn in anticipation of a
recovering market and a return to higher levels of cross-border
M&A activity.”

A question of brand

An important aspect of marketing
that is currently under the spotlight is branding. In the US, large
regional firms are often reticent to adopt global brands because of
the perception it could devalue the firm’s goodwill in the domestic
market.

“Just in the last year we had 150 requests for
international work and up to 70 percent of those are outbound from
our membership,” Snyder explains. “Our theory is that there are
members who are of the size and who want to be branded and
understand the importance of a global brand. Then there are others
that simply want to protect their client base no matter what
else.”

At present, the PKF NAN membership is made up
of 86 member firms in the US, Canada and Mexico. The combined
annual revenue of these firms is $712 million. Snyder explains PKF
NAN is seeking to attract larger firms while at the same time
helping current members grow.

“At the moment our sweet spot is probably the
$7 million to $10 million firm – over half of our 86 are in that
group,” he says. “Even among those members that are at the $25
million to $30 million in size, we find that everybody aspires to
be the next group above.

“Looking forward, our strategic journey will
be focussed on targeted growth: continuing to secure as members
leading firms in key markets. Some of our firms will be larger than
those currently in our group, and we are excited about that.

“We are aware of many firms within the ranks
of the top 100 in the US that are underserved and looking for
additional resources from their associations. We offer the best of
both worlds: a full-service association support at the domestic/PKF
NAN level and access to a global network via our alliance with PKF
International.”

Perhaps the largest issue facing a lot of PKF
NAN firms is steering through the economic downturn. Consolidation
within the US is picking up as firms attempt to bolster their
practices to cope with lower demand or move up-stream to serve
larger clients.

Snyder believes the recession will not hit
firms as badly as some doomsayers predict but it is important for
members to not lose sight of the medium- to long-term picture.

“Over the last three to seven years,
accounting firms have enjoyed incredible growth and opportunities.
When the roll back happens, it is not going to roll back towards
what firms were 10 years ago, it will probably roll back towards
how they were two to three years ago,” he says.

“We are trying to coach people into not
overreacting to changes in their market and start releasing staff
but to plan more strategically on how to handle it and what the
implications are. There maybe even opportunities to create a staff
sharing effort because I think the thing they have to realise is
where there are some areas that are faltering there are other areas
that are building.

“There are some firms that are experiencing
some decreases but most of our firms are staying the course right
now.”

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