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Accounting News Roundup: Branding and Billionaires | 02.22.17


Historically, naming an accounting firm hasn’t been difficult. You look at the people sitting with you at the table where you’re planning world domination and get everyone’s last name. Then you shuffle those 2 or 3 or 4 names into an order that sounds most pleasant. Perhaps you add “& Co.” or “CPAs” on the end.

Similarly, branding at firms hasn’t been too difficult. You round up the founding partners who actually care and debate over 5 or 6 typefaces, 2 or 3 geometric patterns and 2 or 3 color variations. This all might take, I don’t know, 20 minutes? Boom, your firm is named and branded.  In the last few years, re-branding a firm has consisted of a single question — Do we only want to go by our initials?

These days a few firms seem to be exerting a bit more effort on names and brands. Case in point: Atlanta-based HA&W (fka Habif, Arogeti and Wynne) recently became HA+W | Aprio and in 24 months will simply be “Aprio.” The how and the why of this change is an interesting story that includes “an initial list of 800 names” “a series of two-hour brand training sessions attended by all 400 of the firm’s employees” and a half-million-dollar price tag. The firm’s eventual name Aprio, “is derived from the Latin root words for head and heart” and if you’re still saying, “That sounds made up.”  Yep! And not everyone likes that:

“A made-up name is inherently a bad idea,” says Steven Manning, founder of Igor, a 15-year-old Sausalito, CA agency that specializes in naming, “because it doesn’t have any value as a branding or advertising tool and it doesn’t mean anything to anybody.” Aprio’s head and heart story, he says, is “nonsense.” Far preferable are real words with obvious meanings, like gogo, which Igor coined for the in-flight Wi-Fi service.

Wait, is the Igor/gogo guy making fun of Aprio? FWIW, when I hear “gogo” the obvious meaning I think of is kids peeing their pants.

Accounting firms are in this weird place where they have to jettison their past and stumble into the future somehow. Brand and name do make a difference when they’re done well and if there’s a profession that’s in desperate need of differentiation, it’s accounting. HA&W got their start in 1952 and it will probably be around for a long time to come, so rather than stick with tradition, they decided to try something new. That seems risky and expensive now, but it will set them apart from the firms who are taking a safer path and simply debating a new typeface.

Rhode Island is still mad at Deloitte

Last month we learned that Deloitte had screwed up another state government project, this time in Rhode Island. After some tough talk about the firm, the state’s governor, Gina Raimondo, wound up at a conference last week that was sponsored by Deloitte. That’s sorta awkward so people pointed and laughed, including former RI Governor and instant internet meme Lincoln Chaffee who is quoted: “It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to say that’s not good optics.” This coming from a guy who admitted that he voted to repeal Glass-Steagall when he didn’t know what he was voting for.

Anyway, Governor Raimonodo made the best of her situation, since Deloitte Consulting’s CEO Janet Foutty was there:

“I let her know they let us down, that we felt misled by them, that the product they provided us was an embarrassment to them and wasn’t what they told us they would provide us with,” Raimondo said. “I told them [Foutty] I expected them to make it right without any additional cost, I’m withholding payments and we need to renegotiate the contract.”

Raimondo added that Deloitte’s CEO personally pledged they would fix the system, give the necessary resources to do so and do it as quickly as they could.

Sounds like a fun meeting.


Mega rich people get mega rich through various means. Lots of people inherit money, but many others build their fortunes from scratch. These days, many of those fortunes are built in technology and finance, but, perhaps not surprisingly, almost no billionaires are accountants:

A tougher route to becoming a billionaire is through keeping track of other people’s billions. Accountants have just one person on the list, who was not identified.

Get to work on that, people.

Previously, on Going Concern…

I interviewed Joey Havens, the managing partner of Horne, one of Accountingfly’s Firm Partners. I also wrote about tax resisters.

In other news:

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