December 2, 2020

(CONFIRMED) Layoff Watch ’20: Is One the Loneliest Number At This Top 15 Accounting Firm?

[Updated with additional information about job cuts at BKD CPAs & Advisors.]

So since we posted this article on Thursday afternoon, we’ve received a lot of information about what’s been happening at BKD CPAs & Advisors, the 13th largest U.S. accounting firm in INSIDE Public Accounting’s 2019 ranking.

Yes, some people have been let go, but from everything we’re hearing, it’s your typical annual culling of low performers after busy season. Several sources have told us that BKD management has told employees that they are not doing mass layoffs.

One source said:

They are firing low performers in their yearly purge. They do it every year in April, coronavirus be damned. Maybe other offices had a lot of low performers. We let one go.

Another source told us that CEO Ted Dickman has been sending out firm-wide communications on a weekly basis. Also, updates from practice unit managing partners come out at the office level twice a week on either Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays and include a “state of the practice unit on billings, WIPs, etc.”

In regards to the recent job cuts, this source told us:

We have no formally planned layoffs at this time. We do a performance review after busy season every year which is based on formal reviews, discussions with service line leaders/industry leaders and the formal review meetings we hold annually. The decision to let go of employees always falls to the MP with input from the industry/service line team as a whole — rarely does someone leaving involuntarily come as a surprise to anyone and here is no different. There is no firm-backed recommendation to lay someone off in every group, though that could be an individual MP’s take on it.

Over the years certain “soft” MPs kept on the low performers thinking they still had potential, and so those offices are going to see higher numbers of people let go this time. It’s more because they didn’t do it the last three years and should have, rather than a formal layoff. The firm-backed communication that went out was essentially to do the math — higher performing offices and teams will have little to worry about where any that could be falling behind may have to tighten the purse strings a little more.

At the firm level, we are evaluating all job titles for essential vs non-essential. So for example, we had recently hired someone to internally build out a software program, now we are putting that project on hold so that job has become non-essential and that person was let go.

This source also told us that partners are shouldering most of the burden by taking pay cuts, although we don’t know how much.

No other salaries have been cut at this point. We don’t do bonuses, instead build that into bigger comp adjustments annually, so my guess is the raises will be smaller this fall.

We hadn’t heard anything about job cuts going on at BKD until we received a tip the evening of April 21 about austerity measures possibly starting to happen there:

Just a FYI, nothing has been communicated out to the rank and file regarding how the firm plans to weather the Covid-19 storm, but layoffs started yesterday. The rumor I’ve heard is that each group had to select one person to let go. So far I know of one Associate/Sr associate and a Manager/Sr. Manager that were terminated.

It happened yesterday and there hasn’t been a peep from anyone. Still waiting on communication from firm leadership. I feel like they may not be done.

On Thursday evening we got a tip from a source that two associates and one senior II were let go from a BKD office in the Midwest. This person also said they knew of another associate who was let go from a different Midwest office.

They were laid off due to “COVID” with performance as a factor.

Leadership told us they weren’t going to have to take those measures due to our “excellent equity” on Friday of last week. But they were “monitoring the situation.” Guess after 5 days of monitoring they decided to take action.

When I made my original post yesterday afternoon, I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning that the firm in question was BKD because I hadn’t been able to confirm the layoffs. So as I’ve done a few times recently, I offered some clues to help you guys guess the name of the firm so we could get confirmation that these layoffs happened.

Here were the clues:

  • Clue 1: This firm is headquartered in Springfield, MO, and has more than 40 offices in 18 states.
  • Clue 2: The firm’s mascots are Ben and Kate.
  • Clue 3: The firm’s name is the same as the IATA airport code for Stephens County Airport in Breckenridge, Texas.

So it seems like this isn’t a Crowe situation at BKD. If anyone else has anything to add, let us know by using the contact information below.

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