The Peoria area’s largest locally owned and operated accounting firm was founded in 1971 by Marshall Heinold, who was joined by Gerald Banwart the following year. Over the past four decades, Heinold-Banwart, Ltd., has evolved into a multi-faceted accounting firm that offers traditional audit, accounting and tax services, as well as controllership services, employee benefit plan administration, valuation and litigation support. iBi spoke with three of the firm’s key employees about H-B and its last 40 years.
Briefly detail each of your career paths that led to your current positions.
ANLIKER: My career began at Heinold-Banwart as a staff accountant in 1977 after graduating from the University of Illinois. I became a shareholder in 1984 and the managing shareholder of the firm in 1987. I spend a significant portion of my time overseeing the day-to-day operations of the firm, including long-range planning and strategic plan implementation. I also provide accounting, tax and advisory services to clients in healthcare, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and other industries. I really enjoy working with the group of talented and committed individuals that we have at H-B and feel honored by our clients’ commitment of trust as we help them make decisions that impact their lives.
» Meet the Participants
Arthur R. Anliker, CPA, CFP, has been the managing shareholder of Heinold-Banwart since 1987. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations, Anliker is responsible for long-range planning and implementing H-B’s strategic plan.
Glen Birnbaum, CPA, ABV, AM, CVA, is the head of the consulting and business valuation department and has particular expertise in agriculture, construction and manufacturing. He has been with H-B since 1999. Birnbaum was a recipient of iBi’s 40 Leaders Under Forty award in 2009.
Scott T. Carr, CPA, QKA, provides accounting, tax and advisory services to clients in construction, manufacturing, retailing, wholesale distribution, real estate and nonprofit organizations. His expertise also extends to pension administration, as he is Heinold-Banwart’s director of Pension Administrator Services. Carr joined the H-B team in 1985.
CARR: I was born and raised in the Peoria area. After graduating from Illinois State University in 1982, I worked for a national accounting firm for three years. I returned to Peoria in 1985 and joined Heinold-Banwart, Ltd., becoming a shareholder in 1994. I provide accounting, tax and advisory services primarily for corporate clients and their owners. I also oversee the firm’s retirement plan administration services. I enjoy being part of a local firm that works closely with our clients to find solutions to their accounting and business needs while also providing opportunities for professional growth for all of our employees.
BIRNBAUM: I am a native of Lincoln, Illinois, growing up on a small corn and soybean farm. I came to Peoria as a student at Bradley University, graduating in 1999. It was during my time as a Bradley student that I first became aware of Heinold-Banwart and thought the firm would be a perfect fit for me. I was looking for an organization that offered both the opportunity for advancement and access to expertise, paired with the closer personal attention of a smaller CPA firm. My career at H-B has encompassed many different departments, including audit, tax and consulting. Currently, I serve as the head of our business valuation department and am responsible for on-campus recruiting efforts. I became a shareholder of the firm in 2006 and am currently the youngest shareholder.
How did Heinold-Banwart get its start?
ANLIKER: The roots of Heinold-Banwart, Ltd. go back to 1971 when Marshall Heinold started his own accounting practice. Gerald (Jerry) Banwart joined Heinold in 1972, forming a partnership. Both of our founders grew up on farms in Indiana and learned the value of hard work and dedication at an early age. Heinold was extremely active in the community, as evidenced by being awarded the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award in 1984. Banwart was the technician and quality control person, who was awarded the Silver Medal for achieving the second highest score in the nation on the CPA exam. Together they formed a very complementary team. Heinold is currently serving as a missionary in southern Mexico, while Banwart retired from public accounting in 2001 to start Good News Financial Services, Inc. in Morton.
How many locations and employees did you have at the beginning? Today?
ANLIKER: Our firm started with two partners and three staff members in what is now the Commerce Bank building. We moved to our present location at the Riverfront Office Center in East Peoria in the fall of 1978. The East Peoria location is our only office, which we find very accessible to most of our clients in the Peoria metropolitan area. Today, we have grown to an organization of approximately 50 people, including nine shareholders. Five of our current shareholders became shareholders in 1984. Our most senior shareholder, Bob George, became a partner in 1977. We are the largest locally owned CPA firm in the Peoria area.
What type of services do you offer?
CARR: We provide traditional audit, accounting and tax services, as well as consulting, business valuation and litigation support services. Our audit and tax services comprise the majority of our revenues. We also provide accounting services to clients who do not have their own accounting departments. We offer an array of services, including writing checks to vendors, processing payroll and filing payroll tax returns, generating monthly financial statements, and participating in management meetings. In more recent years, we have begun offering retirement plan administration services.
How is the firm structured with regard to industries or service expertise?
BIRNBAUM: Generally speaking, an employee is assigned to a particular department, such as the audit department or tax department. A shareholder or manager then oversees the quality control aspect of that department. We also focus on particular industries and types of entities, namely construction and manufacturing companies, tax-exempt organizations, high net worth individuals, and professional service corporations, such as doctor groups. We do not limit ourselves merely to these niches, however, recognizing the wide variety of industries and organizations present in central Illinois. Our people are usually placed in one of these niche areas to help them further their knowledge. Our goal is for H-B employees to share information and be able to serve our clients more effectively. Clients are more receptive to our advice if we can demonstrate that we understand their industry.
Do you offer accounting services to individual clients as well as businesses?
CARR: Heinold-Banwart primarily focuses on business clients and owners of those businesses. We strive to provide comprehensive solutions to fulfill our clients’ needs. Many times this necessitates getting a complete picture, both business and personal, of a client. We also focus on high net worth individuals. For example, providing stock option tax planning for Caterpillar executives is a particular specialty of ours. Individuals coming to us for tax preparation needs desire a higher level of service than can be provided by the quick tax preparation companies. A very important component of providing these tax services is accomplished “outside” the tax return, in the form of planning and advice throughout the year. We find this is where the real value can be added.
You mentioned business valuations as a specialty. What are the most important factors in valuing a business?
BIRNBAUM: Valuing a business is a unique specialty in that it is future-oriented, as compared to the historical nature of accounting. A business has value if it can generate future income, so in essence, a valuation analyst needs to be able to predict the future. This is not a simple task! A business has higher value if its profits are consistently growing and well protected from economic swings. Conversely, a business is generally less valuable if a substantial portion of its revenue is with one customer. Good management and well-established business process documentation also help to increase value.
What trends in your industry have forced change in your business? What drove those changes?
CARR: Public accounting has become more specialized in recent years as it has become more challenging to keep up with numerous service areas of the practice. Audit, tax, pension and payroll are good examples of these ever-changing areas. There has also been a move toward deeper industry specialization. As a result, we have joined organizations that specialize in particular industries, including the CPA Manufacturing Services Association, the Construction Industry CPAs/Consultants Association and the Medical Group Management Association. This allows us access to the resources of other firms and experts throughout the nation.
Technology has also greatly impacted us. In our audit practice we are completely paperless; all of our audit documentation is electronic. The software we use has become more sophisticated, allowing us to provide better service to our clients while being able to reduce our risk. For example, our data extraction software can analyze all transactions during a year and isolate possible outliers. Years ago, we would have had to pick random samples or manually scan detail files looking for unusual items.
How do you market your services? What determines whether or not to accept a prospective client or retain an existing client?
BIRNBAUM: Historically, our firm has not been an aggressive marketer of our services, which is generally consistent with public accounting as a whole. “Word of mouth” through our existing clients and referrals from other professionals (attorneys, bankers, insurance agents, etc.) continue to be our primary ways of growing our business. In addition, we selectively advertise in print publications that fit our target market. As we have grown in size and expertise, we have become more selective in deciding if a prospective client is a good fit. It can be difficult to turn down a potential engagement, but we have come to realize that we are not the best fit for every potential client or even every existing client. For example, we recently decided to discontinue performing audits for school districts, even though we remain committed to serving our strong nonprofit niche and had strong relationships with the schools. We came to realize that we did not have a sufficient number of school district clients that would enable us to provide the level of service to which we aspire. Just as important, we recognized that significant school district expertise exists with longstanding CPA firms in our area. Throughout this process, we kept our focus on client service and doing what is best for the client.
How does your company recruit employees? Have you seen a change in those efforts recently?
BIRNBAUM: As the youngest shareholder at the firm, recruiting is a particular passion of mine. Recruiting for public accounting firms is highly competitive, with many accounting students accepting job offers long before graduation. We primarily recruit at Bradley University and Illinois State University. Both institutions have excellent accounting programs. We started a summer internship program in order to allow the students to experience our culture, which we believe is one of our strengths. In addition, we try to maintain an active presence on each campus and try to develop strong relationships with the professors. We remain committed to the internship program and are very excited about the talented people we have brought on board.
What’s something most people don’t know about your firm or about your industry in general?
CARR: H-B conducts peer reviews of other CPA firms across the nation, visiting over 100 firms within a three-year period. Peer reviews are designed to monitor and enhance the quality of accounting and auditing services of CPA firms nationwide. With a peer review, we are in essence auditing the auditors. This is a great asset to our firm since it helps us keep up with current professional standards. Another side benefit is the “practice management” information that we obtain while interacting with partners from these firms.
What sets your organization apart from others in your industry?
BIRNBAUM: We are very protective of our culture; that is why we value and support a healthy work-life balance. Our size allows us to be able to offer employees unlimited opportunity for career advancement while still being able to work in a relaxed family-like atmosphere. During our busy season (January through April), it’s great to see everyone pitch in to accomplish a common goal.
ANLIKER: Heinold-Banwart strives to provide shareholder accessibility and shorter turnaround time for engagements. In addition, we believe we provide common-sense advice that our clients need and can understand. Our clients look to us for a wide range of services. Consequently, we are asked to be more of a business advisor, rather than just an auditor or tax return preparer. This means we need to understand general business practices outside of the traditional accounting world. We place a high value on relationships and we have a genuine interest in our clients and their success. iBi