Innovative Practitioner

December 8, 2020

Voting closes November 13th

 

Innovative Practitioner 2020 Finalists

Jody Grunden

Co-Founder and CEO
Summit CPA Group

Jody Grunden is the Co-Founder and CEO of Summit CPA Group, the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services in North America. His entire career has been devoted to innovating the accounting industry, starting with the company’s mission statement: “changing the way people think about accounting.”

As an innovative practitioner, Grunden led Summit CPA Group in pioneering Virtual CFO services, introduced the concept of subscription-based billing, and transitioned his firm in 2013 from a traditional brick-and-mortar firm to a digitally-focused fully distributed model with 50+ employees. Determined to raise the bar in the accounting industry, Grunden is now focusing his efforts on teaching other CPA Firms how to sell and provide successful Virtual CFO services through a digital course, The Virtual CFO Playbook, as well as free online webinars and a mentorship program.

Grunden is a member of the AICPA, the Forbes Finance Council, and the Indiana CPA Society, including holding a seat on INCPA’s Innovation Council. He is also the author of Building the Virtual CFO Firm in the Cloud.

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Jenni Huotari

Partner in Charge of Business Outsourcing & Strategy
Eide Bailly LLP

For over 18 years, Jenni Huotari has helped business owners and decision makers receive high quality financial information that allows them to best operate their businesses and make key decisions.

In the last few years in her current role as Partner in Charge of the firm’s Business Outsourcing & Strategy (BOS) practice, Jenni has worked to restructure her firm’s client accounting services from an after the fact write-up service, to a technologically advanced, client accounting and advisory service practice. This has included an emphasis on having an industry focus, closely collaborating with the other firm services, enhancing advisory skills/tools and by clearly defining and separating its payroll as a service. Working with both small, mid-sized and large companies, Jenni has built a national CAS Team, utilizing Teams and embracing leading, cloud technology to further serve their clients in challenging times. In 2020, Jenni helped plan and run one of the firm’s first all virtual learning events targeted at the 190 BOS team members from nearly 40 offices across the firm. In addition to her role as Partner in Charge of Business Outsourcing & Strategy, Jenni has held other leadership roles including being a member of the firm’s Innovation Council and as co-chair of Eide’s Baily’s women’s initiative, First Focus. Jenni is incredibly passionate about helping all women achieve their highest potential and become true leaders in the firm and their communities.

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Gabrielle Luoma

Co-Founder, CEO
MOD Ventures, LLC

Gabrielle Luoma has always been a pioneer in the accounting field. She was one of the first people to implement value pricing, cloud accounting, and the Results-Only-Work-Environment. Running a team of almost 30 people strong, MOD Ventures implemented remote work in different states long before COVID-19.

Her work has caught the attention of BeachFleischman PC, a top 200 CPA firm, leading to the industry’s first CAS joint venture. MOD Ventures is a bold new idea that combines Gabby’s entrepreneurial know-how and innovative CAS model with the backing and resources of a major CPA firm in the U.S.

This creative venture has set the bar for “outside-the-box” thinking during disruptive times and Gabby is determined to scale a CAS firm to new heights. Gabby has incorporated her leadership skills to create a strong team culture and introduced new innovative systems and processes to ensure accountability and the growth mindset needed to scale the firm. She is a strong proponent of leading from behind and coaches her team to be the innovators, thinkers, and implementers within the company vision.

As a creator, Gabby was instrumental in creating a digital product that will enhance and bring coaching and consulting to an online platform. This new product offering will not only support the educational needs of small business owners but is also foundational in building future products for different business industries. It will allow MOD Ventures to expand its footprint and diversify how they deliver services to its future clients.

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Andrea Mills

Principal
Fiscal Management Associates

A visionary. Ms. Mills led her firm's charge towards cloud-based systems about 12 years ago. This allowed her Outsourcing staff to gain experience working remotely while adding value to nonprofit clients with seamless integrations for financial systems. FMA was in an exceptionally strong position during the pandemic due to her vision.

Her consistent leadership for financial technology over the years provided FMA the deep bench of experience to help public charities and foundations come on board with cloud-based systems at a breathtaking pace. Not only were we positioned to help clients without an interruption in service the past few months (as we were accustomed to working remotely), but had built the tools and gained expertise over the years to provide rapid implementations for late adopters. Her non-profit community around the nation benefited greatly from Andrea's vision and leadership for financial technology.

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Kenneth Pun

Managing Partner
The Pun Group

Ken Pun has demonstrated outstanding leadership in innovation by introducing a cutting-edge solution that enables end clients to manage risk all year long with Transaction Analysis Services (TAS). The Pun Group's ongoing monthly or quarterly TAS checkup allows organizations to identify potential issues and take care of them before they harm the business.

Risk management is one of the most important tools against misrepresentation of fraud, but many organizations don't know anything about their risk profile until tax or audit time. The Pun Group uses the machine-learning power of Ai Auditor to analyze your transaction data in search of anything that indicates elevated risk. In addition to singling out individual transactions, this sophisticated program can identify risk patterns by users, customers, vendors, time periods, and more. If they find areas of concern, their assurance professionals will provide solutions that organizations can implement to minimize risk exposure from fraudulent transactions or misrepresentations. TAS is an internal mini audit that will help avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the fiscal year. Ken Pun's role in championing the exploration, testing and adoption of AI technology and offering a service to provide an economical option for organizations, beginning with municipalities, demonstrates a move to equalizing the benefits of AI. This also demonstrates a shift which the audit industry has been discussing but few have pioneered, a move to continuous monitoring or more regular analysis of financial data.

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Voting closes November 13th

Nominate your candidate

The Innovative Practitioner 2020 award is your opportunity to recognize the profession's pioneers, who demonstrate thought leadership, strategic decision-making and a commitment to drive the profession toward the future. As a reminder, some examples are: new services, marketing techniques, processes developed, to name a few. Give a practitioner some well-deserved recognition for trying something new.

Want to learn more about the previous winners? Check out their stories below.

WINNER!

First-place winner will receive:

  • Two free registrations to the Digital CPA Conference 2020.
  • Recognition during the conference, posted online at CPA.com and through CPA.com social media channels.
2nd PLACE

Runner-up will receive:

  • One free registration to the Digital CPA Conference 2020.
  • Recognition on CPA.com website.

MAKE YOUR NOMINATION!

*Call for nominees ends August 31

 

 

Previous Winners

2019 winner
Javier Goldin
Managing Partner
Goldin Group, LLC

Javier Goldin begun as one of the early adapters of technology as an intrinsic component of the services provided by the firm Goldin Group CPAs. As technology continued to develop, these developments allowed the firm to become increasingly sophisticated in its approach to providing outsourced CFO/Controller services by customizing software component to fit the needs of the clients. Each client's "tech stack" was tailored based on the specific needs of the Organization, their culture, and their budget.

Fast forward 5 years and the firm’s model took yet another leap. As the client composition and demand for services grew, the firm noticed that the nature of outsourcing itself was being redefined. Larger clients desired to maintain an internal finance team while deriving the benefits of outsourced CFO services. Namely tech savviness and best practices expertise.

This innovation challenged his firm to implement an internal and external financial team approach. His firm came up with a model that yields the optimal combination of an internal vs external finance team that takes into account factors such as internal competence, volume of activity, level and style of internal leadership, and technology needs, among others. Considering each of these components, the firm was then able to suggest the optimal combination of the jobs and duties required by the external team (his firm) and internal team (the client). This innovation is propelling Javier's firm into an outsourced model that extends beyond technology and CPA skills, and incorporates elements of HR know-how, and by extension, a placement and coaching consultant.

2018 winners
SAMANTHA BOWLING, CPA, CGMA
PARTNER
GARBELMAN WINSLOW
JAGRUTI SOLANKI
SENIOR MANAGER
APRIO, LLP

Samantha is the first small firm to successfully use artificial intelligence in auditing for small businesses, non-profits, and local government. In a firm of only 15 people in southern Maryland, Samantha led the way after doing a google search for small firms and AI in audit. In the past six months she has been testing this innovative application. The significance is that just over a year and a half ago, KPMG and IBM Watson shook up the world with their announcement. She is the first firm to show that this technology is available to all firms of all sizes.

Samantha started implementing AI in her small firm of 15 people to improve the audit process and reduce risk of material misstatements. She began this process in Fall of 2017. She also uses the same AI platform to determine whether to accept new clients and plans to expand this into the outsource CFO role and create additional earning potential for her firm.

Samantha has been working with Mindbridge not only to implement it in her firm but to help develop the tool to make it easily usable for many other firms.

Across industries visionary CEOs are turning to blockchain to reinvent the nature of commercial transactions and increase the value of their businesses. With this shift and the emergence of more cryptocurrencies and crypto-businesses, Jagruti Solanki, senior manager at Aprio, has been instrumental in the development of blockchain accounting best practices and the launch of Aprio's blockchain services group.

Jagruti and her blockchain team at Aprio are pioneers in blockchain accounting having provided tax, audit, audit readiness and consulting services to companies on the blockchain for more than five years. This experience has allowed Jagruti and her team to develop accounting and financial reporting best practices that help companies navigate the domestic and international accounting and tax obstacles associated with tokenization, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.

Today, Jagruti speaks at blockchain conferences across the U.S. providing companies with insights, best practices and pitfalls related to blockchain accounting, audit, tax, regulatory, valuation and cyber security risk considerations.

It is because of these innovations in blockchain accounting that Jagruti deserves to be recognized as the DCPA 2018 Innovation Practitioner of the Year.

2017 winner
Kelly Johnson, CPA, CFP
National Leader, Business Services & Outsourcing
BDO

Kelly is passionate about technology and is always looking for ways to implement it to improve accounting and financial management. That was the idea behind the creation of BDODrive, a combination of technology and resources that streamlines core accounting functions and offers mobile, real-time access to information. As the driving force behind BDODrive, Kelly is a true revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of firm operations and client services. The platform relies on technologies like Microsoft, Intuit and Bill.com to offer customizable dashboards, greater insight into business performance, continuous collaboration and access to world-class BDO advisers. Its many convenient features include online payments, auto bank feeds and reconciliation, secure document management and customized reporting. BDODrive helps companies run more effectively and make better strategic decisions, all while standardizing processes and enhancing efficiencies.

With more than 25 years of experience in accounting, Kelly oversees a team of professionals who provide clients with the customized solutions and infrastructure to achieve operational success. She began her career at PwC LLP as an audit manager, then expanded her accounting skills by working in the corporate accounting division of a global financial services firm and provided advisory services for private wealth clients. Kelly, a CPA in the commonwealth of Virginia, is a member of the AICPA and the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.

2016 winners
Rachael Higginbotham
Marketing Manager
Postlethwaite & Netterville
Caitlin Lacher
Senior Marketing Coordinator
Postlethwaite & Netterville

CPA firms solve clients' problems, and the best avenues to explain how we do that is through our professionals' experiences and summaries of our services. As Postlethwaite & Netterville grew, our experience and service offerings also grew, and it became more of a challenge to ensure everything was up to date and accurate. Additionally, younger professionals are conditioned to manage their own information online and expect information at their fingertips.

Rachael and Caitlin had an innovative idea for a tool that could manage our professional bios and sales materials, ensuring that materials are accurate, consistent and available 24/7. They led the development of Pounce, which is an easy-to-use, web-based system designed not only for our firm, but also for all professional services firms. With Pounce, everyone in the organization can quickly access marketing collateral to assist in business development efforts, such as professional résumé, industry experience summaries and service capability summaries.

Pounce keeps it all in easy reach with one's own custom-designed data searches and availability anytime, anywhere via a desktop or mobile device. Since this tool launched internally, we reduced administrative time getting similar materials in our professionals' hands, which means our marketing department has more time to focus on strategic initiatives. Additionally, in only a month's time since the software launched externally, demand from other firms has been impressive. We believe that not only has this tool been of significant benefit to our firm, but also that it will help solve similar challenges in many other firms.

2015 winner
Natalie B. Hoffmann, CPA/CITP
Partner, Honkamp Krueger & CO., P.C.

Sparking innovation through a marketing effort, Technology Partner Natalie Hoffmann led her firm to launch its first app. The mobile app streamlines Honkamp Krueger's Client Patronage Program, in which the firm rewards employees for intentionally shopping at clients — staff can easily discover firm clients, review their products and services, map client locations, get driving directions, submit spending amounts and win fun prizes. Marketing is able to run spending reports by industry, client and employee, to enhance business development and client retention efforts.

Results: Receipt submission increased by 43%, employee participation increased by 47%, spending dollars increased by 50%, and manual hours spent by the marketing department decreased by 14 hours per month. The firm's program received national recognition from Accounting Today (Jan. 2015) and INSIDE Public Accounting (Nov. 2014). The firm also won the Association for Accounting Marketing's Maverick Marketing Award. None of this would have been possible without Natalie.