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BPM’s New COO Plans OC Hiring, M&A Push

Two years after entering the Orange County market, San Francisco-based BPM LLP—one of the 50 largest accounting firms in the country—has redoubled its efforts at expanding its presence here.

The firm, which specializes in technology, real estate, nonprofits, and mergers and acquisitions, has tapped a prominent local exec to help with those ambitious plans.

In March, BPM hired Scharrell Jackson as chief operating officer and principal, luring her away from Irvine’s Squar Milner LLP.

Squar has made a name for itself via an aggressive acquisition push over the past decade, rising to become the fourth-biggest accounting firm headquartered in California, and the No. 7 accountancy in OC with about 210 employees. It’s the largest accounting firm based here.

Expect a similar plan for the Santa Ana office of BPM, according to Jackson, who intends to remain in Orange County. She has plans to more than quadruple the employment count of the local office, which is run by Partner-in-Charge Dave Jorgensen.

“We’re out there in the market looking” to hire, Jackson said. “By the end of year, we’ll be pushing close to 100 people in Orange County.”

It will be quite a jump for BPM, which ranked No. 48 on the Business Journal’s most recent annual list of accounting firms, reporting 16 employees in Orange County as of May.

That figure’s already gone up; BPM on Aug. 1 acquired Irvine-based Warnick, Maestas & Maroney.

WMM’s specialties include tax consulting and compliance services, estate and succession planning, financial statement services, and M&A assistance, among other areas. It counts three partners and eight other staff members. Partners Robert Warnick, Ronald Maestas and Martin Maroney are joining BPM.

“It was a natural fit in terms of the clients that we serve,” Jackson said. “We’re looking not just for [an] expanded footprint but to expand client services.”

Familiar Strategy

It’s the second area acquisition for BPM. In 2018, it entered OC via the purchase of Santa Ana’s Kramer & Olsen Accountancy Corp., where Jorgensen hailed from.

Jackson hinted that BPM’s planned employee increase may include additional acquisitions.

“We will have future announcements,” she told the Business Journal.

Founded in 1986, BPM ranked No. 46 in the U.S., with $117 million in revenue last year, according to the industry publication Accounting Today. With 20% annual revenue growth, it’s the 16th fastest-growing accounting firm in the U.S. It has 10 offices with 560 employees, the publication said.

Award Winner

Jackson, who has been in accounting for 35 years, is well known in Orange County accounting circles. In 2011, she received a Business Journal Women in Business award.

During a 20-year career at Squar Milner, Jackson rose to chief financial officer and partner, as well as COO. She recalled that during her term, the accounting firm went from $5 million in annual revenue to $140 million. Squar Milner ranked No. 40 on Accounting Today’s list.

Successfully blending different operations and corporate cultures as the result of acquisitions by Squar was a primary responsibility for Jackson.

“My 20 years at Squar Milner was absolutely amazing,” Jackson said. “It was time for me to continue to fly. I really wanted to leapfrog into a different organization.”

At BPM, Jackson, who continues to call Lake Forest home, oversees business operations such as development, information technology, human resources, and marketing; the only unit that doesn’t report to her is client sales.

“BPM is amazing,” Jackson said. “We are true business leaders that focus not only on accounting but how we service the organizations on a long-term basis and work with CFOs and business leaders.

“It’s about a long-term sustainable approach.

“Our growth in Orange County coupled with Scharrell’s excellent forward-thinking mindset allows us to bring this (expansion) vision to life,” BPM Chief Executive Jim Wallace said in a statement.

Irvine Office

The growth strategies employed by Squar Milner and BPM are becoming the norm, according to Jackson.

“Most CPA firms are big on business combinations,” she said. “Within our industry, you need a scalable and sustainable plan. We have an opportunity to support other firms and grow our footprint across the region.

“It allows us to reach beyond northern California,” Jackson said.

This October, BPM plans to open an office in Irvine where 50 people will be combined into a new location, she said.

Nonprofit Circle

Jackson is also well known in nonprofit circles where among other entities, she sits on the boards of the Pacific Symphony, Presidents Advisory Board of Concordia University, California State University-Fullerton’s Board of Advisors Center for Leadership and the Center for Investment & Wealth Management Advisory Board.

In 2015, she began Leadership in Heels, a women’s speaker series.

Within the firm, Scharrell supports BPM’s Inclusion Now! diversity initiative and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Women Inclusion Executive Committee.

Scharrell received the Los Angeles African American Vanguard Award and Farmers & Merchants Bank’s Woman of Courage Award, among other accolades.

She’s been following the recent debate over Black Lives Matter, which she calls “a very interesting conversation.”

“As an African American, I’ve had to reveal a lot about the struggles that I’ve encountered,” she said. “The hope that the message penetrates the heart, so one day, Black lives will truly matter.

“I’m in a situation where I’m making a difference in the lives of others. I’m really leading the best life. I have an opportunity to lead a fabulous organization.”

Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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