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OC Accounting Firms Grow 3.9% Despite Coronavirus

Orange County’s accounting firms have managed, thus far, to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The 50 biggest firms on the Business Journal’s annual list had a combined headcount of 5,514 as of May, up 3.9% from the same period a year ago.

This year’s list shows the coronavirus didn’t heavily damage the OC accounting industry like it has tourism, retail and restaurants. Out of the 18 companies reporting declines, most were three to five employees with the steepest drop of eight employees.

Altogether, 23 of the firms reported increases while nine stayed the same. OC employee growth was slower than companywide numbers on the list, which rose 5.9% to 1.1 million.

It is the ninth consecutive year of increases, although it was lower than last year’s 6.9% increase.

E&Y Boost

About a third of that increase came from one firm, Ernst & Young, which added 73 employees for a total of 561, enabling it to maintain second place. It’s the second straight year of 15% annual employee growth for the Irvine office of London-based E&Y.

Another large increase was 42 at the Irvine office of Seattle-based Moss Adams LLP, which now has 267 employees, good for No. 5 spot.

“Demand for services has been ongoing for the past few years,” Roger Weninger, Moss Adams’ regional managing partner for Southern California and Phoenix, told the Business Journal.

Moss Adams has seen “significant areas of growth” in consulting personnel, tax personnel driven in part by tax reform and the current changes in tax legislation included in recent stimulus packages, as well as certain industries like real estate and technology.

While the coronavirus has created challenges, it’s also meant opportunities, he said.

“Our headcount increases have helped us take advantage of these opportunities,” Weninger said.

The list ranks the 50 largest accounting firms by local employees, and includes numbers of partners and CPAs, though those don’t affect rankings. A separate list ranks consulting firms (see list, page 26).

Notable Highlights

• The number of certified public accountants showed a small increase of 15 to 1,883. The number of partners also climbed 4.4% to 618.

• The top 14 largest firms all retained the same spot from a year ago.

The Costa Mesa office of New York-based Deloitte LLP kept its No. 1 rank with 980 employees, a 1.9% increase from a year ago.

• The two other Big Four accounting firms, No. 3 KPMG LLP and No. 4 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, reported slight employment dips of less than 1% to 468 and down 1.3% to 370, respectively.

• The biggest increase percentage was a 33% climb to 80 at Windes, which in January acquired Irvine-based Linden & Basso. That followed a 2018 acquisition of Irvine’s Allen, Haight & Monaghan LLP. The increase helped Windes jump from No. 22 last year to No. 17.

• No. 7 Irvine-based Squar Milner LLP grew 8.7% to 212 employees in Orange County and even faster companywide, a 13% jump to 583.

• No. 6 Chicago-based RSM US LLP boosted its OC headcount by 15 to 226, a 7.1% increase.

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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