by Karen E. Culp
Baird, Kurtz & Dobson is now part of an alliance of five firms called Infinet Resources. The purpose of Infinet Resources is to provide services to financial institutions community banks in particular that one firm alone could not provide as efficiently, said Steven Warren, CPA and partner at BKD.
"The whole concept developed in order to allow us and some other firms to pool our resources and provide an extensive group of products for community banks," Warren said.
The four other firms are George S. Olive & Co., of Indiana and Illinois; Moss Adams, of California, Oregon and Washington; Plante & Moran, of Michigan and Ohio; and Wipfli Ullrich Bertelson, of Wisconsin. The network aligns five similar firms that cover different areas of the country, Warren said.
Financial institutions represent about 10 percent of BKD's business, Warren said.
The banking business has also become very competitive as a result of changes in the marketplace.
This alliance is another way for these firms to help their client banks become more competitive in the changing marketplace, Warren said.
The new network is designed to be a pooling of resources of the five firms, and will also produce new services for financial institutions, Warren said.
"If we come across a new problem with one of the financial institutions we are working with, we can use this network to identify a way to deal with it. Chances are one of these other firms will have dealt with something similar," Warren said.
The accountants will continue to work with their clients as usual, but when a question or concern the network could address arises, those questions will be routed through a coordinator, who will keep an inventory of services each firm provides, Warren said.
The coordinator will help locate the service needed for that particular concern.
One of the specific products that will come out of this network is a benchmarking tool that is now being tested, Warren said.
This tool will basically do an operational and financial review of the community bank as compared to its peers. This is something that is available to a lot of large, regional banks, and it is something community banks are interested in having access to, Warren said.
Another analysis the network will be able to perform for community banks is that of customer profitability, or how profitable its individual customers are for the bank, Warren said.
Developing the alliance allowed the firms involved to share the cost of
providing these services to community banks. Those costs are largely comprised of the cost of human resources, but
technology costs are also a factor, Warren said.
The idea for this alliance came from BKD's Don Hutson, a partner in the firm's St. Louis office, who took the lead role in organizing Infinet Resources.
The firms that are involved are all similar in size and scope, Warren said, and none are competing for each other's clients.
Community banks have traditionally been defined in terms of size, Warren said, but that has shifted a little as the market has changed. Now, a community bank is defined as being one that has its roots in the community, along with its management.
"The key to a bank's being a community bank is local control. Are the decisions made right here, or are they for-warded on to a corporate entity?" Warren said.
The services the network will provide are not those that any one firm couldn't do, but are those that the network can provide more efficiently, Warren said. Each firm will contribute resources, but the network will have an independent identity, Warren said.
Baird, Kurtz & Dobson is the 10th largest accounting firm in the nation. 1998 marks the firm's 75th year of operation.
This alliance is another way for these firms to help their client banks become more competitive in the changing marketplace.
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