The Evolution of CPAs as Trusted Advisors

By Drew Grey, CPA, Partner

The accounting profession has a long history and has evolved over many years. Benedetto Cortugli is believed to have written the first double entry bookkeeping book in 1458. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and its predecessors have a history dating back to 1887.  The accountant has evolved from a rudimentary accumulator of data to becoming a certified public accountant.  There are many types of CPAs: those that provide attest functions such as compilations, reviews and audits; those that provide tax compliance, tax planning or controversy; and those that provide business consulting.  Most CPA firms hold themselves out as providing all of these services. However, being a CPA does not automatically make you a Trusted Advisor. Therefore, a Trusted Advisor is not a title that one can merely put on a business card; it is one that is earned by long term relationships and performance beyond the ordinary course of business.

The process of becoming a Trusted Advisor takes time.  Owners and key managers have to trust and be able to confide in the Trusted Advisor.  The issues that companies and their owners have vary during their life cycle and changes due to the economy.  Our firm has had the opportunity to assist companies from their initial formation, essentially guiding them each step of the way. Companies and their owners are nurtured throughout their growth, assisting in the early stage of capital and/or debt, to the later stage of expansion in capital and/or debt, to the eventual sales of their companies. However, there are other variables that need to be considered. Besides the financial, tax and accounting issues, there are the human complications.  Our firm interfaces with the employees, family business members, and often dysfunctional family parties that need special attention and handling. Conventional CPA firms perform services such as reviews, audits, tax compliance, tax minimization and financial statement optimization which are integral components of the services we provide. In addition, our firm consults in operational optimization, budgeting, capital and debt formation, employee legal matters, contracts, dispute resolution, Initial public offerings, complex wealth transfer and succession planning.  It is the integration of all these services, coupled with the assistance of identifying and achieving the owners’ goals, that enables us to be their successful Trusted Advisor.

A Trusted Advisor has a deep understanding in managing businesses. A Trusted Advisor is able to sit on the Board of Directors and can act as the company’s Chief Financial Officer and, in some instances, as the Chief Executive Officer, without formerly being appointed. The partners of our firm have acted in the following capacities: the Chief Financial Officer of a publically traded interchange carrier; the Chief Financial Officer of a publically traded international commercial lighting company; the Chief Executive Officer of a consumer product company in 27,000 stores in 22 countries; and the Chief Executive Officer of commercial and residential real estate companies. The business acumen developed from these experiences empowers the resources and skills of a Trusted Advisor to provide powerful guidance to business owners. 

A recent tax savings example is a 77 year old man with a $150M net worth, consisting of real estate around the United States. He had done no estate planning and held most of his assets in a closely held C-corporation. He was represented by one of the Big 4 companies and a large estate tax firm. Neither of these highly acclaimed firms was able to make a sufficient connection with the client to solve his tax problems.  In addition, there were significant interpersonal family issues that made the estate planning challenging.  As a Trusted Advisor we studied the problems, listened carefully to the owners concerns and desires and developed solutions to meet his goals. He was presented with a plan that reduced the built-in gains tax by over $20M and transferred $100M of asset values out of the estate, while maintaining the sufficient controls that he demanded. This process took persistent proactive involvement from our partners. Thus, a Trusted Advisor is proactive not reactive.

At SRG, LLP we thrive on providing creative solutions for our clients issues.  We offer a complimentary and confidential review of tax, financial statement or estate planning.  We guarantee that we will find ways to reduce taxes without impacting the financial statement income and transfer of wealth, thereby, reducing estate taxes and protecting assets from creditors as a result of the proper structure. We will increase our clients’ net worth by retaining more cash to invest.  We invite you to experience the SRG ADVANTAGE.

Contact Drew Grey at 818-995-0090 or send an email to for a complimentary consultation.