WTAS Changes Its Name To Andersen Tax

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 13:05

The Editor interviews Joseph P. Toce, Jr., co-founder and Regional Managing Director for the Eastern Region of Andersen Tax. He has over 30 years of experience in advising private clients on a broad  range of tax, financial and business matters. He formerly headed the Private Client Services Practice of Arthur Andersen in New York. He is coauthor of the treatise Tax Economics of Charitable Giving.

Editor: Tell us about the origins of WTAS and what led you to change your name to Andersen Tax. What research did you conduct to assess the possibility of changing the name to Andersen Tax?

Toce: WTAS was founded by a group of former Arthur Andersen tax partners, all of whom shared the same values and saw an opportunity to create a very high quality, independent tax firm. The founding partners were very focused on putting the firm together, and our selection of a name – at that time Wealth and Tax Advisory Services  was not quite as thoughtful as it could have been. 

Conversely, our selection of the name Andersen Tax was the result of a very thoughtful and deliberative process. In fact, we considered adopting the Andersen name as early as 2002. A group at Arthur Andersen tried to put together a tax-only firm, but the firm was dissolving too quickly. A few years later, we were approached by a group of former partners who wanted to pursue an Andersen concept, but we were owned by HSBC at the time, and it was not feasible. As part of our global expansion, we knew we needed a common identity. After determining there were some impediments to using the WTAS name outside the U.S., the logical name was "Andersen" because it best represents our values.

We believe that Arthur Andersen originally represented an organization that was based on quality, integrity, stewardship, transparency and providing best-in-class solutions. We selected the name Andersen because we believe it represents those qualities. Independent surveys indicate that the Andersen name remains recognized and respected around the world. The survey results were overwhelmingly positive, with more than 50 percent of respondents having a favorable opinion of the firm and indicating they would be more likely to engage a firm for tax work after changing the name to Andersen. Nevertheless, it was a bold move to change our name. The feedback we're already getting from the business community has been overwhelmingly positive, which reflects exactly what the research we conducted months ago predicted. You wouldn’t believe the number of calls we’ve received from former colleagues, companies and individuals who are interested in talking to us about our services and about the firm.

Editor: Tell our readers about your client base and offerings and how Andersen Tax is positioned to serve them in the future.

Toce: In-house legal counsel will want to consider Andersen Tax if they are not receiving proactive, creative and timely tax services from current providers.

As you may gather from our name, tax is our core service offering. We provide tax, financial advisory and valuation services to wealthy individuals and families, public and private companies, and funds and fund principals throughout the world. Several of the European offices also offer legal services. The services we offer complement one another. For many of our clients, we do the work for both the family and the business entities they own, or for the fund principal and the fund itself. Our valuation services are a terrific complement to our tax services as well. For example, our individual clients often need appraisals of their business interests and tangible assets. Likewise, our commercial clients appreciate the fact that we can provide valuation services such as 409A or financial reporting.

Another important distinction is that we are not an audit firm and do not intend to provide audit services. Our independence is essential to providing objective advice and differentiates us from our competitors at existing accounting firms.

From inception, our goal has been to serve as a quality alternative to the large accounting firms. As the regulatory environment continues to change, our independence will play an even more critical role in our ability to provide best-in-class service in a consistent and seamless manner worldwide.

Editor: Your growth has been phenomenal, having gone from 23 managing directors initially in 2002 to 129 managing directors today and over 800 professionals with offices in 17 locations in the U.S. and 27 locations worldwide. What has been the impetus for your expansion in Europe? Why has your growth abroad been so rapid within the last two years? Describe the global organization.

Toce: Our growth is a byproduct of providing best-in-class solutions to our clients, and that continues to be the driving force in our international expansion. As the needs of our clients have become increasingly international in nature, we’ve adapted to ensure we can meet their needs. From our beginnings more than 12 years ago, we’ve built a global footprint and a reputation for integrity and value that is unmatched today. As you noted, in just the last year and a half, we’ve grown our partner group by over 40 percent and continue to expand overseas. Our people are the best in the industry, and our success is a direct result of our commitment to our clients.

Andersen Tax is a part of Andersen Global, an international entity we are developing with the intent of creating a global firm that can provide best-in-class, seamless service to clients throughout the world.

Editor: What makes the firm particularly well suited to serving international clients? How does Andersen Tax maintain quality control with so many disparate offices managed by individuals of various backgrounds, particularly in Europe?

Toce: First, Arthur Andersen was known for setting the benchmark for quality and client service. When we formed WTAS in 2002, we had a key overriding objective: to provide “best-in-class” solutions to our clients. Our goal was to become the firm known for the quality of its services. However, we are doing this under a much different model than the rest of the large accounting firms. Not only are we independent but our service model ensures that far more experienced people are engaged to support client needs and relationships.

From an international perspective, we’ve added ten locations in fewer than 14 months and expect to add more in the coming year. Each of these professional groups represents the quality service capability that we are committed to providing to our clients. Many of our practices in Europe were founded by former Arthur Andersen partners who have worked with us for years, so the quality of their work was well known to us. In each discussion to add firms to the organization, we focus on two factors: Individuals who represent the quality that we believe is consistent with our firm, and “like-minded” partners who share our objectives of Clients First, Stewardship, Independence and Objectivity. We are building Andersen Tax to create an enduring place where clients across the globe are afforded the best, most comprehensive set of tax services and skilled staff with the highest standards.

Culturally speaking, Andersen Tax was founded by a group of former Arthur Andersen partners, and many of our lateral hires also worked at Arthur Andersen; however, Arthur Andersen did not have a monopoly on any of the attributes or core principles that are the cornerstones of our firm. We do believe that the people who have joined us, regardless of background, share a common vision and values, and we believe that Arthur Andersen originally represented an organization that was based on quality, integrity, stewardship, transparency and providing best-in-class solutions.

Editor: The firm prides itself on client service. In what respects is it unique in this regard?

Toce: Clients First.  his is one of our core values and is essential to the way we’ve developed the firm.  rom the outset, we felt it was critical to be independent because that would allow us to provide the best service and advice. Our growth has been driven by client needs and is the byproduct of the quality of our people and the services we provide. We judge our success, first and foremost, by the quality of the client service and solutions we provide. We pride ourselves on having “working partners,” meaning that we all serve clients.  ur best people do not move into administrative roles divorced from the reality of serving clients. We also do not retire our partners at early ages, so we believe we provide wisdom and not just technical advice to our clients.

Our goal is to be the benchmark for quality not only in terms of client solutions but also in terms of the professionals who deliver that service. We are building a firm where we provide our professionals with the ability to reach their potential and where we provide our clients with seamless, independent, best-in-class solutions. Taking on the Andersen name isn’t something one does lightly. It signals to the entire business and financial community that we aim to reconnect with what made Arthur Andersen great to begin with, and that was an unwavering commitment to best-in-class service to our clients, no matter where they are.

Editor: Where do you expect to see your firm’s footprint in the next five years? Latin America or Asia?

Toce: Our expansion is being driven by client needs and client service. We expect to add four locations in the next 60 days with the possibility to add several more by the end of the year. By the end of 2015, we expect to have close to 40 locations worldwide. We have near-term plans to expand within other major European cities and expectations to reach Asia and Latin America in the future.

Please email the interviewee at joe.toce@andersentax.com with questions about this interview.