This is one article in a series of interviews with firms that are members of the International Group of Accounting Firms (IGAF).
Shimmerman Penn LLP Principal Elaine Pantel, CGA, and Partner Maj-Lis Vettoretti, CA, agreed to tell AccountingWEB about their firm's progressive culture and comprehensive services. The two most senior female professionals at Shimmerman Penn, Pantel and Vettoretti head up the firm's architectural, design and engineering sector service group.
Q: Can you give us some background on Shimmerman Penn?
Shimmerman Penn was established more than 25 years ago, and today it is a vibrant mid-sized, Toronto-based firm of chartered accountants and business advisors. We believe our size is one of our unique strengths. With seven partners and more than 35 professional staff, we are a full-service firm with the in-house expertise and resources to service large groups of companies, yet the right size to ensure the service is responsive and personal. We pride ourselves in exceeding expectations and building lasting relationships, and it is for this reason, combined with reasonable fees, that our client attrition rate is significantly lower than industry standards.
Q: What sets Shimmerman Penn apart from other firms?
Our no-nonsense approach. We get to the point and provide clear advice. That's why "straight to the point" is the firm's tag line – it represents how we conduct our business and how we work with our clients. It is an approach that is working for our clients and us. Another difference clients notice is that we try harder. This includes working hard to keep our clients happy. There is no complacency.
Q: What is the focus of the architects, designers and engineers niche?
Although Shimmerman Penn has always had firms of architects, designers, and engineers as clients (some since the inception of their firms), about five years ago the firm focused on developing a niche reputation in the sector. Today, our clients include some of the most highly recognized architectural, design, and engineering firms in the country. This sector must deal with many specific taxation matters and accounting policies, and we have developed expertise in these areas. Apart from taxation and accounting, a significant amount of our work is in business advisory services. This work can include advising on corporate structures and, in the past few years, succession planning work has grown considerably. Other activities include:
- Supporting the sector's professional associations by conducting workshops and sponsoring annual conferences.
- Making presentations to the architects' professional association governing committee on key corporate matters affecting their businesses.
- Providing an annual series of training seminars. The seminars have been accredited by certain of the sector's professional associations, allowing participants to achieve 'learning points' toward their annual professional educational requirements.
Q: How does the current economy in Canada affect your niche?
It hasn't. In fact, we are being proactive to help our clients as they lean on us for advice. The sector is experiencing some slowdown in sub-sectors. Projects are being pushed back as it is more difficult to obtain financing, and our clients expect this situation to extend into 2009. However, this impact depends very much on this size of the client firm – and the particular industries they themselves focus on. For example, architects focusing on institutional work – municipal buildings and hospitals, for example – where funds have already been allocated will feel the impact much less than a small firm of designers focusing on the hospitality industry, which is being affected by the economic slowdown. Clients are turning to Shimmerman Penn because of our niche. For example, clients know we have a large number of other clients in the sector and can provide "benchmark" comparisons as to how their businesses are doing. Also, since clients are trying to be more precise about budgeting, project cash management, and cost control, our niche expertise enables us to provide added value for our clients.
Q: Do you have any predictions about the accounting industry in general, based on the current economy?
Unlike law firms, which are more transaction-based, the compliance need of audit and taxation will be there regardless of the economic conditions. Although there will be fee pressures for some accounting firms, Shimmerman Penn takes the view that by constantly focusing on providing added value to clients we will cement and expand client relationships during a difficult economic time.
Q: Can you tell us about yourselves?
We have wide-ranging client bases, which include owner-managed businesses, large privately held corporate groups, professional firms, and not-for-profit entities. We credit our advancement within the firm to the progressive culture here and the mentorship opportunities that all professionals receive. In addition, the firm has always been supportive of all members of the team through flexible work styles. Technology allows members to work from home, depending on their personal circumstances. Shimmerman Penn always supports progressive initiatives.