June 9, 2017

The Marcum of Tomorrow

The Marcum of Tomorrow

For any of you trying to reach a Marcum partner earlier this week, you probably experienced a slower response time than normal, and with good reason. Sunday afternoon kicked off Marcum’s annual partner meeting in rain-soaked (not sun-filled) South Florida. And when I say rain-soaked I mean it. Four straight days of torrential downpours. But other than affecting our usual Tuesday golf tournament (the weather gods won this year with a reported four inches of rain that day), the downpours certainly didn’t put a damper on the work going on indoors.

The theme of this year’s meeting was innovation, with three specific initiatives being highlighted: technology, efficiency and accountability, or as my opening address was called, “TEA Time at Marcum.”

Our retreats are more than just an annual junket of seeing how much alcohol our partner group can consume (we hold our own on this, in case you were wondering), but rather a forum to roll out the Marcum strategic plan to the 200 or so Firm associates that make up our partner and executive ranks. For those of you who have watched our growth and expansion over the years, it hasn’t been by accident, but rather is a direct result of the planning and team-building that goes on at these annual get-togethers.

This year’s retreat, by most accounts, was probably the best one ever. From our opening on Sunday afternoon to our close on Wednesday morning, the substance and theme couldn’t have been more on point. Technology has changed the way many businesses operate, and accounting is not exempt. I’ve been in this profession for almost 40 years, and the way we operate today is completely different from how it was when I started. And the pace of change is not only continuing, but is in fact speeding up.

One of the primary motivations for building the firm we have has always been to grow with or ahead of our clients, to anticipate their needs, and as they grow and expand, to always be there with the expertise and services they need, before they know they need them. One of the ways we do this is by embracing ever-changing technologies and efficiencies.

It’s hard to believe the iPhone didn’t exist 10 years ago, and what’s harder to believe is how we did business without it. The original iPhone costing less than $500 (never mind today’s iPhone 7) had more computing power than the first IBM PC (remember them?) that Marcum purchased in 1984 for $7,000 or so. Not to mention our warehouse full of old telex and fax machines that revolutionized business at the time of their introductions.

But as we find out every day, technology is moving at a faster pace than ever and transforming the way we work. The accounting firm of tomorrow – and that may be a mere two years from now – may look drastically different than it does today. Artificial intelligence, optical recognition, and enhanced data extraction, just to name a few innovations coming our way, will completely change the paradigm in how long it takes to do things in our world.

IBM’s Watson can read the entire US tax code in less than one second. Throw 50 states and countless cities and municipalities with their own tax rules and regulations on top of that, and you’re talking maybe another five seconds. Imagine our ability to ask Watson a complex multistate tax question, knowing it has ALL of the relevant authority digested in its artificial brain? It will certainly save us humans a lot of time and error in getting to the right answer. Asking interns and first-year accountants to do data entry and “put numbers in boxes” will be a thing of the past, not the future, as optical recognition, data extraction, and the latest version scanning equipment can read and analyze business documents in a fraction of the time it takes humans to do it today. The world is changing, and we at Marcum are making a commitment to change with it.

It’s going to be fun. It may be stressful for some, and the Marcum of tomorrow will not look the same as it does today, but changing in order to adopt new technology and innovation will put us in a position to deliver the service our current and future clients will need, even before they know they need it.

P.S. The Marcum team-building continued for 40 or so of us after the meeting wrapped up at noon on Wednesday. Many of us left the meeting for early afternoon flights out of the West Palm Beach airport, which is normally a pleasure. As we soon found out, the rain, thunder and lighting throughout Southeast Florida on Wednesday and its ripple effect up and down the East Coast played havoc with our transportation home. My 1:27PM PBI/JFK flight was delayed to 4PM, canceled at 4:15PM, and eventually had me in the air at 9:00PM, arriving at JFK at 11:30PM, along with 25 or so other Marcum associates. Those traveling to Westchester, Hartford and Boston had similar experiences. And to top it off, my 84-year-old mother happened to coincidentally be on the same flight to NY as we were, so she got to enjoy the company of the Marcum crew, making her 9-hour flight delay a memory she and the rest of us won’t forget.