(UPDATE) If Krista McMasters, co-CEO of CliftonLarsonAllen, Is Retiring Then There Would Be No Major Public Accounting Firms Led By Women

UPDATEA couple of reports out of the Milwaukee press have confirmed our tips from yesterday. We've also received the text of two emails, one from Ms. McMasters and one from CLA's other CEO, Gordy Viere that communicate the decision to the firm's employees. They appear on the following pages.

A couple of tips came in earlier today that CliftonLarsonAllen's co-CEO Krista McMasters is retiring. If she were to step down then it stands to reason that Gordy Viere, the CEO of CLA Holdings would be the head of the firm. We're still trying to confirm that this is in fact the case but if true, that would mean all of the CEOs (managing partners, or whatever else they might be called) of the 25 largest firms would be led by men.

UPDATEA couple of reports out of the Milwaukee press have confirmed our tips from yesterday. We've also received the text of two emails, one from Ms. McMasters and one from CLA's other CEO, Gordy Viere that communicate the decision to the firm's employees. They appear on the following pages.

A couple of tips came in earlier today that CliftonLarsonAllen's co-CEO Krista McMasters is retiring. If she were to step down then it stands to reason that Gordy Viere, the CEO of CLA Holdings would be the head of the firm. We're still trying to confirm that this is in fact the case but if true, that would mean all of the CEOs (managing partners, or whatever else they might be called) of the 25 largest firms would be led by men.

One of our tips suggests that this isn't an ideal development:
CLA's Co-CEO Kris McMasters is retiring.  I guess a bald guy is preferable to a woman in this industry…
And the other tip uses scare quotes, which is probably supposed to mean something:
Word on the street is that Kris McMasters is 'retiring' as co-CEO of CliftonLarsonAllen effective April 1. Email went out to the entire firm about an hour ago.
And even though we noted that the top 25 firms would all be led by men, you can take that point a bit further — you have to go all the way to the firm listed at #82 on Accounting Today's most recent Top 100 firm list to find a firm led by a woman. That would Louisville, Kentucky-based Mountjoy Chilton Medley, whose managing partner is Diane Medley.
 
McMasters was made CEO of CLA predecessor Clifton Gunderson back in 2009 and has been with CG/CLA for well over 30 years so the retirement is definitely plausible. But it's really a bigger loss for public accounting, an industry that has been desperately trying to shake its boys club image, to lose its highest-profile female CEO.
 
UPDATE: Overall, the two emails from the firm's leaders aren't very telling except for the mention by McMasters that CLA decided to not continue its co-CEO structure, which ultimately led to her departure. In her email to employees she writes, "We believe that operating under the leadership of one CEO will increase the pace of integration of our two firms and cause less confusion and uncertainty around our strategic initiatives among leaders of the firm." 
 
Now, I haven't heard any whispers about the cultural transition since the combination of Clifton Gunderson and LarsonAllen but this suggests, to me anyway, that it hasn't gone so well. So much so that "leaders of the firm" don't understand what the "strategic initiatives" are supposed to be. Maybe that doesn't trickle down to the partners and employees that are on the front lines, but then again maybe it does. Whatever the state of the firm, the board of CLA decided one CEO was enough and McMasters decided to make it easy on everyone by retiring.
 
Check out the emails from the firm's leaders below and discuss or get in touch if you have more insight.

McMasters:

To CLA Everyone,
 
Today I am announcing my retirement from CliftonLarsonAllen, effective April 1, 2013.
 
During the past few months the Board has reviewed the effectiveness of our CEO structure, comparing the reality with our initial expectations. Based on that review they have decided to discontinue our co-CEO structure. We believe that operating under the leadership of one CEO will increase the pace of integration of our two firms and cause less confusion and uncertainty around our strategic initiatives among leaders of the firm.
 
Effective April 1 Gordy will assume the sole CEO role.
 
Rather than move to a new position in the firm, I have elected to retire. Between now and the end of March, I will work with Gordy and the leadership team to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities to others in the firm.
 
The mission, culture, vision, and brand of CLA is unmatched. We had a successful first year, are financially strong, and well positioned to continue to grow. Our geographic reach and depth of industry and service expertise allow us to have extraordinary impact on our clients’ success and create uncommon career development opportunities for our people. The future is very bright for each of you and for the clients we serve.
 
I leave with enormous gratitude for an extraordinary 35-year career, first at Clifton Gunderson and then at CliftonLarsonAllen. I am very proud of the many things we have accomplished together. Creating the largest firm in the country focused exclusively on private companies and their owners and being part of an organization that promoted the first and only female CEO of a top 50 accounting firm certainly rise among the top. As I retire I do so with the confidence that CLA has an outstanding vision, is in the hands of strong leaders, and remains invested in building a diverse workforce including a focus on identifying, developing, and promoting female leaders.
 
It’s been a great 35 year journey. Over the next few months I will be exploring new opportunities. My intent is to use the tremendous professional training and experience I gained in CG and CLA to have a positive impact, whether in business or board service.
 
I am grateful for the years I have had at CG and CLA and wish each of you nothing but the best of success in the future!
 
Thanks,
Kris
Viere:
Subject: A message from Gordy Viere
 
As you recently learned, Kris McMasters has decided to retire from CLA effective April 1, 2013. As you are aware, Kris was an integral part of our early merger discussions and instrumental in bringing our two firms together. Kris’ passion for people and her commitment to quality is unmatched in this profession. We are grateful for her leadership and contributions throughout her 35 year career. Our firm is losing a tremendous asset. We wish Kris the best in the future.
 
Our firm has weathered a number of major transitions over the last year and into 2013. Change is never easy, but as hard as these decisions are, they are necessary to build for our firm’s future. As I shared with you in early February when I unveiled the “Picture and Making CLA a Superior Firm” document, accomplishing our future vision for CLA will take significant change in mindset and willingness from all of us to step out of our comfort zone.
 
We remain a competitive force within the accounting profession – and particularly with the clients we serve. Our operations and our financial results remain strong. Our goal continues to be to deliver extraordinary impact to our clients. You can be proud to work for the largest firm in the country focused on private companies and their owners. This is OUR space – we own it and it’s a great title to hold.
 
Our vision to be a superior firm is starting to take great shape. We are quickly becoming a firm that places leadership, ownership, and entrepreneurship at the forefront of everything we do. We are a superior firm that builds careers and serves clients in a noticeably different manner than our competitors.
 
We have achieved and accomplished much over the last 15 months. I am proud of the work you have done, the goals you have accomplished, and the long hours you have put in – especially now during our busiest time of the year. You are our firm’s greatest asset. Thank you to each of you for your hard work and service to our clients during busy season.
 
Here’s to a great future CLA!
 
Gordy

 

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