Incredible growth and transformation require disruption, and this year has been the most disruptive in Wipfli’s 90-year history.
When I wrote my letter for the annual report last year, we were just a few months into the global pandemic. I spoke of how prepared Wipfli was for transformation and growth. With another year under our belts, I can confidently say we have proven that we are a fast, flexible and future-focused firm capable of pivoting, adapting and providing a steady hand for our clients and for the dedicated associates who work at Wipfli.
As I reflect on the past year, three things stand out for me:
- It’s not enough to prepare for the future. The firm that anticipates and shapes the future is the firm that will succeed.
- The changes that were already happening in the global workforce have accelerated dramatically, and firms need to be innovative in the competition for talent.
- Flexibility, which was once a “nice-to-have” quality, is now mandatory for those who want to excel in today’s market.
Guided by our Wipfli 2025 vision, we had already begun to anticipate these changes and adapt in all areas of the firm.
Today Wipfli has over 2,900 associates working across the United States and in Asia. Each year approximately 200 interns join us for a season, and many become associates at the firm upon graduation. These are the people of Wipfli, and they are our top priority each year.
This year it was more important than ever to prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our associates who kept a laser focus on our clients against the backdrop of working from home, kids in remote learning, friends and family members suffering from COVID, uncertainty in their communities, a reckoning on race, a contentious and tumultuous election cycle and a country that feels divided when we need more than ever to be united.
As we wrapped up our fiscal year, we wanted to recognize and reward our associates for their contributions to our FY21 success, as well as provide them with strong support for their mental health. The firm gave an across-the-board bonus of one week of salary and three additional paid days off as a thank you for their dedication and hard work. The resilience associates have shown and the continued commitment to excellence in client service resulted in an increase in our client satisfaction scores. Every one of our associates has made me proud to lead the firm through this time of crisis in our world.
As I write this, our colleagues in India are still under immense strain as COVID-19 creates an economic and humanitarian crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It’s important for companies to step up to help when such suffering occurs, and the Wipfli Foundation donated $25,000 to COVID relief in India. But our associates took a page from The Wipfli Way and demonstrated two more core values — caring and teamwork — by donating nearly $50,000 to complement the firm’s contribution. That’s what makes Wipfli a special place to work, and that’s why our clients continue to trust us to advise them.
The final core value at Wipfli is integrity, which we define as always asking “what is the right thing to do?” before making a decision. With so much disruption happening at once, we had to ask ourselves that question a lot, and process that through the perspectives of our associates, clients and communities as well as the short and long-term. We had to help our clients ask those questions — and we had the opportunity to help them answer them as well.
We rolled out a series of new services to help clients respond to the changing economic environment and the changing work environment, including modernizing their cybersecurity protocols, helping them adopt and adapt to technologies that support remote work, developing supply chain and workforce management processes, and we prepared over 60,000 tax returns in a nearly total virtual environment.
And none of that begins to account for the work we’ve done since the beginning of the pandemic to help clients navigate federal stimulus opportunities, regulatory changes and evolving guidance from the federal government. Our clients have faced enormous challenges, uncertainty and opportunities because of COVID. They have relied on Wipfli’s industry expertise and thought leadership to be a steady hand through the crisis. Wipfli associates were relentless in connecting our clients to opportunities and providing up-to-the-minute guidance on tax and funding changes to help them successfully weather the pandemic. In addition, we hosted 167 webinars and 87 virtual training sessions. We transitioned our national nonprofit conference to a virtual event and hosted roundtables to share knowledge, spark innovation and lead transformation.
All of this is part of our continued journey from a tax and accounting firm into an integrated professional services firm. Today we can provide our existing clients with a broad and deep set of advisory services and our expanded reach allows us to bring The Wipfli Way and our consultative mindset to new clients across the country.
The feedback from our clients confirms that we have deepened the trusting relationship we have with them, which will provide us with immense opportunities to help them as the U.S. economy races back to life. Our clients will face fierce competition, a changing regulatory environment and a need to prioritize efficiency, automation and transformation. As a fast, flexible and future-focused firm, we are prepared to take our clients through the next disruption — which some want to call “the new normal” — with the same integrity, caring, excellence, teamwork and perseverance that got us where we are today.
Never has our mission to “create lasting, positive impact for our clients, associates and communities” been more vital than it is today. I am grateful to the associates who live The Wipfli Way and make achieving that mission a reality every day.
Kurt Gresens, Managing Partner