Kurt Gresens

The Interview

After Wipfli LLP managing partner Rick Dreher’s term ended May 31, Kurt Gresens was appointed to replace him. Gresens, 49, has worked at Wipfli for his entire 27-year career and was most recently practice partner. He will continue to be based in Green Bay as he helms the Wauwatosa-based company, which uses a decentralized management structure. Dreher will remain with Wipfli to aid with the transition and continued support. BizTimes managing editor Molly Dill sat down with Gresens as he began the new role to learn more about his strategy for the fast-growing accounting and professional services firm. 

How will your previous experience help in your new role?

“When I was transitioning out of the practice partner role, even before that, I had worked with clients in the manufacturing and distribution industry. In my … role as practice partner, I had the ability to especially understand what the client’s needs are, what their expectations are for high-quality service.”

Are you planning to make any changes?

“In some ways, the answer would be ‘no,’ because although we certainly are looking to make changes as a firm on behalf of our clients and associates, I have been part of the firm’s leadership team for years. In general, the answer is, yes, we plan to change, but no, it’s not a change in terms of our direction.”

Is talent a strategic initiative?

“Much like other industries, we’re in a war for talent and we intend to win that war, but we know that our clients … have increasing needs and are demanding in a certain sort of way that we as a CPA firm fill those needs. Our plan is to continue to improve and adapt and skill up our associates so that we all have the skills necessary to operate into what we predict to be the firm of the future.”

How is the accounting industry changing?

“Our profession is being impacted certainly by technology, much like other industries – whether it’s artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotic processing. We see that in our client base, as well. Our clients are being affected by technology and the challenge, but we would look at it as an opportunity to embrace the technology disruptions that are facing all of us. As technology changes how we do what we do, we know that our associates … will be able to operate in what we call an advisory, a consultative type of way with our clients.”

Wipfli has been making acquisitions at a rapid pace in recent years. Do you intend to keep up that pace?

“We have been aggressively merging accounting firms, but more than just accounting firms, too. We have completed various mergers with consulting firms, or non-CPA firms. And yes, I expect that that pace will remain. The opportunities of the profession that I described earlier are causing many CPA firms to think about what their future is and all of this change requires a number of investments. So the opportunity for us to be a good landing spot for firms who are struggling with these changes, as well, is real and provides us with that opportunity.”

Is it challenging to integrate those companies at the speed you’re moving, with culture especially?

“We have been successful in ensuring that the culture of the firms that we’ve merged with are similar cultures to the culture that we have right now. For all the mergers and acquisitions that we’ve done, one of our most important litmus tests to whether an integration or whether a merger will be successful from our perspective is that culture fit.”


Kurt Gresens   

Managing partner, Wipfli LLP

10000 Innovation Drive, Suite 250, Wauwatosa

Employees: About 2,200

wipfli.com

After Wipfli LLP managing partner Rick Dreher’s term ended May 31, Kurt Gresens was appointed to replace him. Gresens, 49, has worked at Wipfli for his entire 27-year career and was most recently practice partner. He will continue to be based in Green Bay as he helms the Wauwatosa-based company, which uses a decentralized management structure. Dreher will remain with Wipfli to aid with the transition and continued support. BizTimes managing editor Molly Dill sat down with Gresens as he began the new role to learn more about his strategy for the fast-growing accounting and professional services firm. 

How will your previous experience help in your new role?

“When I was transitioning out of the practice partner role, even before that, I had worked with clients in the manufacturing and distribution industry. In my … role as practice partner, I had the ability to especially understand what the client’s needs are, what their expectations are for high-quality service.”

Are you planning to make any changes?

“In some ways, the answer would be ‘no,’ because although we certainly are looking to make changes as a firm on behalf of our clients and associates, I have been part of the firm’s leadership team for years. In general, the answer is, yes, we plan to change, but no, it’s not a change in terms of our direction.”

Is talent a strategic initiative?

“Much like other industries, we’re in a war for talent and we intend to win that war, but we know that our clients … have increasing needs and are demanding in a certain sort of way that we as a CPA firm fill those needs. Our plan is to continue to improve and adapt and skill up our associates so that we all have the skills necessary to operate into what we predict to be the firm of the future.”

How is the accounting industry changing?

“Our profession is being impacted certainly by technology, much like other industries – whether it’s artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotic processing. We see that in our client base, as well. Our clients are being affected by technology and the challenge, but we would look at it as an opportunity to embrace the technology disruptions that are facing all of us. As technology changes how we do what we do, we know that our associates … will be able to operate in what we call an advisory, a consultative type of way with our clients.”

Wipfli has been making acquisitions at a rapid pace in recent years. Do you intend to keep up that pace?

“We have been aggressively merging accounting firms, but more than just accounting firms, too. We have completed various mergers with consulting firms, or non-CPA firms. And yes, I expect that that pace will remain. The opportunities of the profession that I described earlier are causing many CPA firms to think about what their future is and all of this change requires a number of investments. So the opportunity for us to be a good landing spot for firms who are struggling with these changes, as well, is real and provides us with that opportunity.”

Is it challenging to integrate those companies at the speed you’re moving, with culture especially?

“We have been successful in ensuring that the culture of the firms that we’ve merged with are similar cultures to the culture that we have right now. For all the mergers and acquisitions that we’ve done, one of our most important litmus tests to whether an integration or whether a merger will be successful from our perspective is that culture fit.”


Kurt Gresens   

Managing partner, Wipfli LLP

10000 Innovation Drive, Suite 250, Wauwatosa

Employees: About 2,200

wipfli.com

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