Wichita firm grows by nearly a third after buying part of competitor's local business

BKD Wichita managing partner Bill Pickert.
BKD Wichita managing partner Bill Pickert. Wichita Eagle file

Accounting firm BKD will grow in Wichita after it bought part of a national competitor's local business.

BKD on Wednesday announced its acquisition of part of Grant Thornton's Wichita audit and tax operations.

The acquisition agreement, signed Tuesday night, is expected to add one partner and 16 employees to BKD's office in the Commerce Bank building at the Waterfront, BKD Wichita managing partner Bill Pickert said Wednesday.

The additional employees would push BKD Wichita's staffing to between 80 and 82 employees, he said.

"Oh, absolutely," Pickert said. "It would be our largest (employee count) to date."

Pickert said the portion of Grant Thornton's business that it acquired was audit and tax services for privately held companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue, "our sweet spot."

"(Those are) really the kinds of clients we serve every day, across the country," Pickert said.

Springfield, Mo.-based BKD has more than 2,600 public accountants and staff working from 36 offices in 16 states. It has had an office in Wichita for more than 33 years.

Pickert said the additional employees will "certainly put us close to capacity" at BKD's 19,000-square-foot office on the third floor of the Commerce building. But "we have the opportunity and ability to expand in our building," he said. "For now, we’re just fine."

For Grant Thornton, the acquisition continues the trend of a shrinking presence in Wichita. The global accounting firm that four years ago had 60 local employees will now have "about 15" following the BKD deal, a Grant Thornton spokeswoman said in an email.

"This transaction will allow our team to focus on a smaller group of core clients and industries that are best aligned to our market strategy," Grant Thornton spokeswoman Kate Hollcraft said in the email. "Our Wichita practice will continue to provide audit, tax and advisory services to new and existing clients as we develop those relationships in the future."

Hollcraft said in a follow-up email that the firm's broader decline in staffing is "a result of changes in technology, and a tighter focus on fewer but more strategic relationships with clients."

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark