- April 15, 2020
One of the nation’s fastest-growing accounting firms has joined the stampede of companies relocating or expanding to the Tampa Bay region.
Centri Business Consulting, headquartered in Philadelphia, recently opened an office in Water Street Tampa, near Sparkman Wharf, as it looks to grow its national footprint. Managing Director Thomas Arseneau will oversee the office and its 12 employees, and he says the firm’s staff will grow by at least three by the end of the year.
“Tampa has a very vibrant, dynamic and growing business environment,” Arseneau says. “My role as the Tampa Bay market leader is developing a market penetration plan and expanding our market share in the area.”
A great deal of professional services work, particularly accounting and finance, can be done remotely, though, so why go to the trouble of opening a new physical office? Face time, for starters. Centri has taken note of how post-pandemic trends with Florida becoming increasingly attractive to the high-growth companies with which it wants to do business.
“Tampa is uniquely positioned due to the ecosystem of not just human capital coming from the university system,” Arseneau says, “but also through the relocation of businesses from other markets that Centri has been primarily focused on, for example, New York.”
Arseneau also believes Centri’s business model will be an ideal fit for Tampa Bay and its many fast-growing tech companies that might not need a full internal accounting and finance team. “Experience on demand” is how he brands it.
“We’re not a fractional outsourcing or staffing agency,” Arseneau says. “We're structured so you’ve got a full outsourced accounting, finance and HR team, as if you were a large Fortune 500 company. You have the same caliber expertise and talent — you just don't have to have them hired internally.”
Centri’s approach has paid off. Although the company declines to disclose specific numbers, Arseneau says its top-line revenue grew more than 40% in 2022 compared to 2021, and its total number of employees now exceeds 175.
Tampa is uniquely positioned due to the ecosystem of not just human capital coming from the university system, but also through the relocation of businesses from other markets that Centri has been primarily focused on, for example, New York." –Centri Business Consulting Managing Director Thomas Arseneau
Centri, Arseneau says, has also been successful because it fills a much-needed gap in the marketplace. U.S. colleges and universities are not producing enough accounting and finance professionals, so the labor market for people with such skillsets has become increasingly tight and competitive.
The slowing CPA talent pipeline, according to Arseneau, can at least be partially blamed on what he calls “the legacy model of public accounting firms.” In that environment, accountants are expected to work long days in the office, and the stresses of the job lead to a high degree of turnover.
“As a result of that shortage, companies are not necessarily able to find adequate talent to fulfill their needs,” Arseneau says, adding he believes Centri’s more flexible approach to workplace culture will appeal to young accounting and finance professionals. “The way we’re structured is a little unique — we’re not the traditional public accounting firm model. We offer them a different type of advisory and consulting model, almost as if it’s a hybrid of going out into the corporate world and being in public accounting.”
Another way Centri sets itself apart is its willingness to assist other accounting firms that need to temporarily bolster their teams during complex corporate audits. “We can be their strategic partner to help them with their audit clients and help get those audit clients prepared for the audit. Then they’re able to have a higher net rate on their jobs and service more clients.”
The latter service area, Arseneau says, leads to some unusual circumstances in which Centri’s competitors sometimes become referral sources. “We perform services that they cannot, for independence reasons with their clients,” he says. “It’s complimentary service model, but we do compete with public accounting companies’ consulting and advisory services.”
Centri declines to disclose the names of clients it works with or has worked with, but Arseneau says the firm usually targets small- to medium-sized businesses in technology, life sciences, health care, insurance and digital assets; however, the company’s roster of clients runs the gamut from startups to Fortune 100 companies.
“Our sweet spot is the middle market,” he says, “but we work with startups and help them scale and grow to the middle market, and then we help those companies in the middle market scale and grow to Fortune 500 companies.”