When Alumni Partner Bill Walton was approached to join DHG's Financial Services practice in 2003, the firm had a few North Carolina-based banking clients. When he retired 15 years later, the number of clients and the banking revenues had grown exponentially. We talked to Bill about those “phenomenally fun years,” and he tells us why joining DHG was “like a breath of fresh air.” Bill is a current member of the DHG Alumni Steering Committee.
Bill, when you joined DHG you were already a financial services Partner at KPMG. Why change?
This was just after the collapse of Enron and Arthur Andersen and the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, and the accounting world was in turmoil. Big 4 firms were walking away from their middle-market clients – either by conscious decision or due to service-related issues – to focus more on the Fortune 500. This created tremendous opportunities for middle-tier firms. So, when (retired Partner) Wallace Edge, who had recently migrated to DHG approached me about joining him at DHG, I saw an opening to help grow an industry-focused practice — and that was very appealing to me.
How was it transitioning from a Big 4 firm to DHG, which had less than 500 people at the time and only a few community banking clients, none with assets greater than $1 billion?
It was certainly an adjustment, but DHG’s entrepreneurial spirit, absence of bureaucracy, care for its people, and good old-fashioned client service were a breath of fresh air. Plus, I consider Wallace the greatest business developer I ever encountered in public accounting so I was confident we could significantly grow our financial services business.
I also felt immediate chemistry with (then Senior Partner) Eddie Sams, (retired) Banking Leader Chuck Tew, and (retired) Professional Standards Group Lead Partner Don Carr. Walter McNairy (retired) had joined DHG a few months earlier as well. His leadership in establishing our SEC professional practice fundamentals was nothing short of amazing. You could just sense the genuineness, the passion, and the excitement.
What were those first days like?
I left my previous position on a Wednesday and started at DHG on Thursday, the next day. On that first day, Chuck, Wallace and I went to meet a prospective SEC reporting client in Georgia. We not only won that client but, over the next four years, we won 33 out of 41 opportunities at financial institutions, including many clients with assets greater than $1 billion.
One of our early wins — just by itself — nearly doubled our entire annual financial services revenues at the time. We became the only regional firm to audit a top-50 US bank – certainly worth a celebratory dinner at Gary’s BBQ in China Grove.
That must have kept you pretty busy …
It was a phenomenal, fun, and hectic time. Our growth was only limited by the number of people we could attract. Some of these great hires, to name a few, include: Nikki Swaney Yarborough to lead Bank Tax; Rodney Murray to lead IT services; Dave Hinshaw to lead SEC services and professional practice; Wally “Mr. Alabama Bank Tax” Dunn; Robin Sawyer; Sarah Saunders; Allison McBride Tanju; the late Mike Corbin; Dave Niles; Heather Cozart; Adam Thomas and Matt Snow. The Hughes merger brought such banking talent as David Wiggins, Will Neeriemer, Jon Tomberlin, Ashley Ensley, and others. The Goodman merger added even more great talent and while opening markets in Virginia, Maryland, and DC.
What have you been doing since retiring?
I love to read, play golf, go the beach and follow the Braves and Georgia sports. So, first thing I did was have cataract surgery followed by back surgery (needed after all those Delta flights). The good news is I can now play golf five times a week! I was approached to serve on a bank board. It was not a good fit but it’s something I look forward to with the right opportunity.
What does it mean to be a DHG alum?
It is fantastic. DHG enjoys a great reputation and has emerged as one of the top firms in the U.S. And that is all because of the quality of its people. Being part of that heritage is a wonderful thing.
More about Bill Walton:
- Married to his wife, Darlene, for 45 years.
- Has three adult children and four grandchildren, ages 10-14.
- Member of the DHG Alumni Steering Committee.
- Born and raised in Commerce, Georgia, population 3,528.
- University of Georgia graduate.
- Began his career with Peat Marwick Mitchell in Charlotte and then Atlanta for a total of 28 years with KPMG.
- The last 15 years of career with DHG were “undoubtedly the best and most fun!”
- Is a big history buff; since retiring he has read four books on Abraham Lincoln, as well as on Winston Churchill, Ulysses S. Grant, Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller, Sr.