Christian Whitehair is an Assurance Senior Associate in BPM’s San Francisco office. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Accounting in June 2014 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Christian previously worked at a Big Four, before joining his family’s business and eventually BPM in 2017.
What has it been like since you started working here?
Coming back into public accounting, there was fear it would be the same as being in a bigger firm – where there wasn’t as much of an opportunity early on in my career to lead team members and start managing engagements. However, once I started at BPM, I felt the structure of engagements suited what I was looking for. The leadership opportunities at BPM are abundant. I see the people here being the next generation of partners.
I’ve also found, now that I’ve been at BPM for several years, that I have more of a work/life balance. At the larger firms, the work demands were more continuous, given the year-round nature of the engagements.
What initially piqued your interest in BPM, and what are some of the benefits you have enjoyed?
My family has a business based in consumer products, so I was interested in being in the space. BPM has a great footprint with consumer products. At the end of the day, I went with BPM because it had the right mix of bigger, public clients to hone my technical knowledge, but also smaller clients where I can see the positive impact of my work for their business.
If I find a project that I’m interested in and want to work on, I want to make sure I have the time and the support I need. BPM has been supportive every step along the way.
Could you dive in a little deeper on what support has looked like?
Reimbursement for many classes for my professional development and flexibility in work schedule. Flexibility is one of things BPM prides itself on. I’ve seen junior associates take part in our flex program after working at the Firm for at least a few months, which I believe encourages retention.
What are the biggest differences between previous jobs and BPM?
The largest difference for me at BPM has been the opportunity to work with decision makers on the client side, such as controllers and CFOs, earlier in your career. BPM does a good job of giving junior staff members the opportunity to attend meetings with key client personnel, which promotes a team environment and a more horizontal structure.
What advice do you commonly give new hires?
The biggest thing is to be curious. I know it’s scary in the beginning because you don’t have a lot of experience, and you are transitioning from the scholastic, or book learning of accounting, to its practical use. But, the sooner you ask questions and show genuine interest, the quicker you will acclimate here. Your team will also appreciate it.
What do you hope to see at BPM in the future?
I think BPM will continue to expand the services that it offers. Whether that be building out the due diligence team, transaction services team or other niche and profitable services. I don’t want us to be in a situation where the client asks if we provide a certain service and we have to refer them to someone else. I believe we have enough talented people at the Firm to continue to grow our service lines.
In what ways has BPM WOWed you?
I’ve been involved in high level meetings with clients, as an experienced associate and senior associate. There’s an entrepreneurial vibe here and I’m not confined to my role and title. Since the teams tend to be small, I have worked on a wider variety of accounts than I probably would have at a larger firm. In a different firm setting, you may only touch one specific account.
Outside of engagements, I go to many networking events and activities as a senior audit associate. The Firm promotes getting involved with industry groups and networking events, even as an entry-level associate. This gives a keen insight into what types of clients BPM is targeting for future work, and gives its employees an idea of the Firm’s direction.
What’s your passion in work?
Especially at the senior level, it’s been managing teams and understanding how they operate. I love managing people, and it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of being a senior audit associate. Beyond the people aspect, it’s been exciting to teach the more technical aspects of the job, which provides a check on my own true understanding of what I have been learning.