HD Davis, White Glove Partner with Ascend

LIBERTY – A new partnership forged among HD Davis, its sister company, White Glove Payroll, and the strategic growth investment firm Ascend will allow the companies to expand services, improve technological capacity and attract new talent to the Mahoning Valley, says Tim Petrey, CEO of HD Growth Partners, a newly formed entity.

“It allows for us to remain independent of a larger brand and still have a huge impact on our community,” he says. “That’s always been important to us.”

HD Davis and White Glove are now under the umbrella of HD Growth Partners, an entity created to operate under the Ascend platform, Petrey says.

Under the new arrangement, HD Growth Partners provides tax, business advisory and other non-attest services. White Glove Payroll is a payroll and customer services organization and is the first of its kind under the Ascend platform.

HD Davis CPAs LLC, an independently owned and licensed CPA firm, provides attest services.

Petrey said the Ascend partnership enables HD Growth Partners to tap into new resources to accommodate complex technology issues such as cybersecurity and cybercrime.

The partnership also enhances services such as human resources, recruiting, health insurance and employee benefits, training and investments into artificial intelligence and other information technology. The partnership also allows HD Growth Partners access to capital for additional strategic growth.

“We wanted to find a partnership that would allow us to do all those things,” Petrey says.

In return for these services, Ascend has acquired an equity stake in HD Growth Partners, Petrey says. Additional details of the deal were not disclosed.

Ascend specializes in partnering with regional CPA firms across the country to assist them with non-attest services, such as attracting and retaining talent, conducting mergers and acquisitions and investing in new technology. Ascend has approximately eight “platform” partners, including HD Growth Partners. Ascend is backed by Alpine Investors, a private equity firm.

“HD Davis built their firm by prioritizing people, which enabled them to consistently attract and retain great talent, deliver excellent client service, be profitable and participate as an engaged member of their community,” Ascend founder and CEO David Wurtzbacher said in a statement. “This is exactly the right mindset at this time of transformation in the accounting industry and is highly synergistic with Ascend’s approach to growth. We are tremendously excited to welcome the HD Davis team to Ascend.”

Petrey notes that the accounting profession is undergoing seismic change. “Seventy-five percent of CPAs in this country are at retirement age,” he says. Moreover, the incoming supply of CPAs is insufficient to cover the profession’s attrition rate. “For one person coming into our industry, there are seven that are leaving.”

Firms are especially struggling with more complex regulations and a rise in cybercrime, which has strained their operations, Petrey says.

While HD Growth Partners is just large enough to handle these challenges, Petrey acknowledges its growth would have been limited without additional resources. The same applies to smaller firms with limited capital at their disposal.

“There are so many accountants in our community that just don’t have anybody to hand their business off to, don’t have an exit strategy,” Petrey says. “What this empowers us to do is to team up with these folks and consolidate and share a lot of those back-office functions.”

This model also enhances the company’s ability to recruit new talent not just from within the Mahoning Valley but from outside the region as well, Petrey says.

Smaller firms, he continues, rely on their own resources to offer potential employees competitive compensation or to negotiate health insurance benefits.

“That immediately gives us a gain in terms of finances in order to pay our people more, to provide a better benefit offering,” he says.

Petrey says he anticipates expanding the company’s employee base from 72 people today to approximately 300 in five years. “We will be making aggressive investments in hiring and recruiting,” he says. “We’re anticipating a lot of job creation and a lot of job retention as a result of this partnership.”

Pictured at top: Team members at HD Growth Partners gather for a group shot. The company has entered into a partnership with Ascend.