Baker Tilly Capital aims to expand presence in local M&A market

To most in the business community, the name Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP usually means accounting and tax-related services.

However, the firm, which has offices throughout Wisconsin and cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, and Washington, D.C., also provides a host of other financial services such as wealth management and investment advising.

The company also operates Baker Tilly Capital LLC, a Chicago-based investment banking division that also has offices in Madison, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Milwaukee. The division has more than 20 employees, and the three employees in its Milwaukee office have been added since mid-2009.

In the last 12 months, the Milwaukee office has closed more than 10 deals, said Brenen Sieber, managing director with Baker Tilly Capital. Despite the significant number of deals that the Milwaukee office is closing, it is not well known in southeastern Wisconsin.

“Historically, we’ve relied on being part of a much larger accounting and consulting firm,” Sieber said. “About 70 to 80 percent of our work is usually coming through (Baker Tilly Virchow Krause’s) client base.”

However, the Milwaukee office is now aiming to do more outreach and spread its reputation through the M&A marketplace in metro Milwaukee. A significant portion of that outreach and networking will be handled by Corey Vanderpoel, who joined the Milwaukee office in March. Before joining Baker Tilly Capital, Vanderpoel worked for Waukesha-based Mertz Associates Inc., a well-known investment banking firm in the Milwaukee area.

The opportunity to build an investment banking business around the Baker Tilly name appealed to all three of its team members in the Milwaukee office. Sieber, the senior member of the team, has only been in the Milwaukee office since mid-2009. He previously worked in Baker Tilly Capital’s Madison office.

Vanderpoel joined the firm in spring, and Dan Counsell, the third member, joined in November, 2010.

“This company, Baker Tilly Capital, is a separate investment banking subsidiary, but outside the firm, no one knew it,” Vanderpoel said. “I saw a lot of opportunity with Brenen being motivated to grow the practice.”

The Milwaukee office plans to add another one or two mergers and acquisitions professionals over the next 12 months, Sieber said, to help increase the number of deals it does from outside sources.

“In the future, about 50 percent of our business should be coming from the outside, vs. the 80 percent that is coming from inside today,” he said.

Historically, Baker Tilly Capital has done about 80 percent of its work on the sell side and about 20 percent on the buy side. Economic conditions over the last several years have caused the sell side of its business to increase, something the company hopes to continue as deal volume picks up more speed.

“The trends are good now,” Vanderpoel said. “We’ve seen a pent-up demand in people who want to sell over the last few years.”

In the next few months, Baker Tilly Capital’s Milwaukee office will be working to increase its visibility through networking and more customer outreach. While the local office only has three professionals, it will leverage its relationships to a larger team of investment bankers and a significant player in the financial services space.

“We’ve got great horsepower behind us,” Vanderpoel said. “During a project, if there is an accounting question, we’ve got those resources. By not being a stand-alone investment bank, it takes some of the overhead off the table.”

The significant resources that Baker Tilly Virchow Krause has will help the Milwaukee office of Baker Tilly Capital expand its presence locally, Sieber said.

“The picture we’ll paint is of this one office, but we have about 25 professionals that can service anything from buy side due diligence to a sell side full project,” he said. “This brand is not as proliferated in our community, and when you look at the transaction volume and project volume, the opportunity is there. Brand building on the external (client) side is the real opportunity.”

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