HSNO, a leading forensic accounting firm, is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2018. As the firm continues to expand its practice areas and forge new ground in areas like cyber fraud, the professional expertise and talent continues to define HSNO’s service and culture. When the firm was established in 1972, it was a small southern California practice, primarily focused on insurance and tax work. At the time it was called William K. Kinsel, an Accounting Corporation, after its founding partner.
Over the years the firm’s name has evolved along with its practice. Today, HSNO is an internationally-recognized brand, with respected expertise in forensic accounting work relating to insurance, litigation, and other complex business matters. According to partner Mark Newton (the “N” in HSNO), despite the evolution of the firm’s professional focus and expansion into new markets, a core set of values has continued to underlie what makes HSNO a success.
“At HSNO, we’re constantly improving our technology to streamline our analytical processes to make things more economic and expedited for the client.”
Newton, who divides his time between the firm’s San Francisco and Seattle offices and his personal home in Phoenix, got started with HSNO just after earning his degree from UCLA in 1974. Given his academic background—he’d majored in economics, not accounting—he was both surprised and delighted to get the opportunity. “I was honestly shocked that I’d gotten the job,” recalls Newton. “The interview with David Streiff hadn’t gone all that well from my view because I didn’t really get to say anything. But, then I got the call and here I am.”
Newton rose quickly through the firm’s ranks. In 1977 the partnership learned that an east coast competitor was opening an office in San Francisco. It acted quickly and asked for a volunteer to go and open the office. Mark Newton, then 25-years-old, raised his hand and immediately left to establish a new office in the Bay Area. Newton continues to manage the San Francisco office today, and was also responsible for opening the firm’s Seattle office in 2004.
Looking back over his career at HSNO, Newton speaks with pride about the firm’s creative, team-oriented culture. “We’ve never placed a lot of limits on people,” he said. “We let people go after work that is different or new. That’s why HSNO has such a broad range of expertise.” At the same time, the firm gives new hires immediate opportunities to learn and grow in their career. “Training is on the job,” he said. “You’ll realize very quickly if you chose the right path.” Newton said that this approach, combined with the culture of sharing among the partners, has been a key part of the firm’s success.
“We’ve never placed a lot of limits on people. We let people go after work that is different or new. That’s why HSNO has such a broad range of expertise.”
The trajectory of Newton’s career reflects these cultural ideas. After founding the San Francisco office, he developed expertise in insurance matters. A key moment in his career, he said, came in 1989 when he handled a $350 million claim for an extremely large defense contractor firm. He also pointed to the firm’s massive growth following Hurricane Katrina, which generated work related to more than $2 billion in insurance claims connected with losses by Gulf Coast businesses. Each expansion of the firm’s geographic footprint, from San Francisco in 1977 to New York, Atlanta, Providence, and Europe, has increased the partnership’s opportunities and deepened the base of its expertise.
Newton has a special passion for helping clients calculate economic damages, a practice that began in the late 1980s and has grown to be a major focus. “I’ve worked on over 10,000 calculations of economic damages over the course of my career,” he said. The sheer volume of work at HSNO, touching a variety of industries, is one of the things that sets the firm apart. As is the close involvement of the firm’s partners with the day-to-day work. “We’re not like the big firms where the partners really don’t work on the files,” he said. “That’s a big culture difference and a big advantage for clients to have people with extensive experience looking at the details of the file. This kind of value is hard to find.”
When asked about HSNO’s future, Newton is full of excitement and ideas. The partnership plans to maintain its prominent role in the insurance claims field, which Newton believes leads naturally to more litigation support work. The firm would like to expand its international footprint, with an eye toward Asia and Europe. And it’s taking steps to stay modern. “We’re constantly improving our technology to streamline our analytical processes to make things more economic and expedited for the client,” said Newton. And, the firm continues to hire young people out of college, just as he was. “We want to tap into their native familiarity with technology,” he said.
Newton sounds like he’s not ready to think too deeply about retirement. His career continues to evolve and grow. His latest focus has been helping insurance companies investigate fraud claims. Using forensic accounting methods to uncover evidence of employee embezzlement schemes offers a fresh and rewarding challenge. It’s clear that Newton is proud of the firm that he and his partners have built over the last 45 years, and that he’s looking forward to more.
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