Author - Keith White

May 16, 2024

Meet Keith White, Our Team’s “Swiss Army Knife”

Keith White just celebrated his 35th tax season at Weiss. We spoke to him about his career and how the firm has changed over the years.

Finding His Niche
Keith graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in accounting. He passed his CPA exam a few months later and started at Weiss, having been recruited directly from college. Back then, as is the practice today, new hires were exposed to tax, audit, and accounting services “to see where they fit in,” said White. “It’s one of the great things about working here. You can really find your niche.”

A couple of years later, one of the partners asked White to help with some IT (information technology) issues. At that time, the firm relied on an external firm to spearhead IT issues. They didn’t really have anyone within the firm as the point person with a technological background. White has always liked tinkering with computers and was happy to pitch in where needed.

As luck would have it, Keith had a knack for understanding the existing technology and being able to untangle the issues as they arose. Later he was asked to investigate and recommend certain hardware and software purchases. He dutifully, but also quite happily, consulted with outside sources. He did a lot of research before eventually making his recommendations. Eventually the partners came to him and asked him to formally take on the Director of Information Technology role as part of the Operations team.

Working on a Wide Variety of Issues
Keith said he considers himself “the Swiss army knife” of the firm. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to address any issue big or small. He and his team work on a wide variety of issues. They also meet and work with everyone in the firm. They are part of the onboarding process for new employees, setting up each person’s technical workstation and reviewing safety standards for incoming emails.

Another area of responsibility is overseeing the firm’s Help Desk. This focus provides insights into the issues that stymie staff and clients alike. Keith deals directly with clients when he helps set up their individual client portals, the safest and most secure method for them to send and receive documents to Weiss that include confidential information. He also investigates and explores new software and hardware to help make the firm more efficient, secure, and innovative.

Working with Clients
The IT role alone is a huge job, but Keith also retains some accounting clients from his earlier days at the firm. He enjoys this dual set of responsibilities, and feels the roles complement one another.

“Knowing how the software works is a huge advantage when clients have questions related to client-facing software,” he said. “It also helps me with the Help Desk because I can suggest options to try when there is an issue. I have a unique role, I think. There aren’t many directors of IT who are CPAs and understand what clients need and want.”

Weiss uses an outside firm to manage the network and employs a part-time technical consultant who helps support the Help Desk. Keith does much of the troubleshooting himself.

Data Security
One of the key issues Keith has been grappling with over the past few years is data security.

As he describes it, the bad actors and criminal elements are so sophisticated now that it is essential to keep abreast of changes and threats that can arrive from an innocent looking email. He relies on training modules and videos to keep staff and clients current but is not hesitant to block emails or domains if necessary. Web filtering and blocking dangerous sites are other tools Keith uses if needed.

“I’m always thinking about data security. Are we keeping up? I encourage Weiss employees to be hesitant to open an email from someone they do not know. If they have a question, they know they should ask someone, and they can always ask me. A call or text to my cell phone or a Microsoft Teams message are the fastest ways to reach me. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If someone or a site is accidentally added to the ‘bad’ list, I can easily rectify that if needed,” Keith said.

Working During COVID
As the pandemic restrictions took effect in March 2020, the Weiss workforce was forced to pivot very quickly and work from home. Fortunately, nearly every employee had a laptop available to them that they could use from home. Keith’s major concern during those initial stressful few weeks was to make sure the network could handle the entire firm accessing it remotely. He scrambled to order enough resources for the network and additional equipment and deliver or ship it to his colleagues.

“That was a crazy time, but we got through it. Certain efficiencies increased because people weren’t spending time commuting. But I think most people missed seeing their colleagues in person. Now things are transitioning back. Most staff are in the office at least a few days a week,” said Keith.

Recent Advances
Within the past three years Weiss has made strides in making it easier for clients to sign returns using digital e-signatures without having to print and scan documents. This has improved efficiencies for the firm and for clients alike.

“In the beginning, some clients didn’t care for it. We received a lot of feedback. To the software vendor’s credit, we shared the feedback with them. Since then, they have made a lot of changes and improvements with the software. Clients’ experiences are much better overall, and it’s largely been a very positive experience for them. Of course, there are a few clients who prefer to receive printed copies of their returns, and we will still provide those if that is their preference. But the majority like the functionality and ease of the e-signatures,” said Keith.

There are also ecological benefits. E-signatures saves clients and the firm in materials, time, printing, and postage.

Leisure Time
One thing people may not suspect about Keith is he is a dedicated, serious, and accomplished bowler. He has thrown four perfect games of 300 and several games of 299. He’s been bowling since high school and is in a few leagues.

He loves watching all kinds of sports and his passion is fantasy football. He loves all the analytical thinking that goes into running a team. He even manages a few leagues.

He even started a fantasy football league for his family. It’s been a great way for him to get closer with his wife’s family and his two stepsons.

What does he do when he wants to really unwind? Keith said a perfect vacation is for he and his wife to go to an island someplace in the Caribbean and chill by the pool. They might read or listen to music and occasionally do a little bit of sightseeing, but primarily they like to just hang out and do nothing. He can totally disconnect and relax.

But he doesn’t like to be away from the office for too long. He genuinely enjoys his work and the people he works with. And he has nothing but gratitude for Weiss and the opportunity it gave him many years ago.

“So many firms don’t create opportunities for their employees to find out what they are good at, what will get them excited about their work. That’s the difference with Weiss. I feel very lucky,” said Keith.

About Weiss & Company

Innovative and flexible like the best boutique firms, with the broad selection of services of larger firms, Weiss & Company delivers solutions precisely tailored to your needs.

Stay Connected

Newsletter Signup

For the latest financial news you can use, subscribe to our company newsletter, The Weiss Advisor

Signup Now