Superstars: Finance & Accounting

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Paul H. Phillips III

Tax Business Unit Partner in Charge, MidAmerica


Paul H. Phillips III is a numbers guy. "I am into--and I really understand--math. I like accounting. I like finance," he says. But Phillips does take time to look up from the calculator. "I'm also into relationships, organizational behavior-those sort of soft skills."

As tax business unit partner in charge for MidAmerica (only 13 KPMG partners nationwide lead tax business units), Phillips needs both of those skill sets. Supervising 125 employees in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis and Louisville, his duties run the gamut from creating three- to five-year business plans to approving postage expenses. "It's everything from 30,000-foot strategic planning to extremely granular stuff," says Phillips, who's based in the 150-employee Columbus office.

He also works as a tax partner in the firm's financial services practice. Clients include Aflac, AmTrust Financial Services, Huntington Bancshares, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Progressive Insurance. For fiscal year 2010, Phillips' insurance portfolio grew by 13 percent for non-audit services, and his banking portfolio grew by 31 percent. Total tax revenue generated within the business unit increased by 32 percent in 2010.

Phillips, 42, has developed a reputation as an educator, training professionals both inside and outside the firm. He is the sponsoring partner of the Insurance Taxation Seminar Series, held annually in three U.S. cities, as well as the Advanced Taxation and Financial Reporting Seminar series for senior insurance executives.

Phillips has also launched employee councils to address quality of life issues for KPMG workers. "It's the understanding, the empathy that, I think, has propelled my career. I've always been an advocate for our employees," he says.

That even extended to helping employees who were laid off in late 2009 land on their feet. "Everyone I had to have a difficult discussion with, they have jobs," Phillips says. "The fact that we were able to place them in this economy gives me a sense of pride." Now, KPMG is again in growth mode and looking to expand its headcount, he says.

Before joining the Columbus office in 2003, Phillips spent two years as KPMG's lead technical resource for federal insurance taxation issues in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he was a member of the firm's Southwest Area Insurance Practice in Dallas.

Pam Biesecker, senior vice president of tax for Nationwide, has known Phillips for nearly a decade and says he "is very smart. He's also very practical, and what I like about him is ... he can take this technical stuff and make it accessible; I think that's important in this arena."

Phillips earned a master's in taxation from DePaul University and an executive MBA from Ohio State University while working at KPMG. "I just absolutely love school--my wife thinks I'm sick," he jokes. He also is a director of the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus and chairman for the board of the Columbus Speech & Hearing Center. Daughter Alyssa, 11, has cerebral palsy and has benefited from the nonprofit's services, says Phillips. (He and wife Michelle also have daughters Nicole, 9, and Ashley, 3.)

"He's just a well-rounded human being," says Biesecker. "He takes the time to give back, and I think that's phenomenal."

Calvin Robinson


Hospice of Central Ohio

It's not uncommon for people to harbor a major misconception about not-for-profits, says Calvin Robinson. That misapprehension? That nonprofit organizations don't worry about the bottom line as much as their for-profit brethren. "It's actually more challenging, because you're concerned about being a good steward and spending money wisely," says Robinson, chief financial officer of Hospice of Central Ohio. "I think by paying attention to the bottom line, you're helping the mission directly."

Robinson, 46, has spent the last decade working for nonprofits. He joined the hospice two years ago after serving as CFO of Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio and manager of financial reporting for the Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services.

Hospice of Central Ohio helps terminally ill people who have a six-month or shorter prognosis. It operates a seven-bed inpatient section at Licking Memorial Hospital in addition to beds at its Newark headquarters.

With a full-time staff of more than 100 people and 300-some volunteers, the hospice "is small enough that I get to wear a lot of hats," says Robinson. He does everything from negotiating contracts to overseeing financial accounting. "I get to work closely with the clerical staff," he says. "We've got great people on the clerical staff."

It's the interaction with colleagues that Robinson calls the best part of his job. "They're dedicated, they're motivated. It's easy to be successful when you've got a great staff."

The nonprofit serves almost 1,000 patients annually in Licking and surrounding counties. About 90 percent of its $12 million operating budget comes from Medicaid and Medicare, with the remainder from third-party insurance and charitable contributions.

As the regulatory environment changes and puts more pressure on smaller operators, Hospice of Central Ohio may find an opportunity to extend its reach via mergers. "We want to expand," Robinson says.

It's that same regulatory environment, however, that makes Robinson's job ever more complicated. "Just staying on top of those changes is a challenge ... and then to drive up quality of care and drive down cost is hard," he says.

Robinson has a tight grasp on the financials that drive the organization, says hospice President and CEO Kerry Hamilton. "The ability to navigate Medicare and the regulatory and reimbursement environment is critical," he says. Robinson "single-handedly realigned our entire finance system and program," Hamilton says. "He reduced accounts receivable by 50 percent during his first six months. He's built a solid team, and I think that's an important part of the success, too."

Indeed, Hamilton credits Robinson's success to his "innate ability to connect" with others. There are plenty of CFOs who are good with numbers but clam up in a crowd, Hamilton says. By contrast, Robinson "has an incredible ability to take complex, hard-to-follow, money-oriented things and put them in a way that is easily understandable by the field staff. He makes it very real and recognizable, something they can connect with. There aren't many people who can do that."

Reprinted from the April 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.