Accounting alumnus makes his business about connections

by | Sep 13, 2015

Jeffrey Smith, founder of Brown Smith Wallace, was a member UMSL’s first graduating class in 1967.
Jeffrey Smith, founder of Brown Smith Wallace, was a member UMSL’s first graduating class in 1967. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jeffrey Smith, founder of Brown Smith Wallace, was a member UMSL’s first graduating class in 1967. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jeffrey Smith, certified public accountant and founder of Brown Smith Wallace, is a numbers man. So when asked how many grandfather clocks he owns, the collector might play coy, but don’t let him kid you. He knows the exact number.

“Let’s just say a few,” Smith says with a smile while standing in his office, which is filled with antique clocks. They are of various makes and sizes, packed wall-to-wall among happy family photos and sports memorabilia.

When asked what he likes about the clocks, Smith says it’s the connection.

“Someone always has one or remembers one that their grandparents had just like it. It’s a great way to build relationships with clients,” he says.

And when asked about the noise of so many, he just smiles and says, “If I only had one, it would be distracting, but with so many they cancel each other out and you don’t even notice.”

Smith grew up in University City, Mo. After graduating from University City High School, he enrolled at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and became one of the first graduates to earn a degree from UMSL in 1967.

“At the time, the university was just starting, it was only a two-year school,” he says. “Money was a factor so I decided to enroll at UMSL, with the idea of transferring later. But then the University of Missouri System made it a four-year college. The accounting program was growing, and outstanding faculty were joining, so I had no reason to leave.”

During his senior year at UMSL, he began working for a small local CPA firm in St. Louis, and after earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMSL, he went on to work there for several years.

“I’d always been good with numbers, and accounting just seemed to be the thing to do,” he says.

In 1972, he decided it was time to open his own firm. He added partners and associates until the firm Brown Smith Wallace LLC was created. Three locations, 25 partners and more than 200 associates later, the firm is now located in Creve Coeur, Mo., and one of the region’s most prominent locally owned public accounting services.

“So we went from being a sole practitioner, to being the second largest local CPA firm in the state,” he says. “I really think the main factor of our success is our culture – very family oriented. We work hard. We play hard. We are diverse in services and people.”

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