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Inside the Eminence Program: Brandon's journey


Through our Industry Eminence Program, senior analysts decipher complex economic trends and deliver hyper-relevant insights for the industries that our clients operate in. Brandon Hollis shares his experience in this cutting-edge program and what's next for him on his journey:

When asked what I like most about my job as an auditor, it’s an easy answer for me. I have always enjoyed the opportunity to interact with clients, talk about their business, and truly understand what challenges they face and what opportunities they see. So much of the focus of an auditor can be on the past. From auditing transactions that have already been recorded to determining the ramifications of past events on our audit strategy. Where auditors can really add value is when we look beyond the debits and credits and the events that have already taken place and instead look to the future, offer insights about our client’s business, industry, and macroeconomic trends, thereby fulfilling the role of first-choice advisor for our clients. Plus, it’s a lot more exciting to have these forward-looking conversations.

This is where I see the value of the Industry Eminence Program, and this is what excites me most about my involvement in the program. The program provides participants with the training, resources, and skills necessary to analyze economic, business, and technological developments and analyze the impact these developments will have on their focus industry or sector. The program’s senior analysts publish relevant, forward-looking, and strategic-focused thought leadership and collaborate with client servers and industry teams across the firm to truly deliver the first-choice advisor experience to our clients and prospects.

When it all started

I began my career at RSM as a summer intern. After completing my undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University and my graduate degree at East Carolina University, I started full time as an audit associate in Raleigh, North Carolina.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to work with many professionals across the firm and across lines of business who share a passion for serving the middle market in a collaborative way to provide value-added services to our clients. I don’t think I truly appreciated how important this culture and the values of this firm are to me until I left for a very brief time. Thinking the proverbial, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” I left RSM as a manager to take a role in the industry. It immediately became clear to me that the things I value in an employer and the professional experiences I want in my career, I had at RSM. So after just seven months away, without missing a busy season, I returned to RSM and haven’t looked back.

Focus on industry

Since the start of my career, I have specialized in serving clients in the financial services industry, in particular, the specialty finance sector. This sector is composed of non-banking organizations that provide financing to consumer and commercial customers. The sector is composed of a variety of companies that range from owner-managed to publicly traded. This sector is also incredibly dynamic, as companies must constantly adapt to changing regulatory environments at both the state and national levels as well as respond to changing consumer demands.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow as our clients have grown. I’ve helped clients navigate investment from private equity, assisted clients in acquiring other companies, and have even been involved in a couple of initial public offerings. These experiences in client service have provided me a perspective that I find very helpful in my role within the Industry Eminence Program and in working with other colleagues across the firm.

IEP—the journey so far

In May 2020, I was selected to join the third class of the Industry Eminence Program. This has been the most rewarding challenge of my career to date, and I have gained so much insight even just in the first year of the program. It’s hard to imagine that I joined the program during such an uncertain and disruptive economic environment. Between the pandemic and resulting economic recession and political uncertainty surrounding the 2020 election, there has been no shortage of events to follow and analyze.

The program equips us with the tools and skills necessary to understand important macroeconomic and business trends, evaluate how the current environment affects the middle market, and then how companies in the specialty finance sector might be affected. During this time, the industry eminents have been at the forefront of delivering relevant thought leadership to clients, prospects and centers of influence.

My class has also spent time over the last year learning about digital transformation, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, in addition to learning valuable skills such as presentation and media training. The program has provided me a greater appreciation for the strategic challenges middle market companies face, and an understanding of how we as a professional services firm can add incredible value with relevant industry and data-focused insights.

Client service

So how can industry eminents help in serving our clients and potential clients? The thought leadership generated through posts on The Real Economy Blog as well as the insights explored in more detail in our quarterly The Real Economy: Industry Outlook reports are great ways to share information and connect with clients and prospects in addition to providing client servers with talking points when engaging with executives. The eminents are also great additions to client pursuit teams and launch teams; they can bring the industry perspective to presentations and discussions that can really distinguish RSM from other firms during proposals.

As a specialty finance eminent this past year, I have spent time working with industry launch teams in discussing potential targets, assisting in the proposal process for several pursuits, and growing my internal professional network as well as my external professional network by attending several virtual industry conferences.

The road ahead

Although I have only been in the program for less than a year, I can honestly say the experience has been transformational. I’ve gained a whole new perspective for understanding the middle market, our clients and our firm. I now better understand and appreciate how changes in the business environment can create disruptions or opportunities for businesses, and I’m better equipped to articulate and share those insights with our clients and with my colleagues. These insights will be especially crucial as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic and businesses continue to adapt. Through the Industry Eminence Program, we are in a position to truly deliver the power of being understood.