BANKING/FINANCE : Ernst & Whinney Accounting Firm Seeks Clients Among California Banks

Compiled by James S. Granelli, Times staff writer

Ernst & Whinney, one of the nation’s Big 8 accounting firms, is casting for clients among West Coast banks.

A few of the firm’s partners were hobnobbing with California bankers at the Independent Bankers Assn. of America national convention in Anaheim last week. The firm bought dinner for the California delegation at the pricey White House Restaurant in Anaheim.

“We’re looking to expand our banking practice in California,” said Jerry A. Felts, an accounting partner who recently moved to Los Angeles from Houston.

Ernst & Whinney has only two banking clients in California, but they’re two of the biggest--Bank of America and First Interstate Bank.


Felts, who is in charge of the First Interstate account, said a number of partners and associates with experience in auditing banks and savings and loans have moved into Ernst & Whinney offices in Northern and Southern California in recent months.

“Right now, we’re coming out of the audit season and moving into the marketing season, a time when people start thinking of changing accounting firms,” he said. “For the first time, we’re going to put on a full-court press to see if we can unearth some prospects.”

The firm’s marketing plan isn’t complete yet, he said, but community banks and healthy S&Ls; will be the primary targets. Ernst & Whinney has about 50 partners and associates working in Orange County, mainly on real estate accounts.