Best of Business: Handling your money

David McLaren (far right) with the associates at his firm.

Best Forensic Accountant
McLaren & Associates CPAs, PC
Top executive: Founder & Managing Partner David S. McLaren
Founded: 2005
Employees: 14
McLaren & Associates is hardly your regular tax accounting firm.
Sure, the firm does typical accounting things like taxes, but its real bread and butter is in forensic accounting.
That includes tracking down money lost, hidden or stolen, said Managing Partner David McLaren.
In addition to companies of all shapes and sizes all around the world, the firm has done work with the FBI, U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.
“It’s always been a passion to bring people to justice,” McLaren said.
Dealing with lost or stolen money can be a stressful time for finance managers, and McLaren’s firm seeks to ease that tension.
“We give hugs,” he said. “We understand the stress people are going through when they’ve been wronged.”
If anyone understands loss, it’s McLaren, who was homeless at age 9 after his parents separated when his sister died at age 11 after a battle with leukemia.
He got himself through high school and worked two jobs to pay for tuition at Bentley University.
“We have a very different view” at this firm, he said. “I know what it’s like for people to struggle.”
That business, McLaren said, is fueling the firms’ rapid growth and a 3,000-square-foot expansion doubling the space in its Shrewsbury headquarters.
The firm is now at 14 employees since adding four in the last six months.
In terms of revenue, the firm grew at a clip of 21 percent this year, 25 percent the year before and 35 percent in 2016.
The firm has 400 clients while most firms that size have upwards of 3,000, but that’s because McLaren accountants are extremely detail oriented, he said.
“We know all of our clients’ names, spouses, kids, dogs,” McLaren said. “We spend up to 10 times the amount of time working with clients than a typical accountant does.”
With the Worcester-area economy doing well of late, McLaren said his firm helps clients and businesses contribute to that growth with proper money management.
“We’re trying to help clients hold onto more of their money and taxes and plow that money back into their businesses to continue growing and grow more jobs,” he said. “It’s really to improve their life.”

Best Health Insurance Provider
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts*
Top executive: President & CEO Andrew Dreyfus
Founded: 1937
Employees: 3,800
Blue Cross launched a new website this year to enhance the customer experience, sponsored the bikeshare program BLUEbikes, started an opioid toolkit for employers to prevent lethal overdose and sponsored Drug Story Theater, a program meant to reduce substance abuse among children.
Notable runners-up: Fallon Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Best Accounting Firm
Bollus Lynch, LLP Certified Public Accountants & Consultants*
Top executives: Partners Michael J. Bollus, Stephen A. Lynch, Jeffrey C. Swanberg & David G. Eaton
Founded: 1989
Employees: 39
One of Bollus Lynch’s major goals over the years has been to attract and retain the best audit and tax professionals to the firm. This, along with keeping up with the latest technology, policies and procedures, helps the firm create long-term client relationships and a diversified client base.
Notable runners-up: Stowe & Degon, LLC, and O'Connor, Maloney & Company, P.C.

Best Credit Union
DCU – Digital Federal Credit Union*
Top executive: President & CEO James Regan
Founded: 1979
Employees: 1,331
Owned and operated by and for its members, DCU is committed to providing financial products to help members through every stage of life. Its new Quick Loan program offers short-term, small-dollar personal loans to help members cover emergency expenses.
Notable runners-up: Leominster Credit Union, Central One Federal Credit Union

Best Financial Planning/Investment Services
Provo Wealth Management Group*
Top executive: President & CEO Christopher P. Provo
Founded: 1992
Employees: 14
In 2018, Provo doubled the size of its offices and launched its Strategic Business Innovation Hub and a family office focused on first-generation wealth. The firm prides itself on leading with compassion in an environment of non-judgment, using specialists to help clients decipher the complex financial world.
Notable runner-up: Fidelity Investments

Best Employee Benefits Consultant
Sullivan Benefits*

Top executive: Principals and Co-owners Gary Goodhile and Chrystine Heier
Founded: 1998
Employees: 12
In a consolidation-heavy industry run by a handful of major players, Sullivan is unabashedly locally owned and operated, giving the company a better understanding of the community. With the increase in cyber breaches, the company has changed its approach in how it educates clients about the need and importance of having network and privacy liability.

Best Business Insurance Agency
Sullivan Insurance Group*
Top executive: President & CEO John T. Andreoli
Founded: 1957
Employees: 50
Sullivan sets itself apart with its technical capabilities, attention to detail, business model, and commitment to independence. As the number of cybersecurity breaches have increased, the firm has changed its approach in educating clients about the need and importance of having network and privacy liability.

Best Bank
Top executive: President & CEO Sam S. Pepper, Jr.
Founded: 1870
Employees: 285
With 14 branches throughout Central Massachusetts, UniBank takes a personalized approach to banking, creating programs like Invest Worcester, which keeps deposited money in the city to advance home ownership, community development and small business development in Worcester.
Notable runners-up: Fidelity Bank, Bank of America
*Repeat winner
Read about the rest of the 2019 Best of Business Award category winners:
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