Director of Private Wealth Services
Master of Accountancy in acknowledgment of major achievements in Tax, Brigham Young University
B.S. in Accounting, Brigham Young University
Leader of Frost PLLC’s Private Wealth Services practice, which meets the personal tax and financial needs of the firm’s clients. David began his career in Phoenix, Arizona, working for a “Big 8” accounting firm. David’s clients were mostly entrepreneurial businesses as well as business owners and families. As a new manager, David founded the Phoenix office’s family wealth planning practice. Another “Big 8” firm recruited David to Dallas to start a similar practice. In working with these clients, David crafted unique solutions that saved the clients hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. As a front-runner in the industry, David is outstanding in business succession planning, income tax planning, estate planning and compliance services. Many of David’s ideas – unique at the time – have become widely accepted in the industry.
In addition to serving clients, David has served on the national technical committees for three international accounting firms. In these roles, he helped develop firm policies, approved tax positions, and trained firm professionals in the techniques he uses to serve clients. David is also a frequent public speaker, making presentations to attorneys, CPAs, trust officers, and other professionals serving closely held business owners and their families..
States Licensed and License Numbers:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (including the tax section and the personal financial planning section)
- Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants (Past-chair of the tax section and former board member)
- Central Arizona Estate Planning Council (Past-president and board member)
Passions and Interests:
David’s primary business passion is “Solving problems for clients.” It’s even better to help them avoid problems in the first place. Other than work, David enjoys spending time with his wife and family. And, when he gets some shop time, he enjoys handcrafting useful items.
Q & A with David Walser
A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
This is hardly an unusual experience for me. I live in the desert southwest. Here, most of our penguins wear sombreros. (Although, in truth, the number of penguins who regularly wear a sombrero has declined in recent years over concerns about cultural appropriation.) So, rather than speculate about what the next sombrero-wearing penguin might say, I’ll simply report what the last one ‘said’. (I put said in scare quotes because penguins don’t actually speak – they just hold up signs to communicate. At least, that’s what the penguins who are native to the desert southwest do. I’m not sure about the penguins in other parts of the country.) The last penguin in a sombrero rang the doorbell and when I opened the front door holding up his sign and a cooler of soft drinks at his feet. I told him the pool party was next door. My neighbor holds an annual bash for penguins.
What’s the toughest business decision that you’ve ever made?
Anytime I have to tell a client “no”. An example: I was doing the personal tax planning and compliance work for the executives of a company that was about to go public. A senior VP had been granted nonqualified stock options on over 5 million shares of stock with a strike price of less than a penny a share. I asked the VP if he’d exercised the options. He said he was sure that he had exercised soon after the options were granted and the CFO confirmed that he had. A few days later, the audit manager told me that the VP had exercised the options right after my meeting with him – not five years before as he’d claimed. The manager said that the issue was below the scope of the audit, so they wouldn’t be proposing a change to the financial statements. Things were different from a tax perspective. My client had over $5 million of income from the exercise of the options and he didn’t believe he needed to report. What I needed to do wasn’t “tough” to see, but the conversation with the client was far from easy.
What nugget of wisdom would you offer aspiring accountants?
Never quit learning. What separates the very good accountants from those who are merely alright is intellectual curiosity. Additional knowledge may not always help, but a lack of knowledge can be disastrous for you and your client.
What can we learn from the past in accounting and auditing?
Don’t take short-cuts. If you’re on the witness stand, there is no good answer to the question of why you didn’t fully follow firm procedures. All the nuance surrounding the moment of your decision gets washed out in the harsh lights of a court room.
What’s the most dramatic change that you’ve seen in our industry?
The use of personal computers. When I started, staff would spend hours footing and cross-footing hand-written 14 and 21 column spreadsheets. All of those hours – and the need for as many staff – has been eliminated through the use of technology.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your role?
Helping clients resolve the issues that keep them awake at night. One client once told me, “A good night’s sleep is worth a lot.”
Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
Yes. As part of my Master’s program, I took a class in tax planning. Dr. White emphasized that we needed to look at the big picture in serving clients. If you focused solely on the income tax issues facing the business, you might inadvertently cause problems for the individuals who own the business. If you focused only on income tax, you might create estate tax problems for the client. And, of course, if you only looked at estate tax issues, you might create income tax problems. So, I’ve always tried to be holistic in my planning – considering all the tax issues that might affect my client both now and in the future.
What is it about accounting that first drew your interest?
An uncle advised me that if I were to work in the business I should get as much accounting and English as possible in college. Accounting he said was the language of business and English was the language of the law. So, I majored in accounting and minored in English.
A Little More About David
Personal Inspirational Quote:
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” – David 0. McKay
Brian Head, Utah in the summer. By day, you can visit the national parks and monuments in the area (Zion’s, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, etc.) and by night attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival in nearby Cedar City. We did it when I was in High School and I’ve since taken my own family.
The word that best describes you:
Most prized possession:
The knowledge of who I am.