Koblinski She's Back

January 25, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Lisa Koblinski has spent the majority of her career as an auditor with Ernst & Young, first in Grand Rapids and then in Chicago. Now she’s back in Grand Rapids, where she’s a partner in the company’s West Michigan office.

“I knew when I was 15 years old I wanted to be a CPA. I started in a co-op program when I was in high school and got a job at a local CPA firm typing forms,” Koblinski recalled. Within two years the firm brought her on board to do accounting work, and she worked there through her college years at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie.

She joined as a staff member in Ernst & Young’s Grand Rapids office right out of college and eventually moved into a managerial role. During most of her 16 years with the company, she has served clients in the manufacturing, retail and consumer products industries, assisting with transactions, initial public offerings, bond offerings and equity carve-outs. She said she’s never been tempted to work anywhere else.

Koblinski transferred to Ernst & Young’s Chicago office after six years with the local office. Her goal was to move into the consulting side of the business, so she worked a couple of years in Ernst & Young’s Investigative and Dispute Group, a job that involved investigations into alleged fraud, financial statement restatements and related matters. During her 11 years in Chicago, she also worked with various Ernst & Young practice groups in the venture capital, IPO bond offering and acquisition markets.

“I wanted to see what was done on ‘the other side’ and gain that experience so I could bring more value to our audit clients,” she said. “I believe the experiences I’ve had in the all the different practice groups brought me to the point I am today.”

She has added to those work experiences many years of “world experiences” gained through international travel to locales such as India, Africa and Australia.

According to Koblinski, it’s very common for accountants at Ernst & Young to get involved in several areas of the business. She said the firm is very supportive about working with individuals in the areas they want to explore, because the more well-rounded people are, the more expertise and value they can bring to the client’s table. Professionally, she has accumulated years of experience working with many Fortune 500 companies and international accounts, as well as with a lot of emerging companies.

“I think all those things combined bring something to the West Michigan area that’s new and exciting. We already have a very high market presence, but we can further heighten that.”

Koblinski said she thoroughly enjoys the client service aspect of her job, buts it’s not the only thing that motivates her.

“To me it’s about community involvement, too. That is a personal passion of mine,” she said. “Part of that is being a role model for women. I’ve been a very avid women’s supporter through my career. A number of folks have supported me along my career path, and I want to give back to other women, both internally at work and externally in the marketplace.”

For instance, Koblinski previously created, initiated and chaired a women’s initiative task force for the Illinois CPA Society.

“That was something I initiated on my own and then discussed with the Illinois CPA Society. We moved forward with the idea, and it bloomed into something very big,” she recalled.

Golf is another of Koblinski’s passions. She has been deeply involved in the national Executive Women’s Golf Association. While in Chicago, she created, coordinated and sponsored a number of events for women, such as golf clinics and private lessons with pros.

She intends to be very active in both Junior Achievement of Michigan Great Lakes Inc. and in the local chapter of Inforum, a professional organization designed to expand networking and leadership opportunities for women.

A group of business women here formed a West Michigan Inforum affiliate last October.

“It’s unbelievable how much passion there is in this area for this new organization,” Koblinski said. “There were about 600 women at the first event. I’m excited to be a part of that and our firm is very supportive of that initiative as well.”

One of Ernst & Young’s top priorities is the recruitment, retention and professional advancement of women, so the company has been very proactive with women’s initiatives over the years, Koblinski said. Internally, she serves as a mentor and counselor, both formally and informally, to younger women on staff.

The number of women partners at Ernst & Young has grown from 5 percent in 1996 to 13 percent today. Similarly, the number of managers and senior managers has grown from 30 percent in 1996 to 39 percent today.

“We have a lot of career-focused counseling efforts directed toward women to make sure they’re getting the help they need in their careers,” she said. “When I first came to Ernst & Young, clearly, that was important to me.

“I think this firm does an outstanding job of trying to support employees in any way to help them be successful, because it is in their best interest as well as the individual’s.”    

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