When Stuart J. Yarbrough came to Washington last winter as managing partner of BDO Seidman's Washington office, his primary goal was to line up business with the Resolution Trust Corp., the federal agency charged with disposing of the assets of failed savings and loans.

But after months of bureaucratic wrangling to register BDO Seidman as an RTC contractor and coming up with project proposals, Yarbrough says the additional business from the $500 billion rescue of the thrift industry may not be worth the hassles of working for the government.

"They {the RTC} have had great difficulties in assembling the manpower and establishing appropriate means for the flow of information through their own organization," Yarbrough said.

As a result, the 39-year-old accountant has expanded his focus, overseeing the relocation of BDO Seidman's national tax operation from New York to Washington in July and engineering a merger with the 15-member Washington firm Mullen & Nesbitt last month.

That acquisition brought the number of accounting professionals at BDO Seidman's Washington office to 75, making it one of the firm's largest outposts. Yarbrough said he will pursue similar deals "as long as we are able to attract quality individuals."

Robert J. Mullen Jr. said he and his partner, James Nesbitt, came to BDO Seidman because their backgrounds paralleled Yarbrough's and they shared his philosophy.

"A lot of firms are out doing extensive promotion and marketing, but at Mullen & Nesbitt we sort of kept our focus inward," Mullen said. "Stuart pretty much shares that philosophy, that if you serve your clients well, everything else seems to follow."

Both Yarbrough and Mullen began their careers with the Big Eight firm Ernst & Young, and Yarbrough started his own company in Richmond in 1976, six years before Mullen founded Mullen & Nesbitt. When Adams & Yarbrough merged with BDO Seidman in 1985, Yarbrough became managing partner of the BDO office in Richmond.

Yarbrough, a former Duke University basketball player who still follows college sports and likes hunting and fishing on his farm in eastern North Carolina, said moving to the Washington office has put him on the inside track of BDO Seidman management without his having to be at the company's headquarters in New York.

"It's a much more aggressive environment here than in Richmond," he said. "The business community reacts very quickly because of the higher profile of world and economic events."

Born and raised in Durham, N.C., Yarbrough said his new office on L Street NW is as close to the Mason-Dixon line as he is willing to go.

"I think I can be most effective in Washington and do the most for the firm," he said. "I have no intention of going further north."

Yarbrough said his efforts here will include working with the RTC, despite its bureaucratic difficulties, and generating consulting business for the firm based on his knowledge of the thrift industry.

"We have invested considerable time and effort into becoming registered and qualified to do business with the RTC," he said. "We feel that we can provide significant expertise to them."

Yarbrough said the primary role of thrifts in the home mortgage market ensures that the S&Ls will survive in some form and continue to need consulting on mergers and acquisitions, financing and tax issues.

"It's still the American dream to own your own home," he said. "It's for that reason I think they'll survive."