Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Milk and Honey, Milk and Honey, Blah Blah Blah

It's getting to be almost boring, reporting on heavy demand and rising salaries in California. Unless, I suppose, you live there.

At large companies, starting salary ranges for chief compliance executives will increase 14.4 percent in 2007, topping out at more than $181,000, according to Robert Half International's annual salary guide. At the low end of the scale, salaries should start at $132,500. Mid-sized companies - those with revenues between $25 million and $250 million - will pay about 9.3 percent more than they did last year. For internal and external auditors, financial analysts and staff accountants, starting salary increases will run more than 5 percent.

The gains reflect a particularly strong market, says Brett Good, Robert Half's district president for California and Arizona. "It’s safe to say that all the numbers will be the same or slightly higher than the national averages," Good says, adding that some companies may pay as much as 20 to 25 percent more than they would have considered a year ago.

This is all from James Rubin's report on JobsintheMoney.

I don't mean to be contrary, but I keep thinking it can't be that good for everybody out there. If you have war stories, one way or another, send them my way - post a comment.

California Compliance Salaries Reflect Demand [JITM]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good Times

Emma Johnson made some calls and found most observers of the financial job market think 2007 is going to be a good year, right through to the end:

All outlooks point to continued economic growth for at least another year, followed by a corresponding job market in the financial industry. After that, all eyes are on the national deficit, Middle East politics and the real estate industry.


Randy Gartz, Robert Half International vice president of permanent placement services, points out the demand created by ever-increasing compliance initiatives also fuels a demand for qualified accounting and finance professionals that outpaces supply. This shortage has employers returning to pre-9/11 days of accelerated hiring processes, offering premium signing and performance bonuses and jacking up salaries for current staff. "They’re making counteroffers to retain top performers," Gartz says.

The full story's on JobsintheMoney.

Looking Good [JITM]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Defense Agency's 'Trickle Down' in N.Y. State

Seems like the Mohawk Valley in New York State is a good place to be an accountant or auditor right now.

Fast-paced job growth at the U.S. Defense Finance and Accounting Service is fueling hiring competition among other financial institutions locally, job experts say.

The expansion of DFAS at Griffiss Business and Technology Park vaulted the government and the business/finance sector into two of the top three spots on the Mohawk Valley's job growth list. Health-care jobs also are among the three fastest-growing sectors.

The planned addition of 600 jobs at DFAS, announced in August 2005, has led to an expected growth in government hiring. But it has also created a ripple effect as workers transfer to DFAS from private banks and financial institutions.

"It's like if DFAS hires a person and they, say, came from a credit union, which might hire someone from a retail operation and it just trickles down," said Alice Savino, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board of Herkimer, Oneida and Madison Counties.

Growing DFAS attracts local bank workersAgency's expansion creates hiring ripple effect [Utica Observer-Dispatch]

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dixon Hughes Help Marshall's Accounting Program

Dixon Hughes says its recent merger with West Virginia firm Simpson & Osborne will create about 100 jobs in the state. To bolster the pipeline of young recruits, the firm is donating $10,000 to the accounting program at Marshall University.

“I think it’s a co-developed relationship between us and Marshall,” said Rick Slater, a managing member of Dixon Hughes. “We’re going to ask them to do the right things, to get their students prepared and we want to pick up the best people that the university has to offer in the field of business.”

Accounting program gives $10,000 to Marshall accounting program [Herald-Dispatch]

More Online Career Tips

LifeTips is a somewhat schizophrenic Web site that offers, it says, 93,000 tips on everything from gardening to - careers in accounting! In that neck of the woods, it seems like they offer more job descriptions than anything else. But if you want to see for yourself, go to They set up the area with help from AccountPros.

Speaking of Time Management


Circle your calendar. April 13th, 2036 could be a really, really bad day on planet Earth.

A group of astronauts and engineers warns that an asteroid may pass uncomfortably close to Earth that day. The chances it will actually hit are just one in 45,000, but even at those odds, the scientists warn, the United Nations should consider a response.

That's a Sunday, by the way. Which means you may or may not want to get the tax work done early.

Can Earth Dodge Asteroid Heading This Way? []

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Isn't Day Light Savings Coming Early This Year?

When I worked at Dow Jones, a bunch of us in the newsroom would whisper about a manager who acted like a vice president years before he became a vice president. Eventually, he did it - he moved into the executive wing and was responsible for several hundred staffers and millions of dollars of budget. The lesson: There's value in emulating people whose rank you want to rise to. (I should note this executive isn't an arrogant man. He simply modeled his work habits on those of his superiors.)

So over on Yahoo! Finance, Jim Citrin details the joys of an early-morning routine. His impetus was a survey he sent to 20 "CEOs and top executives" about how they start their day. Even if you can't take a weekly morning walk through Central Park with a young person seeking your advice, as does one of his sources, his strategy is easily tailored for folks in the trenches. His advice:

  • Start early
  • Get a jump on e-mail
  • Exercise every morning (OK, I skip this one)
  • Be thoughtful about the source, form, and timing of your news
  • Problem-solve
  • Make family time
  • Be creative with your morning routine

As one of those who gets up at 5 in the morning - much to the annoyance of my wife and my dog (the only terrier in the world who likes to sleep in) - I've always felt like I get a jump on the day in those hours when it's quiet, the coffee's fresh, the phone isn't ringing, and no new e-mails are coming in. The article's worth two minutes of your time, maybe with your coffee.

Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine [Yahoo! Finance]

Are You Feeling GOOD?

Accounting and finance professionals were feeling pretty chipper in January: Hudson's employment index jumped 14.5 points, to 120.5, during the month. What's behind their general contentment: the state of their personal finances, their job satisfaction and less concern about layoffs. The broader, national index rose 1.5 points, to 104.2. Dig into the numbers at [Hudson]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Already Knew This, But...

This is one of those things everyone thinks, but doesn't like to talk about: Accounting firms tell love to tell how options for work-life balance are key components of their hiring and retention strategies. Now comes research indicating that maybe they aren't so whole-heartedly behind the concept, after all.

Three business school professors - Philip Reckers of the W. P. Carey School of Business, Eric N. Johnson of Indiana University and D. Jordan Lowe of Arizona State University - found that employees who take advantage of flextime, telecommuting and part-time work arrangements are often penalized when it comes to gaining visible assignments and earning promotions.

Their findings uncover a disconnect between staff members, who often leave accounting because of the hours involved, and firm leaders who put in their own long hours on their way to the top. A survey published in 2006 by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants found that 70 percent of the men who left the field said work-life balance was the main reason.

"You hear what the firms say publicly about work-life balance, and then you hear what your former students say about their actual jobs," Reckers told in-house journal Knowledge@W.P.Carey. "Hype and reality simply don't jibe … Even partners, after a beer or two, would admit that work-life balance programs are largely window dressing."

The researchers found that workers taking advantage of flextime or part-time hours run the risk of being viewed as "not carrying their load." In addition, men were viewed more unkindly than women in such situations. "Managers may tolerate flextime or part-time work with a woman - maybe," Reckers said. "But if you're a man and you take flextime, the perception is that there's something really wrong with you."

The findings show the need for fundamental cultural change in the accounting profession, the professors said. Alternative work arrangements must be "viewed as an acceptable career path for men and women seeking more balance between their work and non-work lives," they wrote.

Flexibility's price tag: gain time, lose career footing [Knowledge @ W.P Carey]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Realities Hit Even A Tight Labor Market

CFO magazine's February edition packaged together a series of stories on the evolving relationship between employers and employees. In its intro, the magazine notes:

The tight labor market and improving economy have made workers - especially the good ones - more demanding in terms of compensation, benefits, and working conditions. But companies remain determined to cut costs even as they acknowledge a renewed "war on talent."

It goes on to note the widespread discussion about how employee stacks up against sky-high executive compensation. Then it makes an interesting observation:

The compensation picture is clouded by soaring health-care costs, which leave companies feeling hamstrung and employees shortchanged. The move to consumer-driven health care may provide at a partial solution, but can companies in good conscience give employees more control over health-care decisions if there are few dependable sources of information on which to base those decisions?

Finally, the package delves into the consequences of treating employees badly: among them, lawsuits. And, again, the editors make a good observation:

Even if companies botch the nuances of employment law, they can create corporate cultures in which managers know how important it is to listen to employee grievances and to act on them before the matter ends in court. Such cultures may do far more than forestall lawsuits: They may demonstrate that employees are, in fact, true stakeholders, which in turn may help ensure that the employer-employee relationship is rewarding to both parties.

This is one of those packages that, although written for managers, provides a lot of good information to people who want to be smart about the way they operate in today's office environment. Links to three stories are below.

Just Rewards [CFO]
Pin the Tail on the Doctor [CFO]
The Enemy Within [CFO]

Friday, February 16, 2007

California's Corbin & Company Changing Name, Expanding

Irvine, Calif., firm Corbin & Company is changing its name to KMJ Corbin & Company. The "KMJ" seems to come from the first names of the firm's managing partner, Kendall Merkley, and audit and tax partners-in-charge Mike Faddoul and Jim Nagengast. But that's just a guess. Tony Price and David Reule were recently made partners, and will "assume a variety of roles, including overseeing expansion into San Diego, participating in business development opportunities and ensuring the firm’s ability to deliver a high level of client service," the firm said.

Good Management

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal has an account of what reporter David Reilly calls the "near-death experience" of KPMG as the firm faced accusations of selling illegal tax shelters. How Chairman Timothy Flynn led the firm, it appears successfully, through the legal and business fallout shows a good manager at work. Among other tidbits:

To calm partners, he personally reached out to hundreds of them, often singling out younger ones. Michael R. Gervasio, a young tax partner in Chicago, says he was impressed as much by Mr. Flynn's persistence as by what he said. Mr. Flynn phoned eight times over two days before finally connecting with Mr. Gervasio at home at 10 one night. 'We really want you to stay,' Mr. Gervasio recalls being told. He did.

How a Chastened KPMG Got By Tax-Shelter Crisis [WSJ - $]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Are You Exempt? Are You Sure?

Barbara Freet, president of Human Resource Advisors in Lafayette, Calif., and one of the speakers slated for next month's California CPA Education Foundation's business conferences, says approaches to alternative work arrangements in the state have changed drastically since the California Workplace Flexibility Act was passed in 2000.

The law created stricter rules for paying overtime, and requires employers to stipulate in advance how the work hours of non-exempt employees will be allocated over a week. In our world, uncertified accountants have non-exempt status and must be paid for overtime. A number of companies have been sued - successfully - because they failed to correctly classify groups of workers.

Freet told our James Rubin that uncertified accountants, including employees who fill bookkeeping roles, are non-exempt because they rely so much on Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures. In other words, they follow rules more than their own judgment. "People who are exempt have to spend over 50 percent of their time on issues requiring independent judgment," Freet explained. "Staff accountants aren't making these types of judgments."

She adds that classification depends on job function, not a company's determination. "Employers think they can decide if someone is exempt or non-exempt," Freet says. "They can't."

Career Information in California

The California CPA Education Foundation's third annual business and industry conferences will have a career and hiring flavor when they take place in Long Beach and San Francisco late in March. Each one-day event will feature sessions on career management, recruiting and employee retention. An additional session will offer advice on compensation, a timely subject in the present job market. The Long Beach event will be held March 22, with San Francisco's taking place on March 23. Details are here. (Thanks, James Rubin)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

You'd Think They'd Ask

The lead of this item on AccountingWeb says it all:

CPA firm partners believe compensation is the driving force behind a new recruit’s decision to join and stay with the organization. But young professionals say that’s not the case, that growth opportunities are the principal factor.

New CPA Recruits Choose Growth Potential Over Compensation [AccountingWeb]

Balance Strategies

I'm a bit skeptical of all this talk about work-life balance. All the big accounting firms embrace the concept, and, sure, everyone wants more balance in their life, but you hear precious little about the trade-offs that might be required if you're serious about it. Still Emma Johnson wrote what I think is a pretty balanced view of what's going on along Wall Street for eFinancialCareers, and much of what she found applies to accounting.
In an economy that's hot and spurring a demand for qualified people, employers are being forced to make such arrangements more common. However, (Wharton's Stewart) Friedman says it takes initiative on the part of the individual - as well as the organization - to create a win-win proposition for alternative work situations. Strategies might include proposing telecommuting one day per week, or shutting off your Blackberry at 6 p.m. - all with an eye toward making your work time more productive. The specifics, of course, depend on your role within the firm.

"The big enabler is the digital revolution," says Friedman. "The trick we all have to learn is how to use these tools to tap into their promise - which is liberation. It's up to each one of us to determine when and how we get things done."

Of course, if anyone feels like adding their two cents, I'd love to know if you've ever tried to work out a more balanced approach to work with your firm - and what the results were.

Balance Programs Make Inroads [eFinancialCareers]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Career Tips for Boomers

From the alumni magazine of the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, tips for baby boomers who aren't thinking their 60s means retirement in Florida. (Among the alumni profiled is Margery Wells Piercey, a principal at Wolf & Co.)

Build a Job Network: Whenever you can do someone a favor without violating professional ethics, do it. The strongest relationships with people are built when you do not need anything from them.

Tell the Truth: Being truthful is often a selling point in itself. Nobody is perfect. In fact, people who walk on water often leave puddles.

Keep It Simple: If you need a lawyer to defend your résumé or a philosopher to explain it, rewrite your résumé.

Have a Two-Way Interview: You should prepare at least five good questions to ask your
interviewer. At least two should be about doing the job and two about the company.

Dress the Part: Your goal is not to look like a 30-year-old if you are a 60-year-old.

Mind Your Manners: Courtesy doesn’t go out of season. Yes, you should write a thank-you note to the person who interviewed you.

Mind the Bottom Line: Ask for a higher salary only when all other issues are settled.

Greener Pastures [UMass]

Dough and Spreadsheets

Alexandra Defelice of WebCPA posted a nice piece about a CPA who combines the joy of running with the joy of spreadsheets, then weaves in Mrs. Fields' Cookies to make her point about passion and work.
Possessing passion for our careers is a gift not many people are fortunate enough to receive. Those that do tend to stand out from their competitors and the really lucky ones enjoy a higher level of success.

Sure, you've heard it all before, but she tells the story well.

The Passion of the Cookie [WebCPA]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Scholarships for Pa. Accounting Students

Undergraduate accounting students can apply for scholarships worth up to $15,000, sponsored by Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants. To be eligible, students must be full-time undergraduates, majoring in accounting at a Pennsylvania college or university, and have completed at least 36 credit hours. The scholarships range from $1,000 to $15,000, and the deadline to apply is March 15. Last year, the PICPA awarded $185,000 to 78 accounting majors. Click here for details and an application. [PICPA]

Glass Ceiling or Balance?

A British firm, CareersinAudit, believes women aren't rising to the top of accounting because of work-life balance more than discrimination in the workplace. A report by the firm - entitled "Battle of the Sexes?" - also says 90 percent of male accountants in the UK believe efforts to create more opportunities for women are impacting their prospects for promotion.

Male accountants slam female-friendly policies []

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Yes, Even Bloggers Go Out of Town

Sometimes circumstances get even beyond the most well-intentioned correspondents. So, please forgive me, but I'll be offline for the week of Feb. 5, returning to service (as it were) on Feb 12. If you're in the Northeast, stay warm. If you're in, say, Palm Desert, California, where I hear the temperature was 85 degrees today - All I can tell you is I'm insanely jealous.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Queenly Managment

When I first saw that Bob Rosner of ABC News was trying to draw parallels between Queen Elizabeth II and run-of-the-mill managers, I balked. (Well, I sneered.) But his article actually makes some good points about management that can be drawn from the movie The Queen, an account of Britain's royal family in the days following the death of Princess Diana. So, all you managers out there:

What does this have to do with managing? Many of us are like the queen. We think we understand what is in the minds of our people. But we are often woefully out of touch with what they really think or feel about work.

Don't believe me? Think about the last time you were in a meeting when someone offered a criticism they'd heard from the rank and file. What happened? Chances are that someone said it just came from a chronic complainer … or that the critic didn't really understand the reason for the new initiative … or some other excuse was raised to discredit the criticism.

Watch this movie, but don't think about the queen. Think about all your queenlike tendencies and all the beliefs that you hold much too tightly where you work.

Management Lessons From 'The Queen' [ABC News]