Thursday, January 31, 2008

Looking for Trouble

I just have to believe there's going to be even more demand for forensic accountants in the next couple of years...

FBI subprime investigation targets 14 firms [Washington Times]
Trained to follow money trail [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

New Controller, CAO at R.H. Donnelley

R.H. Donnelley, purveyor of Yellow Pages around the country, named R. Barry Sauder as its corporate controller and chief accounting officer. Working out of the company's Cary, N.C., headquarters and reporting to CFO Steve Blondy, he takes the controller's job right away but will wait for Donnelley's annual report to be filed before replacing Karen E. Palczuk as chief accounting officer.
Sauder was previously chief accounting officer at InfraSource Services, a publicly traded utilities contractor that was bought out by Quanta Services in 2007 for more than $1.25 billion. Prior to that, he was accounting head at e-commerce company GSI Commerce.
R.H. Donnelley hires accounting head [Triangle Business Journal]

In Case You Were Wondering...

Demand Won't Let Up Any Time Soon.

The short-term economic outlook may seem dim, but good times are far from over for accounting job candidates.

Here's our story.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Mid-Size Firms Seek in California

Despite the slump in real estate and worries about the economy, the market for accountants in Los Angeles and Orange County shows few signs of tailing off. Several small- and mid-sized firms will be adding employees in upcoming months, and even beyond. Consider Windes & McClaughry.

Read why.

The View From Over 50

Twenty one percent of the U.S. workforce will be 55 or older by 2014, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if you feel superannuated among your Gen X and Y colleagues, you've got age-appropriate company. And the good news is: Employers will value your experience.

Read the full story.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Down, but not Out at Deloitte?

Wall Street tabloid was reporting yesterday that Deloitte was reorganizing its mortgage, asset-backed and CDO transaction practice group. A company spokesman, cried foul and said they were just moving folks around. In what may be the biggest understatement so far in 2008 the spokesperson added that the “economy may have slowed securitizations transactions.”

In response to the post, an anonymous commenter (who claimed to be one of the Deloitte folks in question) called Deloitte “liars,” an argument ensued over who gets worked harder IB or Big 4 folks, then everything degraded into gender and immigrant bashing. All in a day’s work at Dealbreaker.

Although the mortgage securitization market may be going down the crapper, Deloitte’s Web site today listed 467 NYC-based jobs as open, as well as 6,206 positions nationwide for experienced hires.

If you’re tired of Big Four work, maybe you can make your first million cleaning up the subprime mortgage mess. Anyone who watched the Resolution Trust Corporation tackle the $400 billion S&L wreck of the last decade knows just how much money can be made in a market where there are lots of mortgage loans lying around, few investors and plenty of technology to sort the good risk from the bad.

You Could Be the Next Compliance Star

Compliance costs “grew significantly faster than net income for financial institutions,” in part because banks and thrifts are adding people to monitor compliance versus using technology resources to manage it, according to a new report from Deloitte & Touche USA.

Compliance costs as a percentage of net income rose from 2.83 percent in 2002 to 3.69 percent in 2006, said survey respondents, which included chief compliance officers, chief risk officers and other senior execs at 20 of the top 50 banks and thrifts.

Deloitte also blamed the increase on failure to manage compliance across functions. Institutions have not taken advantage of the overlapping elements of Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel and the USA PATRIOT Act. And, they’re replicating compliance practices in individual lines of business, an approach that makes it tough to develop comprehensive compliance information.

Sounds to us like a case for you being in charge of a visibility-raising, across-the-business-lines committee.

What about Roberta in Accounting?

How do you feel about being called "Bob in accounting" and being too thoughtless to encrypt your data? “[I]f large corporations and government agencies can't seem to get into the habit of encrypting sensitive information, how can you expect Bob in accounting to do the same? Besides, encryption is a hassle. It's another step between Bob and his spreadsheets. Who needs more friction in their lives?” asks InfoWeek Blogger George Hulme.

Hulme writes about technology to control the flow of information into and out of companies, including stopping downloads from desktops to storage devices.

“(I)t presumably will be easier to lock down those gadgets, so if they're lost nothing of value can be gleaned from the drive. Will Bob do it? Will more companies now use encryption?” Hulme wonders

We wonder if any accountants are going to be willing to do Hulme’s taxes after reading the blog .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Apparently, There's a Shortage

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a long piece on the need for experienced CPAs.
"We beg, we borrow, we steal, we grovel, we scour the world" to find accountants with five-plus years of experience in public accounting, says Mark Friedman, New York-based managing director and head of U.S. experienced recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Hiring across the board at the firm is running nearly 30% above the levels of last year, he says.
The trends's not news, but the numbers in the article are all good to know, especially if you're thinking about broaching the idea of a raise.

Accounting Firms Scramble To Find Experienced CPAs [WSJ]

Pay Pressures in the Bay Area

CPAs in California's Bay Area are earning more than their peers elsewhere in the U.S. - and nearly 20 percent more than those in Southern California. Nearly a third would jump to another firm as a way to boost their salaries still higher. The findings didn't surprise Rich Williams, president of recruiter Kula Consulting, which conducted the "non-scientific" survey of 325 accountants. "What we're seeing is baby boomers retiring at a faster rate than they are being replaced," he says. "The number of CPA certificates awarded in California has remained flat at less than 3,000 a year for the past 10 years - and we've seen no indication this number will rise." That's not great news for anyone looking to hire accountants. "Companies can expect the seller's market to continue for 2008," Williams predicts. "I suggest companies spend time today with their accounting staff and find out what it will take to retain them - and give it to them."

More tidbits from around the country in our weekly roundup. It's here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Does Virtual Connection Lead to Real Life Connection?

Recruiting new accountants on campus is a tough and competitive job these days, even if you’re working for KPMG. So it comes as no surprise the firm seeking to connect with professors via a new Web portal:

Looking at the equation from the other side, the rising use of adjunct professors (who are renowned for spreading themselves thin commuting to several different campuses to teach a variety of classes) makes it more likely those teaching accounting will welcome KPMG’s help in creating courses, keeping up with accounting news and accessing KPMG research and resources. The company will even send a local accounting professional over to help with course work it’s created such as last fall’s “The Ethical Compass - A Toolkit for Integrity in Business.”

I asked three academics what they thought of the site. “Most of the firms seem to have some kind of web-based material for faculty. This one may be unique—but also, may not be much different from the others,” said Kathleen D. Lowman, director, MAC Career Services for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Shannon Mulally, who directs the MAC program at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., thought the site was worthy of a mention on our blog. (See how well we listen?)

Peter Rea, chair of the department of business administration at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, pointed out these types of sites are beneficial. But in true professorial fashion, he added a few caveats:

(1) Marketing 101 tells us the number of these portals is increasing, so providers need to define the customer and their associate needs, wants and values clearly. In thoughtful portals like KPMG, this is usually the case.

(2) Connection should not be confused with community. We live in a world that is connected, but being wired is not synonymous with creating a community. At a time when employers are trying to create an “engaged workforce” and innovators are looking for creative cultures, engaged leaders understand relationships cannot be replaced by a portal.

Judge the new KPMG portal for yourself at:

Happy Tank Day

Since early this morning, the news junkie in me has been watching the overseas stock markets and reading the predictions that the market is going to tank today. Time will tell, of course, but I don't think anyone much doubts business in general is heading for some kind of slowdown. That, of course, makes me think of corporate austerity programs, scaled back retention efforts, maybe finance chiefs will say they don't really need that extra staffer they've been looking for over the last year. Then I hear from someone who says, "Naaaaw. Not in Accounting. There's not going to be any kind of let up there."

Wishful thinking? Maybe. On the other hand, this guy argues there's still a structural deficit in the number of able bodies out there who are trained and ready to do the work, which has to be done, slowdown or now slowdown.

Stuff to think about. If you've got thoughts, let me know.

More than 'Feel Good'

Too busy for volunteer work? There's a reason you may want to find time to squeeze some in: It can boost your career, and even help you be a better accountant.

Indeed, through volunteering many CPAs have been able to shore up skills, gain management and international experience, widen their network of professional contacts and generate new business. Some say working for worthy causes has given them a new appreciation of the importance of their expertise, because it allows them to see results more directly than they do on larger team projects.

Read the Full Story.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Public Companies and the Big Four

Audits of large public companies continue to be the nearly exclusive province of the Big Four, the Government Accountability Office has found. According to a GAO, 82 percent of large public the Fortune 1000 saw their choice of auditor as limited to three or fewer firms, and about 60 percent said competition in their audit market is insufficient. Fees have risen, but executives generally said audit quality has increased as well. If you're interested, the report's here. Be sure to see Francine McKenna's take on the report on her blog, re: The Auditors.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Regulatory Relief, Or Consumer Rip-Off?

Accountants licensed in other states will face less red tape to practice in California, under proposed legislation endorsed by the California Board of Accountancy.

The proposal would remove California's current requirement that out-of-state accountants notifying the state of their qualifications before practicing there. Eleven states have already modified their laws to eliminate local registration requirements, and accounting regulators in another 33 states including California are supporting similar legislation, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

That didn't prevent the Orange County Register from running a grandstanding column that portrays the measure as the latest in a series of plots by the Big Four CPA firms and industry lobbyists to rip off consumers.

Brian Joseph, the Register's regular "Capital Watchdog" columnist, wrote:

Board staff warned that eliminating the requirement would make it impossible to prevent unqualified accountants – or even convicted felons – from preying on California consumers. Furthermore, the board itself recommends that Californians carefully review qualifications before hiring an accountant. The board's enforcement chief, Greg Newington, even prefers notice. The board, however, ignored its own advice and approved draft legislation to eliminate prior notice, even though a key section of the bill was left blank at the time.

The piece continues in that vein. In fairness to the columnist, I should add that he does give ample space to the other side, quoting lengthy and convincing rebuttals from representatives of the accounting profession.

Proposal would relax rules on CPAs []

Demand Rising from N.Y. Non-Profits

Large not-for-profit associations and philanthropic organizations pick the Big Apple as a key spot to locate. For area CPAs with the right credentials, the nonprofit sector holds good, though specialized, opportunities.

Read the full story.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Uncovering Your Resume's Hidden Surprises

If a manager searches the Web about that hobby of yours, do you know what they'll find? Are you sure?

Read on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mergers and Promotions

Cohen & Company moves into Columbus, StoneTurn Group hires and promotes, and Goldstein Schechter Price Lucas Horwitz merges with Koch Reiss. Here's our roundup.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Great Bay State Telecommute

With something like eight inches of snow falling on Massachusetts yesterday, it seemed like the region's workers embarked on a wide telecommuting experiment, says the Boston Globe.
If nothing else, yesterday's modest storm proved to be a one-day experiment in the effectiveness of the home office, especially among those not used to it. All across the region, many found a few surprising pitfalls entwined with the obvious perks.
On top of power failures breaking off their Internet connections, many found themselves immersed in unexpected workday dynamics - from dogs that needed walking to out-of-school children who needed entertaining. Maybe the most painful remark came from a spouse who said of her husband's unexpected presence: "When he's home, it throws a wrench into our schedule."

Many workers make it a telecommute [Boston Globe]

Auditors, Senior Accountants Lead Wish Lists

Even if everyone's looking for CPAs, some specialties are in more demand than others. Combine expertise in an area like internal auditing or hedge fund accounting with softer skills like communication, and you could be the object of affection for many a firm.

Read the full story.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Roundup: Mergers in East, Midwest

Small and mid-sized firms are merging in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Here's our roundup.

High-End Hiring

Here's an item: TheLadders, a Web site that focuses on jobs with salaries over $100,000, says hiring activity at the high end of the market is surging.
It’s interesting to note that although the top line jobs number only grew at a modest rate of 18,000 jobs in December, service-sector employment rose 93,000 and business and professional services companies' payrolls gained 43,000. This is an extremely positive signal because hiring patterns at the high end of the market are often a better leading indicator of companies’ future growth prospects, than trailing employment roll data.
Among the firms doing a lot of high-end hiring, says the report: PricewaterhouseCoopers and JPMorgan Chase.

Here's a press release.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Midsize Firms Act to Retain Young Accountants

To keep junior staffers from bolting, midsized accounting firms are moving to provide more feedback from managers, formal input into firm decisions, departmental and individual employee work schedules calibrated to minimize the 24/7 syndrome, and mentoring programs.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How to Economize on Audit Fees

What happens when you stop using a Big Four firm for your audit work? You save a bunch of money, figures telecommunications systems company Catapult Communications. By switching from Deloitte & Touche to Los Angeles-based Stonefield Josephson, Catapult estimates it will save between 43 and 49 percent off the $985,000 it expected Deloitte to charge this year. (Last year, the company paid nearly $1.1 million in audit fees.)

Catapult Ditches Deloitte [WebCPA]

New Skills Required for CFOs

If you have designs on a chief financial officer's office in California or other points west, you'd be wise to strengthen your communication and other "softer" skills. The region's employers are more likely to hire executives who know how to present information clearly and work well with others. In other words, financial skills aren't enough any more.

Read the full story.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Working in Your Sleep

When companies can’t find enough accountants, those already on the payroll have to pick up the slack and that can lead to some very lengthy hours.

Almost every accounting candidate coming to see Kent Burns, an account executive with MRINetwork (MRI), Indianapolis, is asking about work-life balance. “They’re asking, 'How many hours are they really working people over there?'” he reports adding that candidates in their 20s and 30s are more sensitive to that than candidates in their 40s.

That anecdote is backed up by an MRI survey of 500 people that found people working in the evening, on weekends and during their commute – leading me to wonder if really great multi-taskers will now be able to shave their faces, read a report and drive themselves to work at the same time.

The poll revealed 65 percent of the participants frequently work after hours, 19 percent sometimes do, 9 percent occasionally stay late and 5 percent never do.

A whopping 70 percent said their company doesn’t do a good job of allowing them to balance their work life with their personal life.

So how does that play out in the real world? And what does Burns tell people who worry their next job will require even more hours than the one they’re leaving because it required too many hours?

In some cases he says: “This is an industry leading company, and they didn’t get this way by sending everyone home at 5 p.m. Do you want to work at that level, learn a lot, advance and make a lot of money?”

In other cases, he can honestly say a company is sensitive to work/life issues and you can expect to work 40 to 50 hours a week.

In the big scheme of things, it could be worse. We haven’t heard of any accounting firms asking employees to work in their sleep -- something the 2nd Annual Staples National Small-Business Survey says small-business owners are doing.

“More small-business owners and managers are working harder than ever to make their business dream come true…even while they sleep,” proclaims a press release sent out by the company over Business Wire last week.

Half of small-business professionals surveyed said they dream about work and nearly 70 percent of those dreamers wake up and put their work dream ideas into action. Sounds good to me. I think I’ll go sew some pockets in my pajamas to hold all the money I’m going to be making while I’m sleeping.

The Year of the....

If you believe what you read in the papers, 2008 is going to - in a word - suck. The news coming from Wall Street seems to be consistently downbeat lately, economic indicators are starting to depress people, and I always get a funny little knot in my stomach when people start anticipating the Fed chairman's next speech.

But, if you believe what you read on JobsintheMoney, maybe things aren't going to be so grim. When we asked in our last poll what kind of year 2006 will be, users came back with a split decision: Thirty two percent said we're in store for a better 12 months than most expect, while 31 percent said it will be dismal.

Sixteen percent said 2008 will be a good time to look for a new job, which was a stronger showing than the 10 percent who look on it as a good time to seek a new career.

What's your outlook? Post your comment and let us know. And, be sure to look at the latest poll, which wonders whether you expect your firm to merge this year.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Taxes in Spanish?

Liberty Tax Service is offering scholarships to the Interpreter Training Institute for bilingual employees who agree to work the full tax season at one of the preparer's offices. The firm freely admits (in a press release) "the hourly rate may not be what other companies pay but the educational perk truly can't be beaten."

Dona Dezube, who pointed this out to me, wondered in an e-mail:
Okay, so they're not the top of the accounting food chain, but apparently tax preparers need to speak Spanish. Can it be long until accountants need the same skills?
It's a good question, especially for CPAs in the West and Southwest. And, Dona adds, weekly Spanish classes at your local community college probably aren't particularly expensive.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

More on Deloitte

Some interesting comments came in overnight to Myra Thomas's interview with Anne C. Weisberg, a director specializing in talent diversity at Deloitte Services LP. They talked about Deloitte's rollout of a "Mass Career Customization program" and the impact the firm hopes it will have on retention and employees satisfaction. One comment begins:
I work for Deloitte Consulting, and the consultant in me says "show me the data". While this is a summary article, I rather doubt that the airy-fairy "career customization" discussed here results in markedly improved employee satisfaction. The service professionals in Deloitte's practice groups aren't concerned with trying to make their 40 hours a week as pleasant as possible, they're interested in working as hard and as long as necessary to deliver the best client service (and thus help their own careers). A good line of communication from HR, in that line of thinking, would be whatever impacts the client-service employees the LEAST, takes as little of their time as possible away from working and sleeping.
Check it all out, and add your own thoughts here.

Merger, Mergers

We've introduced a mergers roundup on JobsintheMoney, to help you keep track of who's joining whom - or who's buying whom - around the country. Check the first edition here, and be sure to send us any talk you hear of possible hook ups. (If you can call them that.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Balance at Deloitte

We talked with Deloitte Services' Anne C. Weisberg, a director specializing in talent diversity, about the firm's experience in keeping up with the changing workforce. Read the conversation here.