Friday, February 29, 2008

You Just Can't Find Good Help Anymore

How hard is it for corporate controllers to fill entry-level slots in their departments these days? Here's an anecdote from the trenches - in Hollywood.

Alexander Georgiev, controller at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Calif., is finding it ever harder to find good help. In a recent issue of California CPA, the magazine of the California Society of CPAs, he was quoted saying:

The pool of people we choose from is getting smaller and it’s getting harder to fill low-level positions. Before, we’d throw an ad in the paper that would say 'CBS,' and people jumped on it, which left us with real good choices. I had to pay recruiters for my last two AP clerks, which are basic, entry-level positions.

Excellence, Leadership and Vision Delivered to CalCPA Members [California CPA Magazine]

One Word, Ben: 'Carbon'

An interesting item from Accountancy Age in the UK: Access Accounting has launched an accounting system that calculates the size of a business's carbon footprint.

The new technology has been developed with the help of DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Carbon Trust and will allow users to account for their carbon emissions on a transaction-by-transaction basis.

By inputting details such as miles traveled for distribution teams and the amount of watts used on electricity bills alongside standard accounting entries, users will be able to measure the amount of carbon a business uses.

This makes me wonder if a new specialty is on the horizon: Accounting focused on things like carbon emissions. (It seems to be happening in the investment world. See this article.)

Access launches emissions accounting package [Accountancy Age]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tennessee's Top Accountants

Tennessee Business magazine has a handy overview accounting leaders at work in the state.
Caveats aside, this list contains 25 of Tennessee’s finest accountants, number crunchers who, thanks to the following list will for a while at least have to settle for a higher profile than usual.
Strength in Numbers [Tennessee Business]

Expanding in Baltimore

Accounting firms in the Baltimore-Washington area are making room for new staffers through office expansions and new branches.
Midsize accounting firms throughout the region are taking on additional office space to to make room for ongoing staff expansions.

Fueled by increased demand for their services, including audit, business consulting or tax advisory work, local accounting firms are growing, adding new workers, occupying more space and in some cases, opening new locations.
Midsize accounting firms in region bulking up [Baltimore Business Journal]

Roundup: Mergers and Promotions

Cherry, Bekaert & Holland acquires Aidman, Piser, and becomes the largest firm in Tampa outside of the Big Four.

Here's our roundup.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

About International Assignments

You're no longer competing only against the accountant in the next cubicle, now you have to beat out the accountant in the next country, according to a survey of more the 850 C-suite executives in the U.S., the European Union and Asia.

The survey found recruiting talent was a concern for 67 percent of those surveyed, surpassed only by competition and the health of the global economy.

Here's our full story.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More on Volunteering

This item from caught my eye.
As more employees see volunteer work as a way to learn new skills or move their careers forward, volunteering has become a sort of corporate benefit. Companies are increasingly offering time off for volunteer projects, volunteer work on company time or company-organized efforts.
Last month, James Rubin looked into why volunteering can also help your career:
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.

Q&A: Kenn McFarland, CPA, Hospital CFO

"Young accountants don't want to make decisions because they want to do more analysis. I got some wonderful advice: Don't be afraid to make the decision. You've got to have it in your head but you've got to move with your heart."

Here's our interview.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oh, What A Firm Will Do...

It's probably no surprise that firms are doing most anything within reason to keep their accountants happy, given it's tax season and all. If you're not getting fed often and well, you might want to compare your work environment to that of KAWG&F in Annapolis, Md.
KAWG&F, a public accounting firm with an office in Annapolis, set up a "fun committee" to plan snow-tubing events, sports team parties, charitable initiatives - and plenty of meals.

"The firm is a big believer in providing lots of food for the staff," said CPA Stephen Kullman, a company shareholder in charge of the Annapolis office on Admiral Cochrane Drive. "We have breakfast brought in three times a week, lunch on Saturdays and we do have several happy hours that we sponsor throughout the tax season."

How does all this go over? accountant Marie Carbone is one of the firm's "rising stars." The 28-year-old said she appreciates the constant snacks her Annapolis office provides and said she's already looking forward to the after-tax-season party at Ruth's Chris Steak House on Severn Avenue.

Ms. Carbone said the incentives offered by KAWG&F were a big part of why she took the job in October. She's never come across so many perks.

"The list just kept going on and on," she said.
Firms offer perks to help their accountants survive the tax season [The Capital]

Earlier and Earlier

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, an item on how the big firms are grabbing the talent from colleges well before graduation:
(Accounting student Danny) Abrams said he has seen firsthand the effects of market demand. Big-name accounting firms come on campus "gobbling up" students in record numbers -- so much so that smaller firms have a hard time finding anyone to work for them.

Rachel Henderson, another U of M graduate student, estimated that around 75 percent of students are already locked into jobs in their senior year.

"With demand from CPA firms, there's such big turnover," Henderson said. And that drives firms to recruit students before they graduate.
Shortages in the field making accounting the hot place to be [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

Last Week's Poll

So, how about that recession? Coming soon? Already here? Our last poll turned up there results:

Q: The Recession is...
  • Here - 65%
  • Coming in the next few months - 12%
  • Not going to happen - 19%
  • I have no idea - 5%

Friday, February 22, 2008

Educating Tomorrow's Accountants

College campuses are the critical battlegrounds for combating the accountant shortage - as we and others have often observed. A chance item in a Wisconsin small-town newspaper shows that the battle isn't confined to the Whartons and Chicagos of the world, but is also being fought at the grass roots.

"The Fox Valley Technical College's Oshkosh campus is expanding its accounting program in response to increasing job opportunities in that field," says the article in the Northwestern, in Oshkosh, Wis. (population 69,216).

The technical college is gradually increasing its number of accounting students over the years as part of its regional business plan, said Melissa Kohn, FVTC Oshkosh campuses director. The program has increased by 15 percent since 2005, which at that time had 90 students....

"So, the growth is really indicative of meeting the trends of the labor market," Kohn said.

Accounting is one of four areas slated for expansion in a business plan the campus adopted last September with the aim of boosting full-time enrollment 8 percent by 2010. (The other three growth areas are certified nursing, medical assistant and information technology.)

The Oshkosh campus increased accounting course offerings and hired two new accounting professors this year. One of them, Kay Bellile, said students in her classes include high school graduates, displaced workers and people re-entering the workforce.

Accounting program at FVTC Oshkosh reports growth [The Northwestern]

Good News/Bad News

For the first time since 2005, senior-level CPAs are sour on the economy. The latest Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey of the AICPA and the University of North Carolina's Kenan- Flagler Business School found 59 percent of them were pessimistic or very pessimistic about the economic outlook for the U.S. over the next 12 months. Only 11 percent were optimistic.

But - and it's an interesting "but" - 46 percent were optimistic or very optimistic about their organization's economic prospects, while just 21 percent were pessimistic or very pessimistic. Most organizations still expect some growth in revenue, profits and employment, the survey found.

Here's the AICPA's press release (PDF)

The Art of Effective Presentations

If you hate the idea of giving a presentation, you're far from alone. Although speaking in public frightens many people, the ability to give presentations can boost your career immeasurably. It helps you gain visibility and exposure, and increases your chances of getting that new job or promotion.

Here's our story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hirings and Mergers

Our weekly roundup of hirings, promotions and mergers is online here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Does SOX 404 Improve Processes?

It may be causing you to stay late far too often, but Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley has led to improved processes, according to 65 percent of chief financial officers at technology companies surveyed for BDO Seidman’s 2008 Technology Outlook Survey. The other 35 percent feel 404 has curtailed innovation at their businesses.
“Although technology companies were hesitant to adopt Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley, the majority have realized improved processes due to their compliance efforts and do not believe 404 has adversely impacted their level of risk-taking,” said Hank Galligan, a Partner in BDO Seidman’s Technology Practice. “The CFOs at these technology companies are also very optimistic that 404 costs will stabilize this year.”
The survey of 100 CFOs at technology firms with revenues between $100 million and $15 billion also found:

  • 53 percent of CFOs believe their 404 costs will hold steady in 2008, 22 percent think costs will climb and 24 percent expect 404 costs will decline.
  • Over half (54 percent) of the surveyed CFOs manage Section 404 compliance in-house, while 11 percent who use an external provider. Just over one-third (35 percent) use a combination of in-house and outsourced resources to manage SOX compliance.

Hedge Funds Expected to Add CPAs

Hedge funds in New York and New Jersey need CPAs who can handle risk management. Even in the midst of the credit crunch - and maybe because of it - funds will bring on board more accountants as they mature and receive more scrutiny.

Here's our story.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We Got A Challenge For You

How well do you know finance and accounting rules and trivia? Our marketing department - always looking for ways to make friends - is offering a chance to test your knowledge and compete against other finance professionals in the JobsintheMoney Accounting Challenge. You could win $1,000. "Hurry," exhorts our Marketing Director Maria. "The Challenge ends on February 22nd!" (You'll need to register for JITM to participate.)

Check out the accounting challenge.

Switch Jobs During Tax Season?

With so many empty seats to fill, public accounting firms may be willing to overlook a candidate's willingness to jump during the busy season. But that doesn't mean doing so is a good idea.

Here's our story.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

E&Y Gets Behind CSU Career Center

Ernst & Young is offering a $500,000 matching grant to California State University, Northridge, to create the Ernst & Young Center for Career Advancement, which which will provide career counseling and placement services to students pursuing careers in accounting and information systems.

Here's a press release.

Our Weekly Roundup...

Flexible scheduling is losing ground as a recruiting tool. Dixon Hughes absorbs a Memphis firm, while Archer Daniels Midland, CNET and Conn's name new CFOs.

Our weekly roundup is here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Which Is It?

Another data point on staffing being the critical issue accounting firms face: A press release for the Institute of Management and Administration's Accounting Office Management & Administration Report says:
Staffing challenges are encouraging CPA firms to work smarter and more efficiently through technology improvements, and more CPA firms are moving firm administrators and other administration leaders into the executive management ranks, providing administration expertise that frees CPA firm partners to do what they do best.
What's that mean? Seems like firms are looking to redeploy their staffs so that the genuine accountants are spending more time billing and less time doing administrative chores. The IOMA also says:
Recruitment trends reported in the "Handbook" include using internships, flextime, telecommuting, and established relationships with local colleges and universities. Only 12.4% of the firms surveyed felt that offering a higher starting salary was a successful hiring tactic (my bold). CPA firms reported that flextime, greater involvement of staff in firm operations, more CPE, more social activities, and training in marketing and leadership development were the best methods for improving staff retention.
But: Contrast that with Robert Half's survey, which we reported on here, that found 37 percent of chief financial officers think compensation is the most effective incentive for attracting accounting professionals. It also found that the proportion of CFOs who cited telecommuting and flexible schedules as the biggest draw for candidates
...plummeted to just 13 percent this year, from 33 percent in 2003. Meanwhile, soaring medical costs are making the benefits package almost as important to job candidates as salary. While a mere 2 percent of CFOs named benefits as the top influence on candidates' choices in 2003, the figure jumped to 33 percent in 2008.
So, accounting firms are thinking flextime and involvement, while corporations think money and healthcare benefits. Hm. I'm wondering why the difference.

Health Benefits Overshadow Work-Life Balance

Traditional benefits such as health insurance are surging as recruiting tools, while telecommuting and flexible work schedules are losing ground.

Read our story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Merger Trend Can Impact Careers

If you work in a small CPA firm, would your career suffer if your employer were to merge with a larger organization? If you think so, you'd better start preparing now.

Here's our story.

Tech CFOs Sweat Recruiting More than Credit

It's official. The challenge of recruiting accounting talent is bigger than the challenge of the credit crunch.

San Francisco's BDO Seidman, LLP questioned 100 chief financial officers at technology companies throughout the U.S. to find 38 percent believe the ability to recruit and retain talent is the greatest challenge they face for the coming year. Risk management (23 percent) was second, followed by access to capital (15 percent), financial reporting and corporate governance issues (14 percent) and foreign competition (9 percent).

As a group, CFOs in Silicon Valley were even more worried about talent management. A whopping 55 percent listed it as their greatest challenge for the year.

International accounting issues are also worrying the CFOs. Almost half (49 percent) say new accounting rules that allow foreign companies to use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) without reconciling the figures to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) put their company at a competitive disadvantage.

Not surprisingly, the CFOs think GAAP's revenue recognition rules are better than IFRS' for technology companies. Nearly 70 percent of the CFOs prefer U.S. GAAP revenue recognition compared to 21 percent for IFRS. Yet, more than a third (38 percent) said they'd switch to IFRS if they could, to better compete with international firms.

The lack of concern over the credit crunch may be due to the fact only 27 percent of the CFOs think they'll be seeking additional capital in 2008. Among the Silicon Valley CFOs, 86 percent didn't expect to need a capital infusion this year.

These findings come from the BDO Seidman 2008 Technology Outlook Survey, which queried CFOs at companies in the software, hardware, telecommunications and Internet sub-industries with revenues ranging from more than $100 million to $15 billion including. The survey was conducted in January of 2008.

Last Week's Poll

The question was which specialties will be hot this year. The answers:
  • Compliance 30%
  • Internal audit 22%
  • International accounting 19%
  • They are all hot 15%
  • Tax accounting 14%
This week, we're wondering what you think about the Recession: Is it here, is it coming, or is it not going to happen? Let us know, on JobsintheMoney.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Professors Say PwC is #1

Grant Thornton has the best work/life balance and ethics, but PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was the top overall winner when Public Accounting Report asked 1,200 accounting educators to rank the Global Seven firms.

PwC ranked first in five categories: future outlook, client service, technical reputation, staff training and career opportunity. KPMG won the diversity category and Ernst & Young finished first in compensation, according to Public Accounting Report’s 26th Annual Professor’s Survey—2007.

After adding up all the scores from the nine categories, Public Accounting Report ranked the firms this way:

1. PwC
2. Deloitte
4. Ernst &Young
5. Grant Thornton
6. RSM McGladrey
7. BDO Seidman

More 'Resources' at the IRS?

The IRS is likely to get more money for enforcement in the budget proposal now wending its way through Congress, though exactly what that means for the Service's headcount isn't clear. Says The Wall Street Journal:
… lawmakers in both parties sound eager to give the IRS more tools to improve tax compliance and boost revenue.

In addition, Congress is expected to increase the IRS's budget, especially for enforcement activities, such as audits. President Bush asked Congress to appropriate a record $11.36 billion for the IRS for the year starting Oct. 1, according to a Treasury Department publication. That would be an increase of 4.3% from the amount enacted for fiscal 2008; spending on enforcement would rise more than 7%, the publication says.
Last month the group OMB Watch said the IRS was suffering from a lack of enforcement resources, misplaced priorities and inefficient policies. In addition,
The funding shortage has also impacted the number of staff the IRS can hire. Over the last ten years, the workforce has shrunk 18 percent, according to IRS statistics. The number of revenue agents and officers -- IRS employees who perform audits -- has decreased even faster, by 40 and 30 percent, respectively.
Stay tuned.

Best Workplaces: CPA Firms Rank High, But Not Tops

They may be great places to launch a career, but the Big Four landed far from the pinnacle in Fortune Magazine's annual ranking of America's 100 most desirable employers.

Here's our story.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Our roundup of mergers and moves is online here.

No Surprise

What's interesting about this report by the Associated Press isn't the main topic - hiring's good at accounting firms - but that the general business media seems to be noticing how strong the job market is for accountants right now. A week or so ago, we saw a similar piece in The Wall Street Journal, and I've noticed other versions in local newspapers. The focus of this piece is on interns.
All the firms said interns are a key to their success.

"Interns are your best channel to filling your full-time positions," said Diane Borhani, Deloitte & Touche's U.S. campus recruiting leader.

"The way the labor market is, with the boomers retiring, it's imperative companies hire. By 2010 we think that half our work force is going to be Generation Y," said Dan Black, director of campus recruiting at Ernst & Young LLP.
It's more good news for anyone interested in swapping jobs, or students planning the start of their careers. And another reason for a deep sigh from executives looking for someone to hire.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Are You Sitting Next to a Lout?

Are accounting firms so desperate they'll hire even self-centered clods?

The question came to mind the other night when I pulled into my local convenience store. A car was parked across three or so spaces, preventing me from parking my own car in front of the door.

"Why is that car parked that way?” asked my 10-year-old, who was in the backseat with a friend.

“It belongs to somebody who doesn’t care whether anyone else can park in front of the door,” I told her.

We go in, I grab a gallon of milk, and at the register my daughter points out there’s a pile of gum packs lying on the floor in front of the counter. The clerk says he knows all about it. "That little kid who just left knocked them over," he tells us. "Her mom said, ‘Leave them. We don’t have to pick them up.’”

Guess which car they were driving?

"You'd make me pick them up," says my daughter. I agree and tell her I'll help her pick up the gum now. Even though we didn't spill it, we'll do a good deed. My daughter's friend chimes in: “If I knocked over the gum, my mother wouldn’t even help, she’d just make me pick up the gum by myself.”

Naturally, I wonder where the sideways parking, gum-leaving woman works. It's what made me wonder if it was at some accounting firm. After all, these days firms sometimes just want a body behind a desk.

So, back to my question: Are firms desperate enough to hire the self-centered? Can you be oblivious to the needs of others and still make it in accounting? How many of these idiots do you work with - or for?

Post your answer below.

Life in Forensic Accounting

Here's a factoid for you:
Ninety-one percent of convicted bank robbers go to jail, while only seventeen percent of those convicted of embezzling from a bank serve time, according to the American Bar Association.
I found that in an article in Knowledge@WPCarey, published by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The article, Financial Detectives: The Rising Demand for Forensic Accountants, is a good overview of the state of forensic accounting right now, including some aspects on the lifestyle that goes with being a practitioner. For example:
...only one of every hundred or so certified public accountants currently focuses primarily on forensic work. That may be partly because forensic investigations often wind up as evidence in legal proceedings, including full-fledged trials. As Epps said, "some don't want the stress of ending up on the witness stand, being cross-examined. And once a judge sets deadlines, and the trial starts, you lose control of your life; your schedule revolves around the needs of the case."
Financial Detectives: The Rising Demand for Forensic Accountants [Knowledge@WPCarey]

More on Why Accounting's Popular

Dave Simanoff of the Tampa Tribune writes a nice wrapup about why accounting has become such a popular choice for undergrads, and why demand for accountants isn't going away anytime soon.

Instead of scaring young people away from the profession, the scandals earlier this decade may have helped recruit new accountants.

"In kind of a weird way, the bad news got more students interested," said Chuck Landes, vice president of the Professional Standards Group for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

"They saw it as a way to do something positive, not just for themselves, but for the public."

Yeah, yeah. We've heard all that before. Stephanie Bryant, director of the School of Accountancy at the University of South Florida, put it another way:

"The students get it - they see this is a very different job today, with many different avenues of specialty," Bryant said. "Kids today want to be challenged, and they want to do interesting stuff."

Demand For Accountants On The Rise [Tampa Tribune]

Pay Moving Higher in California

Why are California employers nervous? Because a whole lot of accountants are open to the idea of changing jobs, and their replacements are nowhere in sight.

Here's our story.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Here's a Twist: Employers Pay You For Interview

The economy is shaky, so candidates lack leverage with employers, right? Not exactly., a newly launched Web site, leads off with this striking pitch: "Get Paid to Interview For Jobs." It's gotten off to a strong start with a business model in which employers actually pay candidates they interview. And we're not talking Joe's Fly-By-Night: such platinum names as Google, Yahoo and Facebook are already recruiting on the site, Associated Press reports.

The typical NotchUp candidate is what's known as a passive job-seeker – a person who's doing well where they are and doesn't post resumes or answer job ads, but is potentially open to the right deal if someone approaches them. The AP story explains:

You plug in your industry, job, pay and experience into a calculator on the site to help you set your pay for an interview. (NotchUp recommends a range between $200 and $500.) Then you submit your profile to the site. If a hiring company is interested in you, it deposits the money with NotchUp and talks to you. If you seem like a real, engaged candidate, NotchUp will transfer the money to your PayPal account once the interview is over. The site makes money by charging a transaction fee, which it estimates will be somewhere around 15 and 20 percent.
Site Arranged Pay for Job Interviews [AP]

Friday, February 01, 2008

Opportunities in Healthcare Companies

Hospitals, insurers and others in the business need accounting and finance help - and are willing to pay for it. Here's the story.