Thursday, July 31, 2008

What Dispute Resolution Involves

The Web site of the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel has a nut-and-bolts interview with Bryan H. Jones, Dispute Advisory Services leader for KPMG Forensic. It's an in-depth look at exactly what goes on in this area. There's no easy pull quote here, but if you're interested in the mind set of dispute-resolution professionals, this is worth the ten or 15 minutes it'll take to read.

The Important Role Of Accountants In Dispute Resolution

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not So Sweet

The flexibility that makes contracting attractive to many tech folks may be in danger. In today’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Sue Shellenbarger describes how more companies are taking up electronic monitoring of home-based independent contractors. That means they’re tracking keystrokes, taking screen shots and even peeking in via webcam.

The trend suggests the home office, long regarded as a calmer place to work, may evolve into just another office, fraught with the same constraints as a corporate cubicle.

Secular Forces Cushion Accounting Jobs

While both the overall U.S. economy and the financial sector represented by Wall Street hemorrhage jobs, a range of secular forces we have long spotlighted – the march of globalization and related evolution of reporting requirements, stepped-regulation, heightened emphasis on internal controls and risk management – continue to generate opportunities for accountants, analysts and financial executives within corporations.

Here's our story.

Pulcini Joins Goldstein Lewin

Mary Gullotto Pulcini joined Goldstein Lewin & Co. in Boca Raton Florida as an audit principal. Over 15 years, she has provided services to clients in manufacturing, distribution, hotels, time-share development and services. Previously, she was an audit director at McGladrey & Pullen in Fort Lauderdale. She also worked as a senior manager at American Express Tax and Business Services. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Miami, and a Master's of Accounting from Florida International University.

More here.

Executive Changes at Amper, Politziner & Mattia

Phil Politziner has become chairman of New Jersey's Amper, Politziner & Mattia after serving as president and chief executive. Howard Cohen, formerly parter in charge of the Edison, N.J., office, succeeds him. David Politziner, Phil's brother, becomes chief operating officer.

Here's the story from WebCPA.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Risk Management Jobs Boom in Chicago

Demand for experienced risk managers is climbing in the Chicago area, as the credit market blowup prompts large financial institutions to impose tighter controls on their own activities.

Recruiters active in Chicago report hiring in areas of portfolio-level risk management and enterprise risk management. Positions are open both within financial institutions and accounting firms that serve them.

Here's our story.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Notes from an Internship - Week 3

Paris was awesome! It was cool to see the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa, etc. I returned to London on Monday morning and got in with enough time to go home and freshen up for work. Living in central London is so convenient.

My Monday was busy since we were prepping for a half-year review engagement later in the week. I was assigned several tasks to complete for the review, so I compiled them into a list and prioritized. The end of the day seemed to come in the blink of an eye.

Tuesday was no different although I did get a break to go on a field trip to pick up copies of a client’s board meeting minutes. I had to make a summary of the minutes so we could see if the board of directors made any important decisions for the first six months of the year. After completing the summary, I headed off to a meeting for all the global audit interns, at which many KPMG audit leaders spoke about their experiences working in audit. Among the leaders was James Conway, the COO of audit, who shared his thoughts on global rotations, career progression, the auditing profession and working at KPMG. We had a lot of fun and didn’t end up leaving until after 8 pm. Of course the late work evening didn’t deter us interns from going out for a while afterwards.

Wednesday, I finished up more prep work and then packed and shipped a box of supplies via courier to a client site so we would have them when we arrived there the next morning. Then I headed about two and a half hours north of London via train to the hotel where we were staying for the rest of the week to be close to the client.

Thursday was a long day, but very productive. I tracked work papers, prepared an analytical review between the current and previous periods and learned a lot about the client and how it manages its business. That is definitely one of the best things about auditing - you learn so much about different industries and different types of companies and how they operate. I hope to audit companies in many different industries early in my career so I can gain a more well-rounded knowledge of business.

Friday, we finished up the rest of our work at the client site and then headed back to London. All this traveling is definitely teaching me to travel light! I got back just in time to meet with some of the interns for another social activity. (Who says accountants are boring, right?) We had a small party at our flat and then eventually headed to a club that plays drum & bass, which I honestly never had heard of before. Everyone dances to it like they’re having convulsions but it’s actually really fun. They definitely know how to have a good time in London! After recovering on Saturday, I went out to do some more shopping and sightseeing - my last weekend in London, but at least it was a fun one!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Podcast: Earning the CMA Credential

Listen in as the Institute of Management Accountants ' John M. Brausch, CMA, CFM, CPA, talks with Contributing Editor Dona DeZube about obtaining the Certified Management Accountant credential, including his experience in preparing for the exams.

Dona's interview is in two parts:

The vice president-property controller for Edens and Avant, a developer and owner of retail shopping centers, Brausch is chair of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants Board of Regents, and was a member of its exam review committee. He's also chair-elect of the IMA's national board and chair of its planning and development committee.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Career Change Blueprint

If you're unhappy with your current work, just switching jobs or employers probably won't help, says career-change coach Steve Bohler.

Instead, he argues that successful moves are rooted in a "personal career vision" that gives a central role to the person's natural talents, desires and values.

Here's the story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2007 a Good Year for Finance Professionals

Treasury managers’ and finance managers’ average pay was up 6.6 percent in 2007, while other mid-career professionals, including treasury directors, saw pay increases of 5.4 percent on average, according to the Association for Financial Professionals’ (AFP) 2008 Compensation Report.

AFP’s survey of 5,000 members at 2,000 companies found slightly more modest increases for chief financial officers (4.6 percent), vice presidents of finance (5.6 percent), assistant treasurers (5.1 percent) and cash managers (5.0 percent).

Bonuses were healthy last year, too. On average, those surveyed got bonuses equivalent to 16 percent of their base compensation, with executive-level financial professionals reporting the largest average bonuses both in total dollars received and as a percentage of their base salary.

The average base 2007 salaries reported by the survey include:

CFO: $185,700
VP of Finance: $171,500
Treasurer: $161,500
Treasury/Finance Director: $123,300
Manager Treasury/Finance: $97,300
Assistant Treasurer: $124,800
Cash Manager: $73,200

The survey also found that AFP members who have earned an MBA make 19 percent more than their counterparts with a bachelor’s degree.

Other factors that contributed to higher salaries included certifications such as the CTP, CPA, CIA or CFA, the respondent's contribution to profitability, job location and industry type.

Given the current tough economic conditions, what’s likely to happen to salaries this year? While AFP doesn’t have compensation data for 2008, its researchers sense is that the critical role played by finance professionals in this year’s market means those in this niche will remain in great demand, so compensation will keep pace with or exceed the pay raises given to those in other departments.

“Obviously, we don’t have any 2008 data,” says AFP spokesperson Allan Jordan, “but what we’re seeing is that the treasury role inside the company is critical in a bad economy.”

Anecdotally, AFP is hearing that the job market is balanced for finance professionals. No one is talking about cut-backs and positions are being filled, he adds.

California Opportunities With E&Y

After promoting and relocating several top managers within California and Arizona, Ernst & Young expects to add as many as 50 new positions each in its separate offices in San Diego and Orange County, Calif.

New Orange County office head John Belli and San Diego chief Mark Stephens plan to recruit both inside and outside California for a broad range of functions, including tax and audit. CPAs with at least three years of experience will make up about one-third of the new hires.

Here's our story.

Strong Year? Weak Year?

Apparently, it depends on who you're talking to.

With all the focus on demand for accountants, we sometimes forget that big firms - or small ones, for that matter - have their trials and general angst, just like any other workplace. Francine McKenna, on her blog re: TheAuditors, has a knack for uncovering many of the day-to-day shenanigans of the Big Four. You think things are always hunky dory just because you're a CPA and there aren't enough of them on the market? Try this on.

Monday, July 21, 2008

So, This Accountant Walks into a Bar

WebCPA profiles comedian John Garrett, a former CPA who finds humor in taxes.
I think the U.S. government should write a song called, 'Whatever Happened to Willie's 1040s?'"
Here's the story, and his Web site.

How's the Job Market?

We asked JobsintheMoney users how the job market is for accountants. They said:

  • As strong as ever: 52%
  • Weakening: 19%
  • Slowing down some: 13%
  • Not sure: 10%
  • About even with last year: 6%
So now we're wondering whether firms are letting go non-accounting staff. Let us know by taking the poll on JobsintheMoney, or by posting a comment below.

Traits of a Good Accountant

From the career section of Bella Online (the voice of women) comes this list of Characteristics and Personality Traits Shared by Successful Accountants.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pay Gains For Management Accountants – Especially Men

Management accountants earned an average salary of $101,805 and average total compensation of $120,972 last year, based on more than 1,500 responses to the Institute of Management Accountants' 2007 salary survey.

Average pay gained 6.2 percent. But pay was highly sensitive to gender, and the gap between male and female members' salaries and bonuses actually widened.

When JobsintheMoney asked the Institute's chief executive if his group planned any steps aimed at closing the salary gap, his response was: "We're not going to comment on the glass ceiling and the real or perceived inequities. We can make sure our association is open and inclusive and appealing to not only the old demographic or the new demographic."

Here's our story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notes from an Internship - Week 2

As my second week in London draws to a close I realize that time is really flying. Half of my four weeks in London are up and I need to make the most of the two I have left.

This past week I spent two days in the office and three days at a client site. While in the office I helped various associates and managers who had extra work. One project I helped with involved researching and compiling information on the major accounting policies assorted pharmaceutical companies disclosed in their annual financial statements. This information is to be included in a handbook that describes market issues and risks in the industry, and best disclosure practices for both International Financial Reporting Standards and General Accepting Accounting Principles. The handbook will be provided to KPMG clients all over the world. I got a chance to look at the previous year’s book and felt proud that I was actually able to contribute to this year’s edition.

Tuesday night, I participated in an engagement planning meeting where we discussed a client’s history and expectations while we were on site. The client is an energy industry company and a global client of KPMG. I was relieved to see that the partners, managers and everyone else in attendance at the meeting were really laid back, and while they meant business, the atmosphere wasn’t stuffy or tense. Following the meeting, everyone went out to a nearby pub for drinks - something that is really common after the workday in London.

The client was only a few tube stops from the office, so fortunately I didn’t have to travel far. Since the company is so big, the engagement was broken into several small teams to tackle different sections of the company. I helped out with extra work and did a bit more research. I really enjoyed working with the team and was fascinated to learn that I wasn’t the only one on a global rotation - the manager in charge of the engagement, Jeff, is on a long-term global rotation from Canada. He told me about his experiences with KPMG in both Canada and London and his decision to complete a global rotation. The associate on the engagement, Tosin, was really helpful in explaining parts that I didn’t understand. I appreciated her help so I let all her teasing about my "weird" accent slide.

Thursday night all the global interns got together for dinner courtesy of the recruitment team. I met interns from other countries who came to the UK as well as UK interns who would soon go to offices in the U.S. The food was great and the company was even better. It was really an incredible group of people and it was fun to hear about everyone’s respective countries.

After returning to my flat Friday evening I prepared an overnight bag for a weekend trip. I decided I would take advantage of being in Europe and caught a train to Paris to see the sights.

Home Office Essentials and Pitfalls

For an accountant, telecommuting regularly or practicing independently from home is more the rule than the exception nowadays. A recent column by Rick Telberg on CPA Trendlines provides a wealth of practical advice about how to work successfully at home.

To begin with, he lists five key success factors:

1. The right attitude and self-discipline

2. The right technology set-up

3. A quiet, dedicated workplace

4. Experience and maturity

5. Good communications with co-workers and clients
Telberg quotes work-at-home accountants who testify to and elaborate on each factor. He then goes on to list five major challenges associated with working from home:

1. Isolation from peers

2. Meeting clients and colleagues in a professional setting

3. Lack of administrative support

4. Lack of collaboration

5. Reliable benchmarks for performance
Loss of contact with colleagues can produce stress and a risk of being left out of the loop. On the other hand, one of Telberg's sources observes that the telecommuter also avoids much of the stress of office politics.

And there's this problem cited by Robbie Paul, a public practitioner in El Paso, Texas, who works at home five to 10 hours per week: "Clients don’t take you seriously" if they know you're office is in your home.

The Top Five Essentials to Working at Home [CPA Trendlines]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Upstate NY Merger

The Bonadio Group, CPAs, Pittsford, N.Y, has acquired the DR Group, which includes the 70-employee accounting firm Dorfman-Robbie, CPAs P.C., Albany as well as the firm's financial services, pension services, construction consulting and human resources affiliate companies.Bonadio, which is ranked 95th on Accounting Today's Top 100 firms, has $30 million in revenues, five offices and 27 partners. Dorfman-Robbie has five shareholders in addition to Managing Director Gordon Robbie, CPA.

The combined company will operate under The Bonadio Group name and will be located in the existing DR Group’s offices in Albany. As a result of the merger, more than 70 employees—including 21 CPAs—have joined The Bonadio Group, increasing the company’s employee base to more than 325 throughout upstate New York. Six partners will join The Bonadio Group as part of the merger, including Robbie, who will head up the Albany office.

The merger will also enhance the firm’s tax-exempt practices in healthcare and in the education sector, while the addition of an office location in the capital district will also allow The Bonadio Group to better serve its New York State government clients.
Managing Partner Thomas Bonadio, CPA, said the merger was part of his plan to create a mega-regional accounting and consulting firm in upstate New York with $60 million in annual revenues and 450 employees.

“We are always looking to hire people,” said firm Spokesperson Alan Vitberg. “One of the things that we think will come as a consequence of the merger is the firm is becoming a mega regional and a competitor to the Big 4.”

The firm is especially interested in talking to candidates with three to seven years experience, as well as those with audit, tax and consulting knowledge.

Vitberg says two unique programs differentiate the firm from its competitors. First, Employee Promise layers cultural benefits on top of the standard range of employee benefits.

Those cultural benefits include reduced summer hours, compensatory time off, staff appreciation days and Saturday Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments during tax season.

The firm’s second program, The Family Promise, pledges that employees work lives will be organized in a way that allows them to have time with their family and corporate events that include employees’ families.

Large-Cap CFOs Made More in 2007

Compensation for CFOs at S&P 500 companies continues to rise despite a weaker stock market, as a new study said pay for the group rose by 5.2 percent from 2006 to 2007. The study, conducted by Equilar, covered 313 CFOs who have been in their roles at S&P 500 firms for at least 2 years.

Equity compensation was responsible for most of the gains as more CFOs received stock awards. Equity compensation rose 8.2 percent, offsetting a 3.4 percent decrease in overall bonuses.

Median total compensation among the survey group was $2,894,275 last year. Total compensation included base salary, discretionary bonuses, non-equity incentive plan payouts, the grant date value of stock and option awards, and other compensation. The median base salary was $525,000, up 9.1 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the median bonus came in at $576,880, down 3.4 percent from 2006, as fewer CFOs received a bonus - 93.6 percent in 2007, compared with 99 percent in 2006.

In contrast to the salary growth for CFOs, compensation for chief executive officers for the same period rose just 1.3 percent, according to Equilar.

Here is Equilar's announcement of its findings.

Credentials as a Lever into Management

If you're interested in moving into management, credentials can often provide the boost you need. A designation can move your resume to the top of the pile – but you'll still have to win the job during the interview process.

Here's our story.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mergers Bring Danger Plus Opportunity

CPA firm mergers continue apace in the New York - New Jersey metropolitan area, potentially disrupting careers of some accountants. One local recruiter relates that a number of CPAs with "fairly general" backgrounds who were let go in a recent combination, quickly found new positions with higher pay and bonuses. "They should have thanked their firm for firing them," he observed.

Here's our story.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I Said at the Fraud Conference

At the ACFE's annual Fraud Conference, I was asked to talk about the value of Internet career sites. This is one of those topics where the truth, I think, lies somewhere below the surface. I don't think many people would dispute that career sites have become the ubiquitous tool for scanning opportunities and submitting a resume and job application, but using sites effectively is about more than copying and pasting your resume in response to every posting you see - something far too many job-seekers do.

So, here are the main points I made:
  • Remember the rules of good job-hunting apply.

  • Make Sure You Fit

    o Digest the job description - make sure you have the required experience and education.
    o Recruiters say up to 10 percent of people replying through job boards don't do that.
    o Advertised for a CFO – got a resume from a messenger.
  • Sweat the Details

    o Note the position name or ID number in the subject line of your e-mail, and repeat it in the body of your message.
    o Attach your resume first. Even before you write your cover note.
    o Stick to the basics: Don't send Powerpoint presentations, videos, or what have you. Send Word documents or pdfs.
    o Add a greeting: Ladies & Gentlemen, Dear Sir, if you don't know the real name.

  • Be Brief, Be focused
    o Brief cover letter: One recruiter says "wake me up."
    o List your technical skills, licenses and certifications – first.
    o Sorry - no one wants your personal philosophy. They don't care that you like Mark Twain, or that you just completed hiking the Appalachian Trail.

  • It's Business
    o Simple formatting. No colors, no backgrounds, no fancy fonts.

  • Remember: This is the first step.
    o Call the company.
    o Look for tips online (on, ahem, JobsintheMoney, for example) about getting past the online wall and to the real, correct people.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fraud Conference

It's a lovely night in Boston, a perfect night to kick off a conference – in this case the annual Fraud Conference hosted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. About 2,000 people are attending this year's event, which seems to have pleased the ACFE's staff.

Tonight was all about a soft introduction to the conference. The exhibit hall was open and fortified with four open bars, at least two hors d'oeuvre and one dessert table, and several hundred people wandering about and catching up with each other.

"Unfortunately, it's a good time to be a fraud examiner," one person remarked. Aside from the increased focus corporate fraud is receiving from authorities for reasons ranging from terrorism to a general increase in awareness, anti-fraud operations face many of the same challenges other financial departments must contend with: more work to do, but too few accountants to do it with.

In my own rounds of the exhibit hall, I found an interested mix of organizations, not all of whom are here to peddle their services. Recruitment of fraud examiners is a priority for a lot of companies and government agencies. Here's a sampling:

  • The National Reconnaissance Office
  • Naval Criminal Investigative Servide
  • Secret Service
  • National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association
  • I2 Software
  • Fraud Exchange Software
  • Huron Consulting Group
  • Georgia Southern University College of Business Administration
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  • Deloitte
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Institute for Fraud Prevention
Not all of these folks are here with a focus on recruitment, though that seems to be precisely why the government agencies have set up booths. What's interesting about the list is the range of opportunities it illustrates. On top of government, there are software companies here, industry associations, several publishers and a number of service providers.

Oh, and if anyone's interested, I'm speaking Monday about the effective use of online job boards. It's at 1:10 in the exhibit all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Heaton and Eadie Joins Katz, Sapper & Miller

Indianapolis' second-larger accounting firm, Katz, Sapper & Miller, is merging with Heaton and Eadie, an accounting firm specializing in healthcare and employee benefit consulting.

Heaton and Eadie partners and staff members will continue to serve their existing clients, as well as Katz, Sapper & Miller clients.

“We had a desire to expand our resources and service to our healthcare clients,” said David Charles, partner-in-charge of Katz, Sapper & Miller’s Healthcare Services Group. “Heaton and Eadie has distinguished itself in this area.”

Katz, Sapper & Miller has over 200 professionals and staff. Heaton and Eadie has five directors and 21 professional staffers.

Translating 'Diversity' Around the World

Workplace diversity isn't just a U.S. issue. Multinational firms are discovering they need to redefine their diversity programs to align with local cultures and issues in each country where they operate.

The process presents both challenges and opportunities. A recent survey by Novations Group found that more than 40 percent of organizations had expanded the scope of their diversity and inclusion programs, and another 24 percent plan to broaden their efforts in the near future.

Here's our story.

Notes from an Internship - Week 1

Hi, my name is Michelle Millar and I am a rising senior studying accounting at the Fisher College of Business of The Ohio State University. My hometown is Cleveland Heights, Ohio. This summer I am an audit intern at Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP.

Though I had other offers for internships this summer, I was very pleased to be invited by KPMG. Last year I participated in the firm's Future Diversity Leaders (FDL) conference. At the time finance was my major but after participating in FDL, I realized accounting would be a better fit for me. I was impressed with KPMG because I could see that it actively embraces diversity and the professionals I met made me feel like I was part of the team. I also liked that KPMG offered growth opportunities, such as the Global Internship Program (GIP). In fact, I’m writing this post from London where I am participating in KPMG’s GIP. I will be here for half of my summer internship and in the KPMG’s Atlanta office for the other half.

My internship at KPMG officially began in Anaheim, Calif., at the firm's national intern training, which included sessions on communication styles, leadership, working in teams, and the do’s and don’ts of proper professional attire where KPMG professionals served as models and fashion experts in a game show setting. It was hilarious! I also enjoyed the technical audit training we received, which we did virtually so it was like playing a video game. I wish my accounting classes were more like that. On the last day of training, I met 39 other GIP interns who would be traveling to incredible destinations such as Australia, France, China, Brazil, Japan, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Hungary, South Africa, Romania, and Sweden. I even met a fellow Ohio State student who was going to India. (Go Bucks!)

Before I left for London, I spent a week at a government client site near Atlanta. It was a small engagement team consisting of me, a senior associate, an associate and an IT advisory associate. They were all really cool and I enjoyed working with them. I have to admit, I was happy to see accounting principles I’d learned in school being applied to things in the field. I got to work on cash account reconciliations, confirmation letters and a few other tasks. I also had the opportunity to shadow an associate as he conducted an inventory count at a fertilizer factory. The inventory count was pretty interesting-and a nice change of pace from being in the office. The associate, David, was good at firmly asking the right questions to get the answers he needed. On the day I left for London, I spent the morning shadowing an associate at a lottery client. It was fun to visit the television studio and see the processes in place necessary to ensure a successful drawing.

Destination London

My first day in London and I love it! After a short car service ride from the airport, I arrived in my new home for the next four weeks - a very modern three-bedroom flat with all the necessary appliances that I will share with two other KPMG GIP interns in central London.

I spent the first two days in London at intern training at a conference center in the country. During training I realized that there were a lot of words I didn't recognize. The balance sheet was in a slightly different format and used the word 'stock' for inventory. And it took me a second to figure out that called-up shares were exactly the same as outstanding shares. The last three days of the week I went to the office where I met my mentor, Xiaomiao. We hit it off right away and I was thrilled she was my mentor. I became familiar with the office and got to know the others in my department, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals & Energy, or CPE.

Next week I will be assigned to a client. I’m hoping for a challenging assignment - we'll see what happens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mitchell & Titus' New CEO Plans to Expand

Mitchell & Titus LLP, the largest U.S. minority-controlled accounting, audit, tax and business advisory firm, has a new CEO, Anthony "Tony" Kendall, and an aggressive three-year expansion plan.

Kendall, currently vice chairman of client services and managing partner of the New York office, will take over when firm founder Bert N. Mitchell retires at the end of the year. Mitchell will be chairman of the board until 2010.

The firm is looking to double its staff of 150 to help it grow into new markets, a company source says. “We’re looking for experienced hires from managers to partners and we’re looking for individuals who demonstrate that they can excel at accounting at the entry level,” the source says.

While the firm is minority-controlled, that doesn’t mean it’s not diverse. “We have so many cultures here,” the source says. “Mitchell & Titus is open to anyone working here. We’re always looking for the best and brightest, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a member of a minority.”

Because the firm is a member of the Ernst & Young Global Limited network, Mitchell & Titus employees have more global opportunities than their counterparts at similar sized firms, the source adds.

Kendall is a certified public accountant licensed in several states, and a certified fraud examiner. He's president of the Binghamton University Alumni Association. He also works with Project Renewal, Inc., the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the Queens Cadet Corporation and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants' Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession Program.

Where is the Grass Greener?

Have you ever thought about defecting from a big global accounting shop but feared that jumping to a small firm would mean less chance to learn, advance or be rewarded for your efforts?

Those are myths that keep many an accountant chained to the Big Four, says Reno, Nevada CPA Mark Bailey.

In a recent posting on his eponymous firm's Innovative Practice Management blog, Bailey writes of his own escape from a top-tier firm more than 20 years ago,

Searching for another job was difficult, as I rarely had a minute that wasn’t filled by working, commuting or sleeping. But the most substantial barrier to quitting my big accounting firm job was the myths that circulated concerning small firms….

I heard that working at a small firm would stunt your professional growth, as smaller revenue clients do not face complex accounting issues. HA! In my experience I have seen there is not much a large revenue client can do that a small revenue one can’t, including going public.
Bailey contends that small clients mimic larger ones in using such sophisticated financing tools as derivatives, debt/equity hybrids, and variable-interest entities. His parting advice for overworked accountants from the staff to manager level who might ponder a move to a small employer:

Keep in mind during your search for a new position that 'Big 4' or even the slightly smaller international accounting firms don’t hold all the challenging work in the accounting field. They (and their overworked staff) just like to think they do, which is why they perpetuate such myths.
Small Accounting Firms: One Myth [Innovative Practice Management]

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Don't Overlook Forensic Career Option

Forensic specialists are the detectives of the accounting world, whose job is to uncover potential fraud, unravel accounting knots, and support attorneys in litigation. It can be an exciting career option once you've accumulated the mandatory few years of audit experience. But even though forensics and litigation support (F&L) work matches up nicely with the temperament of Gen Y accountants, many CPAs are unaware of what it takes to break into the field and thrive in the job, or where a career in it can lead.

Here's our story.

Getting Back to Work

Here's an article on women re-entering the workforce after taking time off to raise children or handle other family matters. It's a subject that's been written about a lot, but this one has some good thoughts on identifying and overcoming obstacles that can complicate your path back to the office.
Beckye Young, who graduated from Vanderbilt University and received a Certified Public Accountant license in 1987 and then worked as an auditor and corporate controller before taking a hiatus to have kids, found a way to make a successful transition back into the workforce. After eight years, she was able to return to accounting -- but not without a struggle.

"I didn't anticipate having any trouble, since I had been successful in my career prior to staying at home. However, I had great difficulty," says Young. "I had no responses from the numerous ads that I answered and none of the recruiting agencies were helpful."

One issue seemed to be the length of time she had been out of the workforce. "A recruiter told me if I had only been out two years or less, no problem, but more than five was an obstacle that they did not feel I could overcome."

She took a position at a preschool, which, she says, helped her build confidence. "There were skills that I had learned from being a homemaker that are valuable to the workforce in general," she says, "like organization skills, management skills, and patience in working with different people with different personalities."

During the summer following her preschool experience, Young again began to look for a job in the field of accounting, this time contacting Mom Corps, an agency dedicated to helping women find flexible professional opportunities. "Mom Corps actually went over my resume with me and placed me in contract work within a few weeks," says Young. The company, which provides career resources at no cost to job-seeking women, eventually helped her find her current accounting position at a local CPA firm.
There's more, and you can read it here.

From Mommy to Manager: Going Back to Work [KREN]

From Finance to Food

Susan Turgeson, the Wisconsin Association of Family and Consumer Sciences teacher of the year, began her adult life as an accountant. After ten years working in the finance departments of corporations including Coca-Cola and Chrysler, "a little voice" in her head reminded her she'd wanted to teach since high school. So, she went back to school, got her degree and now teaches consumer food science at Menomonie, Wisc., High School. This story from the Dunn County News isn't about accounting, at all, but it's a nice illustration of how far someone can go when they change careers to pursue a long-held passion.

Teacher of the Year has fun with food and science [Dunn County News]

Partner Profile

Michael Sabol, founding partner of Mahoney Sabol & Co. in Glastonbury, Conn., is profiled on Read it here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Catch Bad Guys

The FBI is seeking accountants to work in areas such as counter-terrorism, drug enforcement and corporate crime. They're generally after CPAs age 37 and under, with at least three years experience in public accounting, industry or government service. As for soft skills, the bureau is especially interested in "people who can take charge or cooperate in stressful situations," according to one Los Angeles-based agent.

Further details can be found here.

Monday, July 07, 2008


In the "it never hurts to develop new skills" department: The AICPA is offering a two-day seminar (July 22-23) on understanding and applying the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which the SEC is requiring public companies to use in their financial reporting. Arleen Thomas, AICPA's senior vice president for member competency and development, calls XBRL "a a significant emerging issue for preparers.

Details about the seminar are here (pdf).
Some background on XBRL is here.

Do I Need a Resume if I'm Not Looking For a Job?

Resumes can play a key role in all phases of career development, because the self assessment involved in writing one helps you plan and prepare for each job move you might consider. And, as you research career opportunities and learn the essential requirements for jobs that interest you, the process helps you evaluate your value as a candidate.

Here's more.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What to Do When a Client isn't so Healthy

If you're auditing a company and you see signs of fiscal distress, what's your smartest career-related move in reaction to the discovery? Do you act like a rat on a sinking ship and jump to a new assignment where the client is in better shape, or tie yourself to the mast and hope for the best?

That’s what I was wondering when I read this Charlotte Business Journal column about what could happen to the Charlotte business community if Wachovia’s financial troubles lead to a take over.

Staff Writer Katy Finger talked to economists, analysts, civic leaders and Bowman's Accounting Report Publisher Art Bowman. Here's what Bowman told her:

"The acquiring company prevails," he says. In particular, Wachovia’s auditing firm, KPMG, which has 231 employees here, would likely be replaced by the acquiring firm’s auditor, he says. Bowman, a longtime observer of the accounting industry, would not speculate on how many jobs could be cut. Officials at KPMG, which Wachovia paid $33.3 million in auditing fees in 2007, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

If you were on this account, what would you do in the interest of self-preservation? Put in some calls to your company network to check for lateral move opportunities? Would you move now, or wait to see what course the new Wachovia CEO charts?

It may be a tough economy for some, but accountants are still in great demand, so do you need to worry at all about troubled clients?

Moving onto the Management Track

If you're happy where you work, your near-term goals probably include a move up into management. In that case, you need to prepare by picking up new skills and possibly more credentials.

Here's some advice.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

CFOs See Concern Over Long Hours

Accounting and financial professionals have never enjoyed short hours and light workloads, but have things gotten even worse in recent years? According to a new survey by Accountemps, one in three chief financial officers (35 percent, to be precise) cited heavy workloads as the top workplace concern for their financial teams.

Details here.

Going Back to School - Sort Of

While services vary, and often come up lacking, college career offices are trying to respond to alumni demands for career help, even years after they've left campus. Writes Joann Lublin in The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. universities have begun to respond by creating job-search programs. Nearly 20% now offer full-fledged efforts for alumni, up from just 5% five years ago, according to alumni-service specialists interviewed. And business schools in particular are stepping up aid for their graduates. Matthew Temple, Kellogg's director of alumni career services, says he and fellow coaches handled 2,160 appointments with M.B.A. graduates during the eight months ended on April 30 -- 45% more than the year-earlier period.
What's your school offer? Anything? Let us know.