Friday, August 29, 2008

Deloitte Plans Layoffs in U.S.

Deloitte & Touche will cut about 900 U.S. employees, or about 2 percent of its workforce, because of the slowing economy. "Just like anybody else, we are looking to cut costs," spokesperson Deborah Harrington told WebCPA. The cuts are expected to occur soon, and aren't focused on any particular location.
Deloitte to Lay Off 2 Percent of U.S. Employees [WebCPA]
Update: Deloitte Statement on Layoffs [Re:The Auditors]

Tax Environment Builds Demand for CPAs in N.Y. Area

Changing federal and state tax regulations for are pressuring tax accountants in New York and New Jersey. Here's our story.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What IFRS Means for You

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday said it plans to publish a proposed Roadmap that could lead to the use of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by U.S. issuers beginning in 2014, although a firm decision on the change wouldn’t be made until 2011. Included in the Roadmap are seven pit stops that will pass before the 2011 decision is made.

The SEC will publish the proposal at its Web site any day now and the public then has 60 days to share comments.

What does it all mean for accountants? The answer depends upon where one works.

If you’re working at one the 110 largest U.S. firms, your firm might have the option to switch over to IFRS for 2009 statements. At small businesses, the switch wouldn’t come until 2016. Those working for firms that are smaller than a global conglomerate and larger than a local ice cream parlor could start using IFRS in 2015.

If you’re still in school or preparing to take the CPA exam, you’ll need to consider the testing ramifications of IFRS.

Kaplan Schweser vice president of CPA education Denise Probert says IFRS won’t be on the 2009 CPA exam, but it could show up after that. So if you’ve been procrastinating on taking the exam and didn’t learn IFRS in school, you’ll want to test before those IFRS questions show up. If you’re still in school, be sure you take IFRS courses before 2010.

Not surprisingly, Probert points out that review providers, including her firm, are already working on integrating IFRS into their review programs. The AICPA also has IFRS continuing education programs.

Meanwhile, if you want to read up on IFRS, try these Web resources:

AICPA’s IFRS Web site

KPMG’s IFRS Web site

PWC’s IFRS Web site

E&Y’s IFRS Web site

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mind Your Grammar

We all know that a spelling error on a resume means instant death. Well, grammatical errors can be fatal too. Here's our story, filled with tips for insuring your resume is grammatically correct.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crossing the River

If you began your career as an accountant in the corporate world, moving over to a public accounting firm can pose challenges that may include a pay cut. The path is smoother for those switchers who already possess a CPA license and/or prior public accounting experience. Our story details the ins and outs for mid-career accountants moving between the corporate and public worlds.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where Outsourcing is Headed

Information gurus increasingly see outsourcing migrating up the corporate food chain. No longer confined to clerical functions and things like call centers, today it's embracing activities that have a higher knowledge content – especially in the financial services industry.

A recent article by InformationWeek writer Chris Murphy outlined some current issues related to "business process outsourcing" (BPO) morphing into "knowledge process outsourcing" (KPO).

Many expect financial services companies to lead the way in KPO, and there's data to support such a view. For example, 45 percent of financial services executives who participated in a recent InformationWeek Analytics survey said they see the industry knowledge of their business process outsourcing (BPO) providers significantly improving. That's more than any other area of improvement.
Murphy says the impetus to outsource knowledge-related functions gains further support from a signficant minority of companies that view outsourcing in terms of strategic goals like transforming processes and increasing revenue – rather than simply a means to cut costs. For instance, about 15 percent of the 110 financial services IT professionals surveyed by InformationWeek Analytics fell within that "strategic outsourcing" group. And an additional 24 percent said BPO is "more strategic than tactical".

Even though outsourcing is mature, 28 percent of companies surveyed said they plan to make greater use of it, dwarfing the number planning to decrease their use. That suggests that much of the increase will involve new functions falling outside managements' traditional comfort zone for outsourcing.

But the same survey also sheds light on some management concerns about outsourcing that sound particularly salient for financial companies when they transfer functions like capital market research and sell-side equity research support.

It takes a high degree of trust to transfer custody of customer data, share tacit knowledge and work as a single team. Yet the No. 1 concern financial services companies have about BPO is data security, according to InformationWeek Analytics.
Other top concerns include the difficulty of managing outsourced processes, tension between employees and outsourcers, and less flexibility to innovate. Murphy observes:

Only 16 percent of financial services respondents said they see improvement in vendors assigning quality people for their projects. Companies that aren't getting bright ideas and top people on everyday projects won't likely rush vendors up the knowledge stack.

Friday, August 22, 2008

CFOs Highly Value IT Experience

If you hope to ascend to the CFO's suite, information technology experience is a hot ticket. And its value continues to grow.

Technology topped a list of four areas (beyond accounting and finance) that CFOs picked as most useful for their careers in a recent poll by Robert Half Management Resources. The other three areas were operations, legal, and sales and marketing.

Half of the 1400-plus CFOs surveyed by telephone pegged IT experience as "most beneficial for CFOs to possess." What's especially interesting is, the proportion has nearly doubled since 2003. When Robert Half posed the same question to CFOs five years ago, only 28 percent tagged technology as most beneficial.

Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, noted that

Companies increasingly expect their CFOs to provide insight into the value of new systems, evaluate the outcome of potential upgrades and make recommendations on technology-related investments.

Operations experience also ranked high, with 45 percent of the response – virtually unchanged from five years ago. (Respondents were allowed to name more than one area.) Legal experience rose to 37 percent, from 26 percent in 2003. Sales and marketing edged up to 26 percent, from 24 percent.

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and used a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees, stratified by geographic location and size (number of employees).

A Candidate's Checklist

If you've been job-hunting for several months with little to show for it, this would be a good time to step back and examine where you might be going astray. Our story sets out a 10-step checklist of items you should be doing to maximize your chances. Read it here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuition Benefit: Unanswered Questions

Ninety-five percent of employers say they provide tuition benefits for employees and reimburse staffers for other forms of professional development or training. That very predictable bit of "news" is trumpeted in a press release from Accountemps, Robert Half International's temporary services division.

What Accountemps' latest survey factoid made me want to know is:

1. What percentage of employees' requests for tuition actually get approved? Presumably, at least 95 percent of the 95 percent have conditions attached to their reimbursement programs. Such as, the courses must be demonstrably relevant to the employee's current job duties – not just for the job or career that he or she hopes to have two years from now, or five years from now.

2. What is the typical percentage of tuition that employers promise to reimburse? And what is the annual cap on the dollar amount? Even when a program is unquestionably relevant to a staffer's current duties, if the request to attend was initiated by the employee rather than the boss, few companies will pay the full tab – especially if it runs into thousands of dollars per academic quarter.

3. What are the typical clawback provisions? In a previous job, everyone's employment agreement stated that the company had the right to recover any tuition reimbursements they'd paid out, if the employee left within two years after completing a course or program.

These are only a few questions that occcurred to me as basic components of any useful poll on this topic. The results might not make for breezy, promotional press releases of the sort that Accountemps churns out month after month. But they might help candidates draw realistic comparisons among employers on this one dimension.

A further question would be tougher to address in a survey – which perhaps makes it still more useful for candidates weighing a particular employer: Are tuition benefits open to all categories and levels of staffers (subject of course to the requisite approvals)? Or only to managers, "producers," staffers below age 30, or other privileged groups within the organization?

That's a question you're not likely to see official, forthright answers to. But it's one that candidates should at least think about when valuing the tuition benefits anticipated from any employer.

Like all benefits, tuition reimbursement is provided not to aid an employee's career, but because an employer anticipates that the education they're paying for will measurably benefit the organization through increased sales or lowered expenses. So if you're not in a role that measurably contributes to either sales or cost reduction (including risk reduction), you won't be a likely candidate for tuition reimbursement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wikimedia Foundation's CFO

California's many non-profit and education organizations offer some of the best opportunities for CPAs who want to advance their careers. Veronique Kessler has spent most of the past decade - more than half her career - working for such organizations.

In February 2008, she assumed the role of chief financial officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, whose Wikipedia online encyclopedia has become one of the world's most popular Internet destinations. The foundation also produces online books and other publications.

Here's a profile.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bypassing Campus Recruitment

It's by no means a wave, but it is something of a trend: Some graduate business school students are opting out of the traditional campus-recruitment approach to job-hunting.

Instead, reports The Wall Street Journal, they're developing their own strategies and building their own networks, all with an eye toward landing a job that might not be considered "typical" among newly minted MBAs.

It often taken them longer to find a job, but their efforts are spurred by the realization that want to work at something that's not a traditional finance or consulting position - the kind of job big firms usually recruit for on-campus. Other students decide they want to remain in a particular region, while still others have put their eggs in the basket of an industry that's "known for just-in-time hiring, leaving students with no option but to hunt later on their own." Such industries include venture capital and media and entertainment and media and entertainment, the Journal says.

Though small in numbers, these students are prompting their schools' career offices to revise their approach and work more with individuals, leveraging their alumni networks and setting up self-directed programs for job-seekers. On the other hand, some schools - like Columbia Business School - can't provide such assistance until after its traditional recruiting period ends in February.

What's Your Vision?

In an earlier post, Steve Bohler explained why it's important to create a "Personal Career Vision" before you leap into a job search. Once you've done that, it's time to stop the daily mad rush, reflect on where you've been and where you are now, and assess where it is you want to end up. Here's his approach.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Notes from an Internship - Week 6

During my last days, my internship came full circle – I was assigned to the government client I worked on first. When I was on this client during the beginning of my internship we were in the audit planning phase. By the time I returned, the actual audit was underway. The senior, Vakela, was really good to work with. I appreciated her approach to training me. She explained things thoroughly so I understood completely from the start. I also worked with an associate, Crystal, who is entering her second year with the firm. I think the three of us made a good team.

On Thursday there was an 'end of the internship' event. All the Atlanta interns went to see an improvisational performance at the World Theater. I am usually not a big fan of improv, but I have to admit I really enjoyed this event. It was great to see the other interns who I had not seen for a while.

On Friday, we learned whether we were offered full time jobs at KPMG. Most interns met with their Performance Management Leaders (PML) to learn about offers. Since mine was out of town I met with my recruiter, Kathryn. We had a pretty relaxed conversation and then she handed me a folder with my offer inside - which I accepted! The perfect ending to a perfect summer internship.

I packed up my car for the long drive back to Ohio. I was definitely looking forward to spending some time relaxing with my family and friends before my classes start. During the ten to eleven hours in my car I had plenty of time to reflect on the past two months. This internship has surpassed my expectations. I learned so much about working in audit, I met incredible people and I had a lot of fun.

One of the greatest parts of my internship has been the incredible people I have met. KPMG really recruits some great people, it’s humbling and it makes me want to work harder and improve myself. For example, one intern, Calvin, owns his own technology business and is extremely intelligent. Every time I spoke with him I learned something new. And I always love learning about different countries from my peers with diverse backgrounds. I feel that I developed just as much from being in the presence of these awesome people as I have from the work experience.

I am very happy with my choice to join KPMG after I graduate and I cannot wait to see what will be in store for me!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good Advice

Here's a great post from on some aspects of career management that are important, but don't always get the care they should. It covers your relationship with your boss - which everyone thinks about - but also your dealings with subordinates, which we all should consider more than we probably do.
One of the cornerstone commandments for any supervisor is to train jour replacement! If no one else can do your job, how can you be promoted to bigger and better things?

Training your replacement involves assigning, teaching and providing feedback to assistants. To be fully effective at this, you must personalize your efforts for every employee because each has differing personalities and experiences. In spite of stereotypes that imply that all accountants are clones, the truth is that "one size does not fit all."
Read it here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's Going On Out There?

A shaky global economy, rising oil prices and falling home values have cut into the optimism that accounting and finance professionals typically report when asked about their employment prospects. More than half of those recently surveyed believe there were fewer jobs available at mid-year 2008 than there'd been in previous quarters. Is their perception accurate? Maybe.

Dona Dezube explains why.

The Pipeline Keeps Filling

One of the most popular courses at San Diego State University is Accounting 321: Integrative Accounting Topics. The Los Angeles Times describes why:
Even in a downish economy, accounting students are finding jobs -- jobs that just might be the first step toward running their own companies, or getting that corner office in an established business.


The boom in accounting at San Diego State is part of a national trend. Enrollment in accounting classes is up 19% since 2004, according to a survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The increase in interest has left some campuses unable to accommodate all comers. In fact, the survey found that 13% of campuses had to turn away students who wanted to study accounting because of a lack of adequate classroom space or teachers.
The whole story's here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Compensation Keeps CPAs in N.Y., N.J.

CPAs in New York and New Jersey have a good reason to stay in the area: money. With a large number of regional and large accounting firms needing help and the preponderance of corporate accounting spots going wanting for accountants, area CPAs are reaping the benefits of demand.

Here's Myra Thomas's story.

Debating Ageism

A while back, we published an article on job-hunting for people over 50. Among other things, we said:
Laura Hill, a Manhattan-based career coach and founder of Careers in Motion, agrees that experience counts. As increasing numbers of baby boomers retire, she says, "Companies need seasoned people who can mentor and train and troubleshoot with good judgment."

Further, an upside to age is that "you have a very long track record at this point," she says. "If a 28-year-old or a 38-year-old has a one-year job gap on his resume, it's a real question mark. As you enter your 40s and 50s, your shelf-life is longer."
Comments on the article have been mixed, some expanding on the theme while others disagreed. Last night, this comment appeared:

This entire article is completely pathetic.
If you don't put a date on school information, the first questions asked during a phone interview is an attempt to find out when you graduated. How is this any different than asking your age? If you include your graudation date, you don't even get a phone interview. Is that "perceived discrimination?" No -- it is just descrimination.

I happen to be employer and doing work I enjoy. But I constantly hear co-workers made comments about job applicant's age, e.g. I can't hire him -- it would be like have my father working for me.

This article is an insult.
I thought I'd put it out there. Anyone care to join in?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Notes from an Internship - Week 5

The journey back home to the United States was not too bad. Dealing with my luggage drove me crazy though – I will definitely be sure not to pack so much for my next trip.

On my first day back in KPMG’s Atlanta office, I was assigned to a client right away. The client is in the industrial sector, which is a familiar territory since I worked on clients in this sector during my rotation in London. My senior, Angus, explained what I would be working on for the week. Since this would be the first time KPMG is working on this new client, the workload was a bit heavy as we did not have a prior year’s file to go off of. We had to make sure we collected all the necessary documents to test the controls required. The client’s accounting department was nice, but initially seemed reluctant at times to give us all the information we requested. Angus did a great job of explaining why we needed the documents requested and in no time we had everything we needed to complete our work. One internal accountant made a few jokes about hiding from the auditors. What’s that saying? “There’s truth in jest or something like that.” LOL

By the way, Angus is actually here on a two-year international rotation from KPMG Hong Kong. He returns home next spring. Throughout the week, during lunch, I picked his brain about what Hong Kong is like. I’ll be studying abroad there this fall so I’m sure any information I can get will be very helpful.

This week we had longer days than I’d been used to coming from London’s 35 hour standard work week. But I found time went fast when I kept busy. I had a few major tasks surrounding fixed asset depreciation analysis, cash account reconciliations, intercompany account reconciliations and preparing memos.

Friday morning I headed to the office to meet with my Performance Management Leader, or PML, for my exit interview. I lucked out because I was assigned to Brad Benton, the lead Audit partner for the Southeast region. We spoke about my time in London and changes needed to implement IFRS. Then I drove back out to the client site and put the last finishing touches on my work. It was a busy but productive week. I can’t believe I only have one week left.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Avoiding Interview Arrogance

We've all heard that it's important to project confidence when you interview. Some candidates, however, sabotage themselves by coming off as a little too confident. That's hardly surprising, because the application and interview process creates myriad pressures to act anything but humble. Employers hold out for the "ideal" candidate, demand recent experience that precisely mirrors their current opening, and proclaim that they seek "individuals with an extraordinary record of academic or professional achievement….who have demonstrated remarkable talent."

Successful interviewing, therefore, calls for a delicate dance between self-promotion and self-effacement. Here's our story, which outlines a few situations where it's especially wise to err on the side of humility.

Spreading Out

Here's another CPA firm offering marketing services to its clients:

The accounting firm of Bryan P. Fitzsimmons, CPA now offers marketing services to help grow and support businesses.


The new marketing services offered through Bryan P. Fitzsimmons, CPA include individual consultation with clients to learn about their businesses, goals and plans. A marketing report will then be prepared that will offer suggestions to address those items discussed in the consultation.
A while ago, we reported on how California's Armanino McKenna had created a communications consulting division.

We still think this is an interesting movement, where firms of various sizes are looking for new opportunities to leverage their close relationships with clients in strategic ways - and ways which go beyond accounting and finance. What it means for accountants themselves is anybody's guess, but we're betting it's going to make soft skills even more important for those who aspire to firm management, since they may end up managing people in professions the typical CPA isn't all that familiar with.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Come Home to Long Island

A couple of high school teachers, one of them a former accountant, have launched the Long Island Accountants Network to recruit college graduates to come back to the island to work in the accounting industry. Their idea is to identify talent for local firms who can't spare the resources to attend career fairs and other events themselves, says the Long Island Business News. It's a nifty idea, though it's aiming at candidates who aren't the most in-demand right now - the CPA with a few years of experience under her belt.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

AMS Opens Manhattan Office

Accounting Management Solutions, Inc. (AMS), Waltham, Massachusetts, has hired Michael T. Whitney to direct its new Nonprofit Client Practice in New York City. The Manhattan office will offer outsourced accounting, financial management, and consulting services to nonprofit, public, private, and professional organizations in the metropolitan area.

Previously, Whitney was a managing partner with Carnevale Niles Whitney & Davis, P.C., in Upstate New York.

Currently, the firm is seeking senior financial consultants with not-for-profit experience who can help the company supply outsourced accounting services and interim financial management to not-for-profit firms, Whitney says

Fundamentals of the Functional Resume

If you have a background that's not traditional for an accountant, or you're considering a career change, the Functional Resume Format may be your best option.

Here's a story.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

L.A. CPA Firm Reacts to Slowdown

In a possible sign that demand for CPAs is belatedly being pinched by the slumping economy, Green Hasson & Janks, one of L.A.'s largest full-service accounting firms, plans on adding only "a handful" more accountants, after doubling in size over three years through acquisitions and new hires. Managing Partner Leon Janks even says he may upgrade the present staff by replacing some people with higher-quality new hires from a growing pool of talented candidates.

Along with strong technical and communication skills, the firm prefers experience in taxation, real estate, waste management or not-for-profits, especially with a Big Four or large regional firm.

Here's our story.

Changing Roles

You've heard the role of accountants is changing. Here's another hint about it. A survey by payroll firm Perquest, based in Oakland, found accounting firms are increasingly asked to take on tasks "outside the normal comfort zones."
70 percent of accounting firms will provide more tax planning services in 2008, and 60 percent will provide business management and advisory services.
Meantime, 60 percent say they're still finding a shortage of qualified job candidates is a "barrier to growth."

Here are details, in pdf format.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Notes from an Internship - Week 4

London Final Week
On Monday and Tuesday I was stationed in the office. I continued working on the client from the previous week. I liked being in the office because it allowed me to meet more people. On Wednesday I completed the client work in the morning and then took the afternoon off. Later that evening I met up with some interns at a local pub. That night some of us went to Brick Lane which had various clubs and restaurants. The area had a lively atmosphere and it was easy for us to enjoy ourselves without spending a lot of money.

On Thursday and Friday I finished up work and other assignments in the office. I went out to lunch with Xiaomiao and two other associates on Thursday. Throughout lunch, I tried to talk them into doing rotations in the U.S. I think they began considering it by the end of our meal.

Friday was bittersweet, since it was the last day of my rotation in London. While completing my final assignments, I had a conversation with an associate, Fabio, about the cultural differences between the states and the UK. Before I knew it, it was 5:30 p.m. I turned in my laptop, said my last goodbyes and left for my flat. Later that evening I hung out with the other interns for our last social outing.

The next day, my taxi arrived at 5:30 a.m. and a few hours later I was back in Atlanta. Everyone I met in London was really awesome. I wish I had a few more weeks with them. Overall, my global internship experience was incredible. I learned a lot of new skills, most of which were more on the soft side since summer tends to be a slow season for accounting. I was also happy that I was able to apply some of the basic accounting principals that I learned in school, since most of my assignments were straightforward. On a few occasions, I was exposed to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) while working on a client.

After staying in London for a month, I feel more confident in my ability to work and live in a different place. I learned a lot about what it’s like to work in London and how important it is to be flexible and adapt to different cultures. One of the biggest differences I noticed between interning in the UK and U.S. is that in the UK it’s not necessary to study accounting in order to work for an accounting firm. The interns had majors ranging from history to biology. The U.S. definitely gives more technical work since interns are required to study accounting. I like the fact that in the U.S. we can take the certified public accounting (CPA) exam sooner and can hit the ground running.

Living and interning in another country has allowed me to grow professionally, culturally and in so many other ways. It’s so enlightening to just live somewhere else and meet people who have totally different perspectives than the ones at home. I feel I am more aware of how business is conducted on a global level. And most importantly I feel like a door has been opened for me - living and working abroad is something that is a definite possibility, which I might not have considered if it weren’t for my global internship.

So I return to the U.S. with high hopes, stronger business experience, too much luggage and new fondness for Europe. I hope to keep in contact with the other U.S. interns. And I will make sure to use Facebook to the max in order to stay in touch with the British interns. Summer 2008 has definitely been amazing so far.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Fast-Growing Sideline

Specialized tax and business consulting practices are growing by leaps and bounds in the New York and New Jersey area. Although these firms can open new career possibilities, some CPAs can't make the leap. Someone who only worked on the audit side of a CPA firm might find it difficult.

Here's our story.