Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Leave Money on the Table if You Relocate

With jobs becoming less plentiful, it's harder to rule out opportunities that require moving to a different city. Since gross expenses associated with relocation can exceed $60,000 when you include real estate commissions, mortgage points and children's forfeited school tuition, it's worth knowing the ins and outs of negotiating a relocation package. Here's our story.

Surviving Two Critical Interview Questions

It's widely known that initial phone interviews, often conducted by an employer's human resources department, are largely meant to screen out candidates.

Once you've gotten past any basic skills questions and steered clear of saying anything that anyone might conceivably interpret as controversial, you'll likely face at least two important questions: the salary question, and the "So who else are you talking to?" question.
Both can contain a drop of poison unless you're well prepared.

Here's our story, in which guest author Rob Gordon explains how to successfully cope with both.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who Made Working Mother's Top Ten?

The Working Mother Magazine Top 100 Best Companies list came out today and three of the Big 4 made their Top Ten list: Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG.

Deloitte and Grant Thornton were in the Top 100, as well.

Rounding out the top ten: Abbott, Baptist Health South Florida, Bristol-Myers Squibb, IBM , The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and S.C. Johnson & Son.

Succession and You

As accountants age and look for exit strategies from the firms they own, their succession plans become key factors to consider for those looking to move up the ranks and perhaps takeover the business.

Here the story on JITM.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Near-Term Stability for Wall Street Accountants

The move by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to convert to bank holding companies will mean more work for accounting and compliance professionals in the short run, but may lead to eventual layoffs, industry observers say.

Our story's here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's Behind Layoffs at the Big Four

Recent layoffs at Deloitte weren't the first cuts made by a Big Four firm this year, but they were the most highly publicized. Every year, Big Four and next-tier firms have layoffs, but they do them in small pieces, spread them out geographically, and tend not to send out press releases about them.

Here's the story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

UK's KPMG, E&Y Put a Hold on Some Hiring

KPMG and Ernst & Young have a put on a hiring freeze in the United Kingdom, according to a feature in today’s issue of Accountancy Age:

KPMG has ended its huge surge in staff numbers, with the Big Four firm set to announce that its headcount has not increased over the last year.

E&Y meanwhile has a staff recruitment freeze, only recruiting in senior or technical roles.

KPMG has seen staff numbers increase hugely over the last few years. Its annual reports reveal staff numbers of 8,936 in 2005, then 9,815 in 2006 and as many as 10,331 in 2007. But it is thought the firm's annual report will reveal the growth has come to an end.

A spokesman for KPMG said it was being affected by the current business climate.‘We're not taking on additional people. We're not expanding when it comes to head count. We've been hiring up until recently,’ he said.
The spokesman said the firm’s recruiting of 1,000 graduates will go ahead as planned this week.

Does that mean a freeze is coming to the U.S.?

It doesn't seem that way. Ernst & Young plans to hire more than 5,000 interns and full-time hires this year from top college campuses in the U.S. and Canada, the company said through its spokesperson.

Over at KPMG, they’re getting ready to host a 48-hour virtual recruiting fair next week that will feature hundreds of job opportunities in tax, advisory and specialized audit services with KPMG member firms worldwide. More than 10,000 interested applicants have already registered for the online event through KPMG’s global website at

Just When You Got Used to SOX...

Zachary Karabell writes in The Wall Street Journal about how changes to accounting rules helped set the stage for the AIG debacle, and makes a compelling case that often the rules have amplified the real-world impact of declining asset values. He also notes that accounting rules tend to be written with their authors looking back over the last crisis.
A few years from now, there will be a magazine cover with someone we've never heard of who bought all of those mortgages and derivatives for next to nothing on the correct assumption that they were indeed worth quite a bit. In the interim, there will almost certainly be a wave of regulations designed to prevent the flood that has already occurred, some of which are likely to trigger another crisis down the line. Until we can have a more rational, measured public discussion about what government and regulations can and should do vis-à-vis financial markets, we are unlikely to break the cycle.
You can agree with him or not, but you've got to wonder whether we should all prepare for another round of regulations to work with.

Bad Accounting Rules Helped Sink AIG [WSJ]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Second Act: The IRS

Baby Boomer accountants looking for more balance in their lives are considering positions with government agencies, including the IRS. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service is working to recruit older Americans into public service with programs like its new "FedExperience."
The government is legendary for its insular hiring practices, but now it's facing a major labor shortage in key skilled positions due to an aging workforce. At the same time, a wave of baby boomer professionals retiring from private-sector positions are looking for second careers - with many seeking positions that allow them to "give back."
Uncle Sam wants you, boomers - to fill jobs [Tribune Media Services via Newsday]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tech Skills are Vital

It's a given you have finance and accounting skills. But what's the next most important item in your career tool belt? If you'd asked CFOs that question five years go, they would have said "operations." But today, they'll answer "technology."

Here's our story.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CFOs Like the Idea of Flex Time, but...

Three-quarters of chief financial officers say it’s important to offer employees work life benefits, such as flex time, but nearly two-thirds work for companies that don’t do so, according to a new survey by BDO Seidman.

"In order to grow and compete in today's complex, global business environment, companies have to move beyond viewing flexibility solely as a tool for talent retention or employee satisfaction, and make flexibility matter to all aspects of their business," says BDO Chief Executive Officer Jack Weisbaum.

To gain C-suite support for flexible work life benefits, focus equally on people and business-related goals such as more productive workflows, reduced environmental impact and increases in health care and real estate savings, suggests Cali Williams Yost, who co-developed BDO's flexibility strategy and is president of Work+Life Fit, Inc.

BDO and Work+Life Fit’s 2008 CFO Perspectives on Work Life Flexibility study was based on telephone interviews with 100 CFOs at companies with at least 5,000 employees.

A scant 39 percent of the CFOs surveyed work for companies that offer formal flexibility policies or programs. Additionally, while 75 percent of the CFOs at those companies say flexibility is "very important" or "somewhat important" to the future profitability of their organizations, most think that their management teams (62 percent) see flexibility only as an employee perk or human resources policy.

“There is disparity between the potential bottom-line impact of flexibility and the strategic infrastructure companies have in place to achieve these goals," notes BDO's Weisbaum. "If flexibility is going to have the impact on profitability that CFOs believe it will, then more organizations must consider strategic, business-based flexibility strategies."

Weisbaum doesn’t just talk the flex time talk, he actually walks the walk. His employment contract specifies that he can telecommute from his home in Vero Beach, Fla.

As of this summer, 66% of BDO employees reported using day-to-day flexibility (small, periodic changes in where, when and how work is done) in the past year. And, 14% of employees have a formal flex plan such as telecommuting, reduced schedule or flextime arrangement.

Advertising that Hits Them Where they Sit

If you want to lure a big city Big 4 accountant to a job in the 'burbs, you’ve got to cast your reel in the right pond. For Cerini & Associates, that means advertising for experienced hires by putting ads at the Ronkonkoma and Huntington Long Island New York Rail Road stations, where accountants board the train for the two-hour ride into Manhattan.

Matthew Armandi, senior manager in charge of recruitment at Cerini & Associates tells Long Island Business News reporter Laura Glasser why his firm is trying non-traditional advertising and pitching work/life balance:
The Big Four have the resources to attract the best and the brightest right out of college, but after one to two years, those people find the money isn’t worth the extra time they have to spend at work,” Armandi told the paper. “We can target those people because we know they’re already very good at what they do.
On Long Island, the economy has accounting firms working harder, in part because of an uptick in the number of companies needing help restructuring. Read the whole feature to see what else is going on up there.

Time for a Change?

Accounting and financial professionals remain fairly optimistic about their jobs – even if Deloitte's recent lay offs made some news and some major tanking is going on in the investment sector. If your industry's struggling, this might be a good time to switch sectors, suggests CFO magazine, especially if you're a senior manager:
…the health-care and energy sectors have wide open-doors for people seeking career changes.

The health-care sector has added 368,000 jobs this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The aging of baby boomers has raised the demand for health-care workers, and health-care organizations need more accountants as well to keep track of the new business.

And the energy job market is going strong because of the boom in natural gas production and increased investments in alternative energy.
Is It Time to Switch Industries? [CFO]

Last Month's Poll

In August, we asked JobsintheMoney users if their firm was laying off non-accounting staff. The results:
  • Yes – 61 percent
  • No – 24 percent
  • There are plans to – 3 percent
  • Don't know – 12 percent
Now we're curious about whether accounting jobs will suffer along with the general economy. Take our poll on JobsintheMoney's home page.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Economic Tremors For New York CPAs

With the condition Wall Street's been in lately, it's no surprise that CPA firms in the New York area are starting to feel the economic pressure as their clients' revenues shrink. As storm clouds gather, a hot specialty like corporate governance or experience working for Internet or media companies, may be the key to keeping your head above the rising waters. And make certain you stay on top of the technology in the field. Here's our story.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Peacefully Coexisting With Porcupines

Having a control-freak for a boss or a gossip-hound for a cubicle-mate was bad enough when recruiters were calling you twice a month. Now that the economy has turned, it's even worse, because getting on the wrong side of anyone in your group could cost you your job.

So Vicky Oliver's new book, Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, is well timed. Full of advice for coping with difficult people at work, it's being touted as a survival aid in today's cutthroat job market. "When the times get tough, the tough stay put!" says Oliver, a career management author and speaker whose previous books include 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.

Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots dissects a variety of villains carrying colorful monikers such as "The Grumpy Martyr," "The Boss’s Pet," and "The Credit Snatcher." There are also some old familiar nasties, like the sexually harrassing supervisor, and the boss who is a legend in her own mind. Oliver focuses on giving concrete advice for achieving peaceful coexistence - such as when to speak up and when it's wiser to "sweep your problem under the 2-ply industrial carpet."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Escaping the Treadmill

If you yearn to recover a bit of the freedom you shed when you went into public accounting, project work might be the answer. You can either market yourself or sign on with a company that specializes in placing project-based accounting and finance professionals, from entry-level bookkeepers to chief financial officers. Here's our story detailing the ins and outs (and pluses and minuses) of this career option.

Surveys Say: 4th Quarter Looking Good

Deloitte employees may be getting laid off but everyone else’s holiday bonus is probably safe because demand for accounting and finance employment is holding steady at worst and may even rise during the last quarter.

That’s the latest word from two employer surveys out this week, Robert Half International’s Quarterly Financial Hiring Index and Manpower’s Employment Outlook Survey. Both ask respondents about their hiring plans for the fourth quarter of 2008.

RHI’s data, which is compiled from telephone interviews with 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs), asks specifically about finance and accounting positions. A whopping 85 percent of the CFOs said they plan to stand pat and not hire or fire anyone, 10 percent plan to increase staff and 5 percent are going to be making cuts in the 4th quarter.

More specifically, RHI’s survey says:
Forty-four percent of CFOs who expect to hire in the fourth quarter cited business growth as the reason for the increased need for additional staff. Forty-one percent reported rising workloads as the primary driver.

Twenty-eight percent of executives interviewed cited accounting positions as the most challenging to fill. Twenty-two percent of respondents pointed to operational-support roles, such as those in accounts payable and collections, as the most difficult to staff.

The most active hiring is expected to take place among firms with 20 to 49 employees, where a net 6 percent of CFOs project adding staff. Eleven percent of executives plan to hire full-time financial professionals and 5 percent anticipate decreasing personnel levels.
Manpower, meanwhile, puts finance, insurance and real estate together in a single category. Despite the downturn in real estate, about two-thirds of the 14,000 surveyed employers said they planned no changes in their hiring, while 15 percent planned increases and 12 percent planned decreases in hiring, which nets out to a 5 percent increase when the numbers are seasonally adjusted.

That sounds great on the surface, but actually, it’s a slight dip from the previous quarter, and considerably lower than the sector’s 2005 peak of 25%. “This is the weakest employment outlook for the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector since Quarter 2, 1992,” Manpower’s survey reports. That early 1992 housing market had a lot in common with today’s market, including a foreclosure crisis, a savings and loan crisis and tons of bad assets being unloaded.

The two surveys also project which regions will offer the best job markets. Manpower says the strongest job prospects are found in the West and the weakest are in the South.

RHI says New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont ) and the East South Central states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) will see the greatest gains in hiring.

“Growth in the manufacturing sector in the East South Central states is among the trends driving the need for additional financial staff, particularly midlevel accounting professionals,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "In the New England region, financial analysts are needed to help firms identify further operating efficiencies.”

So how does all this jibe with Deloitte layoffs, plus earlier layoffs at other Big 4 firms? “It’s hard to draw any conclusions that apply to the industry as a whole,” says Jon Zion, RHI's president of eastern operations . “We have yet to see a broader trend of personnel reductions and, in fact, continue to see hiring activity in public accounting. Many firms even report hiring difficulties due to a shortage of skilled professionals.”

Want to check your local RHI results? Head to

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Crowe Chizek is now Crowe Horwath

Crowe Chizek and Company LLC, Oak Brook, Ill., is practicing under a new name, Crowe Horwath LLP.

The new name reflects the firm’s membership in Horwath International, a network of 140 independent accounting and management consulting firms, with offices in more than 400 cities globally.

Crowe, which has about 20 offices and over 2,500 staffers, is the largest member firm within the Horwath network (the network’s members have a total of 19,000 professionals).

The company has served 350 international clients in more than 40 countries, and the name change is aimed at raising Crow Horwath's global visibility.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wachovia Close to Naming a CFO

With Wachovia Corp. on the verge of naming a new CFO, The Wall Street Journal says the front-runner is Carlyle Group executive David Zwiener.

Wachovia, like most U.S. banks, is struggling to adapt to the housing downturn. Among other things, that led the bank to replace its chief executive a couple of months ago and oust its CFO soon afterward. Just this weekend, Washington Mutual - another big domestic bank that made a horribly timed bet on non-traditional mortgages – ousted its long-time chief executive. And of course, the Treasury has just announced it's taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and will replace those institutions' top executives. In an interesting coincidence, the man named to run Freddie Mac, David Moffett, is a senior advisor to Carlyle Group, the same private equity firm where Zwiener now works.

Zwiener's background, the WSJ observes,

includes a stint as president and chief operating officer of property and casualty operations at The Hartford Financial Services Group, as well as turns as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the same company. He also was executive vice president and chief financial officer at ITT Financial Corporation and senior vice president, treasurer and executive vice president-capital markets at Heller International Corporation.

Zwiener Is Top Pick As Wachovia CFO [WSJ]

Help Moving into an Ivory Tower

CPAs who want to shift from public accounting into a teaching position at the university level can apply for a $30,000 annual stipend from the Accounting Doctoral Scholars (ADS) program.

The ADS Program, run by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Foundation, will give 30 stipends each year to doctoral program students willing to commit to teaching or research in auditing and tax after graduation.

The program is open to CPAs with three years of “meaningful” work experience in public accounting audit or tax who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

The job outlook for university accounting professors looks pretty good right now. Currently, over 43 percent of U.S. accounting faculty members are 55 or over and the number of new PhD’s been steadily declining. A “serious crisis” is going to occur in the near future if more CPAs don’t choose teaching careers, according to the American Accounting Association.

ADS has a two-step application process. First, you apply to the program. Then, if you’re selected, you attend a one-day orientation and confirm that you’re applying to enroll in a doctoral program at a participating university for the fall 2009 school year.

The deadline for this year’s applicants is Nov. 3, 2008.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

More on What IFRS Means for You

So many articles on IFRS, so little time.

published this piece examining the differences between IFRS and GAAP, what's required to get up to speed on the international standards, and what the Big Four are doing to prepare their accounting staffs.
In light of legal issues, (Deloitte & Touche Senior Manager Kevin) Dueck thinks the shift to "fewer rules and more principles" will prompt accountants to hone skills in "documenting judgments and procedures clearly and concisely." He's not sure the change actually will bring more documentation but, he says, "The entry-level person will need to be a critical thinker and a good writer."

And, what about the tug-of-war between auditors and corporate management over disclosures and unqualified financial statements? "A lot of people think IFRS will give managers more power in negotiating with auditors" over rules interpretation and adverse opinions in statements," (W.P. Carey Professor of Accountancy Philip) Reckers notes.

Dueck doesn't see that hazard. "It's at the auditor's discretion which type of opinion to issue or whether to issue an opinion at all," he says. But, he adds: "What you will see is more footnote disclosures in financial statements." That means investors will work harder to understand the financial health of companies they're researching.
Standards Deviations: U.S. Financial Accounting Heads for Change [Knowledge@W.P. Carey]

Our Take: Age Matters

Recently, two sports stories caught Jon Jacobs' eye by showcasing opposite poles of an issue many financial services professionals grapple with every day: the perceived relationship between job performance and age. Read his thoughts here.

Keep Going, and Going, and Going...

A lot of Baby Boomers are working past their retirement dates, says the Gannett News Service, and a fair number of them are going so by choice. Interestingly, a lot of the options touted by experts include positions that seem uniquely suited to folks with accounting backgrounds. They include:
  • Management Analyst
  • Professor
  • SCORE Counselor
  • Controller
  • Consultant
Many baby boomers are continuing their careers [Gannett News Service via the Star Press]

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Golfing For Business

We've all heard that golfing together is a widely used tool for forging connections among business associates - especially service providers (such as accountants) and prospective clients. There are even statistics to prove it.

In 2002, Starwood Hotels surveyed 401 business executives about mixing golf with work. A recent AccountingWeb commentary mixed information from the Starwood study with tips from Debbie Waitkus, a consultant and business golf-coach.

Here are some key tidbits: 97 percent of the executives surveyed called golf with a business associate a good way to cement a relationship, and 92 percent said they use it to make business contacts. About half said it helps them win customers' business. On the other hand, it's important to show your best behavior while golfing for business. Most executives said that if someone cheated or was a "hothead" on the golf course, they'd peg that person as prone to commit the same sins at work. (At the same time, 82 percent admitted to cheating on the golf course themselves; a similar number admitted to cheating in business.)

Is golf just “A good walk spoiled” or a premier business tool? [AccountingWeb]

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Good Accounting Saves BODs' Jobs

Want to keep your seat on a corporate board of directors? Implement more systems and internal processes to ensure that accounting mistakes come to light early on, so you avoid the need to restate any earnings.

That’s one of the conclusions reached by a Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley study that examined what happened to board directors in the wake of restatements.

Assistant Professor Jo-Ellen Pozner studied more than 300 earnings restatements filed between 1997 and 2003 by 266 S&P 1500 firms. She looked at when the restatement occurred, the reason for the restatement, the company’s performance, and how long individual directors stayed with a company after the restatement.

She then compared directors at those companies with directors at a control sample of “clean” companies and concluded that corporate board members associated with firms that restate earnings may lose their jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with the numbers.

Patterns emerged, showing board members did not have to have held their positions at the time of restatement to be stigmatized, or guilty by association, to lose their seats on other boards.

“We like to think that we choose directors based on a rational assessment of their skills and track record, but this does not appear to be the case. Instead, it’s like a witch hunt. Companies get nervous about associating with other tainted companies, and their directors are essentially used as scapegoats,” says Pozner.

When a director’s individual skills are outweighed by this negative stigma, rather than any substantive facts, many board members step down to disassociate themselves from the stigmatized company, she found. Even if they leave, tainted directors face an increased probability of losing seats at other companies, although Pozner adds, “It is difficult to know for sure if they leave voluntarily or are asked to leave.”

Directors who managed to hold on to their seats until the end of their terms were more likely to be judged by the severity of the actual restatement.

“In the third year after restatement, outside directors are much more likely to lose seats on other boards if the restatement reduced income, if it was the result of fraud, and if they were in office at the time of the restatement,” according to Pozner’s paper.