Friday, January 30, 2009

E-Mailing Thanks? Look at the Clock First

This is what I call a really good point. It comes from Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch, a career counselor and career development trainer from Massachusetts:

Here’s a tip for everyone writing electronic thank-you notes after networking meetings and actual interviews. (If you aren’t writing a thank you note within a day of meeting someone who’s helping in your job search, you should be!)

Leslie Warner, director of Alumni/ae Career Services at Tufts University recommends you only e-mail your thank you notes, or any other communication, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.) unless you know your recipients don’t have their Blackberrys turned on 24/7 for their clients and other work requirements.

I recently heard from a financial services guy who says folks earnestly send him thank you letters after he meets with them - and they do it at 1 a.m. He has to get out of bed and check what it is because it might be a client issue to address. When it ends up being a request for information or a thank you note, it makes him cranky.

So don’t sabotage your job search efforts with a well-meaning but mistimed correspondence. Compose your letters at 2 a.m., but don’t hit the send button until the next business day.

A Career Change Road Map

Changing careers requires intensive research, self-knowledge, and passionate commitment to a goal. Ultimately, getting hired may rest on devising a marketable idea you can present to an employer in the field you’ve trained your sights on.

Our story's here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coping With Difficult People At Work

Vicky Oliver's book, Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, comes at the right time. Until a year or so ago, "retention" was a mantra for HR officers. Now the shoe is on the other foot: It's employees who obsess about retaining their own jobs. So a tool kit for coping with difficult workplace personalities falls on fertile soil.

Here's Jon's review.

Friedman Merges with Chortek & Gottschalk

David Friedman, CPA, has merged wtih Chortek & Gottschalk, LLP, Waukesha, Wisconsin, giving the firm new offices in Northbrook, Illinois and Beverly Hills. Five professionals who, like Friedman, specialize in forensic accounting, will also join Chortek & Gottschalk.

In addition to forensic work, Friedman specializes in accounting, tax planning and financial consulting for those in the entertainment industry. The bulk of that work is done in the firm’s Beverly Hills office, but Chicago is actually a pretty active market for entertainment, especially live theater, and a lot of talent hails from the Windy City, Friedman says.

They’re not looking to add any staff at this point, but he suggests you keep them in mind for future employment. “Both firms have a strong dedication to quality, we’re not churn-and-burn accounting shops,” he says, adding that the firm's accountant with the least seniority has been there seven years.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Four Plus Plante Make Fortune 100 Best Cos. List

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list is out and all four of the Big Four, plus Plante & Moran, Southfield, Michigan made the list.

The rankings are based on the opinions of 400 randomly selected employees at each firm who respond to a 57-question survey, plus a Culture Audit of demographics, pay, benefits, corporate philosophy and communications. To be eligible a company has to be at least seven years old and have 1,000 employees.

In agreeing to be on the list, the Big Four each had to release some interesting statistics about their firms.

Wondering how many new jobs the firm has created, the percentage of voluntary turnover, the most common job salary, how many job applicants they had, or how many hours of training the average staffer receives? It’s all there in the Fortune ranking.

You’ll also find information about the percentage of minorities and women at the firms and whether they offer same-sex partner benefits.

Friday, January 23, 2009

KPMG Wins Catalyst Award for Diversity Initiative

KPMG has won an 2009 Catalyst Award for its Great Place to Build a Career initiative, which includes programs, resources, and benefits aimed at making KPMG an inclusive employer.

In choosing its annual award winners, Catalyst considers several aspects of an organization's diversity program including business rationale, senior leadership support, accountability, communication, replicability, originality and measurable results.

In 2008, 18.2 percent of KPMG partners were women, up from 12.9 percent in 2003. Also, women of color represented 10.2 percent of managing directors, directors, senior managers, and managers, up from 5.7 percent in 2003.

Turnover among KPMG’s women and men decreased over the course of the initiative, dropping 36.3 percent for women and 24.5 percent for men between 2003 and 2008.

Just how hard is it to win the Catalyst award? Corporate award skeptics would say that far too many prizes are given to companies based on their ability to fill the tables at awards dinners.

However, Catalyst is pretty well respected and it only passes out a handful of Awards each year, even though the group has over 400 members globally.

KPMG is the fourth of the Big Four to earn the award. Ernst & Young won in 2003, PricewaterhouseCoopers won in 2007 and Deloitte won way back in 1995.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

80% of UK KPMG Partners Want 4-Day Work Week

More than 80 percent of United Kingdom KPMG partners have said yes to a company offer that would allow them to either work a four-day week or take a short sabbatical, Accountancy Age reports.

That figure means around 400 out of 550 UK partners have applied, the paper says, adding:

Eight other countries within the KPMG group are thought to be considering similar schemes.

Rachel Campbell, the firm’s head of people, said: "Like many other firms as part of our forward planning we said: 'What would the situation look like if the market worsens?' We simply didn’t want to be in the position where we would be contemplating large scale redundancies."

KPMG’s announcement comes amid a wave of job cuts in the profession. [UK] Firms including Deloitte, Grant Thornton and PKF have announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs in expectation of slower revenue growth this year.

Other [UK] firms, including Ernst & Young and PwC, said they already offered a limited number of staff the option of working a shorter working week or sabbaticals. But they added that they had no plans to offer a scheme on the scale of KPMG in an effort to avoid job cuts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SEC Could Add Enforcement Jobs

The SEC might add as many as 120 new slots for enforcement lawyers and accountants later this year. That's how many new bodies one securities law expert believes the agency will need to restore its reputation as a market watchdog.

Here's our story.

Revenue Growth Modest in Year Ahead

Growth rates for global accounting networks will likely be in the single digits in the year ahead, and most firms will look for creative ways to re-assign staff to avoid layoffs, according to Arvind Hickman, editor of the International Accounting Bulletin (IAB).

Combined 2008 fee income for major networks was $130.2 billion, up 16 percent from 2007, while association total revenues rose 15 percent to $22.6 billion, IAB says.

However, since many accounting firms use a mid-year date as their year end, the economic downturn had not yet hit when results were reported.

“What we’ve been hearing from global leaders and from leaders in the U.S. is there is definitely a slow down in certain areas affected by the credit crisis and an increase in other areas. That traditionally occurs when economic downturns happen,” Hickman says.

What's ahead? “You will see a lot more emphasis on restructuring and business recovery services while corporate finance work will continue to decline. There will also be a further investment into the emerging markets, especially India and China,” he says.

As firms look at different ways to manage their staff, we could see more initiatives like the United Kingdom KPMG’s four-day work week offer, or Singapore KPMGs 5 percent to 7.5 percent pay cuts for middle and top management, Hickman adds.

In comparing revenues, IAB says PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was still the largest network, with 2008 fee income of $28.2 billion, followed by Deloitte at $27.4 billion. Deloitte’s consulting business was particularly robust. It grew 22 percent and contributed $6.3 billion to the company’s bottom line, IAB says. E&Y posted $24.5 billion in fee income, and KPMG generated $22.7.

Monday, January 19, 2009

SEC Nominee Inclined to Go Slow on IFRS

SEC chair-designee Mary Schapiro says she might take IFRS implementation off the fast-track "road map" established by departing Chairman Christopher Cox.

During a confirmation hearing last Thursday before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Schapiro said in response to a question, "I will take a big deep breath and look at this entire area again carefully and will not necessarily feel bound by the existing road map that’s out for comment."

According to media reports, she expressed three concerns about moving from U.S. GAAP to international accounting standards: the cost burden for U.S. companies to make the switch, lack of detail within IFRS opening the door to inconsistent application, and the independence of the International Accounting Standards Board.

In one media account, the cost issue appeared to take center stage. According to Dow Jones newswire, Schapiro

told the committee that the SEC needs to "think carefully" about imposing these changes on the industry, saying that some estimates suggest it could cost up to $30 million for each company to convert to the IFRS.

However, a separate report in the Journal of Accountancy says Schapiro referred to questions about IASB's independence from politicians as her "greatest concern" about IFRS.

To be sure, the existing rulemaking structure for U.S. GAAP is hardly fully "independent," either. FASB pronouncements can be and sometimes have been overruled by the SEC, a government regulator whose purse strings are controlled by Congress.

These issues were neatly summed up by AICPA in a recent post on its IFRS Resources blog:

The more serious risk to adopting IFRS is not the quality of the standards, but the accountability and independence of the International Accounting Standards Board. The second milestone in the SEC’s roadmap discusses accountability. National accounting setters have traditionally been accountable to national regulators. In the U.S., the SEC oversees the Financial Accounting Foundation, parent of the FASB. Historically, the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation has not had a similar link with national securities regulators.

The IASC Foundation Trustees have proposed amendments to its constitution that would create a Monitoring group composed of securities authorities. The Monitoring group will work with the IASC Foundation on oversight of the IASB and areas for consideration by the IASB in its ongoing work.

Even if a monitoring group is established, will an international accounting model be strong enough to fend off political pressure from governments around the world and are we in the U.S. ready to give up our direct regulator relationship with the accounting standards setter?

Several AICPA members' comments in response to that Jan. 7 post argued against adopting IFRS for U.S. companies. None argued in favor.

Schapiro is the current chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. She is also a former SEC commissioner and also served as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Strategic Career Change

Since Change is the national theme of the week, we thought we'd look at a recent article in Psychology Today that, while it focuses on personality change, can apply to the idea of career change, as well. If nothing else, it's a helpful guide to taking stock of your position and whether it's really the right one for you.

Here's our take on it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Special Agent Train Pulls Out of the Station at 36

After reading our stories about working for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a few folks wanted to know why those employers don’t hire agents older than 36.

We went straight to the source for a response and here’s how Navy Communication Director Paul O'Donnell explains the situation: “There is an entry age limit because there is a mandatory retirement age for the 1811 job series in federal law enforcement.” For those outside the Beltway, the 1811 series is fed-speak for criminal and non-criminal investigators.

The FBI and NCIS aren’t the only agencies that hire 1811s. So do the Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department, Treasury and really, the list goes on.

The reason there’s mandatory retirement is because the agencies want a “young and vigorous law enforcement officer (LEO) work force.” LEOs get to retire at age 50 with enhanced annuities, as long as they have 20-years of LEO-covered service or at any age after 25 years of service.

For NCIS, the Department of Defense gets to set the maximum age for original entry into the special agent job. “Persons not appointed by the last day of the month in which that individual reaches their 37th birthday cannot be originally appointed or assigned to the LEO position,” O’Donnell explained to us in an email.

There is a loophole. “For NCIS, the Secretary of the Navy may approve the original entry of an individual who has passed the entry age limits,” O’Donnell writes. “The Secretary of the Navy may also exempt a LEO from automatic separation until the employee becomes 60 years of age if in their judgment the public interest so requires.”

If you’re 37 or better, you may not be shut out of service completely. There are positions that fall outside the requirement because they’re not 1811 series jobs. You can check the Web site to see everything an agency has open, then click on the qualifications tab to see whether a particular federal job has an age limit.

Friday, January 16, 2009

KPMG Offers 4-Day Week to United Kingdom Staff

The London Mail today reported that KPMG’s United Kingdom operations put an interesting proposition to its partners and staff: How about you cut back to working four days a week to help us cut costs?

The Press Association says the firm is offering a second option, 30 to 120-day sabbaticals for 30 percent pay.

The Telegraph said the plan will be finalized in mid-February.

I can’t imagine they’re going to get too many takers. I’d be too worried to take the three-day weekend for fear that the move would be interpreted as a lack of commitment to (and desire for) my job.

In the U.S., where KPMG is legally a completely separate firm, officials declined to speculate when we asked them if a similar move might be ahead for their employees.

How to Interview - Discreetly

Should employees be fired for interviewing with another company?

Sports pundits were buzzing when Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo fired head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets. While the practice might be a revelation in the sports world, DeFilippo’s actions probably didn’t surprise many in the private sector, where employees regularly risk termination if they’re caught interviewing for another job. In fact, some managers start recruiting for a successor if they happen to overhear an employee talking to a recruiter on the phone or spot an employee’s resume posted online.

Considering the lack of job security and growth opportunities these days, it hardly seems fair to be let go simply for interviewing. But if you think you might be laid off or your compensation has changed for the worse, you may have to take the risk. If you do, follow these tips to keep your search a secret.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Way to Injure Yourself Online

Job-seekers are often urged to ramp up their use of online tools like personal Web sites, social networking, live-blogging and mobile, Web-based email. Just as with physical tools, however, using any relatively new product poses a risk of self-injury.

Here's Jon Jacobs's story.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It Doesn't Hit You...Until it Hits You

Until the ax crashes through the wall of the cubby next door, most people don't worry about being laid off. That's the conclusion of a survey which found only 12 percent of those working at layoff-free firms are concerned about losing their jobs in the next six months. That figure rises to 45 percent among those working at companies where jobs have been lost.

"A lot of it is the 'not me' syndrome," says Robert Hohman, CEO of, a Web site that hired Harris Interactive to survey some 1,300 people on the subject. "People view this as someone else's problem, except when it happens to their company and then people get a hard dose of reality."

Even then, folks tend to see layoffs as something that happens to other people. While 45 percent of employees think they could lose their own job after a layoff has occurred, 87 percent think other people are going to be the ones let go.

The survey also examined what people are willing to do to keep their jobs as safe as possible. It found workers are willing to work harder, forgo pay increases and bonuses and take on more responsibility when they work for a company that's had layoffs in the past six months.

What fascinates me is how very few people are willing to take a pay cut to keep their job. To save their own job, people said they were willing to:

  • take on more projects/responsibility - 74 percent
  • work longer hours - 60 percent
  • give up benefits such as the on-site cafeteria or day care 46 percent
  • accept a reduction in health or dental benefits - 32 percent
  • take a cut in salary - 30 percent
  • give up paid time off/vacation - 24 percent

So, more than half of those surveyed wouldn't brown bag lunch to save their job? More than half would rather by laid off than pay for their own trips to the dentist or contribute more to their health insurance tab?

But wait, there's more. Given the current need for corporate cost-cutting, you'd think people would scale back their bonus expectations. Not so much. Forty one percent said they expect their bonus to remain the same, and 15 percent expect their bonus to be larger. Only 28 percent expect a shrinking bonus.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Catch Bad Guys

Accounting and financial analysis skills figure highly in the FBI's new push to hire more than 2,100 professional staff and 850 special agents. Posted on the bureau's careers Web site, current openings include financial manager, financial analyst, supervisory budget analyst, accounting analyst, accounting and budget technician, and auditor. Most require an accounting degree and/or accounting or auditing experience. Pay grades range up to GS-14, with a published salary range of about $85,000 to $110,00. Application deadline is Jan. 16. Here's our story.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Accounting IT Trends for 2009

CPA Technology Advisor’s Richard Oppenheimer says 2009’s most important technology trends for accountants will be:

  • Virtualization
  • Tax document automation
  • Streamlined sales tax
  • Mobile access — smart phones, Gobi, 3G
  • Cloud computing — mesh, etc. and
  • Portals

“The emerging reality is that accountants have to know about technologies — ones they use along with planning for ones they are about to use,” he says.

For those who don’t mesh from mush, the column is a quick read that covers some of the biggest trends going on in accounting IT.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Brathas Joins McGladrey

Chris Brathas has joined McGladrey & Pullen LLP as an audit partner in the firm's Boston office. A former KPMG senior manager, he specializes in serving colleges, universities, private schools, research entities, foundations and membership organizations.

"Chris enhances our ability to serve educational and other not-for-profit organizations in the Boston marketplace," said Steve Dooley, executive managing partner of McGladrey & Pullen's Boston-based offices. "Given the current pressure on colleges and universities to manage costs and implement efficiencies, primarily due to the dramatic decline in endowment funds, the addition of Chris to our team makes McGladrey & Pullen a strong alternative for institutions seeking depth of expertise and competitive fees."

WS+B Picks up Serluco

WithumSmith+Brown (WS+B), Princeton, New Jersey, has acquired Serluco & Co., LLC, a Red Bank, New Jersey firm with a client base that includes on health care providers and not-for-profit organizations.

“Serluco & Co. have a niche expertise that we are looking to expand upon,” says Andy Vitale, CPA, Partner-in-Charge of WS+B’s Red Bank office.

Richard Serluco was a partner with Deloitte & Touche prior to founding Serluco & Co. and is chairman of the New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJSCPA) Auditing and Accounting Standards Committee. Serluco will join WS+B as a Partner-Emeritus.

His son, Michael Serluco, CPA, a partner at Serluco & Co., will be a partner at WS+B and Serluco Director Joseph Denuto will be a Senior Manager at WS+B.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wield New Tools, But Wear Protective Gloves

Job-seekers are often urged to ramp up their use of online tools like personal Web sites, social networking, live-blogging and mobile Web-based email. Just as with physical tools, however, any relatively new product poses a risk of self-injury.

A candidate relates this harrowing tale: Scanning a mailbox he rarely used, he was shocked to find an employer's invitation to interview for a dream job languishing there. Worse, his Web hosting system had routed that incoming email to a "Junk" folder. The candidate discovered the message eight days after the prospective employer had sent it – and less than 48 hours before his system would have automatically deleted it.

The lesson: It's easy to get euphoric while watching your online presence grow before your eyes. Free personal Web sites and blogs, a custom domain for yourself, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and a multitude of separate mailboxes and email addresses -- all give job-seekers ever-greater leeway to tailor job inquiries to the perceived preferences of particular employers. But those same tools also give you more ways to lose control - of both the messages you put out about yourself (falling victim to "digital dirt"), and incoming messages from contacts or even potential employers.

What's the answer? Telling every job-seeker to confine all search-related correspondence to a single email address is probably too simplistic. Instead, each professional should administer personal Web and email accounts in a way that he or she is comfortable with, but that makes it easy to review all information frequently so that critical messages won't be missed.

One obvious possibility is to set every mailbox to automatically forward all incoming email to your primary address. If some mailboxes and other communication tools lack full Outlook functionality (automatic forwarding, reminders, calendars and the like), you might set your Blackberry or PC to send you alerts by other means. Or, you could create a document or spreadsheet that lists each domain you use and each employer you contacted through that domain.

The bottom line: expanding your online toolbox requires a bit of planning and extra care, especially at the outset, to maintain control over the edifice of new communication tools you've built.

Deloitte Creates IFRS Course Materials

Students coming out of school in the next few years may be learning about International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) courtesy of Deloitte.

The accounting firm has released a complete set of IFRS course materials to its 150-school IFRS University Consortium. While only Consortium member schools can access the full set of materials, anyone can access Deloitte’s IFRS Resource Library of white papers, industry and tax publications, articles, IFRS tools, newsletters, podcasts and IFRS Q&As.

With IFRS looming, now is a great time to make sure you know at least as much about the subject as next year's graduates.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Resolved: Check Credit Before Job Hunting

If your New Year's resolutions include finding a new job, be sure you find out what’s in your credit report before potential employers do by pulling your credit report from the three big repositories.

Looking at your credit report tells an employer how you manage money, and also reveals where you shop (think twice before you open a store account at a lingerie shop), how much you charge, what mortgaged properties you own, and shows your delinquencies, bankruptcies, judgments and liens.

Employers will also see prior employment information, so be sure your credit report matches your resume.

You’ll also see a list of just who has ordered copies of your credit report, which may include your current employer (if the stack of paperwork you signed when you took your current job included a form giving your employer permission to check your credit).

If your credit report has a mistake, you'll find information about how to correct it at the Web sites of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

If your credit report is bad and it’s also accurate, during interviews be prepared to exhibit extreme contrition about your past mistakes. Keep your explanation short and include a statement about how you’ve corrected the problem. Then turn the interview back to the real issue – what you can do for the employer.