Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Way to Network and Boost Job Prospects

West coast accountants looking to boost their careers in the downturn might want to consider a little volunteer work for the region’s leading trade organization. The California Society of CPAs is looking to fill a number of leadership positions at the state and local level. The posts usually involve participation on committees that address issues in such areas as taxation, auditing and the non-profit sector. The commitment can be difficult for someone with a busy practice. But the outgoing chair of CalCPA, Greg Burke, says that among the benefits of volunteer work, CPAs have a rare opportunity to network with leaders from other firms on a deeper level than in larger conferences and annual meet-and-greet events. Burke says that the contacts can help accountants draw a clearer picture about skills that will be important in the near future and may lead to job opportunities. “You have the chance to interact with leaders statewide,” Burke says. “You can tap into the information flow that’s happening.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Long-time Recruiter Recommends Targeting Growth Firms

Sometimes obvious job strategies bear repeating, says a leading West Coast recruiter of finance professionals. Among her suggestions for conducting a more efficient job search, Susan Afan of Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Robert Half International says that job-seeking accountants in a falling economy should spend more time pinpointing growth firms. This strategy can save hours in the long run, Afan says. “You have to look for the emerging businesses, the hot industries,” she says.

After a decade heading Robert Half offices in Northern California and Hawaii, Afan recently became senior regional vice president overseeing Robert Half’s San Diego office. The office’s clientele has included a number of major healthcare organizations. Healthcare along with government and education have been among the few economic bright spots on the West Coast and nationally. Afan says job seekers looking for positions in industry might focus their search in these industries.

For prospective agency candidates, she recommends identifying accounting firms with strong practices in these sectors and perusing rankings of accounting’s largest companies. For example, Accounting Today’s most recent, annual review of leading accounting firms highlights those with the largest revenue increases from 2007 to 2008. Alexandria, Va.-based Kearney & Co., which focuses on government, topped this year’s list with 51 percent revenue growth.  Nine other firms posted at least 25 percent growth. A separate list identifies firms that were not among the top 100 in revenue but are considered rising stars. These firms included Greenfield, Ind.-based Kemper CPA Group and Salina, Kansas-based Kennedy and Coe

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt Needs Taxation Experts; Names Partners

Amidst the economic gloom, here’s a ray of light for accountants: Southern California stalwart Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt just named three new partners and needs at least seven experienced professionals in its taxation practice. The Santa Monica-based firm promoted Jason Flashberg, Curt Giles and John Kishi to partner.

Flashberg works out of Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt's Westlake Village office in tax compliance, planning and consulting for high net worth individuals, including professional athletes. Giles works out of the Orange County office in the firm’s international tax practice, while Kishi is based at headquarters and was a senior manager in the audit group. Holthouse now has 27 partners in its six offices.

In addition, Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt is seeking an international tax manager/senior associate in its Orange County office, and a combined total of six tax managers and tax seniors in its Santa Monica, Orange County, Long Beach and Westlake Village offices. Depending on the volume and types of clients, tax managers oversee about two to eight seniors. They usually possess five to seven years of experience. Seniors generally supervise about three or four staff accountants and have three to four years of experience.

The firm’s Director of Recruiting and Training, Jennifer Matsuura, said that Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt conducts a phone screening and then brings the strongest candidates on site for a day of three or four interviews with Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt employees, including at least one partner. With more than $58 million in revenue, Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt ranked third among California-based accounting firms. Revenue grew 12 percent in 2008 from 2007.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A&F Folks Staying Put

The latest Mergis Group survey shows a whopping 82 percent of accounting and finance professionals think there are fewer jobs available and 63 percent think the economy is getting weaker.

Only 40 percent of the 347 professionals who answered the Mergis survey said they were confident they could find a new position. Confidence was highest among mid-career professionals aged 45-54 (50 percent) and lowest among those aged 55 and over (30 percent).

Given those levels of uncertainty, most accounting and finance professionals that are currently employed will stay where they are, says Mergis Senior Vice President Mike Bettick. "Until the uncertainty curbs itself, these perceptions will continue to exist regardless of the perceptions as to where the economy is moving," he predicts.

While a leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward a recovery and there are indeed some positive signs of economic stabilization, there are equally as many that are indicative of a much different prognosis, adds Mergis Vice President Glenn Dubiel.

“The reality remains that the impact of TARP and other government stimulus programs have yet to completely gain enough traction to begin resulting in new job creation,” he adds.

His advice to job seekers is to look toward counter-cyclical segments of the job market and industries that are anticipating growth as a result of recently passed stimulus programs and the new administration’s focus on healthcare, energy, technology and education.

“Our anticipation is that these programs will command highly skilled finance, mortgage and legal professionals to navigate through these new regulations and loan workouts,” Dubiel says.

His advice to job seekers is to look toward counter-cyclical segments of the job market and industries that are anticipating growth as a result of recently passed stimulus programs and the new administration’s focus on healthcare, energy, technology and education.

“Our anticipation is that these programs will command highly skilled finance, mortgage and legal professionals to navigate through these new regulations and loan workouts,” Dubiel says.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marks Paneth & Shron and Montalto Merge in New York

Marks Paneth & Shron LLP (MP&S), New York, has merged with Westchester-based Montalto CPA, LLC.

MP&S has 70 partners and principals and a total staff of 500. The combined firm does not expect to hire additional accountants outside the merger.

The merger expands MP&S' tax, family office and business management services targeting small businesses and high-net-worth individuals in Westchester, the northern suburbs and Connecticut.

Montalto Partner Anthony V. Montalto, CPA, senior tax manager Lucille Murray, and four supporting staff members will join the MP&S' Tarrytown, New York office.

Montalto CPA provides tax preparation and compliance, as well as family office and business management services to over 350 businesses, service organizations, not-for-profit organizations and individual clients.

MP&S provides auditing, accounting, tax, bankruptcy and restructuring services as well as litigation and corporate financial advisory services to domestic and international clients.

The firm also provides tax advisory and consulting for high-net-worth individuals and their families, as well as services to international, real estate, media, entertainment, nonprofit, professional and financial services and energy clients.

Don't Bargain Basement Yourself

In today’s job market, you might be tempted to offer to work for free or at a reduced salary during a trial period to prove yourself to an employer.

Don’t do it, says consultant Edward Navis of Full Spectrum HR. You’ll simply devalue yourself and set the company up for a pay discrimination suit, he says.

“From a marketing perspective, people look at free things as having no value,” Navis says. “And even if they say yes to reduced pay, they may not see you as worth more at the end of the trial period.”

Regardless of the economy, companies have to stick to the standard of equal pay for equal work and equal qualifications. If you’re a member of a federally or state-protected class based on your disability, race, religion, gender, etc. and the company lets you work for free, or at a reduced rate, you could later file a pay discrimination case against the employer.

The same theory applies when companies do layoffs and re-hires. “A recent court decision found in favor of a 60-year-old chief financial officer facing a job loss because of tough financial times,” Navis says. “He offered to take a steep pay cut, bringing his salary down to $60,000 annually. His offer was rejected, but he later found out that his replacement, much younger than he, was earning more than that. He filed an age discrimination claim, and things aren't looking too good for the employer right now.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hiring at Kearney

Here’s another sign that government is among the happening sectors when it comes to the job market for accountants. Consider the recent success of Kearney & Co. In 2008, the Alexandria, Va.-based firm, which specializes in government work, posted $48.62 million in revenues, a 51 percent increase over 2007. That was the largest percentage gain by far among firms ranked in Accounting Today’s most recent annual survey of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. It was also the second consecutive year that Kearney has posted a more than 50 percent revenue spike. 

Moreover, Kearney has continued hiring (NBC featured the company in a April 6 “Jobs 4 You” segment, which highlights organizations that are hiring in the downturn). Kearney is looking to continue its strong growth in 2009. It is currently looking to fill 14 positions. The openings include staff I and II accountants, a senior financial analyst and a military accounting specialist and a defense accountant/consultant at the firm’s headquarters and an Air Force financial manager at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. 

Florida Job Picture

If you’re an accountant looking for work in Florida, think smaller. 

At least that’s what a veteran recruiter of finance professionals in the state is advising. Jason Zigman of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Kunin Associates says that a number of small and mid-sized businesses have job openings. Zigman has been recruiting CPAs for a dozen years. He says that he recently helped fill accounting and budgeting positions at a private education/healthcare company, a controller with a healthcare provider and auditing and taxation staff roles at an aviation parts firm. In addition, while Big Four accounting firms have had layoffs in the state, some boutique firms are hiring. Zigman warns that compensation will be lower at smaller organizations, particularly in the present economic climate. But he also says that these companies afford more opportunities to work directly with clients’ senior management. Zigman says that most of the openings are occurring around major urban centers, although his firm has spoken with potential candidates and employers throughout the state. “We’re trying to identify people who are hiring," Zigman says. "We’re meeting with everyone.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Government Job Fair for Finance Professionals

Can Federal government offer salvation for Wall Street professionals laid off or worried about job security? A leading, New York trade organization for the securities industry wants to help them answer this question later this month.

The New York Society of Security Analysts will hold its first annual government job Fair, Federal Careers: Opportunities for Financial Professionals, on April 24. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at NYSSA headquarters, 1777 Avenue of the Americas.

The NYSSA has 11,000 members and provides a range of information and other resources for people in the financial services industry. Nine Federal agencies will be represented, including the FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The NYSSA expects between 400 and 500 potential candidates from across the financial services industry and at various career levels. The job fair follows a similar event last month featuring the CIA, which has also been on the hunt for capable finance professionals.

In remarks to Bloomberg television, Richard Lipstein, chair of the NYSSA's career development committee and a managing director for the Hawthorne, NY-based recruiting firm, Boyden Global Executive Search, said the government is targeting people with two to 15 years of experience and the ability to analyze balance sheets and income statements. Lipstein said that among key job openings, the FBI is seeking forensic accountants, the U.S. Treasury Department is looking for analysts to dissect "the toxic assets that banks are trying to unload," and the Federal Reserve is recruiting analysts and examiners who can determine "the adequacy of existing capital."

In addition, the SEC is looking for people who can help with investigations of corruption. "The government wants to hire people who can get us out of the situation we've found ourselves in," Lipstein said.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dominant = Compentent?

Want to look competent? Just get in touch with your dominant side. In a recent study, University of California, Berkley researchers they found those who act more dominantly are perceived as more competent, even when they aren’t more competent.

Organizational behavior and industrial relations Associate Professor Cameron Anderson and doctoral candidate Gavin Kilduff tested their “great pretender” theory on 17 four-student teams.

The researchers gave each team 45 minutes to design a mock non-profit environmental organization or a for-profit Web site. The winning team would receive a $400 prize. More importantly, the experiment required each participant to rate his or her colleagues' level of influence on the group, and each participant's level of competence.

The results revealed that team members with the most dominant personalities were rated the highest for such qualities as general intelligence, dependability, and self-discipline. At the same time, subjects perceived less outspoken workers as having less desirable traits, giving them high scores for being conventional and uncreative, the researchers said.

To be fair, Anderson and Kilduff wanted to give the alpha standouts of the group the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps these newly anointed leaders were indeed, more competent. A second experiment left no debate.

In round two, researchers asked the teams of students to solve computational problems taken from old versions of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). Participants reported their previous Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) math scores to researchers prior to trying to solve the GMAT problems.

When it was time to reveal the answers out loud, the people who spoke up more were, again, the ones their teammates deemed as the leaders of the group. In addition, it didn't matter if the chosen leaders offered the correct answers, only that they offered more responses, the researchers said.

What's more, the leaders didn't even have to provide the final solution to the problem to be exalted to the top of the heap.

Anderson and Kilduff's work redefines what it means to be dominant in the context of influence. Past studies have aligned dominant behavior with aggressive, heavy handed tactics. This study found dominant people attain influence by displaying competence, they said.

"These findings suggest that dominant individuals may ascent group hierarchies by appearing helpful to the group's overall success as opposed to aggressively grabbing power," the researchers said.

While the findings may be troubling to some, they may be helpful to managers who may want to look a little closer when judging their employees' true productivity and value. The study's results may also help individuals achieve improvement in their own reputations - just by speaking up, the two conclude.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Advice For Senior Financial Officers

The economic downturn has been hard even for senior financial officers who've kept their jobs. Personnel decisions are often at the root of their concerns. Many of them have prescribed layoffs and other cost-cutting measures with direct impact on employees. In some cases, they've eliminated jobs of long-time colleagues and friends, says executive coach and career strategist Pam Hedges of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based Hedges & Associates. "They're biggest stress is making the numbers work," says Hedges, who also runs a networking group for women executives. "They're stressed out about how far down they are going to have to go to make these job cuts." Hedges says that dosing out bad news requires different skills than in down times and creative ways of approaching problems tied to the recession. Among her suggestions, she recommends a direct approach to communication. When telling someone that they're laid off, "the shorter the better," Hedges says. "She also urges financial executives to speak with CFOs and officers at other organizations who may be facing similar situations. Hedges' networking group, which costs $3000 to join for a year, has recently been focusing more on workforce management issues. Indeed, an upcoming meeting will feature a senior recruiter discussing job skills and hiring trends for senior executives.

Talk About Leadership to Land the Job

It may seem as though chief financial officers are only focused on cutting back to boost the bottom line, but a new survey from Robert Half Finance & Accounting, Menlo Park, Calif., finds more than half of CFOs think having solid leadership or hiring outstanding talent are the best ways to protect against threats from rival firms. State-of-the-art technology was also cited as a significant advantage by respondents.

The survey, which queried over 1,400 CFOs from companies with 20 or more employees, asked: "Which one of the following will best protect companies from competitive threats in the next three years?"

Their responses:
  • Strong company leadership 28%
  • A focus on hiring the best people 27%
  • Up-to-date technology 24%
  • The ability to develop and implement new ideas quickly 9%
  • Up-to-date competitive intelligence and market data 6%
  • Other 5%
  • Don't know/no answer 1%

The survey shows that leadership is important to retain and recruit the best people and that the best people want to work for strong managers and leaders, says Kathleen Downs, recruiting manager for Robert Half International, Orlando, Florida.

While prospective employers can see from your resume that you’ve been a supervisor, how do you show them you’re also a good leader?

“Tell me about that system implementation. What part did you play in it and how did you assimilate the team?” she suggests. “Talk about how you progressed at your current job. How did you move from one step to another and how did you do the succession planning so things didn’t fall apart behind you?”

Talk about your tough leadership decisions. “Describe the most difficult person you hired that you then had to work out of the organization,” Downs says. In this economic climate, companies need middle managers that know how to recognize when a subordinate is not capable of meeting the requirements of a changed environment and how to either help that person develop the skills or counsel them out.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Opportunities for CPAs in California Education

Education is one of the two major sectors -- along with healthcare -- where a number of economists have predicted job growth. In California, couple that trend with an expected shortage of certified business officials -- managers and other staff overseeing school audits and other finance activities and the result is likely to be more job opportunities for West Coast accountants than in other industries. The California Society of CPAs Education foundation will hold separate but identical School Districts Conferences May 5 in Ontario for Southern California accountants and May 6 in Sacramento for Northern California accountants. Among other topics, the events will cover changes and trends in auditing school districts. Aubrey King, co-chair of the conferences and a partner at Wilkinson Hadley King & Co. near San Diego, says that many CBOs are approaching retirement and that there's a shortage of people with experience in school accounting. Over the past five years, her firm with its large practice auditing a growing number of charter schools statewide has doubled in size from six to a dozen people. "Our competition always seems to be hiring as well," King says. "The good thing about auditing school districts and governmental entities is that regardless of the economy, it's required by law." 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Western Rankings/Openings at One Regional Power

Moss Adams remained the largest West Coast-based accounting firm on the West Coast. With $336 million in 2008 sales, the Seattle, full-service accounting firm ranked first in the Western/Southwestern region, according to Accounting Today's 2009 survey released recently. But accountants looking for opportunities with large regional firms in the western part of the country will have their widest selection in California.

Of the top 15 ranked firms in the West/Southwest, nine have headquarters in the state. All these firms have revenues of at least $32 million and five of the nine posted double-digit revenue gains on a percentage basis in 2008. Burr Pilger & Mayer topped the list with a 16 percent increase over 2007 on revenues of $56.5 million. Burr Pilger & Mayer is currently looking to fill government manager and non-profit manager, assurance roles in its San Francisco headquarters, and assurance and tax manager positions in its Walnut Creek office.

Forced Vacations at KPMG?

A tougher time-off policy at KPMG, on the heels of a string of Big Four layoffs, is stirring up unpleasant feelings around the blogosphere.

A leaked internal memo Tuesday from two KPMG executives cuts the number of paid days off an employee can carry into the next fiscal year, although without changing the amounts employees accrue each year. The memo also says the firm will close for a total of four additional days this summer (surrounding three holiday weekends) and those days will count against employees' balance of paid days off.

The document is dated Tuesday and bears the names of Jack Taylor, executive vice chair, operations, and Bruce Pfau, vice chair, human resources. We saw it near the end of a comment thread on Re:The Auditors, where an anonymous user posted it Tuesday morning.

In response, KPMG spokesman Dan Ginsburg tells us: "We have a very generous vacation policy and these changes keep us more than competitive in this area." The memo states that some Big Four competitors allow no carryover of paid time off into the following year.

Currently, KPMG lets each employee carry forward up to 1.25 times the number of paid days the employee would accrue over a year. The memo reduces that maximum carryover to 75 percent of a year's time-off allotment for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, and to half the annual allotment for the following fiscal year. (The amount of paid time off that employees earn each year won't change – just the amount that can be saved and used the following year.)

Even the reduced ceilings may sound generous to those who don't work at a Big Four firm. But KPMG employees are accustomed to being able to carry large vacation balances. The person who posted the text on Re:The Auditors called the change "horrendous" and "reprehensible."

Friday, April 03, 2009

Armanino McKenna Creates Consulting Group

Armanino McKenna LLP (AM), San Ramon, has reorganized itself and formed a consulting group.

“We’re the fastest growing CPA firm in the country, based on cumulative revenues, and virtually all of it has come though organic growth,” explains Partner-in-Charge Tom Mescall. “Consulting has been an entrepreneurial growth area for us where we have people focused in their areas pushing the growth and working with clients and bringing those services to market.”

At year end, the company had so many people involved in consulting that it decided to pull those resources together in a more cohesive way. For example, many of the public, mid-market business clients for whom AM does quarterly SEC reporting are high tech firms that offer employees stock option incentives and so need 409(a) valuation services.

“We’re very strong in IT services and in SOX and SOX has a fair amount of IT controls design and testing,” Mescall says. “Clients on the IT side were asking about SOX controls and if we’re in SOX control, they’re asking about IT.”

Audit clientele were seeking financial modeling and industry benchmarking. “A significant amount of our clients are privately held and we’re trusted business advisors to them, especially in this market,” he adds.

So does all that growth mean AA is hiring? “Absolutely,” Mescall says, “As we pull our consulting organization together and build a cohesive strategy there are areas we’d like to be stronger in to bring the full depth and breadth to our clients.”

Valuations is a growth area (the company now has a staff of 13 in that area) particularly in California’s high tech, pharmaceutical and medical device industries. “We’re looking to hire the right people to go after those markets,” Mescall says.

Another area of expansion for the company is royalty auditing for technology such as iPhone apps, as well as royalty agreements entered into by entertainment, video gaming and pharmaceutical companies. “A lot of companies are looking at [royalty agreements as] found revenue and we’re attacking that market,” he explains.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

UK Regulator Worried US Won't Adopt IFRS by 2014

The United State’s lack of movement toward adopting International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is starting to worry the United Kingdom’s independent accounting regulator, Paul Boyle, CEO of The Financial Reporting Council.

As the G20 met, Boyle told Accountancy Age:
‘I personally think the date for full adoption will be quite a long way into the future past 2014…What we should be focusing on is under what conditions the SEC could allow the companies that want to use IFRS could be given the options to do so, which would be a lot more useful.”

There could be “serious repercussions for global convergence efforts if the U.S. continues to drags its heels, or even pulls out completely,” the paper says.

Jenkins Joins CBIZ Tofias

CBIZ Tofias has a new managing director, Carl Jenkins, CPA, who was hired to expand the company’s Valuation, Litigation & Forensic Accounting Group in the New England market.

Previously, Jenkins was a member of the executive committee of UHY Advisors New England, LLC and a partner in UHY, LLP.

Jenkins’ over three decades of industry experience includes work in audit, tax, M&A, valuations, and financial, management and litigation consulting.