Friday, May 29, 2009

Bill Introduced To Create Paid Sick Day Policy

To show up for work or not to?

That question has resonated especially strongly amidst this spring’s swine flu scare. While the odds have been low of contracting the disease, anyone feeling a little poorly has had to decide whether they should stay home and risk falling behind on the job or risk infecting co-workers.

A bill introduced last week by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) aims to make such decisions easier. The Healthy Families Act would require companies with at least 15 employees to provide up to 56 hours – seven days – of paid sick leave a year. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours of work. Employees would be able to use the time not only to recover from illness but also to obtain preventative and diagnostic treatments, care for sick family members and seek help in incidents of domestic abuse. Employers already providing leave would not have to change their existing policies provided it is used for a purpose outlined in the Healthy Families Act. In addition, employers may request documentation for any request longer than three consecutive days.

Senator Edward Kennedy is expected to introduce companion legislation.

DeLauro’s bill coincides with the release of a report on sick day policies by the the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries found that the U.S. was the only country among 22 countries ranked highly in economic and human development that does not guarantee paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses. Present law doesn’t require employers to provide either; instead, companies offer this benefit on a volunteer basis. The study calculated the government- or employer-provided support for workers who missed five days because of the flu or 50 days for cancer treatment. The other countries included Germany, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.

“Working Americans can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick because they don’t have paid sick days,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, the director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy and lead author of the report, in a press release. “The lack of paid sick days puts Americans at substantially greater risk of contagious diseases – from the flu, which kills thousands annually to diarrheal disease, respiratory infections and the threat of new diseases like the H1N1 (swine) flu virus.”

Based on two separate reports, Contagion Nation estimates that about 20 million people in the U.S. go to work sick, many of them . “The economic impact of a serious flu outbreak are potentially enormous,” says Heymann.

Not all employment related organizations support the measure. Some believe that the bill would financially burden companies that are already under pressure. “Congress could not pick a worse time to impose untested and costly new mandates on U.S. employers,” said Lisa Horn, chair of the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave and an employee of the Society for Human Resource Management’s government affairs department. SHRM would prefer legislators to focus more on the development of flexible work policies. The organization says that most U.S. employers already provide some form of paid sick leave. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Targeting International Firms? Here's Help

If you’re interested in expanding your job search beyond the United States, check out Accountancy Age’s Top 30 Accounting Networks and Associations list.

Officials from several of the networks and associations that made the list outlined their future growth plans in a feature that accompanied the list.

Using the list of networks and associations, you can work backwards to locate firms all over the globe that are members of the networks -- and potentially your next employer.

Report Highlights Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements

Is now the time for boosting flexible work arrangements?

In a paper released earlier this month by Georgetown Law, a 22-person task force of employers, researchers, consultants and other experts answers with an emphatic yes. “…We believe the current crisis underscores the need for, and value of, flexible work arrangements,” writes the National Advisory Commission on Workplace Flexibility. “Flexible work arrangements give workers a fair chance to juggle the competing demands of personal life and work successfully, particularly during the time when older workers need to work longer to secure retirement and women’s labor force participation is on the rise. And employers want to retain their best workers both now, in order to meet their business needs and to get the job done as efficiently as possible, and in the future when the economy improves.”

The 47-page Public Policy Platform on Flexible Work Arrangements capped a year of research and interviews with leaders in the private and public sector. The project was part of a larger workplace flexibility initiative funded by the non-profit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and encompassing not only flexible workplace arrangements but time off and career development and re-entry. The paper cites the advantages of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) and offers a blueprint for incorporating them into management strategies.

Flexible work arrangements cover such issues as compressed work weeks, job sharing, non-traditional start and stop times, phased retirement, job shares and telecommuting.

The paper recommends the creation of a national multi-media campaign outlining the benefits of flexible work arrangements, training, technical assistance and other resources for organizations to establish these programs, and support for federal and state government initiatives. “The federal government must take the lead on a full-scale, national conversation on FWAs by transforming its workplace into an example of the ‘new norm,’” the paper says.

Public Policy Platform also highlights three model flexible work programs, including Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization. The Deloitte program allows employees to make fundamental adjustments in workload, responsibilities, job location and scheduling. In the paper, Deloitte’s chairman Sharon Allen said “a culture of flexibility is a tremendous competitive advantage.” She said: “For companies, MCC fosters greater loyalty and employee retention, and for employees, more satisfaction by being able to fit their life into their work and their work into their life.”


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Productivity Expert Says Eliminate Email Distractions To Perform Better

It’s no secret: As firms slash jobs, many of the survivors, accountants and finance executives included, are having to take on more work. Finding time for these extra responsibilities has been difficult, even emotionally draining.

Yet a nationally known efficiency expert has a few suggestions for helping employees increase their productivity without spending more time in the office. Laura Stack, the author of Leave the Office Earlier and the founder of the Denver, Colo.-based consultancy The Productivity Pro, says increasing efficiency requires making compromises and changing habits, especially when it comes to using the internet. Stack will speak about time management and productivity at the annual Society for Human Resource Management conference on June 29.

She says that many workers would improve performance by using email more efficiently. For example, employees could eliminate all but essential email alerts (bosses and key customers) that buzz and ring people to distraction. She believes that email usage increases in the aftermath of layoffs as employees seek more information and comfort in one another. “Email is killing everyone,” Stack says. “It’s insane: People can’t get more than two minutes of work done without distractions.  Most people have lost the ability to focus on any one task.”

But Stack says that change must also occur on a group and organizational level. That may mean holding fewer meetings or streamlining protocols. One of Stack’s clients from the automotive industry recently shortened a monthly analysis that it submitted to a customer; the Stack client came to the decision after finding that its customer was only reading the executive summary and a chart, anyway. The vice president of finance from another Stack client, a manufacturing company, started rounding off certain numbers on reports to save time, but without compromising work quality. “You have to step back from the gerbil wheel,” Stack says. “You have to say, ‘we’re used to doing things the same way (but) we don’t have to do them the same way.’”

Monday, May 25, 2009

Marcum & Kliegman to Merge with Rachlin

New York-based Marcum & Kliegman LLP will merge June 1st with Florida-based Rachlin LLP. Marcum & Kliegman LLP will change its name to Marcum LLP in the Northeast and MarcumRachlin, a division of Marcum LLP, in the South.

The merger of the two Accounting Today Top 100 firms creates a company with 800 professionals including 84 partners in 10 offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and Grand Cayman. Marcum Group Chairman Jeffrey M. Weiner expects the combined firm to rank in the top 20 on the next edition of Accounting Today top firms list.

Marcum & Kliegman specializes in SEC registrants, alternative investment partnerships and family office services, while Rachlin targets the government, public and not-for-profit sectors, and also offers bankruptcy and receivership services. It will also continue to offer nontraditional services such as the staffing and executive placement division it opened last year as well as marketing and graphic design.

MarcumRachlin Managing Partner Lawrence Blum says the merger will enable the firm to provide financial and investment services, information technology solutions and network security.

Friday, May 22, 2009

California Conference To Cover Skills For Young CPAs

There may be minute signs of improvement in the economy but organizations are still looking for ways to save money and work with budget-conscious clientele.

The CalCPA Education Foundation this year elected to hold only one edition of its Young & Emerging Professionals conference, which has drawn some of the largest attendance among its many events. The conference will take place June 5.

Last year’s Young Professionals Conference attracted a total of more than 600 participants to its two separate but equal events a day apart in Northern and Southern California. The agendas for the two locations – and some of the speakers – were identical.

The CalCPA Education Foundation, the continuing education arm of the state’s largest accounting trade organization, has favored the separate-but-equal format to make it easier for people to attend its most popular conferences. But Gary Hammond, a program director for CalCPA, said that this year the organization had concerns that fewer accountants would be willing to pay the registration fees, which can range as high as $469 for CalCPA non-members (Members with 0-5 years of experience pay $225 unless they registered for a year-long economy package entitling them to steep discounts on conferences). So the Education Foundation decided to hold just one conference at the San Francisco Hilton, where it figured participation was likely to be strongest. Hammond still isn’t sure how many people will come. “I may not have an idea until the day before,” he says.

The agenda will cover some familiar ground. Past Young Professionals conferences have addressed such evergreen issues as career advancement and leadership skills.

But this year’s event will focus more on current trends, including social networking in the workplace and survival tactics for the recession. The agenda itself also will have fewer sessions than usual. In the past, attendees had to choose between concurrent presentations at certain hours. Conference Co-Chair Amy Ainsworth, a manager at Palo Alto-based financial consulting firm Paraclae, said that a planning committee wanted to make the conference more user friendly. “We found that people wanted to attend simultaneous sessions,” Ainsworth said. “We focused on keeping the best so that no one would have to be torn.”

Ainsworth hopes that the conference will foster “a sense of solidarity” at a difficult time as speakers and attendees network and swap stories. Although less hard hit than other industries, the accounting profession in California has seen business and the hiring market slacken, discouraging some CPAs. “We hope people entering the field and already in the field see the long-range plan of what we do,” Ainsworth said. “Our profession is here to stay. There’s still a lot of innovation out there and leads.” 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Way For Candidates To Improve Interviewing Technique

Want to score big points in a job interview?

Be prepared to discuss the position you’ve lost or other unfavorable career events in depth, says Korn/Ferry International recruiter Cheryl Buxton.

A candidate who can show how he or she has learned from a negative work experience will demonstrate analytical thinking and the ability to grow from professional adversity. Korn/Ferry dubs these skills Learning Agility and trademarked the term it defines as the ability “to extract” knowledge from experience “and apply it to new situations.” The Princeton-based Buxton, a pharmaceuticals specialist and global managing director, client services for Korn/Ferry, says Learning Agility has always been valued but more so of late as organizations seek leaders to guide them through difficult times.

Los Angeles-headquartered Korn/Ferry is a leading executive search firm and respected observer of recruiting trends. In a paper on the company’s Web site, entitled Distinguishing Yourself as a True Leader During Behavioral Competency Interviews, Buxton and other Korn/Ferry recruiters offer a blueprint for interviewing better. Behavioral interviewing attempts to gauge how someone is likely to react to varied, often difficult situations. While the paper’s target audience is largely high-level executives, its suggestions apply to all ranks.

To be sure, hiring experts have long counseled job seekers to handle questions about such issues as job loss directly and in an upbeat manner; this approach reflects well on their candidacy. Still, Buxton says if interviewees go further, they’ll leave a stronger impression.

For example, Buxton says that even a CFO ousted by a new CEO eager to install his own team might suggest areas where he could have performed better and saved his job. This ability to identify weaknesses offers strong evidence that a candidate is looking to improve. Moreover, she says that it suggests that the individual will perform well not only in one position but in future, higher-level jobs.  “I want to know what that CFO thinks (he or she) could have done to build the relationship with the incoming CEO, to have been more secure in the firm.” She adds: “What companies are looking for is not just a history of success, but what someone has learned and how they’ve applied it to their careers.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top Accounting Firms Snag More Diversity Recognition

In recent years, accounting firms of different sizes, trade associations and academic programs have made diversity one of their priorities. They’ve seen not just moral but increasingly business imperatives for adding women and minorities to their workforce, and working with more diverse suppliers. They understand that their customers are growing more diverse.

A related group of ranking lists released this year by a leading diversity research organization suggests that at least the largest accounting firms have been making headway. The most recent list announced by Diversity Inc. found that PricewaterhouseCoopers is the top firm when it comes to global diversity. PwC ranked first among 10 firms. Deloitte was sixth. Technology giants IBM and Cisco, Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive – all considered corporate leaders on diversity -- were also on the list.

Companies on the list must have at least 10 percent of their employees outside the U.S. and offer health benefits to same-sex partners. PwC won kudos for its cross-border employee groups for women and minorities and work to change laws globally that Diversity Inc. called “oppressive.” Among major diversity efforts over the past five years, the company created a worldwide gender advisory council of 14 men and women executives to increase the representation of women in its workforce. “Diversity is at the heart of our business,” said Samuel DiPiazza, PwC’s global CEO, in a press release. “It impacts client satisfaction, the quality of our services and thinking, innovation, and the overall engagement of our people.”

The top ranking follows PwC’s inclusion by Diversity Inc. in its annual top 50 companies for diversity list and top 10 firms for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender employees.

Both lists were released over the past two months and are based on the same comprehensive survey that generated the global diversity rankings. But Diversity Inc. considers different criteria for different lists. For example, for the top 50 list, the research group didn’t focus on international initiatives, instead weighing a combination of recruiting and retention success, vendor diversity, with which firms work, the ability of firms to expand diversity efforts through internal and external communications and marketing, and most of all, CEO involvement.

PwC ranked fifth on the top 50 list and third on the LGBT list, which looks at companies’ commitment to hiring and retaining LGBT employees.

Deloitte ranked 33rd on the top 50 list and number nine among the top 10 firms for Asian Americans list, which was also released earlier this year. Ernst & Young ranked third among the top 50 firms for diversity list and KPMG 21st


BKD, LLP, Dallas is merging with KBA Group, LLP, Springfield, Mo. on June 1.

KBA's 8 partners and 95 staffers will bring $16 million in annual revenue to BKD, which posted $354 million in revenue and has 250 partners and 1,750 staffers working in 32 offices in 12 states.

BKD Chief Executive Officer Neal Spencer says the firm is “always looking to add people to our firm if it is a benefit to the market … we are looking to add services in Dallas related to health care, financial institutions and not-for-profit and government.”

KBA Group offers audit, tax, risk management and transaction advisory services as well as family-owned business services to private companies.

BKD, meanwhile, provides consulting, tax, assurance, accounting outsourcing, information technology, investment advisory and corporate finance services.

Separating the Online You From the Work Day You

When it comes to social networking, employers and employees, especially younger workers, draw the privacy line in two different places, according to this year’s Deloitte LLP Ethics & Workplace survey.

While 60 percent of business executives say they have the right to know how employees portray themselves and their organization in online networks, more than half (53 percent) of employees disagree.

What’s more, a whopping 63 percent of the 18-34-year-olds who answered the survey said employers have no business monitoring their online activity.

It’s not as though workers don’t understand how their online actions can embarrass an employer -- about three-quarters of the 2,008 employees who answered the survey agreed that social networks make it easier to damage a company’s reputation – but rather than they don’t think that what they do on their own time should reflect on their employer.

If you’re among those who think employers should mind their own business, you’ll be happy to note that only 17 percent of the 500 executives surveyed have programs in place to monitor their employees' social network postings.

Now that Deloitte is raising the issue and suggesting companies have “reputational risk” discussions at “the highest level,” more companies may put formal policies in place.

But even that may not convince people to watch what they post online.

When the survey asked respondents if they’d change their online behavior because their company had defined social networking guidelines, 49 percent said no.

"One-third of employees surveyed never consider what their boss or customers might think before posting material online," says Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP. "This fact alone reinforces how vulnerable brands are as a result of the increased use of social networks. As business leaders, it is critical that we continue to foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically regardless of the venue."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leading Recruiter Sees Opportunity for Finance Executives

It’s easy to stay where you are in tough times. But to the risk-takers come rewards, says a leading recruiter of high-level finance executives.

Scott Simmons, a founding partner of Chicago-based Crist/Kolder Associates, says that may mean leaving secure positions at stable companies for struggling organizations. Crist/Kolder places chief financial officers and other senior executives at large, publicly traded firms. Simmons says that managers who can help turn around these companies in the present recession will boost their careers more than they would staying put. “You go to a place where the share price is low and you pull the business out of tough times – even if it means the sale of the business – it’s a great career builder,” Simmons says. He says that many finance executives are “understandably” reluctant to switch firms in tough economic times. “In a recession, people lose focus on career development,” Simmons says, adding that some executives are reluctant to leave even firms that are unlikely to offer career growth possibilities. "(They) think that they should stick with the devil because it’s the devil they know,” he says.

Crist/Kolder places about 25 CFOs per year plus direct reports, CEOs and board members in a range of industries. The economy has buffeted the firm. Revenues are flat this year, Simmons says, although Crist/Kolder has completed several high-level assignments since February, including the CFOs for Bausch & Lomb, DineEquity (parent company of the restaurant chains Applebee’s and IHOP) and Erie Insurance Group. It has also been retained to fill the chief executive/chair vacancy at the financial services company Integra. Simmons says that clients are seeking expertise in operations and cost-cutting more than experience in helping companies expand. “Market changes require different skills,” Simmons says. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

California Firm Needs Tax Managers for Non-Profit Practice

The head of the non-profit practice of Los Angeles-based Green Hasson & Janks is eager to hire at least one – preferably two – audit managers or senior audit managers. Margaret Karren has been looking to fill the positions for several months but has yet to find candidates with the right experience. Karren said that she needs someone who has focused on the sector for at least two years; occasional project work isn’t sufficient fully to understand increasingly complicated non-profit, tax law. Karren said that despite the recession and declines in non-profit funding, business is growing and that she anticipates further growth in the near future. This is partly the result of some larger firms scaling back their non-profit practices in Southern California as part of belt tightening. She believes that increasing staff will help her seize new business opportunities.

Now a partner at her firm, Karren started the non-profit practice just seven years ago. In that time, revenues have grown from $100,000 to about $2.6 million. Most of Green Hasson & Janks’s non-profit clients are Los Angeles-area-based and include social, government and educational organizations. The non-profit practice currently has two partners, two managers and five other employees. Karren says that audit manager candidates typically have seven to 10 years of experience overall. The hiring process at Green Hasson & Janks includes a phone interview and meetings with four to six employees on site. Karren says that non-profit work can be uniquely rewarding, allowing accountants to have an impact on organizations and beyond. “You get to work with the heart and soul of a community,” Karren says. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Few More CPAs are Feeling a Little Bit More Optimistic

Financial executives and CPAs are feeling a bit less pessimistic about the economy these days, according to the second quarter Economic Outlook Survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School shows.

Only about half the 1,071 CPAs surveyed in late April and early May were pessimistic about the U.S. economy over the next year, which seems like bad news until it’s compared to last quarter, when an all-time-high 82 percent of the survey respondents reported feeling “pessimistic” or “very pessimistic” about the economy.

The shift suggests a leveling of confidence, says Arleen Thomas, AICPA's senior vice president for member competency and development.

The proportion of CPAs feeling optimistic, 19 percent, was up 14 points, as well. That left 28 percent feeling “neutral” on the U.S. outlook.

"There seems to be a broad consensus that the worst of the downturn is over for the U.S. economy,” said UNC Kenan-Flagler Accounting Professor Mark Lang, Ph.D. “On the other hand, it is disconcerting that, while managers are generally more optimistic than they had been, they appear to be conservative in their investment and hiring plans. Overall, the results suggest that we may have reached a bottom, but improvements in spending and employment are likely to be very gradual."

Nearly half of those surveyed, 45 percent, said they expected a reduction in employment, down five percentage points from 50 percent who had said three months earlier that they expected the number of employees to decrease.

A Sign of a Hiring Pick-up?

An expert on recruiting and related trends says that he’s seen approximately 15 high-level, corporate staffing jobs listed over the past two weeks. Mark Mehler, a founder of CareerXroads, says that the openings from multiple organizations came as a surprise and offered one of the first encouraging signs that he’s seen in the job market in some time. “That’s a lot (of positions),” says Mehler who with his co-founder Gerry Crispin regularly advise Fortune 500 firms, including those from the financial services sector. “It’s been dry for six months to a year.”

Mehler says that movement in top-level recruiting and staffing positions often foreshadow other hiring trends. To wit, he says that a number of these types of jobs were among the first to be cut when the economy started declining. “If business is slowing down, companies don’t need recruiters,” Mehler says.

Mehler noticed the upswing during a monthly meeting that he conducts for senior staffing executives who have been out of work. About 30 of the unemployed managers attend the events, where they network and listen to outside speakers. These managers have at least a decade of experience as the number one or two executive overseeing recruiting.

In addition, Mehler said that trends identified earlier this year in CareerXroads’ eighth annual Sources of Hire survey are likely to continue. The survey found that internal promotions and referrals from employees remain the largest source of job candidates. The study of 45 large, well-known companies also found that among outside resources, independent job boards provided the greatest flow of applicants. Survey participants included firms with at least 5,000 employees from, among other industries, retail, transportation, technology and finance. Mehler considers companies’ career Web pages more a destination than a source of job leads, although he believes that companies will continue expanding efforts to reach job seekers directly. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Leads to Gender Equality

Want to work where the genders are treated equally? Look for a workplace where four factors exist:

  • company officials acknowledge that gender bias exists,
  • the men are willing to defy masculine norms,
  • women are mentors and
  • fair play is valued.

That’s the take-home message from a new Catalyst survey Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know.

People have to recognize that inequality exists before they’ll support efforts to correct the inequality and men who were more aware of gender bias were more likely to think that achieving gender equality was important, Catalyst concluded.

“Other findings revealed three key factors that predicted men’s awareness of gender bias: 1) defiance of certain masculine norms, 2) the presence or absence of women mentors, and 3) a sense of fair play,” the study found. “Of those three factors, having a strong sense of fair play, defined as a strong commitment to the ideals of fairness, was what also best differentiated men who actively championed gender equality from those who were not similarly engaged.”

The masculine norms the study is talking about include workplaces where people use phrases such as “take it like a man,” avoid all things feminine, never show fear, nervousness or sadness, and participate in stereotypical male activities such as beer drinking, strip clubs and watching sports.

The survey also uncovered three roadblocks to ending gender bias: apathy, fear and ignorance about gender issues.

When asked about what keeps men from supporting gender initiatives, some men who were interviewed for the study pointed to a “zero-sum” mentality – a belief that gains for women necessarily mean losses for men.

Companies may inadvertently encourage this line of thinking by instituting practices that increase competition between employees and put the focus on the individual first above the organization as a whole, the study says.

Other obstacles included fear of losing status or of being seen as part of the problem, and apathy – a sense that issues of gender do not concern men

Catalyst, meanwhile, counters that research shows that men gain significant personal benefits such as better health, freedom to be themselves, and the ability to share financial responsibilities with a spouse or partner when working in a place free of gender bias.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bill To Change California CPA Certification Standards Passes Committee

A bill that would simplify the educational requirements for California CPA candidates to earn their certification unanimously passed a state Senate committee earlier this month. Senate Bill 691 passed the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. But Bill 691 is potentially still months away from becoming law. The bill would eliminate a 120-hour educational option for certification. Candidates may currently fulfill their training and educational requirements by either 1)completing 120 hours of college coursework, including 24 hours apiece of accounting and business classes, and having two years of work experience, or 2)by having 150 hours of coursework and one year of job experience. The 150-hour option is the only standard in at least 46 states. That has created problems for some veteran California-trained accountants who are trying to serve clients with headquarters or interests in other regions. Certain states have become more reluctant to accept certification from California accountants, says Conrad Davis, a partner at Sacramento-based Ueltzen & Co and supporter of the bill. Davis says that accounting groups nationally have been seeking to create a more uniform standard for certification – something akin to a state driver’s license usable nationally. California has already tried on at least one occasion over the past decade to adopt the one-option, 150-hour rule. But the effort stalled. The latest initiative has the support of a number of prominent CPA and business organizations in the state, including the California Board of Accountancy, The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the California Society of CPAs. Among their goals, the groups want to remove an obstacle for accountants to practice freely across state borders. “What we’re worried about is that it is becoming progressively more difficult to get into other states because we’re so outside the norm,” says Davis. “As a CPA, if we have to go through additional hoops (to be accepted), it may be expensive and time-consuming. The issue is that everyone (nationally) is going to one standard.”

RSSM Partners with Investigative Firm

Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company Consulting Group LLP (RSSM), a division of New York-based middle-market accounting firm Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company LLP, is forming a strategic alliance with Interfor, Inc., a corporate investigation and physical security consulting firm.

Together, the firms will offer financial due diligence and asset recovery services to fraud victims and holders of judgments who have been unable to collect on their judgments.

RSSM will provide forensic accounting, while Interfor will provide investigative resources and expertise in legal remedies for freezing and collecting assets.

Interfor does background checks for new business relationships, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, venture capital investments and large loan transactions. RSSM offers financial, accounting, tax and IT expertise to a client base that includes private equity funds, investment banks, commercial banks and mezzanine lenders.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Technology Council of Southern California has formed a new trade group for financial executives in the technology industry. The Financial Executives Society, sponsored by SingerLewak, will offer networking and continuing education to tech industry chief financial officers, controllers and business executives.

Programming will include round table discussions, guest speaker events and educational workshops covering topics such as tax, finance, accounting and more.

"Placing an increased emphasis on peer-to-peer connections provides an excellent opportunity for the Technology Council to better meet the diverse needs of all its members," said Technology Council President Rick Sharga. "We see tremendous opportunity in creating vertical-specific events that provide our members with connections, information and resources that will help them grow and succeed."

The current 2009 Financial Executives Society event schedule includes:

  • May 13 - Basics of Revenue Recognition in High Technology Industries

  • June 30 - CFO's Guide to Licensing Agreements - An Accounting

  • Sept. 29 - Tax Credits: Lost and Found in a Recovering Economy

  • Nov. 17 - Financial Reporting: A Retrospective of Changes from 2009 and What's Up and Coming for 2010

It's Always the Right Time to Join an Association

After spending years studying finance, auditing and budgeting, what should you do after graduation? In addition to finding a job, get out there and connect with the local chapter of a professional association, such as the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Professional associations offer the chance to network with peers in the industry as well as stay on top of accounting trends. And if you don’t have a job yet, they can be a great source of job market information.

“Some graduates are hesitant to get involved with an association their first year out of school, but those who join see the benefits immediately,” Sandra B. Richtermeyer, Ph.D., CMA, CPA and incoming chair-elect of the IMA Board of Directors. “Meeting new contacts at various career stages can help graduates benchmark where they want to be in five to ten years.”

Those graduating in the next few years can get a head start in gaining experience by obtaining internships, getting involved on campus, or volunteering with nonprofit organizations. Most trade associations significantly discount dues for student members.

In addition, Richtermeyer suggests selecting a minor that complements studies in accounting, such as information technology. Acquiring foreign language skills or learning about entrepreneurship can also help students stand out from their peers.

Along with IMA, consider these accounting trade associations:

American College of Forensic Examiners

Friday, May 08, 2009

New Skills The Focus at Not-for-Profit Conference

An upcoming conference for accountants and financial officers working in California’s huge not-for-profit world will focus on skills for helping their organizations through the recession. Among the latest developments, accountants are playing a larger role in fund raising to bridge new budget shortfalls stemming from the downturn, say the conference co-chairs, Nancy Chandler, a partner at Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Kellogg & Andelson, and Margaret Karren of Los Angeles-based Green Hasson & Janks. Karren says that some accountants are participating more in discussions about how to shape these initiatives, which have included taxable, for-profit ventures. She says if handled improperly, these enterprises could compromise an organization’s not-for-profit status. “We get asked a lot about this,” Karren says. In addition, in some circumstances, auditing and related responsibilities are becoming more complex. This stems largely from a lengthening of 990 forms. Not-for-profits now face such questions as whether they have whistle-blower or conflict-of-interest policies. “The form is quite cumbersome,” Karren says. “Accountants will have to do training on it.”

The Not-for-Profit Organizations Conference is one of the signature events held annually by the CalCPA Education Foundation, the continuing education arm for the state’s main trade group for accountants. As is general procedure for its major conferences, the Foundation will hold separate but equal events on May 20 in Los Angeles and the following day in San Francisco – the sessions are the same at each. CalCPA members pay $349. Non-members $469. Last year’s Los Angeles event drew more than 300 people from a range of not-for-profit organizations, including religious and community groups, and accounting firms with vigorous not-for-profit practices. But the economic climate was still emerging. “People need help more but people aren’t giving as much,” says Chandler. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hiring Projections Gloomy

Having a job that’s critical and doing it well are apparently no longer enough to prevent you from being laid off. A recent Deloitte survey of about 400 large companies, Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy, found “as layoffs get deeper and more difficult, even employees with critical skills filling key roles are at risk of losing their jobs.”

In March, 43 percent of the executives Deloitte surveyed said “role necessity” was a key factor in choosing who would go next. That’s down from 60 percent in a similar survey done in January. Nearly half, 47 percent, said “skill capability” was important, down from 55 percent in January.

“Past and current performance is no guarantee of job security with less than half of managers (45 percent) reporting this as a top factor, compared to 53 percent in January,” Deloitte found.

Those who survive layoffs can “expect to feel the impact of the difficult economy through lower compensation and benefit levels,” Deloitte predicted.

A quarter of the surveyed executives said they were likely to decrease compensation levels, 32 percent are ready to cut benefits and 39 percent plan to cut discretionary perks such as subsidized food and parking.

Financial services executives were most likely to say headcount reductions were their highest talent management priority, while life sciences, health care, energy and utility executives ranked layoffs as a lower HR priority.

The only ray of sunshine in the Deloitte report is that experienced recruits remain somewhat in demand. “Over the next year, 27 percent of executives surveyed plan to increase experienced hires…the only recruitment category showing a greater increase than decrease in focus, with campus hires, contract hires, part-time hires and offshore/outsourced hires all seeing net declines over the next 12 months.”

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fewer International MBA Students in Years Ahead?

A lot of the international students who graduated from business school this year and landed jobs with investment banks had their offers reneged when Congress passed a rule saying institutions that took bail-out money couldn’t hire foreign-born workers.

While at first glance you’re probably thinking that anything that discourages international students from competing for spots in top MBA programs is a good thing for U.S. students, there are other issues to consider, says Maury Hanigan, an MBA recruitment specialist and president of MBA Scouting Report, New York.

First, some facts about international students in MBA programs:
• They’re typically one-third of the class at top schools
• They typically pay full tuition
• They have higher GMAT scores, on average, than U.S. students.

“If international students can’t get jobs in banking, that will discourage them from applying,” Hanigan points out. Having fewer international students enroll could hurt business schools – think lower average GMAT scores and fewer full-tuition-paying students.

Less competition from international students is actually a mixed blessing for U.S. students, Hanigan says. It’s easier to get in when fewer students apply, and you’re less likely to be frustrated by study group members with limited language skills when more of your classmates are Americans.

But, you lose out by not having a global network and the diverse perspective international students create. “There can be big swings in classmates, curriculum and the networks you build,” she says. “And the job market will reflect itself the composition of your network. You could end up in a school with no internationals or 45 percent internationals.”

The Wall Street Journal argues that H-1B visa holders aren’t really a big factor on Wall Street anyway, saying:

"In fact, H-1B visa holders have been a negligible percentage of financial industry hires in recent years. In 2007, for instance, Citigroup hired 185 H-1B workers, which represented .04% of its 387,000 employees. Bank of America hired 66 H-1B workers, which represented .03% of its 210,000 employees."

That said, finance may be the latest industry where the federal government seeks to limit immigrant workers, but it might not be the last.

The two senators who created the TARP restrictions, Grassley and Durbin, have now introduced legislation that would force all U.S. employers to first try to hire a U.S. worker before they hired an H-1B visa holder.

As reports, their proposal:

"...would also prohibit displacing U.S. workers with H-1B visa holders, ban 'H-1B-only' ads and prevent employers from hiring additional H-1B and L-1 visa holders if more than half of their employees rely on those visas. The L-1 visa is used by companies to transfer foreign employees. The measure also includes a provision to give the U.S. Department of Labor more latitude and authority to initiate investigations and conduct random audits."

Regardless of what happens in Congress, if you’re shopping for an MBA program, the proportion of international students will remain an interesting difference to consider when comparing schools.

Manners Expert Identifies The Most Common Job Seeker Mistakes

Don’t treat potential employers as therapists.

A leading expert on work place etiquette says that’s exactly what too many job seekers are doing in the down economy. Ann Marie Sabath says that it’s one of the two major mistakes that they’re making in their job searches. Sabath is the author of One Minute Manners, a guidebook to appropriate behavior at work and noted speaker on manners to business groups, including major CPA organizations. She says that many job applicants see interviews as an opportunity to vent about why they’re unemployed and how it’s impacted their lives. They appear desperate. That’s hardly the spare, grounded approach that earns companies’ respect. “Instead job seekers should share how the responsibilities of their past positions have prepared them for the job for which they are applying,” Sabath says. She says that job seekers’ other major error is asking friends and family to help them attain interviews at their organizations. “While it certainly is appropriate for job seekers to ask individuals in their personal lives and business network to put in a good word for them, these people should not be confused as job seekers’ personal headhunters,” Sabath says.