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Showing posts from 2009

holiday season

With Christmas and new year's around the bend, the office turns into a ghost town. Last minute financial statement wrap-ups before the 12/31 deadlines, planning work, archiving. You can roll a chair down the hallways and nobody will notice. Most people are on vacation this time of year, taking that one week off before you lose your vacation time forever. Everyone's mentally preparing for and dreading busy season. Kinda like the calm before the storm.

The day to give thanks

In honor of thanksgiving day, I thought it was time to dole out some thanks -
a) Thank you Firms, for not giving us raises this year
b) Thank you Firms, for explaining to us that our survival was enough to be thankful for
c) Thank you Firms, for laying off some of our closest friends
d) Thank you Firms, for telling us to be more efficient due to budget cuts and also telling us to do more at the same time due to the current environment
e) Thank you Firms, for creating a culture of nervousness by laying off people in random stages instead of one fell swoop
f) Thank you Firms, for creating a ridiculous number of useless but required checklists
g) Thank you Firms, for picking up certain clients who you know will never go public, but are yet losing money hoping that it does.
h) Thank you Firms, for being constantly recognized in magazines as being amongst the best, and yet those who get surveyed never happens to be employees in the audit practices
i) Thank you Firms, for nothing.

American Music Awards

So a reader pointed out this article on the American Music Awards...
Why am I linking to an article on the AMAs?
Well, guess who got awarded 'best dressed'? At least one of the big 4 is getting recognized for something ummm..positive?

stretched thin

So a ton of a companies are trying to get some public financing going. What does this mean for the accounting firms? Increased revenues for 2009-2010. What does this also mean? Well, with all these layoffs we've been having over the past year, we do not have enough resources for these financings. Kinda ironic. And now, in addition to the layoffs, a few employees have begun to leave voluntarily. Now, this is good for the firms in the long run since it would reduce the need for more layoffs. But busy season could be absolutely painful. Sounds like old times.

raises next year?

Better paydays ahead
Source:
The Wall Street Journal

According to a survey by Hewitt Associates, many employers are planning to reinstate merit increases in 2010, but some compensation experts say base salaries are unlikely to return to pre-recession levels anytime soon. Of the 555 large US employers polled in October, 83% have said that they will give out raises next year, while only about half did so in 2009. None anticipate pay reductions after 10% cut in salaries this year.

I really doubt that some of the big 4 who pulled off a "no raise across the board" tactic this year can do so two years in a row...but you never know.

stressful jobs that pay badly

So Yahoo! has this story up on the "stressful jobs that pay badly" -
1) social worker
2) special events coordinator
3) probation officer
4) news reporter
5) music ministry director
6) membership mgr
7) fundraiser
8) commercial photographer
9) assisted living director

Okay, so I'd probably rather be an auditor than any of the ones above...and the pay for these jobs suck. But can we at least get an honorable mention?

Noise quotient

Ever notice the trending noise quotient, i.e. the noise graph from associates to partners. It's one of those unique aspects of our profession. What do I mean by this? Well, let's break it down:

Staff associates: Loud. Always talking, no regard for the people they're talking to. Why? Because they spend most of their time doing work that doesn't require the use of brain cells. To keep them active, they talk, and talk,and talk. Noise quotient: High
Senior associates: Not as talkative. More time is spent on planning audits, reviewing workpapers and writing summaries. Noise quotient: Low
Managers: Trying to increase rapport with the team since people skills are key for managers, the conversation levels increase. Only deal with high level issues, take up a lot of the senior's time. Noise quotient: Medium
Partners: The big dogs, when they're in, the team gets really quiet. Conversation levels automatically go down. Staff associates go into their shell. Partners make a fe…

Blackberries

Ah yes, the ubiquitous blackberries, otherwise known as crackberries. Pretty much everyone has them now, from the staff associates all the way to partners. PWC initially started the trend of paying for cellphone bills, which led staff associates, who really had no use for them, to get them. Then everybody else seemed to jump on the bandwagon. They vibrate every few minutes, indicating you have emails, even though you're sitting right next to your computer. Some even prefer to reply to emails using their blackberries while at work. We're constantly staring at them when not at work, heck, who cares about human interaction these days. I won't be surprised if the firms pull the plug on paying bills until the managerial level, if the current economic conditions continue. And then we all look at those individuals without crackberries with disdain, like they're lower class citizens. Don't lie, I know you do. Don't get me wrong, i love using my blackberry. Helps when i…

review notes

Gotta love partners and senior managers who change documents themselves, and track changes so you know what's changed, instead of going back and forth on review notes, especially when it comes to crunch time.

staff associate quality

Is it just me or has the talent level dipped? Maybe it's just bad luck with the ones assigned to my jobs, but it sure seems like our interview process needs to be streamlined a little. I'm a believer in the one-month grace period for new hires, but not when it comes to common sense. I probably have to extend it to three months, but the training diapers need to come off before busy season. Around the firm, i've heard things ranging from good to lukewarm, which is expected initially. We're not expecting any associates to audit equity, but some of the blank stares I get when i ask them for items that you don't really need to go to college for are surprising. Don't get me wrong, they're still scared to death in this environment, which is a good thing for the team. For those in public accounting, what's your take on the new hires?

new codifications

is anyone a fan of these new codification standards? How exactly are they supposed to help us? It honestly makes us waste more time looking for actual standards. I'm hoping the FASB powers can see into the future and understand exactly why they will be helpful once we get past the 'change is bad' stage. Is it just me or is SOP 97-2 much easier to remember or search for, than 985-605-5-1.

current atmosphere

A few random thoughts based on conversations with people over the summer and fall -a) There are clearly way more people in the firm who actually like/don't mind what they do. This is definitely a seismic shift from when i started. I am amongst the minority now, as opposed to a few years ago. People are shocked when you tell them you don't like this job. Definitely a weird feeling b) People are definitely looking. And it's not looking good in the market unless you want to go into internal audit. That's discouraging. c) The lack of raises has definitely depressed seniors and managers, making everyone reconsider their jobs d) The firms are getting clients they shouldn't go after, under the hope that a few of them will eventually go public. I've told the partners on my clients that the ones I'm on are definitely not going to go public, and i'll be surprised if they become very successful. They need to be a little more conservative when comes to choosing client…

working on multiple clients

Gotta hate working on multiple clients. The small private clients that we work on during the summer and fall, the ones that just never end. Next thing you know, you're still doing things for them at the end of the year. Work on the regular clients during the day, and then on the other clients in the evenings. Obviously the higher ups expect everything to be completed since they now miraculously have the time to review. And what about the other side? the private clients..god they get on your nerves. I've sure i'm blogged about them before, and so i don't want to flog a dead horse, but boy do they frustrate you. Whatever, I've accepted it. But not at this salary. The fact that most of the firms haven't given raises this year just kills any sense of motivation that some of us have. I understand that they have to keep salaries the same, but it's just so dissapointing. What are we working our tails off for if senior accountants in private companies are making mo…

best places to launch a career

I know this businessweek article is a couple weeks old and has generated a good amount of news already. But I didn't really skim through its rankings until recently. I really don't get these rankings. The big 4 are ranked as the top 4 best places to launch a career. You're telling me GE, Goldman Sachs, Google, Mckinsey, Apple and Microsoft are worse places to start than the Big 4? You have got to be kidding. Going down the list of things they looked at -
a) pay: The avg. starting pay is nowhere near the starting pay of most of the companies I mentioned.
b) bonuses: "Signing bonuses: 90% of entry-level hires received them in 2009". These signing bonuses go upto $5k. Add that to the starting salaries and that's still nowhere near a google, apple, goldman or mckinsey employee.
c) 401k match: sourced from a commenter on this post -"Deloitte will match 25% of the first 6% you put in. So, you make 80,000, put in 6% (4,800), you get $1,200 matched. But...no more t…

receding hairlines

It really looks like 80% of the senior managers and partners balding or have receding hairlines. That's a bad sign. It's almost like a prerequisite to become partner. Rogaine should advertise heavily in the accounting firms, it'll generate a good amount of revenue here. All the stress that comes up with managing jobs + the fact that the stress doesn't reduce when they see their direct deposits + dealing
with miserable people in their early 20s =

audit terminology

Please, oh please, stop with the usage of audit terms in your daily lingo. It is not funny. As much as you think it is the greatest thing in the world and is absolutely humorous, you are not Dane Cook or Robin Williams or Chris Rock. Stuff like "we have to waive on today's difference of opinion", " don't worry about spending $10 on this, it is immaterial", " we need to remediate this issue". I could go on, but it is cringe-worthy. Use them only when it concerns auditing issues, don't take it outside the workplace.

post big 4 career

On the topic of leaving, what are some of the best offers you've heard colleagues take elsewhere when they left at the Sr. Associate level. (based on salary and work/life- assuming the Sr. was making around 70k) I'm curious what kind of "jumps" are possible?

Good question. most senior associates who leave get a pretty significant raise..between 15-30%, plus bonuses. Most go to senior accountant, manager or assistant controller. Sure, the firms make sure everyone knows that these new salaries will stay the same for atleast 2-3 years. But by the time we get to a 20-30% increase if we stay at our firms, it'll take 2-3 years anyway. The alums could have already moved on by then. Spoke to one friend who recently got a 30% bump, including the yearly bonus.
More importantly, 8 out of 10 people who leave/got laid off have said/will say that it was the best thing that happened to them, because they are significantly happier. I mean, their smiles are plastered to their face…

funny leaving letter

Real or fictional, it's still pretty funny -


As many of you now know this friday will be my last day with PwC so I
wanted to say good bye and thank you for everything. My decision to
leave was not a snap decision as it may have seemed but a well thought
out process. It started one night in the audit room as I was helplessly
attempting to focus on some inane, completely irrelevant task so I could
leave when the green card carrying cleaning lady came into my cage to
empty my garbage when my decision was made. I realized that I was
actually jealous of her job. I would have gladly emptied the garbage
cans in the whole building over any of the nonsense I was doing on my
computer. See, at the end of her shift she has made a difference, she
has added value, be it minimal, of removing the refuse from the employees cubes. At the end of the day she sees the empty garbage cans and knows that she
accomplished something. When trying to apply this mindset to my own work
I found it to be impossible. At the …

booze in the fridge

Client fridges can be downright ridiculous at times. There are the boring ones with names on every lunchbox and soda. There are the nearly empty ones. Few of my clients have fridges stacked with all-you-can-drink beverages. Those are awesome, and save you a soda a day, although you tend to destroy your body because of that. Then there are those fridges stacked with booze. I'm not talking just beer, i'm talking tequila, top shelf vodka, whiskey, the whole nine yards. Magically, they dissapear every thursday or friday evening. I got invited to a few of these boozefests, and I have to tell you, they do not hold back. A fridge can tell us a lot about company culture.

privacy screens

I hate the screens, especially when the associates use them. You are not doing anything useful or working on anything confidential that requires privacy screens, since they mostly prevent other auditors from glancing at your screens. When you're on the move, in the airports, trains,etc...that's when they're useful.
No, they're not anti-glare screens, that's such a bad excuse. While auditors are working together, one's glancing above the shoulders, squinting or trying to find the right angle to look at the screen so he can actually see the data through the screen.

recruiting call

Hi x,

I'm sure you would agree with the following. Enough is ENOUGH!

2200 billable hours = NO SLEEP
Year long busy seasons = Zero quality of life, depression and bad moods
1-3% salary increases with minimal bonus = PRICELESS

If you are interested in getting your career and life back on track then give me a call.

Respectfully Yours,
xxxx


This dude's making it look like we work in a prison or something. I guess recruiters might as well throw everything at potential clients, and hope 1 in 15-20 stick?
It must be tough for them in this economy.

Consulting growth

Looks like PWC's taking the lead in building its consulting arm so it can get generate more revenue given the lack of growth in the audit practice. Might be headed to the pre-Enron days.

here's an excerpt:

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the UK’s largest professional services firm, plans to treble its fees from management consulting to more than £1.3 billion within the next four years and hire 2,000 staff, including more than 100 partners.

Three of the Big Four accounting firms — Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC — sold their consultancy arms at the start of the decade after their growth led to clashes over business strategy. The Enron scandal also aroused concerns over conflicts of interest. Only Deloitte kept its consulting practice.


Article link

different generations

Didn't know it would take only a few years for a new generation to arrive at work. This new generation is scared, and constantly worried about their jobs. Only 2 years ago, nobody in the audit practice even knew the meaning of layoffs. This new generation is going the extra mile to help out on tasks. They're fighting to get on jobs, and want to be utilized constantly. A few years ago, people loved "being on the bench", i.e. not assigned to any clients so they can essentially relax the whole day and complete errands here and there. People are all over their CPA exams now. In the past, people stayed at the firm for years before they even began studying. Staff associates are shocked when people complain now. The "be happy you have a job" mindset has taken over. The power has shifted from the employees to the firm. There are rumors now that raises will be neglible, if anything. In the past, people complained if the raises were below 10%. Now they'd be reall…

Look who's hiring

I am a Recruiter, searching for various executive and senior level positions at PCAOB in Washington, DC, and your name came up in my search. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is seeking interested candidates to join the team. Deepen your audit and accounting skills. Develop expertise in forensic accounting, one of the most sought-after and exciting specializations in the accounting world. Come join us in protecting the investing public.
We are currently seeking individuals that have earned CPA certification and have at least seven years of professional experience.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is a private-sector, non-profit corporation created by Congress to oversee the auditors of public companies and protect the interests of investors. When you choose a career at the PCAOB, you are choosing to make a difference to the accounting profession, to investors and to the public.
The PCAOB offers career opportunities to professionals in accounting, law,…

Big 4 Australia update

Source: John Kehoe , Australian Financial Review, 8 July 2009

In another sign of the economic downturn hurting the professional service sector, accounting firm KPMG is cutting the working hours of staff by 20 per cent and informing staff that they may be required to take up to 12 weeks' leave. The firm informed staff of the plans in an email yesterday, KPMG managing partner for people James Allt-Graham saying that under the 'voluntary program' designed to stave off a third round of redundancies, the first two seeing cuts of 101 and 99 staff, that KPMG may ask staff to reduce their work schedule by one day per week. A second option is 'part-paid leave', with the firm also encouraging employees to use their spare time for further study or volunteering in the not-for-profit sector. More than 75 per cent of employees have agreed to participate in the 'temporary work arrangement' agreement.

Rival firm Ernst & Young is understood to have laid off over 100 accou…

review notes

Gotta love those review notes. Formatted in Word or Excel, they can be an endless source of frustration. I've heard stories where people have 3 or 4 pages of review notes on easy accounts like cash and prepaids. The worst ones, the ones I hate, are the ones that take 2 seconds to complete. "Make this tickmark green instead of blue" Are you bloody kidding me? Do it yourself. Also, the use of multiple question marks and exclamation marks kill me. Come on now, be a little more mature. This is not AIM or facebook. At least discuss them in person or on the phone prior to handing them the notes instead of handing the review notes, not saying a word and leaving the field. Timing's also key. Don't give review notes two weeks after everyone leaves the client site, and expect the notes to be cleared up within a few days. Also have to laugh at the ones with a sense of attitude in them. "This doesn't make any sense at all!! Why is there a $1,000,000 variance?????&qu…

Frustration..where have you been?

Took a few months, but the reason why I was so frustrated with this job hit me again this week. Managers who bear down on you to finish off 3 days worth of work in one day. Clients who have no idea what your job entails, and who are shocked by the fact that their g/l detail isn't enough as support. Trying to audit accounts, which are in essence, unauditable due to a lack of support. April and May year-ends.

I have to say, small private companies can sometimes be a major shitshow. Quickbooks? Look, I understand that quickbooks are easy to use and are cheap. But if you can afford to pay five figures in audit fees, I think an accounting application upgrade is due.

picture's worth a thousand words

Enough said..

CPAs

Is it just me or does it seem like every incoming college graduate seems to have their CPA? Kinda dilutes the whole thing. I understand there's a shortage, and so the AICPA is doing everything they can to increase the number of CPAs (reduce restrictions, increase pass percentages). It makes the senior associates w/o the certification look pretty bad.
Wouldnt be surprised if the interns start coming in having passed their exams and all they needed was the hours to get the certification.

KPMG air time

How about KPMG's sponsorship of Phil Mickelson? He's giving them great air time, especially at the US Open. None of the other firms even come close in their sponsorships. I guess Accenture with Tiger Woods, but it's been years since they were part of a public accounting firm. KPMG national and a few other lucky partners must love this sponsorship since they get to play with him a few times a year.

trainings

Ah office trainings. Good times. People stock up on crossword puzzles, sudokas, hit up gaming websites, doodle like crazy, surf the net. Some people actually audit. Some people zone out and just stay dormant. Oh yea, and some actually listen. Then the office lunches. Catered lunches, cans of diet sodas, and bottles of fruit juices. Very creative. There are the extremely dry trainers, who read off the slides, and force you to zone out. There are the ego-driven trainers who make you shut your computers, pick on people and test their knowledge of what they just learned. The best ones are the ones who only pick the relevant slides to teach, provide real audit examples, and get you of there early. It's a good time to catch up with your peers, and more importantly, get some CPE credit.

chargeable hours

It gets so frustrating in the summers when we do the small clients and everyone's all over you to not exceed their budgets. First off, financials for small private companies rarely ever get issued quickly. They always linger on, and there's always small things we have to do every week. So this takes up some of our time on a weekly basis. What about the research? To get ready for meetings, one would have to do a little research on the various issues they need to talk about. Where can I charge these hours to? We've already set the budget, and I know I'll be above the budgeted hours for the planning meeting, so i'm already over? Sure, I should have realized this while the budget was being set. But trust me, some battles can never be won. And what about client inefficiencies? Yes, we have to charge that to the client, that's what the book says. Not the case in reality. So that makes us struggle to mix and match hours between clients. It makes you wonder how the nor…

kissing up

Okay, it's getting nauseating. Stop kissing up to your superiors. I know you have to play nice, but come on, don't go overboard expressing your love for the firm and especially the work. Gotta hate those token peers who do everything but physically kiss a partner's behind.

interns

The gaggle of summer interns are here. Is it just me or have firms decided to stock up on female auditors? One thing's for sure, they definitely make the employees look old. Interning was a blast. Do little if any work on a variety of clients, party all the time in the city with your peers, and then get that nice job offer at the end of the summer, so that way you'll have no motivation to up your grades during your senior year in college.

increased productivity, weird environment

Ok, things are just downright weird now. All the associates find the job "interesting" now? They "like" this job now, and are "happy" to be here. Come on now, don't tell me that people have changed significantly over the last two years. This is truly fascinating. I was just talking to some of my peers about this change in staff associate personality. I mean, I understand that people are peeing in their pants in this economy, and that they have to say all the right things, and be as productive as they can be. Heck, it helps me out that they're suddenly all about getting things done on time. But it still freaks me out. Higher level reviewers are now inflating reviews so as to save people from layoffs. HR, after noticing this, has been trying to widen the ratings between peers so as to get levels of differentiation for raises/layoffs. Sure, the firms are getting new clients, but they seem to be doing it for steep discounts. How much longer can they k…

why aren't people leaving?

Okay fellow auditors...what happened to the complaining? Your zest to leave the audit field. I know there's plenty of accounting jobs out there. We still get those recruiter calls. Nobody's taking the bait and leaving. It's not like our industry is doing great. We're having layoffs too. Many of you have your CPAs, so it's not like you're waiting for the hours or anything. Are the firms just doing a better job at recruiting and retaining people? I mean, people stopped leaving even before the economy dipped. If the firms rely on people leaving so they can keep dipping into the college farm, and these people don't leave, do they have to keep laying off people all the time regardless of the economy. This is especially problematic at the promotional levels - senior associates and managerial levels. No firm can afford to have a plethora of people at these expensive levels, especially when the number of clients stay the same. HR's implicitly saying they're…

big 4 rivalry

is there a huge rivalry among the big 4 firms?

Great Question. They obviously compete in order to get new clients and retain clients. They also compete when it comes to recruiting at colleges, that's for sure. I'd consider it a healthy rivalry. The firms strive to match each other's salaries and benefits every year, in different forms of remuneration.
Amongst the non-partners, there's no real sense of the other firms being our "enemy'. It's definitely not a pepsi-coke style rivalry. As long as there's enough to go around, I don't think it'll reach that level.
All 4 firms play a big role in helping the FASB set accounting rules. They meet frequently on helping set standards, etc. etc. etc.
So many of us have friends at the rest of the firms, mostly from our graduating college class. So from what we hear, it seems to be pretty much the same sense at all firmns.
I might be wrong though. Thoughts?

tension in the air

So this is what it feels like post-layoffs at the office? Rumors were flying around before you turned around. People were checking schedules to figure out names that no longer existed. One thing about these firms, they might take time to schedule people on client or fix scheduling conflicts, but when people are no longer with the firm, they remove their names from the system faster than Vin Diesel can hit the 60 mark using those fast & furious cars. But everybody's on high alert. HR's trying to feel the current vibe. People keep checking their email frequently, worried that they might get that dreaded email from HR. The staff associates are keeping the grapevine strong by wringing new information from all over the area. Wait, we have to please our firms now? Not the other way round? Big 4 culture gone wild. The associates suddenly start to become much more receptive to requests from seniors and above. Senior associates become more responsive to managers. Most people aren&…

interviewees

Just had an interviewee shoot some follow-up questions to me. A decent email, which I helped answer.
You know how interviewees ask follow-up questions after taking your business cards. I would think it'd be questions like "do you like what you do", "how many hours do you work"..stuff like that.
Reminded me of a forward (legit email) from a couple years ago that I thought I'd share with those who haven't seen it yet (I've X'ed out all names and emails)...

From: XXXXX
Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 11:49 AM
To: XXXXXX
Subject: KPMG Questions
XXXX,
Thank you for letting me e-mail you. XXX has been very helpful with my questions about KPMG, but I was wanting an opinion from someone currently working for the firm. I am having a hard time deciding on who to go to work for in Dallas. I am getting a lot of fluff answers from recruiters. Is it okay if you give me the true scoop on how it is working for unnessary? The following are very important questions to m…

traveling

Was just out-of-state for work for a couple weeks, and it's just amazing to see the differences in work cultures in different cities. It really sucks when you have to stay late because you don't really get to enjoy the city. But when you leave early, it's great - the restaurants, the drinks, etc. How about them rental cars? If you get stuck with a toyota matrix or something, boy is it painful. Doesn't come with anything, so you feel like you're in a box that moves. That new car smell permeates the air. Well, who do you think buys these ridiculous cars outside of Hertz, Avis and Enterprise. But when you luck out and get the sports cars, oooh wee...good times zooming through the streets of unfamiliar cities.The worst part is having to deal with the expense gurus after. Yes, my breakfast was $28. Ever tried room service expense folk? It's one of the most overpriced ripoffs out there.

private companies

Ah private companies, which means an easing of deadlines, incredulous accountants, incredulous accounting. There's also that struggle between 5:30-6:30 to accept the fact that you can actually leave at these times. Wait, I have to pay for my own dinners now. And traffic? Where did this come from. Going from 10-20 cars on the highway at night to bumper-to-bumper traffic? Wait, is that the sun setting and shining down on me while I'm driving? Haven't seen that thing in a while. Oh jeez, where did all these people in the gym come from? Transition time people, good times. For those of you still stuck in the rut that is busy season, I feel your pain, and hope it'll go back to normalcy soon.

getting better

Don't want to jinx myself, but I think I realized yesterday why I'm starting to get used to this job, and it's not just the stockholm syndrome and the recession. Okay, maybe those are the primary factors. But the funny thing about this field, is that the higher you advance within the firm, the less you audit. For instance, say I see an asset balance of a few million. Usually, it would mean choosing the significant balances, asking the client for invoices, making sure it matches the balances, verifying that it's been paid in certain instances, etc. etc. etc. On top of that, I'd have to foot the darn schedule. Now, all I need to do is say this: "This is what I'd like you to do"...walk him or her through it..and be done. It's a beautiful thing.

A partner once asked me three years ago if I liked it so far. After essentially saying no, I decided to turn the tables and ask him since I wanted to get off the hot seat. He said he tolerated it. Another manag…

scathing article on the big 4

Here's a scathing article on the big 4 and how they're thriving while their clients are failing. The author, Francine Mckenna, has been targeting the auditing firms for a while now. Sure, I bear down pretty heavily on the firms at times, but her article is about a more serious issue and takes it to a whole new level.
I really don't agree with her, and I genuinely do think the firms, or atleast the one I work for, do a good job at making sure that the financials are fairly presented. Sure, we can do more, but we're paid by our clients, and we only have a certain amount of time to work on each company's numbers. This precludes us from doing an extremely thorough job. The real problem here lies with GAAP and the FASB, they are the ones setting the rules. Sure, the big 4 play a role in helping set up the rules, but come on now. Comparing them to a mafia, seriously? Don't hate the cops, the robbers were just smart enough to get away from them with the resources they …

positive aspects of auditing

Okay,
so it looks like people are looking for positives in our field, since the negatives are usually heavily publicized. Here's a list, in no particular order:
a) You're rarely ever stuck in the same monotonous place..office space style
b) You work with people around your age range
c) You get to travel around the country, but not enough to be living out of suitcases for extended weeks
d) You get to work with so many different people and so many different personalities, that when you leave, you'll be like Dr. Phil at your next job. It'll take someone with a ridiculous personality to stress you out.
e) You get to manage a team within 2-3 years of graduating from college. There aren't many other places you can do this. No management book can teach you better than managing people yourself. Not Stephen Covey, not Jack Welch, or whatever the management guru seems to be.
e) Change, Change, Change. You're always shaken out of your comfort zone, be it a new client or location

contractors

There seems to be this small but growing trend of contractors who essentially take over the accounting functions of start-ups . They handle 2-3 clients a year and essentially do the accounting for them on a part-time basis. It's pretty interesting and is a great business opportunity. What if someone starts up a company w/ a bunch of cpas whose explicit job is to go out and account for companies and deal with auditors for a fee? I'm sure plenty of these firms exist, but I haven't come across some yet. Maybe the non big 4 audit firms experience this a lot more since they have smaller clients. These contractors that I'm dealing with express surprise at times that we're not doing their financials for them, since they've "never" done it at their other companies. Do non big 4 firms actually prepare the financials for these companies? Even post-enron, there are no independence issues? But going back to the business opportunity, this firm can hire accountants …

clients' perception

This article has been ragin' through forwards amidst big 4 employees across the nation...thought i'd link to it for those who haven't seen it yet...

http://www.examiner.com/x-3040-Minneapolis-Life-in-the-Cubicle-Examiner~y2009m3d10-PWC-Deloitte-EY-and-KPMG-Big-4-employees-modern-indentured-servants

A lot of it is sadly true. No real good comeback here, other than the fact that the author of the article is probably a fund accountant and really can't claim to be in a better position.
(Update: Dudley Dawson, the author of the linked column, noted in the comments section here that he wasn't a fund accountant. So he probably is in a better position. I take it back.)

change of pace

"Since 'busy season' seems to span about half or more of the year, how does the rest of the year look like? Do you get any slack time during the summer and use comp time or are the extra hours a gift to the company from the grateful employees?"

From what I've heard, prior to the implementation of sox 404, summers were pretty lax and casual. Since the inception of 404, a lot of work's done around the summer and fall periods. Then there's the 3/30, 6/30, 8/30 and 9/30 year-end clients that make you essentially work busy season hours if you get stuck on them. To put in a pictorial form, our work is somewhat like this... the double hump camel...starts off real high, and painful..tapers off a bit..and there's a bit of a bump in the fall.

tempers

Boy, do tempers fly when we're deep into busy season. People get tired of each other, stress levels are high, people yell for things that really minor in the scheme of things. Our proximity to each other for long periods of time obviously leads to chaos. Maybe we should be in cubes during busy season for our own sanity. And I love it when the client complains if they have to work past 6:30. Seriously? Will one-two days a month really stall your life? The fact that we tend to be so close to each other in age helps, since we do have common threads of communication. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but imagine people from different generations working in the same room for hours upon hours on a daily basis. Or maybe it will actually lead to more respect amongst team members, and thus lead to internalized tempers rather than externalized temper. Which is worse? No idea..I'm no psychologist.

severance package

Scary topic..but it crossed my mind after hearing about more layoffs. I've heard that the usual package involves a week for every year you work. And when you hit manager and beyond, it gets slightly better. Here's a quote from Francine Mckenna's blog retheauditors:"I’ve had meetings with two good friends in the last week, professionals who I’ve known for years, Senior Manager/Directors at Big 6 firms in the Chicago area, who were both cut during the holiday season. One seems to have received a good package, almost too good, because he’s getting organized but not feeling pushed. The other was unceremoniously cut with very little notice and not much severance. Proves the adage: You get what you negotiate…"
So it looks like it really varies. But the firms control the ball in this economy, so it'll be interesting to see if and how many layoffs occur post-busy season. Obviously a huge factor will be the voluntary attrition rate. If like last year, the attrition rat…

more forwards...

Dear Employees:
It has been brought to the attention of management that some individuals throughout
the company have been using foul language during the course of normal conversation
with their co-workers.
Due to complaints received from some employees who may be easily offended, this type
of language will no longer be tolerated.
We do, however, realize the critical importance of being able to accurately express
your feelings when communicating with co-workers.
Therefore, a list of 18 New and Innovative "TRY SAYING" phrases are being provided
so that a proper exchange of ideas and information can continue in an effective
manner.
Number 1
TRY SAYING: I think you could use more training.
INSTEAD OF: You don't know what the f___ you're doing.
Number 2
TRY SAYING: She's an aggressive go-getter.
INSTEAD OF: She's a f___ing bit__.
Number 3
TRY SAYING: Perhaps I can work late.
INSTEAD OF: And when the f___ do you expect me to do this?
Number 4
TRY SAYING: I'm certain that isn't …

similarities between hookers and accountants

Was just looking through my email archives from a few years ago to find a spreadsheet (how shocking), and came across some forwards that I'm sure many of you have seen, but if not, I thought I'd share them....
here's one comparing hookers and auditors....corny, but sadly, partly true...


* You work very odd hours.
* You are paid a lot of money to keep your client happy.
* You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money.
* You spend a majority of your time in a hotel room.
* You charge by the hour but your time can be extended for the right price.
* You are not proud of what you do.
* Creating fantasies for your clients is rewarded.
* It's difficult to have a family.
* You have no job satisfaction.
* If a client beats you up, the pimp just sends you to another client.
* You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living.
* People ask you what you do and you can't explain it.
* Your family hardly recognizes you at reunions (at least the reunions you attend).
* Your…

busy season weirdness

Had to explain what i do to a few others a few days ago..and I realize I still struggle to come up with an answer...do I say - a) i'm an auditor (they think i do taxes) b) i'm an accountant (it's not really a good description c) i'm in consulting (not true)...I hate explaining what I do, and so I really just want a one word answer...like financial services, healthcare, engineer,architect. So for those of you who've come up with good answers, please do share. But, I digress...

Ever notice how working with/in the same room as/right next to your team members for 15-16 hours a day sometimes lead to painful arguments, lack of tolerance for immaturity/ and bickering about the most inane things. And then you look back a few days later and realize how stupid those arguments were. At some point you just want to whoop the others' butts or yell at them.
Another thing that happens after working with them for such an extended period of time, is that they start to enter your d…

work more for less?

Good times this year....Companies are striving to cut back on our proposed budget, and winning. At the same time, because of the economy, national is sending out more checklists, and making us do more work around debt covenants, and other specific company risks. So essentially, they're telling to work less by drastically cutting the hours, but at the same time, work more by drastically increasing the required amount of work. (Psstt....eat hours)
Look, I agree that such times require more work, but come on now....work to atleast keep the hours as is. You can't cut back on charged hours.

And don't even get me started on the checklists.

helping your senior

"Do you have any advice to share on asking your senior for more work? I always find that I run out of work, but I'm not sure if I'll be HELPING destress them by getting some more work, or just making them more stressed out because they have to find something for me to do! "

Props on wanting to be more helpful. If you run out of work, please let your seniors know. They really do not want to bug you every few minutes to see where you stand, and at the same time you do not want them to keep bugging you if you're trying hard.
If they get stressed that they have to find something for you to do, they should do one of the following -
a) Give you some of what they're responsible for
b) ask you to sit back and surf the web if they're waiting on something from the client
c) let you take off and not waste away surfing the web.

So definitely put the onus on them. If they're the type of people who are concerned they don't have anything for you to do, and for some in…

Outsourcing

And so ends the first half of busy season (hopefully), and with it again came a lack of time, destruction of health and fitness, an appreciation for a few minutes of not doing anything and a questioning of why the heck we're in this job in the first place. And we wonder why people do drugs and alcohol? (Kidding)

On to another topic - got a few questions about outsourcing and whether it takes place in this field - Yes, we do outsource - things like valuation, ticking and tying, and the biggest of the lot - footing (for the uninitiated - it means summing). A lot of outsourcing is done in the financial service audit field. The teams have a ton of documents to foot, and in the past, this took time, and thus money. I absolutely hate doing it. Sometimes I just want to put a little tickmark in there saying I footed the darn thing. I don't care if you love math, but if I put a 200 page fund document in front of you and ask you to foot it, you will go nuts. And then there are some who a…

tips to ease your audit life

Okay, so most of you who just began in the audit practice hate this job. That's how many of you probably ended up reading this blog. You're probably either in or just about to begin the much talked-about "busy season". You don't think it's going to get any better. Cheer up, people.
Trust me, busy season will be horrendous if you go into work with a bad mood every time. You bring yourself down, and the team down along the way. Anyway, let's look at ways you can significantly improve your life at the auditing firms (took me 5 yrs in the business to understand this, and i'm still learning) -
a) Pick your team - This is such an important factor in determining whether you want to walk to come to work every day. I don't care if you're going with Isaac Newton, nobel laureates or the best accounting heads in the business, if they don't have people skills and tend to treat you like dirt, it's not worth it. How do you go about picking your team? …

does it get better?

"I've only been working for 3 months at a Big 4 accounting firm, and I'm just finding that I'm not liking the work and already can't wait to leave. Is this just a phase that I'll get over or is this a sign that I shouldn't be in this line of work or this particular firm? How did you feel after 3 months? "

Really good question. Obviously, it can be on a case by case basis, but I can tell you how my mindset changed, and what the mindset in general seems to be.
When I started off, I absolutely hated this job. Within two months, I wanted out. But I persisted, and the 2nd year didn't get any better. There were quite a few moments when I updated my resume, ready to get out. The next 2-3 years, it gets better. Sure, you work longer, and you get more responsibility, but you actually use your brains more. The mundane tasks can be pushed downwards, and it does get better. By then, you'll have this thing down pat. You delegate more downward, you get more d…

lost and found?

Joe: So...i lost my laptop...what now?
Admin: You LOST your laptop?
Joe: Umm..yea..I left it on the metro...the bag's gone now. I don't know what to do.
Admin: You LOST your laptop?
Joe: Well..i misplaced it.
Admin: Okay, well we don't get too many of these calls. I'll have to file a report. Contact your local computer group and they'll set you up with a temporary computer.
Over the next two hours, he got calls from upper management and the head of HR.
"There's confidential information in there. How could you lose it?'
Joe: "Well, I'm sorry. It won't happen again"
HR: "Yeah well it better not."
The firm went back and forth with him for an entire day, making him feel real guilty. Now there's a slide in every general firm presentation on laptop security.

Lost files are another issue. This happens once every few months, and the region gets a general email asking if anyone found these files.

The good thing is, with laptops...it is extre…

Big 4 vs the other public accounting firms

"I get the vibe that most of the people in public accounting are temporary, i.e. they get poached for corporate level positions. My specific question is this; 1) Do people in firms other than the Big 4 face the same type of head hunting? I am sure it has to do with the individual clients you encounter, but I know you can provide more insight. 2) Are you more likely to make partner in a small firm? 3) Is there a huge pay differential between Big 4 and small firms?"

Let me answer your question in parts...
1) I really don't know if the people in the other firms face the same type of head hunting...i.e. calls every few days. I'm sure they do get recruiter calls, but I'm guessing not as frequently as the employees in big 4 firms, even though this experience is grossly over-rated, and the employees in smaller firms have just as much experience as we do, the only major difference being the lack of a diverse clientele.
It really doesn't have to do with the individual cl…

career progression

"What can you tell me about the different possible tracks a person would take at the Big 4 in regards to tax vs. audit? Is there a difference in career progression among the two specialties? How about career potential? Workload?"

Loaded question. In terms of career potential, they're both pretty potent. Audit leads you to controller/accounting manager/ VP - accounting positions at companies if you choose to quit. Tax can lead to tax manager positions at various companies/firms..to help them minimize taxes and exploit tax loopholes. It's a pretty important position in many companies...I'm not an expert on tax careers though, so you might want to ask somebody in a tax related position.
In terms of career progression, it's the same as audit...start off as a staff associate...move to senior..manager..snr mgr..partner.
In terms of workload, my friends in the tax department seem to work two busy seasons...in the fall and in the spring. So I think they work more than i…

HBS

First off, Happy New Year.

Thought I'd start off with a book recommendation..."Ahead of the Curve: Two years at Harvard Business School" by Philip Delves Broughton. The book is about his two years at HBS - the classes, the HBS culture and the stress that comes along with it. It's a good read, and although there are many pages you can skip, it's worth looking at just to understand the makeup of the HBS classes and the class culture and dynamic. For those of you considering an MBA, check this out.