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Different types of partners

Eight posts in 2 days, not bad. Since I've caught up on questions, wanted to blog about something I've been meaning to touch on -

Partner personalities fascinate me. In the beginning, I thought it took a certain kind of personality to become a partner. But having worked with so many partners over the years, I've realized that there is a wide diaspora of personalities that make it to the big leagues. Let's break it down -

a) the partier - These are the partners that are all about client service, not so much the audit work. They come in, chat with the clients, set up dinners, hang out with the audit team, talk about the issues at a very high level, and then head out. They are rarely in the office, and you always wonder what they do on a daily basis.
At the same time, you really want to be like them. These partners are great to have when you're hoping to reduce work, set up happy hours, etc. but when it comes to accounting issues, good luck.

b) the i-don't-give-a-…

Is the CPA critical?

Is having a CPA absolutely crucial when thinking about leaving big 4 public accounting for private/industry? How important is it to get that CPA done?

Absolutely critical. I cannot stress how important this is. I know of many companies that will refuse to see your resume if you do not have a CPA. I know a few individuals who couldn't get their CPA done and thus struggled to find a job elsewhere. They did, after months and months of job searches, but it's hard for a recruiter to sell you if you don't have your CPA.

Unfortunately, people associate CPA with competence, and so regardless of your experience, if you are in the accounting world, the lack of the CPA is looked at as a slight.

Personally, I think it's overrated. I still remember this one individual who passed his CPA within a few months of starting at the Firm - he asked me about the debits and credits of some basic accounting issue. And I thought to myself, how can you reward CPAs to such individuals? If you memor…

choosing your sector

I have a question about new hires. If an individual is hired into audit can they select the sector they wish to work in? Or are you assigned a certain sector? I personally would love to audit either manufacturing, or oil and gas.

For some of the Firms, you "choose" a sector,  and your clients will primarily be in that space. I say "choose" because it sometimes depends on the Firm's needs. If everyone chooses banking, they will have to move you to a different industry group since every industry has needs.

In Firms like PWC, you are assigned sectors (yea you can "choose" but let's be real, all about demand and supply). In certain other Firms, you can ask to be in certain sectors, but it depends on whether there's a need there to be honest. So if you want to be in oil & gas, reach out to the senior  associates on those teams, and ask to be placed on them. Or try your scheduling liasons. Be aggressive as soon as you join, and this will go a long…

experienced hires

On to the November questions...


I did have a question regarding applying for Big 4 as an experienced CPA. I've heard from a few sources that Big 4 are hurting for seniors, but how long is the turn around for hiring people from the outside to take their places? Better yet, how long in advance should a person apply to a senior position. 1 week? 1 month? 6 months>? 

Probably a month. This includes the time it takes for the recruiter to get your resume, determine whether you qualify, choose time slots and check schedules of individuals available to interview you. It's really up to you, whether you want to drag this out or whether you're ready to start immediately. 

We definitely are hurting for seniors right now, but this could change during the next economic cycle. It's not the M&A group where they'll lay you off if the economy's going downhill, but the hiring definitely slows down. 


should you do a masters in accounting?

I recently landed interview with a large (non-Big4) firm for an audit position and sadly did not receive an offer. I felt that the conversations and interviews were flawless and smooth. I believe one of the main reasons I did not get the offer is due to the fact that the other people interviewing for the job were enrolled in a masters of accounting this year, while I was just taking extra accounting classes at a community college (to reach the accounting units for the CPA as I graduated with a BA in Econ in Spring '12). Would you think I would have a better chance next hiring season if I enroll in a Master of accounting program for the Fall and try again next years hiring season or continue taking community college classes?


The Masters degree honestly doesn't matter, the recruiters do not look at that. It's all about the 150 credits, every one knows the masters is just an additional degree to provide as an excuse for you to get to the 150. At the end of the day, the letters…

big 4 hiring

Would it be out of line if I currently work for a private company to ask one of our Big 4 auditors if they are hiring? 

The Firms are absolutely dying for people these days, so go for it. Definitely not out of line, but funnily enough, it's against policy if it's the other way around. I know of an auditor in an other office who got fired for reaching out to the client and asking if they had available positions. This is a breach of independence, and is thus a good reason to fire you. Yes, a lot of auditors go work for clients, but this is usually because the partners put in a good word for you, and the client is usually not the particular engagement you worked on. In fact, this is pretty common. There have been plenty in the past year. I know of many clients that are looking for senior accountants/assistant controllers with 2-4 years of Big 4 experience.

PS - Stay in private, public sucks.

client size

I've got a question about the teams and who they audit. Does the size of the client you have audited make a large difference in future career prospects? And if so is is just a select group that gets to work with relatively large corporations? I mean, is it likely you'll end up with a team working on small accounts and never really advance into the higher levels of a career? Or well basically, how much of an impact does client size have on job prospects outside of the Big 4? 


I'd highly recommend that you get on public company engagements. This is absolutely critical in order to open many doors for you post-audit. There are many reasons why - this includes a working knowledge of 404, SEC rules and regulations, and working under deadlines. 

The size of the client doesn't matter as much as the industry type, so if you're primarily on software clients there will be plenty of doors open for you in the software world. At the same time, assuming you lack expertise on  manuf…

Excess documentation

Sorry for the delay, it's been a little crazy. Still on the questions from early October.

The amount of documentation required during audits seems outrageous to me. I must spend half of my time tidying up documents, making them look perfect, and get called out if one little item is not formatted properly. And so much of it seems redundant. Especially for workpapers that really go nowhere. Maybe it is just my organization, but can you touch on audit workpaper documentation? Thanks.


Some people are real sticklers for documentation, but that's the nature of the job I guess. As auditors, we're trained to be anal. So when you take people who are already anal in nature, the job makes them uber-anal.
You know the ones I'm talking about - notes shouldn't be in text boxes, fonts should be the same, columns should be set in a particular manner, absolutely no decimals, not more than two tabs per excel workbook, indexing your paragraphs, no uneven spacing, I could come up with 10…

Accelerated aging

It's amazing how fast this job accelerates your aging. A majority of the senior managers and partners either  have white hair or no hair. People with joyful personalities at 22 turn into numbed zombies after 5 years at the Firm. People who wanted to hang out with co-workers all the time now shudder at the thought of sharing quality time outside of work with their teams. People who used to smile naturally now force smiles or avoid eye contact when bumping into others. How many personalities have changed significantly from when they started? This job can really suck some of the life out of you. But hey, hopefully it's worth it (I hope).

Boomerangs

As a big four employee, lately, I've been hearing a lot about "boomerang" employees. Those who, for some reason or another, decide that leaving work when the sun is still out is not for them and alas, return back to the firm. Yes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, however, is this trending upward or about the same as it always has been? I think, also, that the firms really do a good job in highlighting those that do choose to return to make it appear more common than reality. Can you please speak about how you've seen the trend of "boomerangs" amongst the big 4? 

Good question. A boomerang, as the commenter pointed, is one who quits a big 4 Firm and then decides to return (or boomerang) back to the Firm after getting a taste of work life in the non-public accounting world.
I have seen a few return this past summer, but didn't really notice a trend until you mentioned it. It's definitely been higher than past years, but not enough to s…

Delegation

1) Can you take care of this?
2) FYI
3) See below
4) No text, just a forwarded message
5) Please complete ASAP
6) Can you complete by X
7) We need to do this
8) Let's finish this

Sound familiar? This is basically the only text in an email, along with a forwarded message from someone else. Best part  is when this is from a mobile phone during the day, so you know the individual is nowhere near his computer doing work.

Delegation at its finest. I'm sure everyone's received this. Partners to senior managers, senior managers to managers, managers to senior associates, senior associates to staff associates.

As much as it irks me when I get this, especially since I don't know how the reviewer wants this, I can't complain since I'm guilty of doing the same to my teams.

In a world where everyone speaks their minds, it should be something on the lines of this...

"I'm doing everything but work right now, but I still have every intention of getting you to do this…

A new era

Summers at the beach or mountain house, playing with the kids, improving their golf handicap...work a little bit during busy season, schmooze at charity events in the fall, with the occasional appearance at the office. Gotta love the partner life....prior to the 2008 recession. 
Now? With SOX and increased regulation and compliance requirements - (thank the PCAOB for this), we're working year-round, and so are the partners. Oh don't get me wrong, there's still the long summer getaways, golfing, schmoozing, sporting events, etc, but at a reduced level.
 The stress levels have increased exponentially from back in the day. Sure, the money's better than the past, the benefits (at least in the US) are still unparalleled, but is it worth it?  That's the question on most managers' and senior managers' minds. Even the partners now admit that times are different now. Some believe that this increased regulation is just a phase, some think it's here to stay.
One t…

outsourcing

Is it possible for auditing work to one day be outsourced like some of the IT sector has? Or do the various exams, credit hours etc prevent that? 


We've slowly started outsourcing work already - the testing of documents clerically, the testing of journal entries for completeness and filtering the entries using certain criteria, independence work, rollforwards of prior year schedules,financial statement tie-outs, etc. I'd say about 10-15% of our work is being outsourced, and I can probably see it keep going up.

At the same time, I can never see it fully being outsourced since there is still a matter of face to face conversations with your clients to discuss accounting issues, to build relationships so as to increase the Firms' revenues, to make inquiries of key client personnel. Plus, in order for staff to go through the heirarchy and become partners, they'd probably need to understand all the procedures that an audit entails.

Are we completely immune from globalization? N…

bolstering your resume

I am graduating in December and it seems the big hiring season is in September. I don't know if I should apply in Sept. or after I graduate. The thing is, I only have like a 3.2 GPA so I don't know if that would get me an interview at a Big4. So I was going to start studying for the CPA exam and hopefully pass at least a couple tests so that I can put that on my resume when I apply. Would being able to put that you passed two sections so far help land an interview? 

A 3.2 GPA is tough, but it depends on the school. If your college has a reputation for strict grades, recruiting lowers its GPA requirement. Otherwise it's usually 3.5 and up. The GPAs below 3.5 are usually references or have something unique that caught the individual's eye. So in your case, you can always apply in september, and if you don't get an interview, try again in december - this time with the CPA sections under your belt.

I also was looking to distinguish myself more since I have a light load …

perception vs reality

A partner recently told me that she thinks a certain individual is on the partner-track, and somebody who she would mention to leadership amongst a few others. I was flabbergasted by this, because I worked with this individual for many years, and would not ever pick him voluntarily again, or hire someone like him if i start a new business. But why did this person have such a good reputation?
Because he was very good at manipulating perception...

There are many individuals who possess this trait. They spend a lot of their time chatting with others instead of working, and taking work from other engagements and calling it their own. They hear other people bring up issues on their engagements, and decide to bring it up to the partners without doing the research themselves.

Look, I have to problem with making sure you look good. To succeed, you sometimes have to do it. I just don't like it when you can't back it up with actual work, but convince others that you do.

submitting resumes

I'm an Accounting major going into my senior year. I was wondering if you could touch on resumes, when to submit them, and interviewing. How early is too early for submitting a resume for entry level? I've heard some firms look for them the beginning of your senior year and for others that's too early. Any insight would be great.
Sophomore year - Submit your resumes for the Firms' special programs geared for Sophomores. These programs range from 1 day to 2 weeks depending on the Firm. If you get in here, it gives you an automatic interview for an internship. Junior year - Submit your resume for a summer/winter internship during your junior year. This is key. You should do this if you have every intention of trying to get into public accounting. Interns are almost guaranteed job offers unless they do something stupid during their internships. Senior year - If you didn't get an internship, it's not too late. Try again, the Firms still have slots for non-interns.

MBA part two

Going to tackle some questions that related to my previous post - 

What are the chances of a CPA finding work in the financial sector without an MBA? And is the learning curve manageable, going from accounting to investments?

It's really hard to do so unless you have contacts in the investment world. You can always become a controller at one of the hedge funds or investment bank and then use your political skills to get into the investments side.
It is very rare to see someone go from public accounting to an investments type job without an MBA. 
Don't worry about the learning curve. Heck, the ibanks love hiring from liberal arts colleges - most of these students have taken nothing in finance - just a few economics courses here and there. 
If you really want to go into banking, get out - NOW!

Do auditors place well as far as top MBA schools go? Life/Work experience is THE most important factor in MBA admissions. You see banking/consulting people place at top institutions all the time…

MBA

What's your take on an MBA after a couple years of audit experience? How often do your peers or auditors you know move their career forward into business school?


An MBA is a great idea if you don't want to be in the accounting world - if you'd rather be in finance, consulting, banking, etc. etc. People who've left the big 4 to do an MBA do it because they're sick of auditing and because they want to be doing one of the above. It's pretty uncommon in the auditing world for people to go do an MBA, just because it means you're not cut out for the accounting life. Most new auditors at the big 4 are kids who were accounting majors in college and only expect to stay in the accounting world. If you do, there's no point doing an MBA. 5 years at a big 4 firm will get you to a controller position, something that an MBA usually wouldn't.

interview location

Been almost 4 months since I posted, sorry for the delay, the last thing I want to do when I get home is fire up my computer....


I will be heading into recruiting season in the fall and am hoping to land a job in the Big 4. I attend school in a different part of the country than where I am from because I am currently in the Air Force and attend school in the city where I am stationed. I will be ending my military tour with degree in hand (hopefully a job in hand as well), but, how do I go about landing a job back home, or in any other location for that matter? I do not want to live where I am but it seems that the recruiters will be trying to find candidates to work in the area, and not go out of their way to help someone land a job on the other side of the country. Should I try to interview where I want to work? How would I get in contact with those recruiters as the whole process seems to happen through the University? Is it possible to go through the recruiting/interviewing process …

CPA deadline

Onto the February 2012 questions (only answering questions that I can shed some insight on, or have not already answered before...)


What happens if you do not attain a CPA within 2-3 years?


The pressure starts to build. Your final ratings for the year can potentially get knocked down if you don't have your CPA, i.e. when two individuals are rated the same, but one has to be rated higher, the one with the CPA gets the nod. Also, and more importantly, the longer you stay at the Firm, the harder it is to find time to study. It starts to weigh on you, and you will always have it in the back of your mind. For some of the Firms, you can't be promoted to manager if you don't have your CPA. If it's a good economy, you will be a "super" senior since your promotion isn't official even though you've put in the time, if it's a bad economy, like it was in 2009, you could get laid off.

client discussions

Sorry for the infrequent posting, when I do end up getting downtime, I try and stay away from computers. Still backed up on questions - on to the December 2011 questions...




When you encounter errors during your testing, how do you address it to the client in a nonconfrontational manner? As gentle as I try to be, as non threatening and polite as I try to phrase any questions, it's still always a difficult topic to breach with clients and some people get defensive(yelling, being generally dismissive, or sometimes shutting down conversation completely!). Since this is anonymous I don't feel the need to be modest...I can't help thinking that part of this problem is I happen to be pretty cute and the menfolk don't like looking incompetent in front of the hot auditor lady. It's hard because sometimes I find myself playing dumb and speaking in a lower tone as to not come off aggressive or condescending in any matter and still be able to get the information I need, but hone…

toll

When people say that every year in this practice feels like 7 human years, they really are right. Busy season just takes a heavy toll on you - physically and mentally. The amount of caffeine and unhealthy food that you ingest and digest is just borderline dangerous. Life just stops for 3 months, you start questioning why you're doing this, whether it is really worth it, you start getting sick of people since you see them for 12-14 hours every single day, your room gets dirtier, errands stay unfinished, you get into fights with your significant other because of a lack of time for life...and on and on....
 Much respect to the lawyers and the bankers of the world putting in crazier hours than us, don't know how they do it.

Big 4 partners

What does it take to make the jump from senior manager to partner?



Good question. Let's break it down, in order-- 
1) People Skills - You have to have really good people skills, you cannot be awkward. You have to come across as genial and amicable, and exhibit the personality of someone that others want to do business with.
2) Perception that you can network and pull in clients - At the end of the day, the Firms were created to make money, and the partners need to keep adding more money in the pool. If the partners think you can go in, network at charity events, golf events, etc, and pull in new clients, you're in, it goes a loooong way. Develop a personality that will make people want to ask you to join them for a drink
3) Perception that you understand audit and that you are good at what you do - You do not have to be an audit superstar, but as long as you have a good reputation, and the client likes you, that's what matters.
4) Reflect your demographic - If you want to be a …

valuation, M&A diligence

I wish to pursue a career in audit or transaction advisory services. Wanted to know if you can give an insight into both departments with regards to the career prospects, work life balance and monetary factors.




Transaction advisory services can be a pretty broad term, depending on the Firm. Assuming you mean m&a commercial due diligence work and valuation related work.


M&A commercial diligence-  To get into m&a diligence, you'd need to put in 3-4 years in audit, because they usually like people with audit experiences and CPA certifications. People who usually do a stint in commercial due diligence go onto some rather interesting jobs - joining the acquisitions group of different companies, private equity analysts, other specialized valuation companies (duff & phelps, etc). W/ regards to work life balance, it is really unpredictable. You can be in your office doing nothing for weeks but still have to stay in the office in case a deal is in the works and your Firm has …