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Life on the other side

There were a significant number of positive responses w/ re: to blogging on how it is on the other side after a long stint in Public - so I'm going to try and blog once in a while. I had a lot to talk about during my senior associate years, but it has since dwindled. So I wouldn't expect to be logging in significant blogging time.

The biggest change is that you move from a revenue center to a cost center - and for those that started directly in Public, you don't really notice some of the benefits of being in a revenue center as opposed to a cost center. In Public, we are the revenue-generating assets. Without us, the Firms do not make any money. We effectively ran the Firms (well - the partners and senior leadership did, but they were all accountants and know what it's like). In Private, our only representative in the strategy team is usually the CFO. Even then though - the interests of the Accounting group doesn't play much of a role - we're just in charge of figuring out how the numbers should look based on performances from other groups. For example, software is run by engineers who design and update this software (with a sales team trying to sell this software - but they wouldn't exist without the engineers). Financial services is run by the bankers (the "deal" makers), and on it goes. The only real revenue-generating accountants are the ones in Public, the ones who've set up their own CPA firms, and the various tax groups that help figure out how to file/minimize taxes for a fee.

 So what does all of this mean? Strategic decisions for the Firms are made without much regard to the Accounting Groups - we're just G&A, we're no longer operating expenses. So when we reach out to the revenue generators with questions (since we need to account for all their decisions), they effectively look at us as "accountants" - a cost center, a nagging and bothersome but necessary evil. Thankfully, I'm at a Company that's been doing a great job at making sure the other groups understand why our group is important -but I know this isn't the case at various companies.

One can ask - what's the difference - our clients in Public also looked at us as a necessary evil who they hated dealing with. Well that's true, except we would still get a lot of what we wanted at the end of the day, we just had to deal with more difficult personalities since they openly didn't like us. And the clients also needed our blessing to issue financials, so at the end of the day, we got what we wanted. We could force the Companies to implement change too - always had that in our hands.
In private - not so much, unless you're the CFO.


Adam said…
Very interesting post. I've thought about this point a lot over the last few months, and it's one of the reasons I've decided to abandon accounting altogether and try for a financial/operational analyst role, and move up through the finance side. I'm only two years into big 4 and a lot of people doubt my decision, but I know it's what I want. I'd be bored and depressed working in a cost center, still just bugging people with nitpicky questions to satisfy GAAP rev rec requirements. I want to add real value- I know the arguments for auditing and external reporting as a value add, but I personally just can't buy em. They're too abstract for me to apply on a day to day basis in my work. Tell me if I'm wrong and there IS something you do on the corporate accounting side that you feel like you own/are proud of/etc.

Thanks for helping me confirm my decision to leave! (As did a few of your older posts)
Anonymous said…
Thanks for coming back and letting us know your "life on the other side". Would be expecting more posts from you!
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Krupo said…
Smart companies will see the value add, but good point on being a cost centre vs revenue generator.
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