Replace Yourself by Guest Blogger Susan B. Anders, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA

First the good news: Texas is the best state for accounting positions, with a 16% growth in the number of accounting jobs between 2009 and 2016, and the highest cost-of-living adjusted entry-level and mid-level salaries, and a tie with Delaware for the high-level salaries. (Accounting Principals Blog, August 25, 2016)  Accounting salaries are expected to continue to rise, especially for accountants in industry. (Journal of Accountancy News, August 30, 2016) Here’s the 2017 Robert Half Salary Guide for detail by position.

Now the bad news: although demand is strong, studies indicate there are not enough accountants, new hires or experienced, to meet the demand, especially as baby boomers retire. (Going Concern, “The State of Accounting Recruitment and Talent Shortages in 2017”) Here is the AICPA’s full report: Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits (2015).

Calling all CPAs: think back—who influenced your decision to become an accountant and a CPA?  In my case, it was four practicing CPAs—all with different career paths, all enthusiastic about their jobs, and all encouraging me to study accounting and become a CPA.  Although my accounting professors were great, it has usually been practicing accountants who influenced my career—including my decision to pursue becoming a professor.

Has the profession been good to you?  Don’t you think it could be a great career for others?

Replace yourself: Help us to recruit more potential accountants and let them know that being a CPA, in all of its great variety, is the best profession ever.

  1. Encourage your employer to offer accounting internships

Employers can help ensure more future accountants by offering internships.  Even more importantly, we need internships in industry so that students can learn about a wide range of career opportunities.  Most of the internships on the TSCPA website are in public accounting.

If your company cannot offer internships, what about letting prospective accounting students “shadow” you on the job?

  1. Adopt a high school or college

Opportunities abound, from representing your company at formal career fairs, to speaking to accounting student groups, to just attending meetings and getting to know the students.  The TSCPA has helpful resources for talking to students, including ideas for career fairs, formal PowerPoint documents, and videos.  Don’t forget the AICPA’s Start Here Go Places.

  1. Talk to everyone you meet

Get your “elevator speech” ready.  Mine is that accounting is the most beautiful of all subjects.  It’s all about balance and relationships.  Oh, it probably doesn’t sell, but what can you expect from a professor?  Just another reason for practicing accountants to promote the profession.

I am happy for anyone who would like more information or ideas about how to replace yourself to email me at susan.anders@mwsu.edu.

Susan B. Anders, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls TX.  She has been an academic accountant for over 20 years, and was a practicing CPA for the first 15 years of her career.  She is an officer and board member of the Wichita Falls Chapter of the TSCPA.


AICPA CFO Conference

I recently attended the 2017 AICPA CFO conference.  I know what you are thinking, “Bill is not a CFO, what was he doing at that conference?”  My first answer is that you don’t have to be a CFO to attend the conference.  A more accurate answer is that I was invited to give a GAAP update to the conference participants.  None-the-less, as an invited speaker, I was privileged to be able to attend the entire conference, and I wanted to share a few key quotes and highlights from the conference.

James Glassman of JP Morgan Chase gave an economic update and said “manufacturing jobs are not ‘going overseas’.”  Instead, they are being replaced with automation and the remaining jobs are fewer, higher skilled jobs.  In fact, routine jobs all over the economy are going away.  We won’t be able to stop it, the question is what are we going to do about the societal disruption it is creating?

Aaron Beam, former CFO of HealthSouth provided a great overview of the fraud that occurred there starting in the 1990’s, but the thought that hit me the hardest was a quote he included from Dan Ariel of Duke University. He said, “A society without trust isn’t a society.  It’s a collection of people who are continuously afraid of each other.” I’ll let you decide if we are already there or if there is still hope of reversing course.

Finally, Nandu Nandkishore, formerly Global CEO of Nestle’ Nutrition, discussed the emerging new reality we are all facing in the world.  First, he went back to 1820 when China and India were 50% of Global GDP.  At that time the world economy was dominated by land and labor with capital not being as important.  With lots of people and land, India and China dominated.  With the importance of capital increasing, and changes brought on by the European focus on human and property rights, by 1980 China and India had dropped to 3% of Global GDP. There were many reasons why China and India missed the initial move to a more capital-centric GDP from the impact of colonization to some internal structural issues, but whatever the reasons, China and India are now gaining the benefits of capital and they still have the benefits of lots of labor and land.

This means the U.S. will drop from the largest to the 3rd largest contributor to Global GDP around 2040 or 2050; China will be number one by 2020 or 2030.  Overall, six of the top 10 economies in 2050 will be from Asia and Africa.  This is the world that is coming, In fact, in some ways it is already here.  2010 was the first time after 150 years that “emerging” economies were more than 50% of world GDP.  This is the new reality we face.  The question isn’t what can be done to stop it.  The question is what are we, as business leaders, going to do the position our companies to take advantage of the opportunity it creates.

 


Prioritizing Risk

COSO is updating their enterprise risk management framework.  The updated framework includes five components and 20 principles.  More information on the COSO ERM framework can be found at the COSO website. In this blog I want to focus on prioritizing risks, which is part of the performance component of risk management.  Potential criteria for prioritizing risk include:

  1. Severity
  2. Adaptability
  3. Complexity
  4. Velocity
  5. Persistence
  6. Recovery

I think most companies who have moved along the scale of implementing risk management practices think about these criteria when they do the initial risk assessment on new products or changed business practices.  Where we all fall down is on updating or reassessing our risk priorities as the world changes around us.

Let’s take a recent example.  I’m sure United Airlines had really thought about the different risks related to customer service, overselling planes and the need to move crews around.  As a company they thought about the severity of canceling a flight because a crew was not available, of having to deny a passenger a seat because the flight was oversold, and what to do to get customers to volunteer to avoid the real negative of destroying a customer relationship.

I’m guessing, however, that they had not updated that risk assessment for the increase in velocity of negative customer experiences.  A decade ago, such experiences would be communicated to family and friends and maybe even impact a company’s decision on using a vendor.  Five years ago such experiences might be reported in words via Yelp or other online avenues, but at least you still had some time to react.  Today, videos, maybe incomplete and biased, are posted and can go viral in minutes.  As we all know now, the velocity of bad customer experiences is very different today than just a couple of years ago, and United had not adjusted its risk prioritization to account for that change.

The bottom line is that all aspects of risk management are never “done.”  Even if your business, products, suppliers and employees have not changed, the world around you has changed and you need to think about how that changing world has changed the risks your company faces and how you prioritize and react to them.


How to Build a Brand

Brands are some of the most undervalued assets on our traditional financial statements.  Unless you bought a brand, it may have zero value on your balance sheet; and even if you bought it, the recorded value may be much less than the real value to the company.  Because brands are so ignored by our current accounting measures, many CPAs may not realize that how you go about building a brand is undergoing a dramatic change.

One of the drivers of that change is how media is consumed.  Today, 60 percent of media consumption occurs on a mobile device.  The problem that creates is that the consumption now has someone between you and your customer.  It could be Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any of the other “social” media outlets your customers use. Or it could be Amazon, Airbnb, Angie’s List, Uber or any number of sites that create traffic for your products and services. The question in this new world is, how do you build a relationship with a customer when there is another intermediary between you and your customer?

It’s no longer about ads and positive stories. Content is in complete oversupply.  What is scarce is trust and attention. The traditional influence pyramid has been upended.  Influence no longer rests with the few, the authorities, the experts.  It now sits in the general population, or to put it another way, people like you.

The latest trust barometer reading from Edelman shows that trust is decreasing, but it is decreasing the least for “someone like you.”  Who do companies have that are like their customers–their employees, and I’m not talking about the CEO (whose trust rating dropped by a third in the latest survey).  Many companies have realized this and are asking their employees to be on-line ambassadors for their company.

The company can send out all the press releases it wants, but having employees share the information via their posts to their favorite social media sites not only gets the word out wide and far; it gets it out via a much more trusted source–someone like them.  So instead of trying to restrict your employees from talking about the company, you should be making it easier for them to do so. Help them out by providing information and links for their posting along with some ways to write it up.

Oh yeah, and you might want to keep them happy as well.


Cognitive Computing

In my last blog, I mentioned that cognitive computing was starting to automate more advanced jobs in the CPA profession. But, what is cognitive computing?  David Powell, IBM Finance & Procurement Services Practices, talked about cognitive computing at our recent PAIB Committee meeting, and I want to share what he said about the subject.

Cognitive computing includes four key attributes:

  • Understand (unstructured data like humans do)
  • Reason (form hypothesis and infer or extract ideas)
  • Learn (sharpen expertise with each interaction – never stop learning)
  • Interact (see, talk & hear to interact with humans in a natural way)

While we CPAs tend to spend a lot of time trying to structure data to make it easier to work with, the reality is that a vast majority of the data out there is unstructured.  We also spend a lot of time analyzing information, which is one type of reasoning.  All CPA experts have developed their expertise over time by seeing similar types of transactions or issues over and over again.  And finally, some people think computers already interact with other human beings in a more natural way than CPAs.

Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you to learning that 50 percent of companies plan to implement cognitive computing in some way in two years, with two-thirds planning to do so in five years.  So how do you prepare for this new world of cognitive computing? It starts with a journey to understand and develop analytics; the farther along you are, the more prepared you will be.  And that puts you as a CPA in a great position, because many of us already live in a world of analytics.

So you have a head-start; take advantage of it.


Excel – A Love/Hate Relationship by Guest Blogger Anita Cadena, CPA

In my accounting experience, Excel is the most used tool in the Microsoft Office suite. It can do so many things to make our lives easier with its various functions. In addition, its data analysis capabilities can be extremely valuable. But how do you really know what it’s calculating and displaying is accurate? That could depend on how many people utilize the file and who created it.

If you think about software you use to help with calculations (for example – depreciation), there is some comfort that the program will calculate accurately because we generally cannot edit the “source code.”  However, when we use Excel for something similar, we can easily and accidentally edit the “source code” (i.e. formulas). I know – we use it whenever possible because it is familiar and convenient. However, if it is calculating something significant, you might want to add some control over who can access and edit the file (even provide some protection against yourself!).

Here are some ideas – the right solution and application will vary based on circumstances:

  1. Include check figures or some sort of “reasonableness test.”
  1. Protect the worksheet (you can lock certain cells – i.e. formulas and/or all “non input” fields).
  1. Protect the entire file.
  1. Protect the network folder (you may need help from your IT team).

Also, if someone other than the user(s) created the worksheet, you may want to keep documentation, including a log of changes. An additional tab could be created with the following information:

  • Purpose of the spreadsheet
  • User(s) of the spreadsheet
  • Who created the worksheet and when
  • Detailed list of any changes and date they were made, including who made them and why

Certain changes can also be tracked via Excel (in a shared workbook). Some details on this can be found here.

Finally, some things to look out for include hidden rows/columns, broken or incorrect links to data, “plug formulas,” and numeric vs. text values. These items could affect formulas.

To learn more, simply search online for “spreadsheet controls.” You’ll find a ton of information at your fingertips.

Anita Cadena is the Internal Auditor for Navy Army Community Credit Union in Corpus Christi, Texas.  She has been an internal auditor for public and private companies for the last eight years. In addition, she has over 10 years of experience in public accounting where she provided tax and audit services to a variety of industries.


Skills, Skills, Skills

If there was a theme to the latest Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) meeting, held March 29-30 in New York, I would have to say it was “skills.”

  • What skills do PAIBs have now?
  • What skills do employers want?
  • What skills will PAIBs need in the future?
  • What skills do PAIBs need to develop?

As a profession, we have already been seeing “entry level” accounting jobs replaced with automation, but now with cognitive computing capabilities, even “advanced” jobs may be subject to automation.  While the pace of change may be accelerating, the need to deal with change and learn new skills has been part of the profession from its beginning.  I think our core values will serve us well as we go in search of the new skills necessary to stay relevant (and employed) as old roles are automated.

One of those key core values includes continuous learning throughout your career.  If you have been in the profession over five years, I challenge you to think of all of the new skills you have already learned since joining the profession.  Our rules – tax, GAAP and audit – are under constant evolution, as are the tools we use to do our job.  Sure, thinking about having to learn new skills around big data, analytics, math and programming can seem daunting, but you don’t have to be an expert in all of these areas.

No CPA today is an expert in all things CPAs do – financial reporting, auditing, taxes, management accounting.  Some are gifted writers, others combine their financial skills with a legal background, while others have strong spreadsheet or database skills.  But like all of these existing areas, CPAs will be expected to have a basic understanding of many of these new areas and an in depth understanding on one or two.

The good news is that getting those 40 hours of CPE shouldn’t be a problem for any CPA wanting to keep up their skills!