Can you succeed in finance without international experience?

BY KEN TYSIAC

As commerce increasingly transcends borders, international experience is becoming a valuable asset for accounting and finance professionals.

Almost seven in 10 (69%) of more than 2,100 CFOs in large U.S. metropolitan areas said international experience will be at least somewhat necessary for accounting and finance staff five years from now, according to a survey by staffing services firm Robert Half.

That’s nearly identical to the 71% of CFOs who said in 2008 that international experience was at least somewhat necessary. A smaller group (56%) of CFOs described international experience as at least somewhat necessary in 2002.

“The world is getting smaller for accountants,” Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director, said in a news release. “Global businesses need staff well-versed in international accounting regulations and business practices to ensure sound reporting and compliance with local mandates and to support expansion into new countries and markets.”

Many professional groups have recognized this need for international experience. The AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) joined forces to create the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation in an effort to elevate the management accounting profession worldwide.

The AICPA governing Council in May approved a resolution that would make members of certain qualified accounting bodies outside the United States eligible to earn AICPA specialized credentials in business valuation, financial forensics, information technology, and personal finance.

Globalization is one of the developments cited for the release earlier this year of a new internal control framework by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO). Also, FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) continue to try to reach international convergence on some key accounting standards – and they are subject to questioning when they can’t come to agreement.

“The banking industry globally continues to support a converged standard on impairment, and we encourage both boards to strive for the same outcome,” International Banking Federation Managing Director Sally Scutt wrote to the boards after they proposed separate models for a standard governing accounting for financial instrument credit losses earlier this year.

In this environment, even CFOs at small companies said international experience is important for finance professionals. Two-thirds (67%) of CFOs at companies with 20 to 49 employees said in the 2013 Robert Half survey that international experience is at least somewhat necessary for accounting and finance staff.

Small companies and companies that don’t have international operations need accountants familiar with international tax laws and regulations to determine their impact on business partners, vendors, and suppliers, McDonald said.

International experience is even more important at larger organizations. All but 1% of the CFOs at companies with 1,000 or more employees said international experience is at least somewhat necessary for accounting and finance professionals.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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