Roundtables reveal

Women's Roundtable Results Published

Only 9% of male CPAs, but 36% of female CPAs, who have left public accounting cited "dissatisfaction with advancement opportunities" as a reason. This is just one of the insights gained from focus groups sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs women and family issues executive committee (WFIEC) at an AICPA industry conference. The three focus groups-consisting of a total of 32 CPAs, a third of whom were men-were designed to compare the experiences of men and women in business and public practice.

Some results pointed out differences between male and female experiences, but others highlighted the similarities: family time, for example, is not just a women's issue. Some companies had more "family-friendly" policies than others.

The focus groups were conducted by the Families and Work Institute for the WFIEC. Some results are in the box below. A full report, Experiences and Views of CPAs in Industry , contains more data plus quotes from group participants. It is available free by calling Ramona Perry-Jones, AICPA manager of women and family issues, at 212-596-6226, and it's posted on AICPA Online, .

CPAs Head for Wall Street

Young CPAs are doing more than looking at other peoples' income statements; they're trying to increase their own. A large New York-based financial recruitment firm, A-L Associates, is getting an increasing number of calls from Wall Street firms for bright CPAs with two to three years' experience in a Big Six firm. "Usually, we have about 100 open jobs to fill," said John Gramer, CPA, managing director of A-L's accounting division. "But in the past eight months, that's increased to 150 and, in the last two months, as high as 160." Why Big Six CPAs? "It's perceived the Big Six hire the best and the brightest college graduates. And Wall Street companies want people with strong accounting backgrounds who understand internal controls, for example. They want people who have inquisitive minds, which come from having an auditor perspective." The growth in the last 18 months in the New York financial market has spurred Wall Street growth, opening jobs for CPAs at companies such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and J. P. Morgan.

According to Gramer, the lure is both glamour and money. "Traditional public accounting may be losing its luster. Some of the top new CPAs want to move out of auditing into the consulting and investment advisory divisions if they stay at their firms." Also, by moving to Wall Street, they could get a 10% to 15% raise plus a 20% to 25% annual bonus. Although this particular exodus is fueled by a boom market, Gramer said it could be long term as CPAs branch out into different areas. For the first time in 16 years at A-L he's seeing large firms making counteroffers to departing CPAs. Also, more senior CPAs, including partners, are exploring other possibilities. "Partners see former managers who worked under them now making almost as much as they are. Traders are earning $200,000 to $300,000. An audit director can go to Bankers Trust or First Boston and make as much as half a million in salary."

Neil Tessler, president of Dryden-Cross, a New York executive search firm specializing in the financial industry, also has seen an increased call for CPAs. "Wall Street wants CPAs for their analytical skills," he told the Journal . "It's happening at a faster pace. I think the bonus structure-so common on Wall Street-is part of the attraction."

Who's not leaving-and why
Fran Engoron, senior partner-intellectual capital at Price Waterhouse, told the Journal that her firm has not seen wholesale departures, however. "Some people stay with us for a while, get great experience and then leave for corporate positions, often with one of our clients. We don't encourage it, but it's expected." She agreed that Wall Street salaries could be very attractive but emphasized the other incentives PW has, such as "flexible career models, not just the standard accounting firm 'up-or-out' model. Some stay on to become directors, an alternative to the partner destination that doesn't rule out a partnership at a later date. We invest a lot in people development, and some remain with us for that accelerated on-the-job training."

She also pointed out that although PW demands a lot from its people, it does have flexible work arrangements. "I don't think many investment banking firms have that very high on their list," she said.

Also, A-L's Gramer warned that only about 5% of all CPAs moving to Wall Street will end up in the highest paid revenue areas. The rest will find work in trade support, such as in financial reporting and analyst roles. But that doesn't seem to slow anyone down. "These CPAs say to me, 'Why can't I do trading work? I'm just as bright as the traders they have. I'm the best-I'm willing to give it a shot.' If this continues, I think the Big Six are going to find themselves really squeezed for employees."

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