Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about best bets for jobs
About six years ago Cathy Logue, an accountant by trade, and her two business partners launched Ambit Search in Toronto. The boutique executive recruiting firm is focused exclusively on filling finance and accounting roles across the country
Accountants are being asked to help their organizations understand their numbers — not just report them. This is equally true for CPAs in public practice, in industry and in not-for-profits.”
“Accountants now have a real seat at the table and are expected to help chart the short- and long-term future of organizations. This move from the back room to the boardroom is exciting and it’s happening fast,” says Gena Griffin, district director of Robert Half International, the world’s largest specialized staffing and recruitment firm. As a result, they are counting on finance leaders to be enablers for growth and to do that by sharing reasonable expectations based on what they are seeing and trend analysis.”
What does this mean in terms of skill sets for accountants going forward? In a nutshell, a lot more emphasis will be placed on the non-accounting aspects of accounting.
A break down what it will take to set yourself apart and where the opportunities are greatest.
The ability to see the big picture
Griffin sees an even greater need for communication skills, critical thinking beyond interpreting profit and loss statements and the ability to take a 360-degree view of an organization. In other words, accountants will increasingly have to look at the business not just from the position of finance but also in terms of what’s happening within the business operationally and at a management level.
A meta understanding of megadata
This involves being able to make sense of big data and implement data analytics, particularly in the areas of marketing and sales.
“Financial analysts are helping companies look at data to identify risk, market opportunity, industry trends and new business opportunities. Although companies are equipped at pulling data, what technology can’t do is interpret, make recommendations or build a case for a given strategy. This is part of the accounting function.
Enterprise risk management capability
The exponential growth in volume and complexity of information also brings added risk, and this in turn brings opportunity for accountants with expertise in enterprise risk management both in public accounting and industry. “Making sure there are proper procedures and controls over storing information, accessing it via the cloud or mobile phones has created an increased need both in companies and in public practice to ensure proper checks and balances are in place,” says Logue.
A green sensibility
“We are seeing more communication to the public about corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and while demand is not particularly strong right now, over the next three to five years we expect there will be increasing demand for accountants with skill sets in this area,” says Griffin. Those skill sets include the ability to conduct an environmental audit and to help set and execute a CSR strategy.
Industries in hypergrowth mode
Financial services, property management, healthcare and natural resources, namely mining and oil and gas, continue to make steady gains post-recovery. And where there are gains, there are jobs. As a result, accounting and finance professionals, specifically business analysts, controllers, senior accountants, accounting clerks and professionals with expertise in billing and collections, are being hired in hubs in BC and Alberta, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Developing the complete accountant
In 2011, the University of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance, home to the largest co-op program for accounting and finance students in Canada, implemented a new learning model. That model was developed in response to feedback from employers who indicated unequivocally that they were looking for a complete professional.
The new learning model weaves learning how to learn, problem solving, collaboration and leadership training throughout its undergraduate courses as well as professional qualities such as taking responsibility, acting with integrity, managing relationships and navigating opportunities. Perhaps most important, students apply those skills and competencies inside and outside the classroom.
The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver has just undergone a curriculum review of its BComm program. Among the key outcomes was the confirmation of the need for group work in order to incorporate the soft skills that are necessary to work successfully in diverse teams. It is also formally introducing project management into the curriculum. “When people are recruiting they assume strong technical skills and are looking for the potential of the student. That comes down to strong ethics, the ability to lead, the ability to develop people, to bring in business and gain rapport and trust with clients,” says Linda Gully, director of undergraduate career services at the school. “Accounting is not just a back office function any more and companies aren’t just hiring the smartest person any more.” — MTB
“Right now it’s clear that for us and for the profession as a whole, Alberta is where the greatest demand is thanks to the growth in the oil and gas sector, which is driving the growth of ancillary industries as well,” says Ryan Couvrette, partner in audit and assurance at PwC and its GTA campus recruitment leader.
Global hot spots
There are plenty of opportunities for Canadian accountants in Asia, the Middle East and the BRICS countries, says Sean McConkey, talent leader for global and Canadian audit at Deloitte. “We are seeing a good amount of recruitment occurring here in Canada for accountants who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and Cantonese. We are also seeing a big draw to India to manage the offshoring happening in the industry. We don’t expect that to cool off at all.”
Public practice trends
Globalization also has a local impact. It requires a deeper knowledge of and specializations within the various accounting frameworks, says McConkey. “Understanding IFRS or US GAAP, for example, and how those standards apply within industry is critical, particularly with the scrutiny and oversight we are seeing from CPAB and the PCAOB. At the same time, from our clients’ perspective, companies want accountants/advisers who have a deep understanding of their industry landscape, the competition and industry trends.”
There is also growing need for business valuation capability as post-recovery M&As are on the uptick. Risk and compliance as well as forensic accounting expertise are also growing in demand, particularly among small to midsize businesses looking to keep their houses in order and make sure no “funny stuff” is going on, says Griffin. And there is always strong demand for tax specialists because the pool of talent is small to begin with and companies are looking for tax-smart strategies both to ensure compliance with changing standards and to minimize their tax bill.
Going forward in public practice the job will focus more on industry and technical specialization, business development, relationship building both with clients and employees and leveraging technology to produce a value-add audit that positions the firm as a strategic partner, he says. “It’s a very different job than it was 10 years ago. We are asking accountants to be more rounded than they ever were before.”
To that end, CPA Canada is creating a bridging program (CPA PREP) for graduates in nonbusiness undergraduate programs to bring them into the profession. “When we talk about our workforce today, the majority of CPAs are from business schools,” says Couvrette. “We are trying to find the right balance of people with strong relationship-building capabilities and deep technical expertise — a more blended model that leverages everyone’s skills. Having people enter the profession from the arts or sciences brings different perspectives. That’s what we are looking for: diversity of thought to push things forward. It’s a dynamic time in the profession. There is a lot of opportunity for CPAs to make their mark.”
1. Based on these trends, what is your specialization of choice and why?
2. Do you foresee working in the City that you studied, or will you consider an International or National career move?
3. What do you think of the Accounting profession now, based on these trends?
Article written by:Mary Teresa Bitti is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ont., click,see her complete article in CA magagine