With our profession facing automation across all service lines, CPA firms are doing what would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: recruiting non-accounting graduates. According to the 2017 AICPA Trends Report, 20 percent of all new hires are now non-accounting graduates.
It’s one thing to read about this trend, but it’s another to understand what firms are actually doing and who they are hiring. Based on discussions with our clients (many of whom are Top 50 or Top 100 firms) and a dive into the careers page of many of these firms, here’s a look at the roles these firms are filling with non-accountants.
As I’ve written about previously, many firms are expanding into technology consulting, either by buying an existing technology consulting firm or building it from scratch. So it’s no surprise that one of the major skillsets for non-accountant hires is professionals with IT experience.
Many firms are hiring technology advisors, especially those with experience working with early- to mid-stage startups, to help clients implement and run their accounting and financial functions. They’re also looking for IT consultants who can perform general IT controls consulting, perform control assessments and assist in systems and organization control engagements.
Some firms are also hiring or acquiring developers with experience developing front-end applications and building digital workplace solutions. These developers and analysts will consult with clients to define their needs and design and implement portals, intranets and mobile apps.
Often, these professionals will have degrees in computer science or information systems and have experience working in a related field.
Many of your firm’s high net worth clients already turn to you when considering transactions that affect their finances, so wealth management has been a natural extension for firms of all sizes. Hiring investment advisors with a CFP or CFA designation is becoming more common. It’s especially beneficial if they can bring in an experienced advisor with a transferable practice.
CPA firms providing HR consulting has been around for decades, even in small to midsize firms. Clients have a lot of confidence in their firm’s integrity and abilities, so firms are administering cafeteria plans, employee benefit plans and health plans, assisting in recruitment and selection, writing policy manuals, helping clients with discipline issues, teaching management classes, and developing compensation systems and salary surveys.
HR and compensation specialists employed by CPA firms may provide guidance and consultation to external clients regarding compensation strategies and programs. They may also help in compliance with labor and employment laws.
In most cases, an accounting background is not required. Instead, they hire professionals with a degree in Human Resources and a strong foundation in compensation administration.
As firms drill down into niche areas, they’re hiring professionals with experience working in those areas. For instance, a firm with a dealership niche may employ consultants who have worked in sales, marketing, finance or other areas of an automotive dealership because they can provide a unique understanding of the needs and issues of that industry.
Likewise for other niches, such as non-profit organizations, agriculture, communications, construction and real estate, financial institutions, gaming, government, healthcare, manufacturers, etc.
With big data, automation and machine learning on the horizon, many firms are stepping up their recruitment of students and experienced candidates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Increasingly, auditing and accounting are less about reporting on historical numbers and more about aggregating data to get insight from those numbers. That requires people who understand data and can use tools that pull whole populations of data together.
They’re hiring candidates with a minor or a double major in accounting plus data science or data analytics, computer science, programming or management information systems.
The accounting profession is changing, and CPA firms increasingly realize that they must change with it or fall behind. This doesn’t mean that accounting isn’t still an in-demand skill set, but soon accountants will be one of many professionals that make up a firm of the future.
Jim Boomer is CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc.
See inside June 2018
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