Talent Crisis Survey: Where Have All the Accountants Gone?

By | 4 months ago

We’ve looked everywhere.

In a March 6 article in The Wall Street Journal, we learn that there is some kind of accounting shortage, particularly for “companies adjusting to accounting-rule changes in the U.S.” In other words, public companies are struggling to poach or even barely seduce experienced hires from public accounting firms.

Per the article:

Increasingly, the companies are competing for talent with major accounting and audit firms that had once served as a reliable pipeline for corporate finance back offices.

Some of the firms have changed their work culture in a bid to keep workers happy and keep them longer. When Len Combs started working at accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in 1992, long hours at the office were the norm, and work-life balance wasn’t a priority.

“The idea was, if you don’t like it, go do something else,” said Mr. Combs, now U.S. chief auditor for the firm. Accordingly, many young associates quit and took jobs in corporate-finance departments at public companies.

Surely Mr. Combs knows that the Two and Done rule has been in place since the time he started at PwC 25 years ago. And surely he also knows that there are still plenty of public accountants putting in their time to get licensed and leave at the first viable opportunity.

That said, PwC is trying new tactics to keep their associates at the firm, deploying perks such as work from home days, flexible hours, and the ultimate perks of treadmill desks, and Ping Pong and foosball tables. Because, you know, foosball is important when you’re putting in 60 hours a week doing work that should be distributed across a team twice your size. As is that hamster wheel of a desk, which serves to remind you how no matter how many steps you take, you’re still in the same exact place.

And now public companies are circling like sharks around the bloody water of public accounting firms’ unhappy grunts, looking for qualified hires to help them navigate new FASB rules on the horizon. But according to the WSJ piece, they’re not finding them.

So that brings us to wonder: is it really that bad out there? And if so, why the hell are you people spending another busy season slaving away for the man in public accounting when you could have it so much better at some desperate public company willing to mud wrestle other public companies to get you to work for them?

This is a topic we want to look at in depth, and as such are asking you to take this short survey. First, we want to look at data from the AICPA to see if there’s any drop off in accounting grads. We’ll use the results, dig around a bit more and report back. Your participation is appreciated.

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