September 18, 2018

CFA

Big 4 Manager Needs Help Determining If He Is Underpaid

Welcome to the squelch-the-tryptophan-withdrawals-with-cyber-Monday edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4 manager is pret-tay sure he is underpaid. How can he broach the subject with a partner without causing major blowback?

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Back to our short-changed manager:

I was wondering if you could provide advice in how to determine if I am being underpaid and if I am how to go about asking for an increase? I am a 1st year Manager for a Big 4 firm in Kansas City. I have been with the same firm/office my entire career sans a 2 year secondment I completed in Dublin just in August. In addition, to having my CPA license I also hold the CFE certification and the CFA charter.

My feelings for asking for a raise are based on the additional certifications and knowing that my salary as a 1st year Manager is less than what 3rd year Sr. Associates were making in my office 2 plus years ago. I know the economy has changed during the subsequent 2 years but still feel like I am not fairly compensated. What advice do you propose? I am nervous about sharing my thoughts with my Partner as I am afraid of a potential backlash. Thanks in advance.

Dear Alphabet Soup,

Think you’re underpaid, huh? Seems to be theme around here. However, your situation is more unique than most so we’ll make a run at this.

First thing we noticed about your situation is that you’re a M1 which means you were recently promoted, which also mean you should have just received a better-than average raise. And we’re more than a little skeptical about your assertion that a SA3 is making more than you. That would have to mean that SAs are getting insanely good raises while you – the newly promoted manager – got an abysmal one; it seems unlikely. If this in fact the case, then you’ve had a serious string of bad luck.

As for determining whether or not you are underpaid, we suggest you speak to a professional recruiter in KC to find out whether or not your credentials and international experience or currently undervalued. If the recruiter takes a look at your résumé and starts drooling, you’ll know that he/she can earn a fat commission placing you somewhere else. If they shrug and say, “Look friend, you’re doing pretty well. But let me tell you about this great opportunity…” then your salary is probably fair.

When it comes to talking to a partner about this, be sure you’re speaking to someone you trust and just be honest. Make your case with facts. Don’t go speculating about what a SA3 is making because that turns the conversation to something that is out of your control. Highlight your credentials, international experience and why they bring value to the firm and your partner.

They’ve heard the “I’m underpaid” sob story a million times. You’ve got to prove to them that your case is an exception to the run-of-the-mill bellyaching.

Credentials for Accountants: Chartered Financial Analyst

Need help deciding what you want to be when you grow up? Check out the rest of our posts on credentials for accountants.

Into investments and looking to secure a credential that is recognized the world over as a standard of professional excellence? Getting the Chartered Financial Analyst (“CFA”) credential might be for you. You won’t be alone as 139,900 candidates in 160 countries have enrolled for June CFA exams this year.

Here’s the rest of the skinny on the CFA:

Education Requirement
To obtain a CFA, all you need is a bachelor’s and four years of relevant work experience, or a combination of education and experience that totals at least four years.

Professional Requirements
CFAs must have 48 months of qualified work experience to qualify to take the exams.


CFA Exam
The exam is administered only in English by the CFA Institute in June and December. The Candidate Body of Knowledge is the playbook from which all CFAs derive their moves; those who have recently passed the CPA exam can think of it as the opposite of the CPA exams, whereupon BEC is the largest section. Topics include the time value of money, corporate governance, equity investments and portfolio management.

The exam consists of three levels and Each has its own emphasis, with all of them weighing ethics heavily.

Level I emphasizes tools and inputs, and includes an introduction to asset valuation, financial reporting and analysis, and portfolio management techniques.

Level II emphasizes asset valuation, and includes applications of the tools and inputs (including economics, financial reporting and analysis, and quantitative methods) in asset valuation.

Level III study program emphasizes portfolio management, and includes strategies for applying the tools, inputs, and asset valuation models in managing equity, fixed income, and derivative investments for individuals and institutions.

All levels must be passed in order to secure the CFA designation. Each exam is 6 hours. There is no passing score, only pass/fail and candidates are given score reports that explain their performance according to other candidates. The exam uses a psychometric grading system similar to the CPA exam.

Studying takes about 10 – 15 hours per week for 18 weeks. Unlike the CPA, CFA candidates can take the exams as many times as they need to pass and there is no time limit to do so.

Career Options
A large number of CFAs end up as portfolio managers however other career options include research analyst, consultant, financial advisor or investment banking analyst. 7% of CFAs are actually chief executives.

Compensation and Other Benefits
Portfolio managers can make $77,443 – $144,360 (national average) so the obvious incentive to obtaining a CFA is the money. CFAs are overwhelmingly male, about 82% according to PayScale. For CPAs, the CFA designation offers quite a bit of flexibility in one’s career to work outside of accounting with a focus on financial products and investments.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts for GC here.