Considering the nature of business today and the growth of legal and financial reporting requirements, it's not surprising technology risk professionals are needed by many corporations. The demand is especially critical in the New York and New Jersey area.
"In general terms, the growth in this field reflects the growing role of technology in business," says Dan Schroeder, the officer in charge of the technology risk services practice with Amper, Politziner & Mattia in their Edison, N.J., office. "(It's) creating more demand for technology savvy auditors and consultants who can help businesses understand and mitigate technology risks, as well as better leverage technology to improve business performance."
Sarbanes-Oxley may have caused the tipping point that pushed the need for CPAs with such specialized skills, he believes. On a lower level, he says new risk-based audit standards, such as SOX AS5, are driving growth in the field through "their greater emphasis on understanding and responding to the role of technology as it relates to internal controls over financial reporting."
Given concentration of corporate headquarters and global operations in the New York metro area, tech risk services is a booming business for many area accounting and consulting organizations. Several industries whose businesses depend on technology are concentrated in the area, Schroeder notes. These include financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, supply chain management and a variety of technology service providers.
The Rigors of the Field
Like any specialty within accounting, tech risk experts need the required skills sets to perform effectively. Schroeder believes there is no one set roadmap to acquiring the necessary experience. "People that excel in this field often have a broad background of technology experience, auditing, and practical business experience, with a core of strong professional skills, a desire for continuous learning, and a high energy level," he observes.
Of course, CPA introverts or those most comfortable keeping to their desk may not be right for this specialty. "For people that like a lot of variety, and constant change and challenges, this is a great field to be in," says Schroeder.
CPAs considering the field need to be sure they're just as knowledgeable in tech as they are in accounting, says Jason Palmer, a member of the IT committee for the New York State Society of CPAs. Palmer, who holds a dual degree in IT and accounting and is president of Huntington Bay, N.Y.,-based Palmer Computer Services, worries that some CPAs may not be well equipped to deal with the evolving tech needs of modern businesses. Tech certifications mean less than getting the needed day-to-day experience and background in technology, he says.