Accountants Dodge Wall Street Layoffs

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CPAs in New York and New Jersey often face the unenviable task of delivering bad news to a company's management. The region's financial services firms, after all, are in the midst of contraction, hit by the credit crunch, the sub-prime blowout and a variety of regulatory pressures. While being the bearer of bad tidings certainly takes a toll, accountants in the financial world are by and large being spared one thing: layoff notices.

Even some of the more troubled financial institutions in New York and New Jersey are hanging onto their accountants. Increasing regulatory and valuation issues have apparently made their jobs both recession-proof and crisis-proof.

Tom Riley, past president of the New York State Society of CPAs and a partner at Beard Miller Company's Syracuse office, believes that can be both good and bad. "By trying to prevent the financial debacles of the past and improve accounting reporting, the job often becomes much more complex," he says. As a result, accountants are feeling an "increasing burden, right or wrong," whether they're working in-house on the corporate side of a financial company or offering advice from a Big Four or regional firm.

Richele Konian, chief executive of Careers on the Move in New York City, notes area CPAs at area financial services firms are noting the pressures. "Even in casual conversations, you hear that there are new challenges every week, especially for those on the CFO side," she says. "You have to stay on top of your game."

Delivering the News

Among the pressures accountants face is delivering information to clients or managers that, on the face of it, seems like bad news. Riley, a tax expert, says accountants in his area must figure out how to educate their clients on the need to take necessary action - like restating financials, for instance. "It's an art, and you learn over the course of your career that it's not necessarily bad news," he says. "It's all news, and you have to provide correct information to the client, even if it is unexpected or unwanted."

Even with regulatory changes that might impact how financials are reported, companies generally have a long lead time during which to incorporate those changes into their financial reporting. "If you are doing your job all along and servicing the client well, then there isn't a big surprise in the end," Riley notes.

Out of the Kitchen

While the stress of working in financial services may be causing some accountants to consider jumping into a new industry, Konian says it's particularly difficult for those at the top of the accounting ladder - such as CFOs or senior level accounting and taxation staff - to make such a move. Still, she notes pharmaceutical and entertainment firms are among the top choices for area accountants leaving financial services, while others are pursuing corporate work or seeking more specialized work, such as at area valuation firms.

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