N.Y. Area CPAs Face the Economy

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Accounting professionals in New York and New Jersey are often seen as immune to changes in the financial markets, bumps in the economy and even employment changes on Wall Street. Skilled CPAs, after all, are always in demand. Aren't they?

Not necessarily, says Frank Fusaro, president of the Forum Group, a New York City-based recruiting and consulting firm. A CPA for 36 years, Fusaro is hearing rumblings of regional CPA firms complaining about contractions in the industries they service. With the stock market in tatters, investment firms laying off professionals, and automation changing the way businesses and accounting firms work, it's no wonder CPA firms are beginning to feel economic pressures. "SOX work is clearing up, and so some firms are doing more with less," Fusaro observes. "I think this will be a year of more wait and see. People are reluctant to staff up given the tentative nature of the economy."

Specialists In Demand

However, don't cry for the region's CPAs just yet. "Even with the ups and downs in the economy, accounting is still a much more secure profession than most," Fusaro believes. He also suggests accountants with defined specialties won't be the ones facing the budget ax, if push comes to shove. CPAs with corporate governance expertise, or experience working for Internet or media companies, are going to find expanding opportunities in and around the New York and New Jersey area. However, he adds accountants not up on "their game" better quickly beef up their credentials and make sure they stay on top of the technology in the field. Otherwise, they may be the first out the door if cutbacks happen.

"This is not a time to take on one role, like the controller spot, and stay in that silo," says Fusaro. Those with a weak resume, or CPAs stuck in a more generalized mid-career accounting position may find themselves more prone to a layoff.

Diane Albergo, director of career services and human resources for Financial Executives International in Florham Park, N.J., says the more seasoned membership of her organization hasn't felt the pinch. "I do hear that new recruits in the accounting profession - those right out of school - are doing well," she says.

Savvy CPAs understand that given the changes in the marketplace, they need to specialize in a hot discipline, whether that's auditing, forensic accounting, compliance or international standards, she adds. That way they'll be in demand.

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