Page 41 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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Adding Things Up
As he talked about his profession, Leary said it was never just about adding up numbers and being a proverbial ‘bean counter.’
There was always a consulting component to the work, he said, adding that now, there is much more of this kind of work, as soft- ware has taken over some of the tasks handled with the old calcula- tor that still sits on his desk but is rarely used.
“Today, most businesses, regardless of size, have some accounting software, so you’re getting information from them that’s already compiled and put together, so they’re relying on us for more strategic analysis of those num- bers,” he explained. “You’re not questioning whether two plus two equals four; now it’s ‘let’s see what four means.’
“It’s a higher level of skill than what you needed before,” he went on, adding that this shift is one of many to come to the industry.
Another is how the work is done. Indeed, years ago, said D’Agostino, much more time was spent with the client, in person. Today, there is still some face-to-face interaction, obviously, but much more is done by Zoom or over the phone. And those face-to-face meetings are much different.
Leary agreed.
“If we were going to audit ABC Company, we’d back up last year’s paper files and head over there,” he said. “You would spend
a couple of weeks with a client, meeting with them, going through their records, pulling invoices, and doing reports. You’d spend a few weeks there — which I really liked, being out of the office, meeting with clients — and building that relationship. And you got a work- out because you’d be hauling loads of paper. Today, you’re going
out with your laptop, and you’re not necessarily going out to see clients.”
Still another change to come to this field, as noted earlier, is the fact that fewer people are choosing to enter it.
“The accounting field has been experiencing a decline nation-
ally because people who are driven by numbers are leaning more toward the software industry,” Leary said. “And the profession is certainly looking to change that; you can have an excellent career in accounting, because it goes well beyond simple bookkeeping. It’s fascinating what you can get involved with in public accounting today, whether it’s forensic accounting or foreign taxation issues
“It really hit home during COVID, and it has only continued since — there are just not enough professionals coming into the workforce.”
and so forth.”
D’Agostino agreed. He noted that the required fifth year of col-
lege, compensation that is less competitive than some other fields, and a general interest among young people for something sexier than what they perceive accounting to be has led to what is becom- ing a critical problem for the industry.
“It really hit home during COVID, and it has only continued since — there are just not enough professionals coming into the workforce,” he told BusinessWest. “So accounting firms have to think outside the box to get things done — and also to keep profes- sionals here, which has necessitated being creative, compensa- tion increases, and, with some firms, outsourcing work to other countries.”
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