Economist: Number-Crunchers Needed

This is good news for my precious little bean-counters... sort of. (hat tip to Skeptical CPA for the heads up on this one)

We have already defined that the accounting industry is slightly better off than other industries; it took about 12 months for the recession to get to us, firms are doing less laying off than other areas, and because of the nature of the crisis itself, accountants will always be in high demand, especially the forensics who treat financial fraud like the scene of a homicide. All good, and surely we are all grateful to be so bulletproof - if such a declaration may be made without seeming full of ourselves.

Do not misconstrue what I am trying to say, the accountants are hurting too. Because of the nature of my own position on the fun fringes of the industry, I get to be first contact for accounting grads so new to the beast that the ink is still wet on their BAs. And without giving away the full picture, I have to admit that it's a tad bit scary from where I am standing.

There is a problem with accounting education in that few grads are even prepared to actually enter the industry once they graduate. They oftentimes come to us with absolutely no idea what to expect when it comes to professional licensure; now, being nice folks, my company is more than happy to kick down the knowledge but this reflects poorly on the accounting professors and programs from which these kids come. No idea whatsoever? No one warned you about the CPA exam? No one took you under their wing and tried to steer you in the right direction?

I do not want to place the blame entirely on the programs and the schools, they are not necessarily supposed to offer up this information. "A closed mouth doesn't get fed," right? If these kids squeezing out of accounting programs across the country aren't thinking critically enough to ask the important questions and use the resources at their fingertips, then it isn't all that fair for me to point the finger at their professors, right?

I digress.

Via the Economist, qualified accountants are in demand but perhaps not where we want them to be:

The humble accountant is in high demand. Despite the rising ranks of the unemployed, many companies still suffer from a shortage of skilled finance and accounting staff, according to a new survey of 4,800 hiring managers by Robert Half International, a recruiting firm. Fifty-six percent of respondents reported difficulty finding appropriate candidates for finance roles, with the most acute shortages reported in Hong Kong, Brazil and Japan. When compared to an identical poll last year, some of the largest jumps in frustrated recruiters were in continental Europe, namely France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. By contrast, companies in America are finding it easiest to hire skilled financial talent, perhaps reflecting the masses of qualified candidates cut loose from the country’s stricken financial services sector in recent months.

As always, the best part of any article is the comments and the Economist is no exception.
Seeing as they are a tad leftist (to say the least), I'm not shocked:

I'm seldom impressed by the Economist's presentation of survey statistics. And even less by the interpretation ("Analysis" would be a term too flattering for a magazine with this title).

But I'm always impressed with this venerable publication's ability to consistently pair these half-baked commentaries with poor visuals and photos drawn from standard picture archives.

Take a look at the poor chap in the photo covering his face with what seems to be a calculator. Take a look at this calculator.

Initially it looks OK, but it's enormous. My guess is it's A4 at least - not useable in real life. It would be far too slow for a politician to fiddle his expenses on, let alone an accountant to manage his Ponzi scheme.

And it has no "GT" (Grand Total) button, for summing up if you get lost, nor does it have any Memory facility (Add to Memory, Recall Memory etc..

Lack of Memory suggests this is indeed an instrument designed for the political zoo, but it still don't quite look right.

I think the Economist tweakers "Photoshopped" the photo, substituting the calculator for with whatever the man in the photo was originally holding up.

Maybe it was his CV - he's looking for a job. Or a picture of Papa Razzi, the Pope - he's looking for life after death. Or it's the last week's Economist - he's protesting about superficial analysis of published data

What do you think?

So? They Photoshopped a calculator!

Truth be told, considering my position out here on the periphery of accounting, I am going to have to concur and say these numbers might be entirely made-up.

Certainly wouldn't be the first time.

Jr Deputy Accountant

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.


Great post (and 100% G-rated, too! I might actually be able to link to you at last!) As to your self-description of being on the periphery, that may be what gives you the freedom and less biased perspective to question whether students are being adequately prepared for the very subject they are majoring in, not only in terms of the CPA exam, but having a realistic idea, broadly speaking , of what they are actually going to be expected to do, on day 1, at 2 years, 4 years, 7 years, etc; maybe a lot of students are so focused on making Partner and what they think that means, they haven't been given the best preparation for the real world, no matter how good their technical knowledge or book- learning is. So, it's good to see you call the question. Maybe there's some folks at AAA, (the accounting profs, not the other AAA's) who would listen to what you have to say, their annual mtg is in NYC Aug 1-5, and their Conf on Teaching & Learning us Aug 1-2, au will be there, hope to meet you if it is of interest! See


LOL, hey, I can get through a post every now and then without the F word! Ok... more like 1 in every 25 posts ;)

I personally think the deficiency lies on both sides of the equation - don't know if you saw MACPA's recent article about Gen Y: but it made me think... if my moronic generation can't even figure out how to ASK for help and SEEK guidance from those who have been around the block, then they sort of deserve to be clueless.

This is along those lines. I am AMAZED on a daily basis by how little accounting grads understand about the way the industry works (and yes, you are totally right in that my position is actually a benefit - it's like I get all the perks of being in the industry without having to crunch any actual numbers haha) but on the other hand (yeesh, seriously, I SHOULD have been an economist...) it is up to THEM to reach out BEFORE they leap into their career, no?

Our company was at AAA last year actually, I don't know if we are going this year but I will see.

I have been fortunate to come across some very wise and open-minded people in the industry (professors and professionals) who take my opinion into account. We are also fighting against an industry that prides itself on routine so I don't know how far that will get any of us...

The reality is that there is a disconnect from book-learning and practical application which is not being addressed. At least that's my opinion.

For me personally, before I started with this site and took it "all the way," I made sure I had wise guides strategically-placed in all corners of accounting and finance to encourage me along the way. Without their wisdom, cheerleading, and sometimes criticism, I don't know how far I would have taken this project. Skeptical CPA is a perfect example of that - me being the clever little whippersnapper I am, I saw immediately that he had a wealth of knowledge to offer AND that he offered it up freely. How could I pass up such an opportunity?

So my generation really needs to figure out how to do that first. Like I said, a closed mouth doesn't get fed...

thanks again, so glad you approve :)