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Janis Parthun
 

One in Four CFOs Are Looking for CPAs With IT Skills

Do you have what it takes to get hired in 2011?

January 18, 2011
by Janis Parthun, CPA.CITP

TechBytes

As a CPA, you have many career options. But, how do you gain an advantage as a CPA regardless of your chosen career path? According to Robert Half’s 2011 Salary Guide — Accounting & Finance, one out of four (27%) surveyed CFOs said software/technology knowledge is the second highest trait they look for in a candidate.

Corporate Finance

Whether you are a financial/business analyst, controller or C-level executive, information technology will play a pertinent role in your day-to-day responsibilities. As your financial technology advances from hardware and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to virtualization and Software as a Service (SaaS) ensuring the integrity of financial data and business reporting information is becoming more complex. This effect influences the complexity and size of your efforts and projects regardless of company or industry size.

During these challenging economic times, it’s imperative for CPAs to have the desired skill-set of their current or potential employer[s]. In a recent CFO magazine whitepaper, executives pointed out that “simply improving technology literacy in finance and improving business savvy in IT can be valuable steps toward improvement.”
 
Similarly, a 2010 IBM study of 1,900 CFOs measuring the effectiveness of current finance organizations found information integration and risk management as the two finance activities that were much more relevant in today’s marketplace. What's more, the study also revealed that the importance of integrating information had more than doubled since 2005 growing from 35 percent in 2005 to 72 percent in 2010 in activity importance.

As both studies show, more and more CPAs will have data governance and information management responsibilities and having a strong understanding of IT will help CPAs be more effective.

Audit and Attestation

As an external or an internal auditor or audit manager, information technology plays a significant role in your day-to-day responsibilities. Organizations continue to improve and advance their financial technology to remain competitive. While auditors may not receive the pressure from executives/operational managers for on-demand reporting, they must ensure the integrity and accuracy of financial information reported in a timely manner.

Deloitte’s whitepaper, The Changing Role of Internal Audit, surveyed a sample of audit committee members about key audit areas of consideration in 2015. A whopping 80 percent of the respondents expressed greater need to focus on IT operations and nine out of 10 respondents thought internal auditors should have gained better business insight and IT skills/knowledge by 2015.

Since financial information is inputted, stored and reported from financial systems, auditors should take IT into consideration when determining the risks associated with the financial data generated. This can range from the beginning phase of conducting a risk assessment (determining high, medium or low risk) to field work-phase performing testing procedures. Additionally, auditors who know how to leverage technology (such as computer assisted auditing techniques) are more effective and efficient in completing the audit, allowing more time for analysis and final assessment.

Risk Management and Fraud Investigations

If you decide to become a risk management officer or a fraud investigator instead of an auditor or a corporate finance profession, how do you gain an advantage as a CPA?

Ensuring the integrity of financial data is becoming more complex with new ways of performing fraud in financial systems. However, sophisticated forensic tools and techniques have also evolved to combat data quality issues and address the risk of fraud, without which, fraudulent crimes can make headlines in corporate accounting scandals, massive Ponzi schemes and a tidal wave of litigation. CPAs who leverage technology to conduct investigations can conduct fieldwork efficiently, leaving more time for effective analysis.

Deloitte UK’s 2010 study found more than half (55%) the respondents acknowledging that “they don’t have the skills or knowledge in the area of data analysis, another key fraud prevention and detection skill-set.”

If you are a CPA in risk management or fraud investigations, having strong IT skills in data analysis will give you an opportunity to stand out from your colleagues who lack the understanding of technology.

Conclusion

Today, those CPAs with technology and IT skills definitely have an edge over their peers. For you to advance in your career, especially if you have financial or business data responsibility, it is imperative to have a greater understanding of IT and its influence on the CPA industry for you to be more successful.

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Janis Parthun, CPA.CITP, CISA, CMA is a senior technical manager at the AICPA, where she manages AICPA’s IT Section and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) Credential program (IT Interest Area). The focus of the IT Section and CITP Credential program is to provide educational resources to CPA professionals interested in IT Assurance and Information/Data Management. Prior to joining the AICPA, Parthun worked at Grant Thornton, LLP as an internal controls manager within their Business Advisory Services group in the San Francisco/Bay Area.