The Phone Interview

After applying to multiple positions and attending networking events, your efforts are finally paying off: you’ve been asked for a phone interview! While this is an exciting first step in the hiring process, it can also be fraught with risks.

Don’t fall into the following traps:

Too Casual

This means in both speech and demeanor. Since you are on the phone likely in a comforting environment to you, it is easy to slip into old habits of casual language as if you were speaking with an old friend or even a longtime coworker. Just because you are not being evaluated in person doesn’t mean the interviewer isn’t picking up on your social cues. Perhaps they are picking up even more so since they only have your voice and language on which to base an opinion.

Make sure you dress professionally as it subconsciously will make you speak and present yourself in a more commanding way. If you feel like you are dressed for a professional environment, you will speak as if you were in one!

Have good posture and use facial expressions as if the interviewer was sitting across from you. It may feel funny at first, but the inflections in your voice will be come through the phone and will make you seem more engaging.

Not Using Your Resources

Since you are not in person, you can have your research and resume laid out in front of you for reference. Don’t forget to glance at your resume to jog your memory of work experiences and sills you can use in conversation. If you have research on the company printed out, bring company news, historical company facts, etc., into the conversation so the interviewer gets the feeling that you are interested in their job, not just any job.

Unprofessional Environment

If you are taking the phone interview at home and have noisy pets, make accommodations for them before the phone rings. Perhaps bring a dog to another floor of the house or make sure the cat has enough food and water prepared.

Don’t have the tv on in the background and limit the possibility of background noise as much as you can. For example, don’t sit next to an outside window in case the neighbor’s landscaper decides to show up.

If you are taking the phone interview at your current office and have ducked into a conference room, make sure it is either formally reserved or the door is shut/ locked so you don’t have fellow employees entering the room. That would not only be uncomfortable for you but for them, as well!

No Follow Up

Even though the prospective company did not host you in person, the interviewer still devoted time out of their day to get to know you, your experience and skills, and decide if you could be a good fit for them. Sending a thank you message is important as it recognizes this time investment and their consideration of you for their company.

If you devote ample preparation time and avoid these pitfalls, you will likely see yourself preparing for the next step in the hiring process: the in person interview!

Lunch Hour Power

In traditional jobs employees are given a lunch break, oftentimes an hour, to eat and recharge. These 60 minutes can look very different person to person. Maybe you like taking the full hour to eat while scrolling the day’s news or a book, or you like to get out of the office with coworkers to get some fresh air and take a walk. Regardless of how you use this hour, it presents a powerful opportunity to not only network within your own company, but to seek out contacts in other companies that may help advance your career.

In House

Is there a manager or director that you always seem to gleam inspiration or knowledge from in meetings? Do you find yourself inwardly thinking that you would love to learn a lot more from them outside the confines of those meetings or work flows? Take advantage of the opportunity your lunch hour gives you and ask this employee to grab a mid-day cup of coffee or bite to eat. Chances are they will accept because people are happy to talk about their own experiences and knowledge with others.

A bit intimidated or nervous? Take a few days to notice their routine and where they usually get their coffee or lunch. Then a simple question of “I was already going to grab lunch at {establishment’s name}, I’d love for you to join me.” Playing to someone’s preferences will always increase your chances for an acceptance.

Then, use the opportunity to learn from them and create a repour that will be beneficial on a professional and personal level. Once you see the valuable connections you are able to make in a relatively short period of time, you will soon find yourself with a packed lunch calendar!

Stone’s Throw Away

Not only are contacts within your own employer beneficial, but is there a vendor that is often used whose office is nearby? Or a fellow company in the industry with whom you have LinkedIn contacts but would love to have actual conversations? Reaching out to these people will offer you the same benefits as forging relationships within your own company, while also enriching your view and knowledge of your industry at large. And, should you find yourself in the intentional or unintentional position of trying to find another job, these contacts will come in handy.

Virtual Connections

If your job isn’t structured in a way where you can leave the office or your office is in an isolated region, seek out lunchtime webinars or online training sessions where you can virtually meet other people in the industry while enriching your skills.

Using the 60 minutes that that are given to you in the middle of the work day to actively connect with coworkers in your company and within the larger industry can be a strategic method to advance your career and forge valuable relationships.

You’re Hired! Now What?

The phrase that every job candidate loves to hear: “you’re hired!” Emotions run strong and all the preparation that was put towards securing the position finally feels validated. However, now is the time to actively transition from having secured the job to starting off on the right foot with your new company. Consider the following:

Appearance

Chances are you had at least one in-person interview, during which time you noticed how the employees dressed. Now is the time to take stock of your wardrobe to be sure you have clothes that match the culture of your new environment. As formal corporate suits and khakis with a polo are completely different office cultures, it is important you meet expectations in the clothing department, especially if you will be interfacing with clients or external visitors.

Bonus: treat yourself to a haircut! Walking in the office on day one with a fresh haircut will give you a confidence boost and after working hard for the position, you’ve earned it!

Training

If you commented during an interview how you would be willing to learn a program or skill, now is a great time to research class offerings or watch a few online tutorials on the subject. Actively trying to improve yourself already will be an impressive quality that your new boss and coworkers will appreciate.

Network

So you’ve done your homework on the company to prepare for the interviews, but now is the perfect time to do research on LinkedIn to figure out team structures and everyone’s experience. If you already have some semblance of faces, names, and job titles, you will be ahead of the game and will feel less intimidated when meeting a lot of people on your first day.

Travel

Taking a dry run of your new commute at the time you would actually be commuting will prove invaluable as you will be able to get an accurate picture of how much time you will need. Traffic patterns, probability of accidents given certain roads or highways and bus or train timetable accuracy are all issues to be conquered ahead of your first day so you don’t leave anything to chance.

These four items will help you get into the right mindset for your new role and company and will alleviate, as much as possible, the first day jitters.

Finance in the Age of Digital Transformation

Technology has been around for many years but the transformative ways it affects all avenues of our lives is becoming more apparent. From the way we order lunch online to the way we can do almost everything on our smartphone that we do on our computer, business operations are also being transformed and affected by digital transformation.

Anton Sher, Steven Ehrenhalt and Jonathan Englert of Deloitte explain that “from phone apps to home automation to cashless commerce and beyond, digital disruption is the new normal for consumers today. It’s changing what we do-and how we get things done-in countless ways…What does this have to do with the future of Finance? Everything.”

Role of CFO

Finance, specifically the role of the Chief Financial Officer, will be deeply impacted if it has not been already. The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) explains that the traditional scope of a CFO’s job description includes the following bullets:

  • Organizational Leader
  • Business Partner & Steward
  • Integrator & Navigator
  • Finance & Accounting Leader
  • Professional

Furthermore, they have divided the CFO position into four roles: creator, enabler, preserver and reporter. Given that their purview is already of great importance to the business model of any company, the digital transformation is putting another log on the fire of an already all-encompassing role.

It is for this reason that CGMA concluded that “one of the key challenges facing CFOs today is the dilution / divergence of focus.”

Concerns

Digitization is certainly contributing to the dilution of focus as it raises new concerns and factors to either mitigate or address in a live environment. Cyber security is a large element as the amount of digital transactions is only increasing as is the number and type of financial risks. So are digital businesses environments as “there is no framework or guidance, in financial governance, control and compliance, areas that also traditionally fall under the purview of a CFO,” explains CGMA. Social media is also an element that is a double-edged sword as the demand for products or services can eb and flow based on the outpouring of public opinion on various platforms. The advancement of IT tools for a CFO and finance department are aiding in the reporting functions but also pose the risk of taking away job tasks from people. However, telling the story behind the numbers is sometimes as important as presenting the numbers themselves.

Bob Violino for ZDNET also outlines digital transformation concerns that CFOs and finance departments are facing. The following results are from a survey of over 300 CFOs and finance professionals conducted by CFO Research and Grant Thornton LLP. The highlighted concerns centered around automation technologies and other IT tools. Having the right staff members in place once these technologies become more commonplace and the CFOs themselves being properly equipped with the ability to understand and advance data analytics are central concerns. In addition, being able to quantitatively measure the ROI of advancing IT technologies for finance is a worry.

The Way Forward

These uncharted territories allow people with a background in both finance and IT a chance to really advance their career as the two departments are becoming closely mingled. When applying to finance positions either for entry level, laterally or for advancement, highlighting experience and interest in IT is sure to be a huge bonus for any company.

Violino also shared that the survey indicated that due to competition and strategic opportunities like cost cutting and customer experience, more money will be allocated and spent in IT for finance.

Sher et al for Deloitte succinctly presents the importance of technology within finance by saying that “the needs of the business are growing. The pace of innovation is accelerating. CFOs can either plan for change, or plan to retire.”

Some of these affected topics have been detailed by Deloitte and include the below:

  1. The finance factory
  2. The role of Finance
  3. Finance cycles
  4. Self-service
  5. Operating models
  6. Enterprise resource planning
  7. Data
  8. Workforce and workplace

In their publication, Deloitte expounds on what companies and employees can do to address these and why they will make an impact on company culture.

Future of Finance

According to McKinsey & Company’s Kapil Chandra, Frank Plaschke and Ishaan Seth, the need and expectation for technology within finance is now expected yet there is still trepidation and uncertainty: “…today’s CEOs and boards say they want CFOs and the finance function to provide real-time, data-enabled decision support…but our research also shows that CFOs still spend less time on digital trends than they do on traditional finance activities…CFOs are often content to let colleagues in IT, marketing or other functions press the issue.”

Chandra et al suggest that in order to get the ball rolling, CFOs could work with their senior leadership to devise a game plan of where digitization would be the most effective for their organization. They predict that the following four technologies will revamp the finance team:

  • Automation and robotics “to improve processes”
  • Data visualization “to give end users real-time financial information”
  • Advanced analytics for finance “to accelerate decision support”
  • Advanced analytics for business “to uncover hidden shareholder value and growth opportunities”

McKinsey & Company also details two digital revamps that will greatly affect workflow and reporting in finance. Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is “a category or automation software that performs redundant tasks on a timed basis and ensures that they are completed quickly, efficiently, and without error.” This ties back to the concern of taking job functions away from finance employees, yet it was explained that numbers need human explanation for them to give meaningful guidance to a company.

The second is a self-service approach, such as a dashboard, that enables employees and key stakeholders to pull the information they need in live time without waiting to get reports sent to them. Chandra et all explain that “this self-serve approach has decreased the need for the finance group to generate reports by more than 50 percent and has cut the cost of reporting by 40 percent.”

Even though the promise of these new technologies and procedures stand to make individual workflow and company-wide procedures more streamlined and accurate, there is still a cloud of confusion and resistance.

Tim Sandle for Digital Journal explained that “across those tasked with leading digital transformation, the executives reported that resistance to introducing new ways of working was common and many felt overwhelmed by digital complexity.” This sentiment exists even though the CFO is the perfect person to take on this challenge, according to the Global Banking and Finance Review: “only one C-suite executive sits at the intersection of strategy, technology, operations, and financial management: the CFO.”

CFO Opinions

James LaCamp, partner at Deloitte, conducted an interview with Todd Ford, CFO of Coupa Software, in which he discussed his views on the role of the CFO amidst digital transformation.

“You have to be able to get the right data to the right people at the right time. True digital transformation takes place when organizations use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to mine that data for insights that improve processes and create value.”

Doug Alexander, EVP of Finance Operations at Shell, echoes Ford’s sentiment by saying that “we are focusing on getting the right people in the right place with the right skills to transform the organization.”

Based on that opinion, it doesn’t seem like finance employees need to worry about their job functions being completely eliminated by technology as the numbers generated by the technology are only as good as the people that tell the story behind them.

Ford goes on to divulge that “real time is where finance is headed: By 2025 there won’t be a need for a monthly or quarterly close process in my opinion; financials will be closed in real time.”

Conclusion

Where there is great opportunity can also be uncertainty and doubt, and that is perhaps the current climate of finance digital transformation summed up by Mark Evans, CFO at O2: “digital technology is fundamentally changing customers’ behavior and business models which is both a threat and an opportunity if we can foresee the next evolution.”

Sources:

“A CFO’s Key Competencies For The Future.” Chartered Global Management Accountant, 14 Sept. 2018 <https://www.cgma.org/content/dam/cgma/resources/reports/downloadabledocuments/cfo-competencies-report.pdf>

“CFO Challenges in a Digital World.” Genpact, 14 Sept. 2018. <http://www.genpact.com/insight/article/cfo-challenges-in-a-digital-world>

Chandra, Kapil et al. “Memo to the CFO: Get in front of digital finance-or get left back.” McKinsey&Company, 14 Sept. 2018. <https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/memo-to-the-cfo-get-in-front-of-digital-finance-or-get-left-back>

“Coupa Software CFO Todd Ford on Digital Transformation and the Future of the CFO.” Deloitte, 14 Sept. 2018. <https://deloitte.wsj.com/cfo/2018/05/21/coupa-software-cfo-todd-ford-on-digital-transformation-and-the-future-of-the-cfo>

Sandle, Tim. “Are CFOs the answer to digital transformation leadership crises?” Digital Journal, 14 Sept. 2018. <http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/524126>

Sher, Anton et al. “Crunch time V: Finance 2025 (Our predictions).” Deloitte, 14 Sept. 2018. <file:///C:/Users/llestino/Downloads/us-ft-crunch-time-V-finance-2025.pdf>

Violino, Bob. “For digital transformation, CFOs are loosening the purse strings.” ZDNET, 14 Sept. 2018. <https://www.zdnet.com/article/for-digital-transformation-cfos-are-loosening-the-purse-strings/>

Interview Ready Resume

The beginning of the job process is centered around a candidate’s resume. Whether you submit your resume directly or work with a recruiter, the company will first judge your candidacy based on your resume. Don’t let the below resume pitfalls keep you from a job opportunity that could be a great next step in your career.

Basic Grammar

Not using the proper tense for present and past jobs can not only confuse the hiring manager, but make you appear sloppy and not having attention to details. Same goes for spelling and punctuation. It is imperative that you take your time when writing your resume and each time you make additions with current jobs and experiences. Even if you have the exact experience a company is looking for, they will proceed with another candidate that has the same background but with a flawless resume.

Accuracy

Exactly reflecting the month and year you started and ended with each company is a basic expectation on a resume. Unfortunately, people either don’t include the months or include inaccurate or false dates. This could have very negative consequences on your candidacy.

Accuracy in what you list as your experience is equally important. Each line on your resume and each skill that is included is fair game for interview questions, so be sure you are able to expand upon everything that your resume contains.

Formatting

Depending on the industry, a clean, reader-friendly resume is your best option. Consistent formatting of titles, companies, dates and bullet points throughout the resume is key. This will allow the hiring manager to quickly scan for salient information while also viewing you as an organized, professional candidate.

Length

A resume should not be an exhaustive list of every task you performed at every job you’ve had. Reflecting on the title of the job you are applying for, it is optimal to tailor your past experiences and skills to what is required and desired by the company for that specific role. Be sure to include all the experience you have that matches what they are seeking, and then offer additional details of your work history during the interview process.

Your resume is the first example of your work product and you want it to reflect positively on you as a candidate. If you follow these tips, you will be in great shape to begin discussions with a company that could be your next employer!

The Importance of Punctuality in the Job Process

We’ve all either experienced this dreaded scenario or know someone who has: a utility provider says they will be at your home between a certain window of time and either arrives at the last possible minute, late, or not at all. The anxiety and frustration you or the person you know felt is not only unfortunate but avoidable.

The Reasoning

Punctuality is supremely important in all aspects of life, especially the job process. Once you decide to work with a recruiter or submit your resume directly to a job posting, being accessible, responsible and timely is of supreme importance. This is because from the first time a client receives your name for consideration, an opinion is starting to form, subconscious or not.

As a job candidate, you want to do everything in your power to give yourself the best shot possible at what could be a great job opportunity, which in turn will elevate other aspects of your life, such as work-life balance, commute, salary, etc.

The competition is always high in the job market for qualified candidates and you don’t want a time management issue to be the reason someone else beats you to an offer.

Helpful Tips

If you have a phone interview scheduled for 10:00am, be completely prepared with your resume and other pertinent materials and waiting with your phone at least 10 minutes prior. This will give you a chance to mentally prepare, calm your nerves and be ready for the phone to ring at 9:57 in case the interviewer is a few minutes early.

When you are going to an in-person interview, plan to arrive at the location a half hour early. Don’t enter the office until 5-10 minutes before your interview, but arriving at the location will ensure you are in the area in enough time to take into account any weather issues, transit delays, traffic volume, missed exits, etc. If the office is in a suburban location, waiting in your car will allow you to compose yourself and go over your materials. If the office is in an urban setting, sit in a nearby coffee shop. This approach will also help you get a sense of the local area that you are considering spending a large chunk of your daily time!

After the interview, either phone or in-person, sending a timely thank you note will leave a nice impression. More guidance on thank you notes can be found here.

Taking the same approach of subsequent interviews will solidify you as a punctual and responsible candidate who would be an asset to their company not only for your skill set and experience but for your personal qualities.

Throughout the duration of the process, whether you are working with a recruiter or a company directly, being in close contact if and when last minute issues arise or you have to withdraw from the process for any reason, will only leave a favorable impression of your memory. You want to avoid a recruiter and or client being blindsided by a decision or problem that could have been communicated sooner.

Happy job hunting!

Cybersecurity and Accounting

 

In today’s current digital age, a lot of people have at one point wondered if their online accounts have been compromised or have been part of a large store or restaurant data breach. With the constant news cycle, it can become desensitizing but it is imperative, especially for public companies, to be vigilant and educate their employees and stakeholders on proper protocols and procedures for minimizing risk. Accounting professionals are in a unique position to be utilized in the effort to maintain cybersecurity.

SEC Release

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued guidance on cybersecurity. In an article produced by Deloitte’s Christine Mazor and Sandra Herrygers that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, they explained that “issued on February 21, 2018, the release largely refreshes existing SEC staff guidance related to cybersecurity and, like that guidance, does not establish any new disclosure obligations but rather presents the SEC’s views on how its existing rules should be interpreted in connection with cybersecurity threats and incidents.”

The rise and scope of these threats is important to note, as well as the varying type of attacks. The compromising of an employee’s password and the complete breach of a major retailer’s financial transactions are difference in degree, but the need for security is the same.

Further detailing the SEC’s release, EY provided this statement from the SEC: “given the frequency, magnitude and cost of cybersecurity incidents, the Commission believes that it is critical that public companies take all required actions to inform investors about material cybersecurity risks and incidents in a timely fashion, including those companies that are subject to material cybersecurity risks but may not yet have been the target of a cyber-attack.”

In a description of the release, EY explains that one of the main components is “clarifying that disclosure controls and procedures should enable registrants to identify cybersecurity risks and incidents, assess and analyze their implications and make timely disclosures.”

Risks

Due to the nature and increased sophistication of cyberattacks, PricewaterhouseCoopers stated that “the current US standalone cyber insurance market is estimated at $2.5-$3.5 billion annually…” This alone portrays the vastness and severity of cyber dangers that face companies, specifically public ones.

Lisa Traina lists for AICPA the top 5 cybersecurity dangers that companies and CPAs face:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Passwords
  3. Phishing
  4. Malware
  5. Vulnerabilities

The first, ignorance, is important because accountants and other hired parties cannot help a company if there is no belief that a danger exists. Regarding passwords, Lisa explains that due to the cloud and remote accessing, the need for strong passwords has increased. Furthermore, she advises against employees carelessly storing passwords in places that can be easily compromised, such as a desktop folder. Phishing, malware and vulnerabilities speak to the need for strong IT infrastructure as well as strong employee training on how best to avoid recognizable compromises.

Given the climate of increased technologies correlating to increased risk, Terry Sheridan asserts that “not all that long ago, most companies relegated anything “cyber” to the IT department. But as recognition grows that cybersecurity risks include personnel practices, supply chain management, and operational decisions, more enterprise-wide approaches to managing these risks have evolved.” This includes accountants and finance professionals.

Accounting Attributes

Terry notes that the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) published a white paper entitled “The CPA’s Role in Addressing Cybersecurity Risk,” which highlights the inherent strengths of accountants to aid with cybersecurity.

  1. Core values and attributes

Terry explains that “CPAs are viewed by management and boards as trusted advisors who have a board understanding of businesses, who receive appropriate annual training, who comply with a code of ethics, and who are subject to rigorous external quality reviews.”

  1. Experience in independent evaluations

The framework has already been laid to make the connection from accounting to cybersecurity, Terry reveals: “…many large and midsized CPA firms have built substantial IT practices that provide attestation and advisory services to organizations on IT security-related matters…”

  1. Multidisciplinary strengths

This point is important as the combination of accounting knowledge and information technology knowledge is being specifically sough after by firms. For students and professionals looking to enrich or advance their accounting career, adding a specialty of IT knowledge would be very useful for public companies.

Unified Framework

Furthermore, there is a need for common language and procedures so companies can have a roadmap to assess their situation and progress. Susan S. Coffey explains that “there hasn’t been a consistent, common language for describing and reporting on the cybersecurity risk management programs organizations put in place. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for stakeholders to determine whether an organization’s cybersecurity risk management plan effectively addresses potential threats.”

For this reason, she described that a framework has been developed by Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC) comprised of accountants with IT work history with clients; the framework can be found at aicpa.org/cybersecurityriskmanagement.

Coffey outlines how the framework helps accountants become further involved in cybersecurity: “management accountants more directly involved with the organization’s cybersecurity efforts can promote awareness and use of the framework as a means of communication those efforts, both internally and externally, and of evaluating the effectiveness of the organization’s controls in achieving its cybersecurity objectives.”

Expounding on the framework, Russ Banham for Journal of Accountancy, specifically outlines the opportunities for accountants:

  • CPAs to perform a consulting engagement to help a client’s management develop a description of its cybersecurity risk management program to provide to the board and other internal parties…
  • CPAs to perform a consulting engagement known as a “readiness assessment” to help a client identify where its cybersecurity processes and controls may need to be shored up.
  • CPAs to perform a System and Organization Controls (SOC) for Cybersecurity examination engagement to assess the client’s cybersecurity risk management program…

The framework’s suggestion that accountants can be on the forefront of providing sensitive information to a company’s Board is important to note, as a Board’s responsibility is to monitor and be made aware of critical issues facing company operations.

Role of the Board

Christopher P. Skroupa, a Contributor to Forbes, has interviewed Michael Yaeger, an expert in cybersecurity. In response to a question about the role of cybersecurity as it relates to the Board, Yaeger explained that “one basic function of a modern corporate Board is to oversee risk management, and many risks do not present themselves as cybersecurity issues.” This is all the more reason to be vigilant on all sides of a company’s operations, including accounting and finance.

Speaking specifically on what the Board can do regarding cybersecurity, Yaeger asserts that “the board must ensure that the company has cyber risk management policies and procedures consistent with its strategy and risk appetite, and the board must ensure that these policies and procedures are functioning.”

It is a given that there are moving pieces when it comes to cybersecurity and the need for employees and a company at large to be secure. For this reason, it is most beneficial when accounting professionals have a multi-layered background that includes cybersecurity so they are able to be an additional line of defense. And as the research has shown, accounting and cybersecurity is a perfect match.

—-

Sources:

Banham, Russ. “Cybersecurity: A new engagement opportunity.” Journal of Accountancy, 22 May 2018. < https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2017/oct/cybersecurity-engagement-for-cpas.html>

Coffey, Susan S. “It’s Time to Speak the Same Language on Cybersecurity.” AICPA, 22 May 2018. < http:// blog.aicpa.org/2017/05/its-time-to-speak-the-same-language-on-cybersecurity. html#sthash .aVdMkso8  .pnI16iEE.dpbs>

Mazor, Christine and Herrygers, Sandra. “SEC Issues Cybersecurity Guidance.” The Wall Street Journal, 22 May 2018. <http://deloitte.wsj.com/cfo/2018/04/27/sec-issues-cybersecurity-guidance/>

Porcelli, Mike et al. “Are insurers adequately balancing risk & opportunity? Findings from PwC’s global cyber insurance survey.” PwC, 22 May 2018. < https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/assets/pwc-cyber-insurance-survey.pdf>

“SEC Reporting Update: SEC issues guidance on cybersecurity.” EY, 22 May 2018. < file:///C:/Users / llestino/Downloads/secreportingupdate_01030-181us_cybersecurity_22february2018.pdf>

Sheridan, Terry. “CPAs Have the Strengths Needed to Address Cybersecurity Risk.” Accountingweb, 22 May 2018. < https://www.accountingweb.com/aa/auditing/cpas-have-the-strengths-needed-to-address-cybersecurity-risk>

Skroupa, Christopher P. “Cybersecurity And The Board’s Responsibilities—‘What’s Reasonable Has Changed.’” Forbes, 22 May 2018. < https://www.forbes.com /sites/christopherskroupa/2018/04/19/ cybersecurity-and-the-boards-responsibilities-whats-reasonable-has-changed/#6c156c1e3c3c>

Traina, Lisa. “The top 5 cybersecurity risks for CPAs.” AICPA Store, 22 May 2018. < https://www.Aicpa  store.com/Content/media/PRODUCER_CONTENT/Newsletters/Articles_2015/CPA/JUN/fivecybersecurityrisks.jsp>

The Art of the Thank You Note

Congratulations! Exploring the interview thank you note means that you’ve either had a phone or in-person interview, and that in itself is worthy of celebration. Now, in order to positively seal the memory of you in the hiring manager’s head, a perfectly crafted thank you note is essential.

The Opening

It may seem obvious or like an afterthought, but correctly addressing the hiring manager’s name, or whomever you met with, is essential. Erring on the side of formality is better, too. You may have overhead colleagues address the hiring manager by a nickname or shortened version of their name, but this is best left for once you have been hired.

A good rule of thumb is to use the name that appears in the person’s email signature.

The spelling of the name is highly important as well, as this shows attention to detail and attentiveness.

The Content

The overall goal of the thank you note is to thank the person or people who took time out of their day to speak or meet with you, while also conveying yourself as a competent and engaging candidate. The sentences you write should be genuine and authentic; not boilerplate language that is recycled for use after each interview. Briefly touch on why you can see yourself in the role and the skills and experience you would bring to the table along with how your personality would be a good culture fit for the organization.

The Timing

Due to the fast-paced nature of the job market, it is imperative to send the thank you note on the same day as your interview or, at the latest, the beginning of the following day. You want to remain top of mind with the hiring manager(s) who may have met a few people that same day.

When a great candidate sends a heartfelt and timely thank you note expressing continued interest in the role, organization and potential colleagues, the positive benefits cannot be understated.

Interview Wardrobe 101

Preparing for an interview can be stressful. Not only are you focusing on impressing the hiring manager(s) with your skills, experience and personality but you have to assemble the perfect outfit that conveys that you are a competent and polished professional. Don’t allow your clothing to be an afterthought because if they were not appropriate, they will do the talking for you long after you leave.

Dress to Impress

It is no secret that you want to dress to impress for your interview not only for the hiring manager(s) but everyone else that you meet, from the receptionist to the C-suite executives you may pass in the hallway. “Who is that?” asked by the CEO as he happens to pass in the hallway about you will get you noticed quickly.

The Suit

Wearing a suit should be considered standard for an interview. If the position is in a corporate law firm or professional service environment, you will fit right in. If the role is within more of a creative company, you will stand out as a candidate who takes their job opening seriously and intends to make a good first impression. For men, the suit should be accompanied by a matching tie and dress shoes. For women, it can be paired with an appropriate shirt and business shoes; a dainty, understated necklace can tie everything together.

The Iron

Remember, if your clothes are not pressed, the effort you put in to assemble the perfect outfit will be lost. Trying everything on beforehand and setting them aside in your closet will save you the stress of finding out last minute that the suit you wanted to wear should have been dry cleaned after your cousin’s wedding!

Accessories

For women, the dainty necklace can add a nice flair to your outfit and showcase a pop of style. A professional watch can also be a nice choice. Other than additional small rings and possibly a thin bracelet, jewelry and accessories should be kept at a minimum as you don’t want them to serve as a distraction. When writing notes during the interview, you don’t want your chunky bracelet to clank repeatedly on the table. Nor do you want to be fidgeting with your necklace that has gotten tangled in your shirt.

For men as well as women, keep your phone on silent and in your purse or pocket. Making sure you remove sunglasses from the top of your head is also paramount as it can really have a negative impact on some hiring managers. Keeping the amount of items you walk in with to a minimum is also important, as you want to give the impression that the interview is a central part of your day and not part of a longer string of appointments or interviews.

Colors

A good rule of thumb is to stay away from overly bright colors and or garish patterns in your outfit. The color palette of white, blue, black, beige, brown and red is a safe bet.

There are a lot of things to consider when mulling over a job change or accepting your first job. Conducting the interview in a fantastic and appropriate outfit will put the odds in your favor as you impress everyone with your personality and skills!

FCPA Compliance on Radar of Accounting Professionals

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) should be top of mind for not only current accounting and finance employees (along with senior management, stakeholders and other relevant parties), but other professionals who are looking to advance their finance and accounting career or break into the industry.

The FCPA

Within the FCPA there are two provisions: anti-bribery and accounting.  With our focus mainly on accounting, Brian Loughman of Ernst & Young, Aaron Marcu of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP, and Kerry Schalders of Dex One Corporation detail for the Association of Corporate Counsel that the FCPA “requires companies registered with the SEC to keep accurate records of all business transactions and maintain an effective system of internal accounting controls” for both public and private companies. The importance of this lies in the fact that violations “can result in lengthy and disruptive SEC and DOJ criminal investigations and stiff criminal penalties for companies and individuals,” explain Loughman et al.

Origin

The origin of the FCPA goes back to the time of Watergate. Stuart H. Deming of Deming PLLC writes in Business Law Today’s “FCPA Prosecutions: The Critical Role of the Accounting and Recordkeeping Provisions” article that “one of the lesser-known problems disclosed by the revelations of the Watergate era in the United States was the accounting and recordkeeping practices that made improper payments possible. To address these practices…the FCPA placed new and significant obligations on issuers to make and keep accurate records and to maintain a system of internal accounting controls.”

Top 5 Controls

The focus and significance placed on these accounting controls has not lessened since that time. Matt Ellis for FCPAméricas lists the five most important accounting controls as:

  1. Accounts Payable
  2. Expense Reimbursement
  3. Payroll
  4. Petty Cash
  5. Claims.

The overall goal of these controls is to have accurate and detailed record books backed up with approvals and documentation that align with company procedures. Ellis expounds further on the control goals by saying that they are to “assure that (i) transactions are executed in accordance with management’s authorization; (ii) access to assets is permitted only with the proper authorization; and (iii) the accounting records reflect the existing assets.”

Also for FCPAméricas, Carlos Henrique da Silva Ayres outlines the distinction that “falsifying or failing to keep sufficient records of a transaction may also violate the FCPA if the company is publicly listed in the  United States—even if the underlying transaction is entirely legal.” This supports the notion of how careful and meticulous accounting and finance professionals must be.

In addition to the accounting employees, a company’s policies and procedures surrounding this must be detailed and comprehensive so that all employees can adopt the proper mindset and habits. Ayres goes on to say that these accounting controls are applicable to a company’s entire activity regardless of the financial amount.

Liability

In Business Law Today, Deming speaks a lot about liability, violations, and internal controls. In terms of liability, there are two distinctions: civil and criminal. He explains that “to be held civilly liable, it makes no difference whether the controlling entity lacks knowledge of the conduct” and that “criminal liability may be established where an individual or entity…knowingly circumvents or fails to implement a system of internal controls or knowingly falsifies any book, record, or account.” The illustrates the notion of intent within violations and really highlights the need for a company to have a comprehensive plan in place because claiming ignorance will not be sufficient, especially since recordkeeping violations are not reserved for senior management, but anyone.

In discussing the need for clean books and records, Deming brings to the forefront that the overall goal is to “strengthen the accuracy of the corporate books and records and the reliability of the audit process.” The records that bring the most attention are the ones having to do with audits and financial statement preparation.

Examples

To illustrate his points, Deming describes examples of violations, two of which are below:

  1. “Even if the amount of a transaction does not affect the bottom line of an issuer in quantitative terms, it may still constitute a violation of the recordkeeping provisions if not accurately recorded.”
  2. “Manipulating records to mask transactions by characterizing them in some oblique manner or actually falsifying a transaction can implicate an issuer and those individuals involved.”

The element of intent comes into play in the second example while both showcase the importance of accounting and finance professionals being above board in all aspects of company business. For those looking to begin a career in the accounting/finance industry, it behooves those individuals to grasp the gravity of this compliance.

Internal Controls

At the core of the compliance is making sure company finances are recorded and reflected correctly. Deming concludes that “the purpose of internal controls is to ensure that issuers adopt accepted methods of recording economic events, protecting assets, and confirming transactions to management’s authorization. No specific system of internal controls is required.”

The open-endedness of the specifics of the controls can be viewed as a positive or negative. While each company can develop a plan that works best for them, it also requires a plan to be made and in place with employees being mindful of it.

Company Management

The burden, therefore, lies with company management. Deming points out that “the accounting and recordkeeping provisions…create affirmative duties on the part of issuers and officers, directors, employees, agents, and stockholders acting on behalf of an issuer.” Furthermore, Deming explains that “subject to criminal sanctions, internal control reports are now required expressing management’s responsibility for establishing and maintaining adequate internal controls for financial reporting and assessing their effectiveness.”

This responsibility is a central notion to the FCPA compliance and should be kept at the forefront in the minds of company accounting and finance professionals.

Managing Risk

For the Association of Corporate Counsel, Loughman et. al. outlines ten pieces of advice for companies trying to mitigate risk:

  1. Determine your FCPA risk.
  2. Develop an FCPA compliance policy.
  3. Train your personnel regularly on your FCPA compliance policy and FCPA requirements.
  4. Establish an FCPA compliance team, including legal, financial reporting and internal audit personnel.
  5. Identify countries where in-house counsel employed by your company and its subsidiaries and affiliates are not covered by attorney privilege doctrines.
  6. Determine whether any other country’s anti-bribery laws may apply to your company.
  7. Judiciously consider using outside counsel in your company’s FCPA compliance program, especially where privilege may be an issue.
  8. Direct your company’s financial reporting personnel to keep accurate books and maintain a system of internal accounting controls.
  9. Make FCPA review part of M&A and JV due diligence.
  10. The SEC and DOJ expect robust and verified compliance.

These suggestions highlight the necessity that senior management not only needs to support policy and procedures that protect their company’s financial operations but provide the necessary materials and training for employees.

Perhaps Richard A. Sibery of Ernst & Young LLP says it best in the Corporate Counsel Business Journal when he says that “many more companies are taking additional steps to raise awareness of the importance of compliance with FCPA among their global employees, to assess whether they have the proper controls in place going forward and to provide training as to how employees should react if an FCPA compliance failure should be detected.”

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Sources:

da Silva Ayres, Carlos Henrique. “Key Aspects of the FCPA Accounting Provisions.” FCPAméricas, 22 Feb. 2018. <http://fcpamericas.com/english/enforcement/key-aspects-fcpa-accounting-provisions/>

Deming, Stuart H. “FCPA Prosecutions: The Critical Role of the Accounting and Recordkeeping Provisions.” Business Law Today, 22 Feb. 2018. <https://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2010/08/06_deming.html>
Ellis, Matt. “The Ten Most Important FCPA Internal Controls (Part 1: Accounting Controls).” FCPAméricas, 22 Feb. 2018. <http://fcpamericas.com/english/anti-corruption-compliance/ten-important-fcpa-internal-controls-part-1-accounting-controls/>

Loughman, Brian et al. “Top Ten Tips for FCPA Compliance.” Association of Corporate Counsel, 22 Feb. 2018. <http://www.acc/com/legalresources/publications/topten/fcpa-compliance.cfm>

Sibery, Richard A. “FCPA Compliance: How Accounting Professionals Can Help.” Corporate Counsel Business Journal, 22 Feb. 2018. <http://ccbjournal.com/articles/8134/fcpa-compliance-how-accounting-professionals-can-help>