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Accounting News Roundup: Youth, Student Loans, and Occupational Hazards | 09.19.17

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As a young(er) professional, I remember being frustrated by my lack of experience. Being young was great, being relatively poor was not, so I needed more experience so I could make more and not be poor. Of course, gaining more experience meant losing my youth, which was a hard trade-off. These days, I’m more experienced but older too, and this is fine, but I can still recall the impatience of wanting to get ahead, but still enjoying relatively little responsibility.

I also remember friends and colleagues who had very specific ideas of where they would be in their careers by a certain age. I’m sure some of you feel this way, too. Thirty seems to be the first big milestone where people panic and think, “Whoa, I’m not a CFO yet. Am I a loser?” The answer is: No. No, you are not.

I’m thinking about all this because of this Wall Street Journal article on the next Kraft Heinz CFO, 29-year-old David Knopf. He’ll be the youngest CFO of a Fortune 500 company when he takes the role in October. Now, you might think that you’d be up for that kind of challenge — and maybe you are! — but Mr. Knopf has a couple of things going for him that you likely do not:

In giving the job to Mr. Knopf, a 3G partner who joined the food company in 2015, Kraft Heinz passed over an accounting officer with more than a decade of experience in the food business.

3G has a history of appointing young financiers often from its own ranks to top positions, replacing industry veterans.

To recap: 1) He’s not an accountant; 2) He works at 3G. If you’re approaching 30 and are anxious about what you have (or haven’t) accomplished, then at least you now know what it takes to be a CFO at 29, and you can adjust your career path accordingly.

But still. You have to remember, this is a 29-year-old Fortune 500 CFO. I’m guessing that he likes working. A lot. I don’t imagine CFOs of massive companies being the type that punch out at 5 regularly, get to enjoy their hobbies much (if they have them), or spend time with family or friends. Who has time for all that when the shareholders are counting on you?

On the other hand, for all the countless articles about millennials avoiding adulthood as long as they can, how do you explain this guy? He has responsibilities that most adults — regardless of age — can’t wrap their heads around. And he has them at 29 years old. I really hope he still lives with his parents.

Student loans

For a while now, accounting firms and employers of all kinds have been wondering: HOW DO WE GET THE MILLENNIALS? HOW DO WE KEEP THEM? One option, I suppose, is that you could promote them to CFO before they turn 30. But if that’s not feasible, there’s another idea that seems to be working for some companies:

“Users today prefer student debt repayment over food, foosball, and a 401(k),” said Taylor, who previously led an ad sales team at Google. “What we see, in general, is that 50% of employees opt-out of their 401(k). They’re saying, ‘My student debt is crushing. I have to pay down my debt first.'”

That’s Laurel Taylor, the founder of, a company that “helps companies offer student debt repayment as an employee benefit.” She cites a study that “found that 86% of employees aged 22 to 33 would stay in a job for five years if their employer helped pay down their student loans.” Shazam! Retention problem solved.

I feel compelled to mention that if you offer student loan repayment as a benefit, this doesn’t mean you scrap the rest of the benefits package, work people to death, and treat them like animals. I know, sounds unfair, but treating humans like people really does work!

Occupational hazards

How have the last couple months been? Rough? Unbearable? Okay, sorry to hear that, but stop complaining:

A senior Grant Thornton partner has been detained in the United Arab Emirates for more than two months without charge, having had his passport seized while travelling via Dubai.

David Ingram, who leads a team of insolvency practitioners and accountants specialising in the tracing and recovery of assets, has been unable to leave the emirate since early July, and has not been informed when he will be allowed to return to the UK.

Mr. Ingram tweeted at one point, “the reality of being on bail with passport seized does take the edge off the sunshine” which roughly translates from The Queen’s English to: “This sucks.”

And if you’re thinking, “Well, at least he doesn’t have to work,” think again because Mr. Ingram is “[being] allowed to work while staying at a hotel.” There truly is no escape.

Previously, on Going Concern…

Megan Lewczyk wrote about auditors and artificial intelligence. In Open Items, someone is choosing between PwC’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices.

In other news:

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Correction, September 20, 2017: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that PwC was a customer of

Image: iStock/KazanovskyAndrey