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[UPDATED] KPMG Will Pay Audit New Hires to Study for the CPA Exam

someone studying

Ed. note: update at the bottom, our hopes have been dashed. Second update includes a statement from KPMG

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now the profession is having trouble recruiting future CPAs. Accounting student numbers aren’t critically low yet but fewer and fewer graduates are taking the CPA exam, an issue that keeps AICPA President, CEO, and 1982 Hank Marino Invitational Winner Barry Melancon’s psychiatrist up at night Googling “effective treatments for insomnia.” This issue is called “the accounting pipeline problem” and expect to hear about relentlessly in the years ahead as it worsens. While The Powers That Be engage in countless conference calls and seminars to try and figure out what to do about it, there are small steps that can be taken to at least mitigate it a little for the time being.

KPMG US announced one such step last week. Let’s see the press release:

KPMG CPA Kickstart is a two-month, 40 hours a week program that provides new hires the time, along with compensation and full benefits, to focus on two of the most difficult sections of the CPA exam, enabling them to transition to full time work seamlessly. The program will be facilitated by KPMG in conjunction with a third party review course. Those enrolled in the program will receive additional support for completion of the final parts of the CPA exam once they begin client work.

WHICH TWO PARTS? It doesn’t say. We can safely assume FAR and…whatever. Oh wait here, Accounting Today says it’s FAR and REG. See, I was half right.

“Auditors are constrained without their CPA, and studying nights and weekends, can be a difficult, frustrating experience,” said Becky Sproul, Talent and Culture Leader – Audit. “Our program will provide extensive support in passing the CPA exam while adding top talent to our engagement teams.”

So they’re paying new hires to study for two months prior to their start date. You know what’s funny? I suggested exactly that last year:

Perhaps — and bear with me here, I’ve been accused of throwing out batshit insane ideas before — more early career accountants would be interested in sitting for the CPA exam if they were given the TIME to study. And no, I don’t mean the couple months between offer and start date. Nor do I mean the slight underutilization you might get at a firm that can afford to keep you half-sidelined every now and then so you can fill your time with studying. I mean give people real time to study and sit for the exam. Throw some money at them too while you’re at it. But the main issue here is time, or rather the lack thereof.

You’re welcome for the free ideas, KPMG.

KPMG CPA Kickstart launches this summer in 35 offices and so far 225 new hires are enrolled. We have no snark to interject here, this sounds like a great way to encourage new hires down the CPA path with a nice little financial incentive to boot. Why only Audit? Well it’s not because the firm is being cheap that’s for sure. Audit makes up a huge chunk of new hires at all firms due to a critical shortage made worse by everyone quitting. Perhaps it’s to sweeten the pot for future auditors with multiple offers to choose from?

Update: Soooo just hours after we posted this a kind Twitter user sent over this screenshot informing us that perhaps we should reconsider saying nice things about Big 4 initiatives which is true regardless:

According to this screenshot, the payment for this program is sort of an advance on the bonus you’d get for passing all four parts within your first or second year which is an important detail if true. We’ve reached out to KPMG for clarification and will update accordingly. In the meantime, I’ll be in the corner berating myself for not being a dickhead to a Big 4 firm for once in my miserable life. You’d think after doing this for 13 years I’d know better.

Update #2:
This is what we got from a KPMG spokesperson, make of it what you will:
“Participants are paid a program-specific salary to study for the CPA exam during the two month KPMG CPA Kickstart program, and are not performing client work during that time. In addition, they will receive a CPA exam completion bonus if they pass all four parts of the exam within a year of joining KPMG.”