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October 2, 2023

Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: Accounting Firms Ditch Zoom Interviews; Mississippi’s Best CPA Exam Candidates | 8.28.23

dog in bed

Looking kind of slim out there for news today, to be expected ahead of Labor Day I suppose. Let’s see what we’ve got.

Accounting firms across the pond are ditching Zoom interviews, writes Sunday Times:

Zoom calls became the norm for business meetings during the pandemic — but accountancy firms, among the biggest graduate recruiters, are going back to face-to-face interviews when hiring, saying it is easier to assess candidates’ characters.

KPMG and Deloitte said they will be returning to traditional in-person interviews in the autumn, while EY is looking to follow suit by the end of the year.

KPMG said the switch was part of its efforts to better prepare the “pandemic generation”, who spent lockdown in remote learning, for the world of office life, where the ability to work in-person with both clients and colleagues is critical.

Earlier: ‘Lockdown-Damaged’ New Hires Struggle to Socialize at KPMG UK

EY Australia brought in close to $3 billion in total revenues over its past financial year, driven by a surprisingly strong second half compared to its peers.

Professional services firm Ernst & Young has bucked a Big Four and wider consulting industry trend to post $2.97 billion in 2023 financial year revenues on the back of a strong second half.

The total figure, which includes over $300 million in client recoverable expenses, is a 13 percent jump on last year’s $2.75 billion tally, with the firm having added close to $1 billion to its annual takings since the beginning of the global pandemic.

PwC issued a going concern doubt on Pizza Hut UK as the company is figuring out how to refinance £31 million of its £73 million debt that’s due next April.

Generative AI Is Coming to Your Office. Here’s How to Prepare [by PwC’s Anthony Abbatiello in Bloomberg Law]

Generative AI tools can improve the employee experience, for example, by transforming systems used for changing 401(k) and benefits-related programs. Instead of navigating a maze of confusing menus, employees can ask for exactly what they want, and those programs can successfully execute their requests.

Generative AI also has the ability to help employees focus on strategic rather than repetitive tasks. Content creation, project management, information analysis, and more time-intensive tasks can be rerouted through generative AI tools, freeing up employees to focus on upskilling, increasing impact, and more efficiently handling their workload.

PwC tried to get to the bottom of coal faking, denied.

PwC investigators hired by miner Terracom’s lawyers were refused permission to interview a laboratory business accused of helping fake the coal miner’s quality certificates, documents reveal.

Terracom’s lawyers hired PwC to probe claims the miner had pressured laboratory business ALS to artificially boost results on coal export certificates. Terracom in public statements rejected such allegations, and cited PwC’s report as finding “no evidence of wrongdoing” by senior employees.

But Terracom has admitted to refusing PwC’s interview request.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is suing Terracom and its key company figures, such as former chairman Wal King, saying public statements were misleading. They are defending the matter.

The Australian Financial Review in 2020 revealed allegations of coal sector fraud, with a former Terracom commercial manager alleging it had pressured ALS to manipulate test results to boost how much energy the commodity appeared to throw off when burned in power stations, for instance.

Two Mississippi State University grads were recognized for getting the highest CPA exam scores in their state:

Karis Pannel, of Tupleo’s Byrne Zizzi CPAs, received the MSCPA’s Fred T. Neely Gold Medal at the organization’s annual summer conference for the year’s highest score, while Gelsey Guerra, who works for a St. Louis, Missouri-based branch of Deloitte, was awarded the T.E. Lott Silver Medal for the second-highest exam score.

“We are very proud of Karis and Gelsey and their performance on the CPA exam,” said MSU College of Business Dean Scott Grawe. “The College of Business is committed to preparing students to be the very best in their chosen fields, and these graduates are off to a great start.”

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reader tells a personal story about the accountant shortage at the state level. Something tells us this might be tongue-in-cheek…

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw your political cartoon by Tim Hartman (Aug. 20) which depicted Gov. Josh Shapiro with his arm around a man wearing a badge that read, “State Workers Union.” Several red hearts were floating above the man’s head.

Just two days earlier I had been on the phone talking to one of our Pa. state workers. I was trying to find out when my Pa. 2022 state income tax refund might be coming. “Our records indicate (referring to an imaginary state file) that it should be there in 6-8 weeks,” he told me.

“Is that different from the 6-8 weeks that I was told by one of your fellow workers eight weeks ago?” I asked. Dead silence. Then he answered, “ We’re understaffed and we had a lot of income tax returns last year.”

My return, by the way, was sent electronically on April 3, the same day my cpa firm sent my federal income tax return in electronically. My federal refund was deposited in my bank account three weeks later, on April 27th. I guess the feds don’t get many tax returns, or maybe just ones that don’t require refunds.

But now I understand. Rather than hiring more people, just pay your undersized, and apparently overworked, staff a lot more money. I’m sure that will make them work even harder, and probably longer hours, too.

Robert Toothman

Deloitte has been named a leader in 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Public Cloud IT Transformation Services. The press release is predictable.

“While others bet on the future, we build it. Every day, we draw on our vast experience, unmatched resources and network of alliance relationships to engineer advantage and support our clients in shaping their business futures,” said Chris Thomas, principal and US Cloud Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “We believe that this recognition from Gartner underscores the impact of our global presence, strategic client investments and considerable advisory capabilities. These attributes, combined with our industry depth and use of transformative technologies like generative AI, position Deloitte at the forefront of innovation.”

Deloitte further believes that this positioning is due to its knowledge sharing with clients; emphasis on strategy and innovation; ability to modernize legacy applications; and robust set of tools and other assets to automate, optimize and provide continual oversight of cloud operations.

Note: lack of knowledge transfer has been a big criticism of the expanding consulting industry for years. This criticism has amped up in recent months after the PwC tax scandal, and therefore government reliance on outside consulting firms, entered public discourse. So that’s an interesting bit to hamfist into a press release.

Howard University’s student newspaper The Hilltop talks about recruiting at the school’s annual CorpComm event:

Another financial services company set up on the Yard was the public accounting firm KPMG. Shirbriya Fletcher, a development and exempt senior associate and company representative at the event, said KPMG has a “very close-knit” Howard alumni community.

Fletcher attended Howard’s School of Business, graduating in 2018 as an accounting major, and interned at KPMG for three summers before joining the firm in 2019.

“Even prior to me attending Howard University, there’s been a heightened interest in recruiting at HBCUs with companies recently, but KPMG has been recruiting since day one,” she said, referring to the late 2000s and early 2010s.

“For a lot of our early opportunities, we’ve had a lot of Howard students partake in opportunities,” she said. “Even some of our partners today are Howard University alumni.”

“Cloud influencer” (seriously) David Linthicum is enjoying a well-earned “I told you so.”

Six years ago the chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP predicted that the then-fledgling edge computing market would create a significant growth opportunity for cloud computing giants. That went against a popular tide of opinion at the time that held that distributed edge computing would displace centralized clouds in the same way personal computers marginalized mainframes 30 years earlier. Andreessen Horowitz LP General Partner Peter Levine summed it up with a provocative statement that edge computing would “obviate cloud computing as we know it.”

Not even close. There’s no question that edge computing, which IBM Corp. defines as “a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data,” is architecturally the polar opposite of the centralized cloud. But the evolving edge is turning out to be more of an adjunct to cloud services than an alternative.

A Senate inquiry in Australia is trying to get to the bottom of what led to the costly decision to kill off of the 2026 Commonwealth games. But senators have been left frustrated by a lack of answers from EY and the Victorian premier’s refusal to appear.

Related: PwC scandal casts secrecy shadow over Commonwealth Games inquiry [AFR]

Earlier: The mystery $6 billion blowout that killed the Commonwealth Games, abetted by the cost-of-living crisis [ABC News Australia]

That’s it. Holla if you see anything cool.

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