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SHOCKER: Accountants Have a Conservative Outlook on the Economy

Surprise, surprise! CFOs, controllers, and CPAs are only slightly skeptical about the economic outlook these days. Surely it’s not because our industry has been pounded harder than others, in fact we’ve weathered the storm better than most.

The fourth quarter AICPA-UNC Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey sheds some light on where CPAs’ heads were at in Q4 2009:

Expectations among Certified Public Accountant executives for the U.S. economy remained pessimistic in the first quarter as the recovery proved sluggish amid signs of potential growth in manufacturing and a slightly improving outlook for organizations, according to a new nationwide survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“It is good to see signs of optimism, especially from the manufacturing sector,” said Carol Scott, CPA, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government. “Unfortunately 40 percent of our CPA members in business and industry — chief financial officers, controllers and CPA financial professionals – are now telling us that they do not expect their business to return to pre-recession levels until 2012 and beyond.”

Such a conservative bunch, those little accountants.

Interestingly enough, the latest survey shows a shift in the collective thinking of CPAs, who had shown uncharacteristic optimism in previous 2009 survey responses. What gives, guys? Know something we don’t that you’d like to share with the class? Perhaps reality has finally bit down and left a mark on a traditionally recession-proof industry.

In a recent “unscientific” straw poll of AICPA Insider readers, CPA Trendlines’ Rick Telberg shares CPAs’ top 10 concerns, not surprisingly dominated by the number one concern for accounting professionals, the economic outlook. Firms are cutting costs and slicing away the “flash”, meaning no stupid tchotchkes for you!

Will this back-to-basics approach change CPAs’ outlook for the quarters ahead or simply keep everyone afloat until things do genuinely begin to look up? If nothing else it means better service for clients and maybe a little less fear for accounting practitioners who are ultimately the ones who have to deal with any shift in the industry outlook. Clients will always be around, it’s the qualified professionals I’m a tad worried about.

We’ll let you know what happens with the next survey but are not afraid to wildly speculate that respondents will continue to pull back the optimism and stick to conservatism as usual.

Stephen Chipman Is Slightly Annoyed by the Non-Grant Thornton People Reading His Blog

We didn’t get the third installment of Stephen Chipman’s blog until late last week and apparently while the Grant Thornton CEO seems to be keeping up his promise to come at you once a week, he’s going to be a bit more reserved going forward.

Last week SC shared a few insights from his readers, however we warned that he wouldn’t be sharing the most intimate details (e.g. ragers in Atlanta):

Because large portions of my blog are finding their way to external Web sites, I will answer some sensitive or strategic questions via internal e-mail and send my responses directly to the person who posed them.

Well, shucks. We’re not sure what “external websites” SC is referring to but as far as our humble posts are concerned, we merely provide snapshots that certainly don’t qualify as “large portions”. If you guys are aware of someone reposting the posts in full, get in touch with us and we’ll let them know at GTHQ.

We’re also curious as to what will qualify as “sensitive or strategic questions”. Is SC getting prodded with nosy questions about Sue Sachdeva? If so, he could at least give us a diagnosis on her supposed shopaholic tendencies. That doesn’t seem too sensitive. It’s most certainly not strategic.

We’d also like to hear his thoughts on Grant Thornton being vindicated in the circus. Patrick Bryne said some pretty nasty things about Steve’s beloved firm. This is the perfect opportunity for Steve-o to throw it in Patsy’s face via an all-out blog-off. Does he take it? So far, no. Sensitive? Absolutely not. This is justice. Strategic? Not really. Chip must get enough satisfaction knowing that the firm clear of the whole thing and doesn’t see the need for gloating. We’ve got two words for that: MISSED. OPPORTUNITY.

Because of this new cautious approach, we don’t have any parties or white whales to share this week but SC did mention that he got a little face time with SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker. And don’t think that just anyone was invited to this little sit-down, “I was honored to be included in this very small group, which also included the CEOs of two large competitors.”

Well! We’re assuming Chip is referring to two B-I-G-F-O-U-R competitors and only since only two of them were there, this is pretty H-U-G-E opportunity for Steve. SC won’t turn down a little glad-handing with the Chief Accountant, no sir. Unfortch, he didn’t really get into what was said at the meeting but we’re sure it was a stimulating convo: Olympic fever. St. Val’s gifts for the wives. Maybe some talk about the nonexistent SEC roadmap on IFRS? Here’s to hoping that he’ll open up more this week.