October 29, 2020

Winners and Losers In Accounting: Coronavirus Edition

Whether you realize it or not, every day there are winners and losers of the accounting profession. Take, for example, the AICPA’s failed XYZ credential. Loser, obviously. The CGMA, however, is technically a winner, at least according to the 137,000 people worldwide who hold the credential and the AICPA because they can charge for it.

Early on in the Rona panic it seemed we were all losers, but now that things have settled down a bit we can take some time to separate the failures from the successes, or at a minimum just point and laugh at the jerks who are suffering most. You know, as we do. Let’s get right to it.

Winner: the cloud
Although there are plenty of tech-happy accountants who have been singing the cloud’s praises long before the rest of us had even given up our iPods for Spotify, the cloud has been a scary specter to dusty old-school ancients who honestly believe paper to be the superior method of record-keeping. Well fuck those guys, because forcing everyone to work from home gave already-adapted offices the advantage while poor Uncle Mort, CPA doing taxes out of some strip mall in Nebraska either figured it out on the fly or shuttered his shop.

Loser: paper
Let’s be real, paper should have been out years ago and it shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to kill it. Anyone remember around March when no one knew what the hell was going on and the news was saying you should leave your mail outside for three days just in case the mailman was recklessly spreading Rona everywhere he goes? Turned out not to be as big a problem as initially suspected, but paper only became more useless as quarantine wore on. Obvious exception being Amazon box cardboard and Grubhub food containers, those suckers are having an awesome year. But paper? Paper can get fucked.

Winner: Your house
Man. Never in the history of my 13 years at the periphery of this industry have I ever seen accountants’ houses have such a good year. I mean, the obvious win here is that you actually get to spend time there now. And whether you spent quarantine rubbing one out on the clock or finally putting up those curtains that you’ve been meaning to hang since the late aughts, homes are having an awesome year.

Loser: Commercial Real Estate
You know how when you go on vacation and finally return home everything smells weird? Just imagine how those countless vacant offices smell right now. I can only imagine what horrors await buried deep in office fridges and desk drawers. If you thought you hated the office before, just imagine how much people will hate it after they’ve gotten used to the convenience of working in their pajamas.

Winner: Accounting firms
Y’all remember back in June when Deloitte whipped out its massive dick, slapped it on the table, and announced it was winning the revenue contest? And that they did so right after axing 5% of its U.S. workforce? Coronavirus gave plenty of firms an excuse to slash pay, trim the fat, and boot both jerkoffs and otherwise decent people who were just taking up a spot on payroll. See ya, losers, we’ve got hours to bill.

Loser: Accounting students
When we think about the impact of lockdown, we naturally think about the mental toll, the isolation, the whole I-haven’t-put-real-pants-on-since-February thing. But there’s one particular victim I don’t think we’ve given much consideration to: accounting students. With “normal” recruiting events off the table what with the cooties going around and all, accounting students are missing out on one very important thing: swag. They might even have to — gasp! — buy their own pens this year. The horror! There are many reasons the classes of 2020 and possibly 2021 are losing, but surely this is a big one.

Winner: the AICPA
The AICPA Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report comes out every 2 years and just came out in 2019 so it may be a while before we see concrete numbers but if the Great Recession taught me anything it’s that A) accounting as an industry is resilient AF and B) people flock to the profession in droves when whatever they were doing before the economy went to shit is no longer an option. The AICPA has been trippin’ for years about declining CPA exam candidate numbers, even with Prometric closures I bet Coronavirus was just the thing to pump those numbers.

Loser: that 50-year-old guy who failed the CPA exam in 1990 and never tried again
That part I mentioned above about how people turn to accounting when their industry looks hopeless? I met tons of those people when I worked in CPA review, people who took an accounting class or two in college, thought about it, and decided nah, I’m gonna be a real estate agent! Sometimes they even met all the requirements and sat for the exam but a single failed attempt took them out of the running. Of course, when the economy tanked in 2008 they came flooding back to accounting because, like an abusive ex who treats you like crap but is good in the sack and occasionally makes you a mix CD (er, playlist for you non-olds), accounting is there for you when times get tough. But imagine being 50-something and having to learn 20-some years of stuff in order to take the CPA exam? A lot has happened in 20 years. Would have been easier to just get the exam over with back in the late 80s and phone in some CPE. Poor guy.

That concludes our list of winners and losers in accounting so far. Given how this year is going, I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to choose from before year-end.

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