Printer Friendly


Editor's Note: Continuing to answer the question I posed in May--"If you could do it over again, would you still be an accountant?"--this month's guest editorial comes from Stuart Kessler, managing director at American Express Tax & Business Services of New York as well as a former AICPA chair (1997/98) and NYSSCPA president (1984/85). Last year, the New York chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) honored Kessler as its executive of the year.

If I had the benefit of hindsight, would I still become a CPA? You bet I would! Sure, my career involves hard work and long hours, but the rewards have outweighed the negatives.

I didn't plan to become a CPA. During high school, my aptitude for math was revealed by the rigorous curriculum at Brooklyn Tech. But as a math major at Brooklyn College, I became frustrated with the lack of practical uses for integral calculus. A guidance counselor suggested that my math aptitude would be valuable to an accountant. The fact that my college didn't offer an accounting major or degree, or many accounting courses, didn't seem to bother the counselor--she pointed out that all the guidance manuals indicated that people proficient in math made good accountants.

My good fortune was that in the first of six accounting courses at Brooklyn College, I met a lifelong mentor and friend, Professor Nat Schmukler, who laid out before me the possibilities of a future in accounting. In those pre-computer days, mathematical ability was necessary, but Prof. Schmukler suggested that other areas and skills were just as important to success: the ability to reason; strong ethical values; the propensity for enjoying social interaction with diverse people who were or would-become clients, bosses, or colleagues; and the flexibility, if I wasn't happy in the profession, to move into other endeavors.

As I approach my fiftieth year as an active member of our profession, certain highlights come to mind. First and foremost are the people I have met: mentors, colleagues, clients, and national leaders. My mentors have included partners at the two firms I worked with, state society and AICPA executives, and, most of all, the professors at Brooklyn College, specifically Nat Schmukler.

The camaraderie of our profession is infectious. I've been fortunate to meet terrific CPAs from all over the country, indeed from all over the world. What wonderful people they are. Their interests are varied, their ethical standards are exemplary, and their dedication to their clients, families, and profession is incredible. Until you've had the pleasure of exchanging professional and personal thoughts with colleagues from other cultures across the continent and the world, you really can't fully appreciate the wonderful ties that bind us together as CPAs or chartered accountants (CA).

Another reward of working in the accounting profession is the close relationship with clients and customers. I recall the time that a client told me that she was expecting a baby before she told anyone other than her husband (in those days, the dependent exemption was very important in tax planning). I remember an urgent call on New Year's Eve from a prominent political figure about whether to enter into a transaction prior to December 31 or on January 2. A 3:00 a.m. call from an inebriated client kept me on the phone for a half-hour; a week later he called again, hesitant and sober, asking whether he'd fired me in the earlier call. I told him no, and learned that he'd fired his other advisors because they had hung up on him in similar drunken conversations. And there was the 103-year-old client (recently deceased), an outstanding public servant, who, whenever we met, related his personal recollections of historical events and who looked to me for many phases of his financial planning. These are just a few of many hundreds of interesting people I have counseled, each with unique concerns and issues.

I have also enjoyed relationships with my fellow practitioners--friends, colleagues, and partners--and our stimulating debates on wide-ranging issues such as commissions, contingent fees, 150 hours of education, compulsory CPE, the XYZ credential, the AICPA portal, and the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). The discourses have been contentious, biting, and Informative, but in the end, as men and women of good faith, we will make decisions that benefit our profession.

I've also enjoyed being able to control my schedule so I could enjoy my children's plays, soccer games, track meets, and summer vacations. Although none of my children followed me into accounting, I cherish the time the profession permitted me to spend with them.

Finally, my greatest reward has been my service with the NYSSCPA and the AICPA: meeting with members, providing input on vital issues, and, most importantly, influencing young people to become CPAs.

If I have any regret, it's that I haven't been able to change the image of the CPA in the public's mind. Almost everyone who works with CPAs gives outstanding marks to the CPAs they know. If you ask them about the accounting profession on the whole, however, they revert to the stereotype: CPAs are dull and boring; their CPA is an exception. We need to convince the general public that it isn't only their CPA--their friend, their advisor, their teacher--who is a skillful, dedicated counselor. The vast majority of accounting professionals are trusted professionals, the ones to whom people turn in times of stress.

Would I do it again? As stated above, you bet I would. Do I encourage young people to enter our profession? You bet I do. With hard work and good fortune, the CPA profession offers a rewarding opportunity to those that accept the challenge.
COPYRIGHT 2001 New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kessler, Stuart
Publication:The CPA Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Next Article:Millennium Series: Lynn turner, and the sec, enter the new millennium. (News & Views).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters