The art of accounting: associate researcher

I joined Withum 14 years ago when it numbered 250 people. There are now 1,100. As Withum grows, the needs of the firm continue to grow with newly created positions to facilitate staff growth and provide better, higher value-added services to clients.

Some of the non-traditional positions for an accounting and consulting practice that we’ve added include a Director of Operations, Director of Talent, Director of Finance, Director of Marketing, and General Counsel. Each of them is filled with very talented people. Many have been chosen from our talent pool, maintaining and strengthening our company and our culture. Today I want to focus on a new position that arose out of the skills of a long-time employee: Christina Giorgio.

Chrissy joined us during the Morrison & Company merger in December 2010. This practice has focused on supporting medico-legal litigation. Chrissy was hired in 2006 as an administrative assistant. It evolved into providing investigative research into the cases we were working on. Eventually, his skills expanded to cover a wide range of research, not just in forensics. She was recently appointed a resource for our entire firm and has a dedicated email address: [email protected] As our industry specialization groups grow and we take on the role of not only ‘numbers’ but also trusted advisors to our clients within their industries, the need for timely, up-to-date and information. reliability has become more critical than ever. Having a dedicated research specialist has become more essential than ever.

Its functions are numerous. Here are a few :

His research begins with industry information, typically made available by business organizations, and then moves on to business resource subscriptions that provide current and historical industry reports, presenting trends, challenges, opportunities, past performance and the expected future performance of various industries. The reports generated are beneficial in gaining an understanding of the industry in which a current or potential customer, and even an adversary, operates, and also add value to the customer service we provide. Additionally, these reports also provide management interviews with specific industry-oriented questions, helping to ensure that the questions we ask are relevant. Depending on the industry, these reports are not only national, but can be narrowed down to a specific state. She also uses business information reports, which can be useful before meeting a new client, as these reports can be pulled from specific companies by name. Additional useful features of these reports are credit information and finance privileges.

Current and historical economic data is also available, both nationally and locally for a specific region. This is beneficial if a client is looking to expand their operations elsewhere but are unsure of demographics, area, past economic performance, or changes underway. If the resources Chrissy accesses don’t have this region-specific data, then she goes to local municipalities, libraries, and chambers of commerce and collects her own external data.

Industry benchmarking and market data provide ratios and can be used to compare a client’s performance to how it aligns with the industry as a whole. This data can be collapsed by location and can show historical trends over a period of years.

Compensation data is useful when the compensation paid to a staff member of a company at all levels, from management to administration, needs to be verified. The resources Chrissy accesses can be restricted by specific job title, zip code or general location, and if possible, by specific industry and income brackets. It is also a value added factor if a client is looking to hire new employees and wants to know what the industry standards are for wages or is looking to review what those standards should be for that client’s existing staff.

In addition to industry data, Chrissy performs various levels of public archival research, including searches for assets, properties, company filings, and background checks. Her years of field experience eventually led her to become a Licensed Private Investigator in the State of New Jersey in 2013. This designation helped her obtain public records that might not otherwise be readily available.

Chrissy also has a print and digital ‘lending library’, making these resources available to staff and partners almost 24/7. In addition, she has a database of dozens of trade journals, periodicals and newsletters and is able to sift through them for articles on a technical topic or referring to the founders, owners and senior executives of many companies.

I have used it a number of times to research potential investors in clients, which has often saved them considerable time and cost by dealing with people who were not what they described themselves to be.

What Chrissy does has become a necessity as the accounting industry evolves, but for us it’s a luxury that we appreciate. She receives big congratulations from everyone who benefits from what she does. Hopefully, this information will introduce you to an area that accountants can access when providing services to clients or to get a warning when meeting a potential client. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] and Chrissy or I will be happy to point you in the right direction or share any resources you may use.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at WithumSmith + Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People list. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns”, co-authored with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition”. Ed also writes a blog twice a week on customer issues at www.partners-network.com as well as the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an Assistant Professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University and teaches end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is an ongoing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips he hopes his colleagues can adopt. Ed welcomes questions about practice management and can be contacted at (732) 964-9329 or [email protected]


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