<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=187647285171376&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1" alt="facebook pixel">
Call us: (866) 497-9761 or Learn More

The Future of the Accounting Industry

Published by Hannah Hood on Jan 19, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A conversation with Anders CPA Managing Partner, Robert Minkler.

There’s an elephant in the room, and we’re here to talk about it: Where have all the CPAs gone? 

Coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing a number of worrying trends in the field. In a recent piece, The Society of Human Resource Management noted that 300,000 accountants left their jobs during the pandemic – and not just due to retirement. At the same time, only about 50,000 students are graduating with accounting degrees each year, a number that is declining by about 10% annually. With 135,000 new jobs projected to be created each year, anyway you add it up, “the math ain’t mathing”. 
So, for the inaugural episode of the Young CPA show, my co-host, Joey Kinney, and I decided to confront a subject that is near and dear to our hearts. Our goal is to start a dialogue with the hopes of addressing some of the systemic issues that are discouraging younger generations from joining this industry. 

And who better to put in the hot seat than the managing partner of Anders CPAs + Advisors, Robert Minkler? We asked him to envision concrete ways to make accounting a more flexible industry, one that leans into the changing demographics of America, invites more people to the table and, once they’re there, offers them a sense of belonging. 

He didn’t claim to have all the answers. But he was more than willing to roll up his sleeves, share the firm’s efforts, and point to places where work is still in progress. 

Here’s what we discussed.

What Does a ‘Flexible’ Career in Accounting Look Like?

Accounting is famous for its busy season – tax time, the first quarter of the year when it’s all hands-on deck and late nights become the norm. A conversation with Anders CPA Managing Partner, Robert Minkler

That can be a problem for young people who have a different idea of work-life balance than previous generations, or people who need a job with more predictable hours, such as parents – women especially – with young children at home. 

Figuring out how to make the career more broadly attractie is a constant firm-wide conversation at Anders. 

“When you look at entry level hires,” Robert says, “It’s a fairly even split between women and men, with a slight lean towards women. But then you get up into the leadership positions and that starts to change, because women leave the profession at a higher rate than men.” 

It’s important to understand why, Robert says, “But you can't stop there. You can't just say, ‘Well, that's just how it is.’ You have to ask, ‘Why does that have to be? Why can't we change that?" 

From there, you need to figure out how to accommodate employees’ needs, so they don’t leave – and institutionalize those changes. “People shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a personal life,” he says. 

One of the ways Anders seeks to approach these challenges is by engaging in dialog: The executive leadership team meets regularly with the Staff Advisory Group elected by the Young Professionals, consulting with them on the direction of the firm. 

“We're genuine in our thought process,” Robert says. “Just because we've been partners for 20 years doesn't mean we know what's best for the firm at all times. We look for input from everybody. That allows people not only to help control their career, but also impact how the firm moves forward.” 

Anders has taken many steps to create a more inclusive workforce, including mentoring and recruiting, but there’s still more to do. “We're doing the best we can with what we know,” Robert says, “But what we haven't done yet – which we're focused on – is asking, ‘What are the opportunities out there that don't come to mind right away? How do you think about it differently?"

Here are some of the ways that Anders creates a workplace that attracts and retains top-notch, diverse talent.

Intentional Culture

“When I started in the profession,” Robert says, “no one was talking about ‘culture.’ But we’ve always been dialed into how people work and what each individual needs to put their best self forward, whether it's sitting in an office in Saint Louis or in their home in another state. We don't just decide that we know what's best.” 

Hybrid and remote work have long been on Anders radar, even before the Summit-Anders merger. And while having multiple workplace options introduces additional questions for the leadership, as they work to make sure everyone has equitable opportunities, Robert says they are up for the challenge: “We're intentional about making sure that culture permeates our teams, no matter where they're located.” 

Now those locations are spread across the United States, North America and beyond – which opens up the exciting possibility for increased geographical diversity amongst the next waves of Anders hires. For instance, Anders could target recruitment efforts in capital-poor states, such as my home state of Mississippi and Joey’s New Mexico.

Automation and Innovation

Anders is on a growth trajectory, but the power behind that growth is not, “Hey, can we do more tax returns?” Instead, we’re asking, “What other valuable services can we provide our clients? How can they benefit from being a partner of Anders?” 

One of the most important conversations we’ve been having – with clients and colleagues – is around AI and the future of work. There’s a lot of fear around the possibility of being rendered obsolete by robots. But such fears flare with every new technological advancement. 

“If you can automate something, automate it,” Robert says, “because that’s how you let people plug their brains in at a higher level and provide a higher level of value for clients.” 

It ends up being a win-win, he explains: “Things that can be automated are generally boring. If automation can shave off hours, especially during the busy season, then you’re not struggling with the either-or, work or family, that sidelines so many professionals.” 

From this perspective, automation becomes a way to start to tip the scales for many people who otherwise would leave the profession – while continuing to increase value for clients. “That means there's going to be more people that are going to be able to excel and to move on to leadership roles,” Robert says, “And then we’ll start to see that ‘partner page’ change more.”

More ‘At Bats’ with Clients

A CPA needs significant technical know-how, but the most successful consultants put the client relationship front-and-center. Being able to answer client questions and, oftentimes, ask the questions the client doesn’t know they need to ask – will allow you to advance in your career, beyond bookkeeping and transactional/controller functions. 

These skills don’t get taught in college, however. It takes in-the-field practice, interacting with clients to understand this art and make it your own. That’s where a young professional can benefit from working at a mid-sized firm like Anders, where they get access to clients from early on. 

“You’re trying to get to a point where you can make a difference in the life of a client,” Robert says. “It becomes really satisfying, when you’re having a conversation about a project with a client, and they realize they would have had no way of doing it on their own. You get to that more quickly in a firm like ours than you do at some of the huge firms.” 

Mentorship and Coaching

Accounting has shifted significantly during the nearly 60 years Anders has been in business. Thanks to the rise of technology and the shift towards advisory, accountants need people skills to go along with the technical expertise. 

To support this shift, Robert points to the significance of mentorship and his commitment to building mentor relationships within the firm and within the profession – for himself included. 

Mentorship can take many different forms so Anders provides time and resources for employees to participate in a continuum of formalized coaching to informal mentorship. In addition, Andera has created an Anders University program to support employees across their career, from technical training at the outset for management training for more seasoned employees.

Reach Out: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice

Creating a diverse network of mentors at the firm can also help young professionals identify various career paths that they might otherwise not have considered. My colleague Joey started his career at a regional firm to get exposure to different areas, including tax, audit and estate planning. Nobody wants to feel stuck professionally, and one way to keep moving forward is to talk to as many people around you as possible, as early as possible. 

So what advice would Robert give to himself, if he were a twenty-something about to enter the industry? 

“Get out of your immediate surroundings,” he suggests. “Find ways to talk to people from other areas to see what's out there. When you're first coming into the profession, it's overwhelming. You've got your own area and you’re trying to get proficient as fast as possible. But here’s a little secret: You're going to learn more in your first four months on the job than you did in four years or five years in college.”

Our conversation with Robert drove home something I wish I had known when I was first getting started: Partners aren’t scary. There’s nothing presumptuous about asking a partner, “Hey, what does it look like to have a career path here?” 

Find a partner (or somebody at your firm) who believes in you, and that person is going to be your biggest advocate. More often than not, the biggest success in your career is going to come from the relationships you create, not necessarily what you know as an accountant. 

There’s a natural fear that comes with power dynamics, but this conversation with Robert underscored my belief that we can only benefit when we lean into the discomfort, have those conversations, and get to know the senior people in our field.







Leave a comment