Exploring Careers in Financial Services: By the Numbers
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Amy Vaughn: Welcome to today's Maximum Employment Matters webinar. Our discussion for today focuses on careers in financial services. I'm Amy Vaughn from the St. Louis Fed and I will be facilitating today's call.
Before we get started, allow me to cover the logistics: On slide two, if you haven't already done so yet, click on the webinar link you received after registering. This option offers a few benefits. You can watch the slides as they are advanced. You can type questions, download the session material, or even choose to listen to the audio through your PC speakers. Please note that the webinar performance is dependent upon your connection, so if at any time you're have problems, just pick up the phone and dial the toll-free number. To ask questions today, you can submit them at any time by clicking on the ask question button in the webinar tools and we will address those at the end of the call. Also, be sure to keep your mouse handy throughout the webinar as we'll be asking you to participate in some polling questions a little later on.
And one additional note, the views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and not the official opinions of nor binding on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Now with all that out of the way, I will turn the call over to our host for the program, Julie Kornegay from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Julie Kornegay: Thanks, Amy. Welcome and thank you for participating in today's Maximum Employment Matters webinar. We have an outstanding lineup of presenters. We are excited to have our industry expert, Janet Parker, with Regions Bank; Diane Christy with Alabama Society of CPAs; and Laura Hunt with Tennessee Society of CPAs. Thank you all for joining us today.
Next slide, before we get started, I wanted to provide a brief overview about how this webinar series came about and about the Federal Reserve program. Oftentimes, when we're recruiting speakers or talking about our programs, we get questions like, "Why is the Federal Reserve hosting a webinar on careers and financial services?" Well, these types of programs are at the core of the Feds mission. The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment.
And on the next slide we see that by offering these programs, we hope to inform the audience of the industry trends. Being aware of these trends will lead to an increase in human capital. This information can be used in education and training to produce more skilled labor. A skilled labor force attracts new industry, which brings with it higher-paying jobs, produces more consumer spending and tax dollars, ultimately, increasing the standard of living.
So on slide six we see that our program today will focus on the areas within the Atlanta Federal Reserve or what we call the Sixth District. The Sixth District represents most of the Southeast and is a good indicator of the U.S. economy as a whole. So Amy, I believe we've got a poll question.
Vaughn: Yes, that's right. So as you'll see popping up on the webinar the question that we have is, "What is the projected growth for careers in business and finance?" Your options are 4 percent, 8 percent, or 12 percent. I will give everyone just a few seconds to answer so that we can give you the results. I will go ahead and stop that polling question now, and let me show you the results. And those also take just a few seconds to pop up, and it looks like we're about 50/50, 8 percent and 12 percent equally think that the projected growth for careers in business and finance.
Kornegay: On our next slide seven, we are going to look at what are financial services. And essentially, they're professional services involving the investment, lending, and management of money and assets. Some of the industries in this area include banking, insurance, and accounting. On slide eight, we look at some statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they anticipate business and financial occupations will grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, adding about 632,400 new jobs. The median annual wage for business and financial occupations was $66,530 as of May of 2016.
And this is higher than the median annual wage of $37,040. When we refer to median wage, this is the wage in the middle. This is half of the workers earned below that level and half earned above that level. The median wage is typically substantially less than the average wage, and the reason for the difference in that the distribution of workers in this wage level is highly skewed. So as we look at slide nine, we look at some different careers within the financial services area. And as you can see, there is a wide range in income. The orange trend line represents the median annual wage of $37,040. As you can see, all of the jobs listed have high wages. Many of these jobs require postsecondary education. With our industry overview complete, I think we've got a poll question, Amy.
Vaughn: Yes, let's get to that real quick. I'm going to pose that question to our audience, so if you're on the webinar, you should see the polling question pop up that asks, "Are you more likely to use mobile banking or go to the branch?" And those are your options, mobile or branch. So let me give everyone just a few seconds to answer before we show the results. I want to make sure we give everyone time to submit their answer. OK, I'm going to stop and show the results now. And it looks like 100 percent of people would prefer to go the mobile route. Wow, that's surprising.
Kornegay: I'm excited to introduce our first speaker. Janet Parker is executive vice president in the corporate human resources division of Regions Bank. Before returning to Regions in 2011, Janet served as the chief global membership officer for the Society of Human Resource Management or SHRM. Prior to joining SHRM, she served 14 years at Regions in several management roles within the human resources group. Janet, thank you for joining us this afternoon.
Janet Parker: Thank you, Julie, it's great to be here this afternoon. Well, it is always an exciting time in the banking industry, and it's really funny whenever I'm asked what I do. And I tell them that I work for Regions Bank, they always say, "Well what branch do you work at?" And I find that very amusing because so many people think that branch is the only career path in a banking industry and I think this picture, this slide right here, really depicts the many, many types of careers that someone could pursue in a bank. And I will tell you right now for us, there is a lot of focus on cybersecurity, which probably comes as no surprise to everyone. Also, in technology, with all of the changes going on in technology and the use of artificial intelligence, and then also in our payments area, which we used to think of this as card but now, there's so many different ways to make payments, that this is a very hot area for us.
So going onto slide 12, banking innovations. Again, when you talk about innovation and you put it with banking, so many people are surprised. "You mean banking is innovative?" Yes, we're not Goggle, but we are extremely innovative and I will tell you if we weren't, we wouldn't be able to meet our customer needs. So I think we, in the banking industry, we are so about innovation to make sure that we can give our customers the opportunity to bank however, whenever they want to bank.
So moving onto slide 13, yes, our landscape is changing tremendously. You know, you hear a lot of things about the future of our branches and a lot of people do prefer, as we just heard, to do mobile. But you know what, when people are making big decisions and we've heard this from the millennials, they like to sit down across the desk or the table from someone to really talk through the decision that they're getting ready to make. So, "Do I think branches are going away?" No, but I do think they're going to be different, and I'm very excited about what we're doing in the branching area except we are actually trying to make our branches more inviting. We are putting very bright colors in our branches, they're smaller; they're not that dark mahogany that you would typically see in a branch and it's more of a fun place to go but, nonetheless, you can bank however you want to bank when you go into one of our branches.
Mobile is absolutely on the rise and we're very excited about this because this does give us again, another way to be creative and do some different things to meet our customers' needs. And then cash management: one of the things that we are really proud of at Regions is our advice guidance and education. We obviously want our customers to be happy with the products that we offer, but we also want them to know the types of services and how they can actually plan for whatever stage of life they're in. And our advice, guidance, and education really is for anyone who wants some type of advice on tools that they need from someone who is just learning how to pull together a budget or someone who's really sophisticated and just wants investments and stock.
Turning onto slide 14, so Regions has 22,000 associates and we're in 15 states and on this slide, you'll see our primary areas and then you'll also see our lines of business. One thing that I would note on this slide is that for each one of our business areas like corporate banking, there are all types of support areas that provide different careers for our associates so in corporate banking, they've got the support of finance. They've got HR support. They've got operational support and technology support. So in each one of these areas, there are different types of careers within those business lines.
So turning onto page 15, slide 15, so the strength of our market, as you can see, these are where we are primarily located. Now, when we talk about our markets or our geographies if you will, in our geographies, like a Nashville or a Tampa, most of our operations there is customer basics, so you're going to find a lot of different types of bankers from your branch types of bankers to your more sophisticated types of commercial relationship managers. In Birmingham, which is our corporate office, this is kind of a mixed bag in that you've got your customer-facing positions, but you also have most of our support functions like operations, like technology, like finance. So I think this is real important to note when we think about someone who is looking for a career or telling someone where to go and find a career if they're interested in Regions Bank.
So turning onto slide 16, so what are some of our career opportunities? Obviously, our bankers. We have 3,916 entry-level associates. These associates make approximately $30,000 a year. And then our contact center, which is really our call center, 846 associates and they're going to average about $28,000 a year. And then our programmers, 388; they typically earn about $55,000 to $60,000 a year, but these are just examples of some of our entry level. Obviously, if you go back to one of the first slides that I talked about, there are so many different opportunities within the banking industry and also in Regions. I will tell you some of our hardest positions are within that programming area. I know we have actually had to create an internal training program in order to attract new people to our technical area so this might be an associate in operations that says, "Hey, I've always had a desire to go into technology, this might be a good opportunity for me." So that's one of our areas that's really hard to fill. We have had positions that remain open in that area sometimes six months to a year.
I have another area in audit where I have had one position open for over a year because we just cannot find the technical experience that we need for that particular position, and it is one of those hot positions that everybody's looking for that level of expertise. So I'll tell you, a number of our associates started out in entry-level positions like an entry-level position in the bank, but that's not where they stay. We have a tuition reimbursement program that many of our associates have taken advantage of to go back to school at night and earn their degree. So if we have students on the line, I would say, "As you're looking for career opportunities, ask about that tuition reimbursement assistance.” And teachers and faculty members, remind the students that that is certainly a way that they can earn their degree and also be working on a career as well.
On page 17, we talk about entry into the bank, applying online. So that is how everyone that comes to work for Regions has to apply whether or not they're a direct hire or whether they're coming in through the emerging talent program, which is for our college graduates or internships. They all have to apply online.
Now, many of our jobs don't require any type of what we call hard hurdle assessments. There are a few that do, but most of our jobs are really applying online and also attaching a résumé and this would be my comment here. Anytime you attach a résumé, students, teachers, make sure that you talk to your students, you look at your résumé, and make sure that it's selling your skills. Teachers, make sure that you remind your students that this how recruiters really find more information about the skill set.
So on slide 18, what are we looking for? Well, obviously, if we're looking for an accountant, they've got to have that accounting degree and in some areas with that, we require a CPA [certified public accountant]. But we're also looking for team players. I will tell you in our technical area, we're using a new discipline called Agile, which really is how we can get products to our customers faster and it requires our technical associates to really work on the team, which they're not accustomed to doing. So many of them came in thinking they were going to be individual contributors. So team player is huge. Critical thinking, being able to problem solve. I can't say enough about strong written and verbal communication skills, knowing when to pick up the phone and call someone as opposed to sending them an IM or opposed to sending them an email. Proactive, someone that takes initiative. This is one of the best ways for someone to really progress in their career is really show that they're proactive and that they know how to take initiative.
Curiosity goes right along with that critical thinking. Why does this happen? What's the impact? Asking all of those questions. Creditability is another one, especially in the financial industries, you've got to be credible and trustworthy and there was one more that I really think ought to be added and that's change. I will tell you with the technology changes that we're going through with regularity and efficiency changes, someone who is able to change quickly is someone that will be successful; they will be successful in their career.
Going onto slide 19. Why Regions, why would Regions be a great place for someone to consider for a career? I think, first and foremost, our mission, which is to make life better for our associates, customers, and communities. And we do value diversity, diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking but also our core values, doing what's right, putting people first, reaching higher, focusing on our customer and enjoying life, I think that's really what defines us as a company. So thank you for letting me share this information with you and, Julie, I'm going to turn it back over to you.
Kornegay: Thanks, Janet. That was great information. If you have questions for Janet, please click the ask question button in the lower-left section of the webinar window. We will do our best to get to as many questions as possible at the end of the program. Now we're excited to welcome our next speaker, Diane Christy. Diane is vice president of communications and chapter initiatives at the Alabama Society of CPAs. Her primary duties are writing and editing of her bimonthly magazine, student programs at all levels, including acting as a liaison with the Alabama State Department of Education, and managing activities at the 11 geographic chapters of the 6,200 member association. Diane, we're delighted to have you, and to kick off your session, we have a poll question, Amy?
Vaughn: That's right. I'm going to pop that polling question up on the webinar now, so please get your mouse out. The question is, "What percent of today's CPAs will retire over the next 15 years?" Your options are 25 percent, 50 percent, or 75 percent. So just take a guess what percent of today's CPAs you think will be retiring over the next 15 years. I'll give you just a few more seconds to tag your answer and I'm going to stop the polling question and show the results. So those are going to come up now. OK, and it looks like about half of you say 50 percent and half say 75 percent. So let's go ahead and turn this back over to Diane and in a little bit, she is going to give us the answer.
Diane Christy: Thank you, Amy and Julie, and, yes, here's the answer immediately, 75 percent. That's kind of amazing isn't it? But the truth of the matter is that my generation, of baby-boomer generation will retire and is retiring, in fact, at increasing numbers as time goes on. What this means for people entering accounting as a profession is that there's a lot of opportunity for succeeding generations to come in to assume those leadership roles and to take the baton from the preceding generation. It's a wonderful time to be in accounting because as you see on slide 22, demand is high right now as technology changes, the global landscape of how business is conducted, there will never be a lack of need for people to manage what that looks like. And as Janet expressed, the shift to technology may seem to be less people oriented, less face-to-face but, in fact, it just means that we're looking at things a little bit differently and the amount of data analysis that's going to take place, the critical thinking that she mentioned that takes place among accountants who are trained to problem solve and so as you can see on the slide, this is a really important arena for your students to enter for a couple of reasons and I'm going to explain those reasons to you.
Number one, accounting is very well paid. Students entering the workforce with a four-year degree will most likely enter either public accounting or in corporate accounting at the $40,000-plus level. For a lot of other majors, this is not the case, and then if they go on to get their CPA designation, they might get a bonus, they might get some financial support, but they'll probably get a raise at the same time. Accounting is very flexible right now; with the millennial generation just entering the workforce, they have expectations that they will be able to raise a family, that they'll be able to establish some work/life balance. So, employers if they're smart, they'd spend a lot of money and time training these people to become a vital part of their organizations so now they're offering some flexibility to those folks. They will enable them to avoid long commutes by working remotely, maybe a couple days a week, maybe to come into the office a couple days. Sometimes, they can work part-time for possibly months or days. The landscape is changing. The schoolchildren, when they're out of school, maybe the moms and dads want to be at home and more available to their kids, so maybe their summers are a little bit more flexible than the rest of the life that they lead ordinarily.
Getting their CPA designation, that's a very prestigious thing. It does require education and a commitment to a very exacting exam, but it's right up there with being a physician or being an attorney in terms of how the public perceives the creditability and value of that CPA designation. And I can't emphasize enough the chances for a student to graduate from a four-year program are more especially, with an additional graduate degree, employment is out there. Employers are looking for talented students to come into their workforce and to become that next generation of leaders.
So moving onto slide 23, you'll see that there are three primary buckets for people who go into accounting: public accounting, that's essentially CPA firms. Corporate and nonprofit accounting, that's considered industry accounting. Governmental accounting, pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, there are multiple specializations within each of these buckets, and we can't go into them all because we could sit here all day.
Going onto slide 24, public accounting. These firms are called public accountants because they are tasked with protecting the interests of the public. They work with privately owned and international Fortune 500 companies, publicly owned companies. They do all the kinds of things you see there on the bottom part of the slide in addition to a lot more. Again, as technology has taken over some of the more arithmetic functions of accounting, CPAs have become increasingly sophisticated in the array of services that they offer to clients or to their organizations. So, you'll see a lot of different service niches that are being filled.
Corporate and nonpublic, you can see the job titles there. People might start out as a staff accountant; they might work in a large company where there are multiple CPAs. They might be the only CPA in their organization, but typically, if it's a CFO—the chief financial officer, chief operations officer, or chief officer controller, treasurer—those people all will have a CPA behind their name. What's interesting to me, was fascinating when I first joined the Alabama Society was that everybody needs accountants, everybody needs a CPA, and as we try and get students excited about this profession, we try and bring up the sort of sexy, sizzley kinds of service niches that we know would appeal to them. Laura Hunt that you'll hear from in just a moment from the Tennessee Society knows well that we have heard from the controller, I think it's the CFO, actually, of the Tennessee Titans, that if the Tennessee Titans professional football team wins the Super Bowl Championship, guess what, she gets a Super Bowl ring. I don't know how exciting that can be for an accountant than to have a Super Bowl ring. So we really encourage students to think of what their passion is and how they can match it up with a degree in accounting.
Going onto slide 26, this is another place where students can match up their passion and their career. Are they interested in working for a humane society, a rescue organization, the Red Cross? Is there some particular family situation that has made them more aware of particular diseases or charities or Habitat for Humanity, for example, where they want to put their time and energy? They can be the accounting person for those organizations.
So here's the educational path that is required to become a CPA. You do have to have an undergraduate degree in accounting. You are now able to sit in most states in the United States for the CPA exam at 120 hours, which is an undergraduate degree. In order to gain licensure as a CPA, you will need three additional hours plus work experience. You can see how that rolls out. Many students elect to go ahead and get a graduate degree, an MBA, a master's of tax, a master's of accounting, because they're kind of killing two birds with one stone. They have an additional degree plus they have gained those three hours required for licensure.
Going onto slide 28, here is just an array of earning potential for different positions in accounting. You can see it broken up by size of public accounting firm and by size of corporate entity, industry entity. And if you look at that, this gives a range of what you'd expect at the zero to three-year point or at the four- to six-year point, and there's a lot of different paths; not everyone is on a partner path necessarily in public accounting. You have to make that decision based upon what you and your family desires, how much time you're willing to devote, but the options are almost endless in terms of where you can go, where you can apply yourself, what's interesting to you.
We have a student at the University of West Alabama who got there on a rodeo scholarship and he couldn't quite make the parts of his life fit together. And I saw him one day and I said, "Brandon, guess what, you could be the guy, you could be the CPA who really understands farming operations and you could create your whole practice around becoming the CPA for farming or for people raising cattle." And so he was able to really be creative about how he envisioned his career unfolding. So that's what we encourage students to do. Don't put yourself in a box, let your imagination take you where it wants to go.
On slide 28, please ask for help. Every state society across the country has a ton of resources for high school and college teachers or students. You'll hear about some of those from our next speaker, but contact your local state society. If you want a speaker to come to your classroom, ask them for one. If you want to find out what programs they're doing, some of them have leadership academies, all kinds of ways to interest students in the profession. We're especially committed to increasing diversity in accounting. So if you have some students, some minority students who are looking to grow way beyond where they thought they could go, encourage them to become involved in accounting and we'll find a place for them. So thank you for your time and attention this afternoon. Back to you, Julie.
Kornegay: Thanks, Diane. There certainly seems to be a lot of opportunities in accounting, and thank you for sharing your insight and ideas. So if you have questions for Diane, please click the ask questions button in the lower-left section of the webinar window. Our final presentation this afternoon comes from Laura Hunt. Laura is communications associate at the Tennessee Society of CPAs. She is responsible for various aspects of communication, public relations, and marketing. Additionally, she handles student outreach for the society, including specific programs for high school and college students. Laura's going to share some resources available for people interested in a career in financial services. Thank you for joining us today, Laura.
Laura Hunt: Thank you so much, Julie, and thank you to Diane for that really good segue. I wanted to preface this by saying I work for the Tennessee Society of CPAs [TSCPA], and I am speaking specifically about the offerings in our state, but most all state societies offer similar programs to the ones that I will be featuring here today. So moving onto slide 31, I believe, according to the World Economic Forum, these are the top 10 skills that will be most needed in 2020, and some of our other speakers have hit on the importance of these skills as well. With technology automating many of our lower-level skills, we need a smart workforce who can think strategically. As you can see, complex problem solving skills, critical thinking, and creativity are the top three skills we want you teachers to help students be prepared for by the time that they enter the workforce.
On the next slide, there are 318 public high schools in Tennessee and of those, only 120 offer accounting classes. Of those that do offer accounting classes, you can expect the actual number of students who take an accounting class is much smaller. By our estimate, fewer than 14 percent of all high school students will take an accounting course prior to college and for those of you who take accounting, the curriculum mostly teaches basic bookkeeping and no higher-level accounting principles. It is shown that students who are exposed to accounting earlier on or in high school are much more likely to consider it as a profession.
So moving onto slide 33, the TSCPA and the American Institute of CPAs [AICPA] are trying to change these statistics. We have a ton of resources available to you in your classroom. The first is a career exploration field trip, which here at the Tennessee Society of CPAs we've named Discover Accounting, and I'll go over more of that on the next slide. The second is an educator training to teach advanced accounting classes called APBP or the Accounting Pilot [and] Bridge Project. Third, as Diane mentioned earlier, we have a speaker's bureau where you can contact us to request a speaker to come to your classroom or career day to tell students more about a career in accounting. The AICPA offers some really cool resources that you can request at no charge, including magazines, bingo games, and tons of other resources. The college portal is called ThisWaytoCPA.com, and the high school portal is called Start Here, Go Places. One of the games on Start Here, Go Places is called Bank on It, which is a Monopoly-type game where students can answer accounting questions and they can even compete in a tournament against their class. We have used this in many of our programs and the kids absolutely love it.
On the next slide, a little bit more about our Discover Accounting program. It was designed as a field trip for high school students, our high school accounting and personal finance teachers to bring their students. So teachers bring their students onto a nearby college campus for a program that is intended to shatter the stereotypes of CPAs. It gets the students engaged with interactive sessions, including an interactive game show, what they had learned that day, and it incorporates the fundamentals of applying for financial aid and preparing for college and, finally, it ends the day with a college campus tour. These programs are absolutely free for students and teachers, and they're open to any student who is interested in learning more about the accounting profession. Primarily, our high school teachers will sign up their classes and bring them, but we also have individual students that attend. So far, it's been a huge success. We're in our third year of the program and many other state societies offer similar programs to this particular field trip.
On the next slide, our college outreach programs. Primarily, we have a college scholarship program. So TSCPA, specifically, we give away $250,000 to $300,000 in scholarships every year to undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing a degree in accounting. These numbers will vary state to state, but in Tennessee, that's what we give away. So most all state societies have a scholarship program.
Second, we have a student ambassador program where a select group of students act as a brand ambassador for us in our different chapter divisions. And as a student ambassador, they receive networking opportunities and they must complete certain requirements as part of the program. And then if they do successfully complete the program, then they receive a stipend at the end.
Third, we attend all Meet the Firm nights and supply students with resources to aid in their job and internship search such as our firm and salary guide. We have student nights at each of our eight chapter divisions throughout the state as an opportunity for students to network with their professional local CPAs, and we offer career resources that can be mailed to them. Like I mentioned, the firm guides and the salary guides and, finally, we host a mentorship program that is exclusively for our scholarship winners. Again, most of all these resources should be available to some varying degree at each state society.
So moving onto the next slide, the AICPA has recently acquired the APDP program. It originally was begun by a Kansas college professor, and this program teaches students at a higher-level accounting course. The course is similar to a dual-enrollment program or an AP [advanced placement] class that you might be familiar with. Nineteen teachers participated in this year's training held at our office in June, and there are other trainings across the U.S., but attendees came from five different states, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. These accounting teachers are joining the additional 28 teachers that went through this program last year, and they are able to teach an advanced accounting level in their high schools. Currently, in Tennessee, MTSU [Middle Tennessee State University], ETSU [East Tennessee State University], and the Northeast State Community College offer the transfer credits. Colleges understood in offering credit for students to take this course and pass the corresponding exam. They can offer credit through an articulation agreement with the particular school district. If you're interested in learning more about this program, you can visit accountingpilot.com.
Moving onto the next slide, a little bit more about the APBP project. Today, over 1,000 high school teachers have been trained to teach this course in their high school. As I mentioned before and as some of the other speakers have mentioned, it is so important for students to be exposed to the field at an earlier age. If a student has taken an accounting course in high school, they are 52 percent more likely to become an accounting major once they're in college as opposed to only 9 percent for those that do not. This is according to the AICPA 2017 Trends report. So with such a large percentage of our CPAs reaching retirement age in the next few years, as I said earlier, 75 percent in the next 15 years, replenishing the pipeline with strong, skilled talent is crucial to the future of this profession. I hope I have provided you with some resources you could take back to your classrooms and with that, I'll turn it back to Julie.
Kornegay: Thanks, Laura. All those programs sound very exciting. So we've reached the Q and A segment of today's program, and we have lots of questions rolling in and our first one is for...let's give the first one to Janet. How are the jobs of today in the bank different from the jobs of the past?
Parker: OK, so I think more technology for certain, that we're using more technology to do things than we did in the past, and this is another technology response. The use of artificial intelligence is really going to take us to the next step, which, obviously, that wasn't done. We're doing more because we're being more efficient, so it doesn't take as many people today as it did previously because we've learned how to be more efficient. I mentioned our branches earlier; I can remember seeing pictures of some of our older branches and how they used to wear uniforms and, obviously, we don't wear uniforms and we've actually gone to business casual. So I think it's—we've moved from—and also I think culture wise, we have moved from probably a more rigid and formal environment from one that's focused on work/life balance and flexibility where we can be.
Kornegay: Yeah, I have to agree, I remember my early experience in the bank is with kind of a navy suit environment, and we don't see that so much today. We have a phrase that is called dress for your day and if you're attending meetings on site or off site, you may definitely want to put a little more effort into—well, you should always look your best, but you may have days where you want to be comfortable as well running around. Diane, do you have anything you want to add to maybe how the environment has changed in accounting and what it used to look like and do you still use ledgers in accounting or do you have more fancy software that you use to keep up with all these numbers?
Christy: If you could see a CPA's office nowadays not only is...have a lot of the firms, the public accounting firms, gone paperless or very close to paperless but they will have these giant monitor screens, maybe three of them across their desk. Technology has transformed the accounting industry. There is no question, it has been both the most challenging and the most liberating effect in the last 10, 15, 20 years.
As I mentioned in my presentation, the purely arithmetical functions have completely disappeared. If you're filling out your own tax form, you're using some kind of software; it plugs in the numbers for you. It's not quite so laborious as it was. You're really answering a questionnaire versus having to dig deep for information, and this has allowed CPAs and all accounting professionals to broaden the scope of the kinds of services they can offer to the public, and a lot of these services can go in the realm of personal finance, financial planning, wealth management. We have a firm here in town that has a family services division so they are responsible for handling some of the finances of people who are in assisted living or nursing homes. We're making sure that their grass is cut. I mean this is just an example of how broad and how wide the accounting profession has grown and become much more diverse in the services offered.
Kornegay: That's really interesting, I had no idea. All right, so looking at some of the questions coming in, so here's one. You guys have a chance. Laura, I'll let you join in as well if you'd like. On which skills should we be focusing the most, technical or soft skills? That's a hard one.
Hunt: I would say both of them are equally important. Technology is becoming a huge factor in the accounting industry, watching technology is a huge buzzword that we're seeing in the accounting profession that's supposed to change it in the coming years, but I don't think that you could ever be an accountant or be a successful accountant without having the soft skills, good people skills, strong critical thinking skills, many of the skills that were on that list are critical to be a strong accountant but, of course, you still need to be very strong and excel. You still need to be good with the different softwares that accountants use so I think they're both equally important.
Kornegay: Diane, do you have any thoughts to follow up?
Christy: I think Laura is absolutely correct. You have to find a balance. What firms are telling us, what industry is telling us is that the students who are coming out of school today are technically very proficient. They're smart kids and they know these skills, but they're not always sure of which fork to use when they take a client out to lunch, or how do I circle the room and make some effective connections at a networking event? And she and I work every day trying to fill that gap for firms and corporations with students to provide them with some additional resources so that the students get a little more polished and that the firms, their organizations, feel more confident about having them in a lot more client-facing or customer-facing situations.
Kornegay: I would agree. That's really a good point. Hey, Janet, so what do you think? Janet, do you have any thoughts on technical versus soft skill? I know you guys are doing some really innovative training ideas and bringing people over from a programming standpoint, any thoughts on this area as well?
Parker: You know, a lot of companies say that if candidates come with those soft customer-focusing skills that they'll train the technical aspect. And I would say that there are skill areas that you can't just bring somebody in, I mean you can and we've done it, but there are many areas where they do have to have certain certifications, but I think it's those students and those candidates that come in with that soft skill as well as the strong technical skills, it is definitely going to give them a leg up as far as being selected for a role.
Kornegay: All right, I can agree. Let's see. Let's go to our next question. This one says, "I really like the slides that show what the employers are looking for. Will the slides be shared with us?" Yes, we will have the webinar as well as the webinar slide deck on the Atlanta Fed's website within the next few weeks and all of that data was readily available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, but I can certainly share the slide deck with you and I'm glad you like it. So our next question is to Diane Christy. It says, "Is Quick Books a good certification for high school students?"
Christy: You betcha. Anything that you can do in the high school level that will propel you that next step, anything you can put on your résumé that will be a key word that a recruiting software company will read off your résumé, anyway that you can distinguish yourself and differentiate yourself from the student sitting next to you is a valuable, valuable thing. Quick Books will obviously be supplanted maybe by new software in the next 10 years, but having those skills under your belt, we can't emphasize enough how great that is. I know we had a young staff member here and she had done Quick Books with her sorority in college and so for her to handle some of the things that were going on in our office, we just handed it over to her and we had complete confidence in her abilities.
Kornegay: That's good. Well, so that raises another question, what are some of the classes students can take now to be better prepared for maybe the postsecondary steps in their life? I know there are different certification paths, you can get a two-year, four-year graduate degree in accounting and in the financial services area, and what are some of the things that students can be doing now? Diane, do you want to take the first stab at that?
Christy: Sure, we think that getting a solid background at the high school level. Yes, if your high school offers any kind of finances, economics, bookkeeping, accounting classes, you should absolutely take them. Once you move on to college, obviously, you're going to have a pretty rigorous core of classes to take, and I'll be honest with you, I had two graduate students in my office on Friday and the other thing that I told them was, and this goes along with our conversation of technical versus soft skills, is also take courses outside your major. The goal is for you to become a well-rounded, interesting, complex, sophisticated person who can connect with people in business on a lot of different levels. Immerse yourself in all of the free or low-cost activities on your campus and take advantage of those while you have the opportunity.
Kornegay: Great, Laura do you have anything you want to add representing accounting?
Hunt: Yes, well in addition to majoring in accounting once in college, one thing that employers are really emphasizing that has become really important in the profession is an ethics or philosophy class. An ethics test is now required as a CPA and so taking an ethics or philosophy class in addition to all the different required courses in accounting is equally important.
Kornegay: Wow, that's interesting. Who would have thought ethics or philosophy but, yeah, that makes sense. Janet, do you have anything you want to add talking about some of the classes that might make students successful in the banking area? I know there is a really broad area of topics under the banking umbrella but just curious if you had any thoughts on that.
Parker: Yeah, so I would say any time they could take whether it's a speech class or a writing class, being able to present, being able to frame up their ideas to be able to communicate them both verbally and in writing, I would say that is huge regardless of what area you're in. That is one of the areas where I think we are seeing such a major deficit because we text and we use abbreviations and just getting to the point where you can make a document flow appropriately and getting your primary points out first. So I would say really focus on any type of program that would give you additional training with both written and verbal communication skills.
Kornegay: Yeah, I would agree. I think that is definitely very important. All right. Well, I have another question here and this is a real good one. It says, "Financial services often handle sensitive data. Are there ways that we can work with students to help them understand why confidentiality is important?" Anybody want to take that? Janet, do you want to take that one first?
Parker: Yeah, so I mean I think probably some examples of where insider trading where people have leaked information about an organization prior to earnings report out. To me, those are fines in criminal types of things that can happen. So I think where you can point out things, gosh, the media today is just a mess, and I think showing where something has leaked out and has put an organization at risk. I think those are some of the best examples, but I will tell you, that's one of the things in human resources that we absolutely expect is that if someone breaches confidentially in HR, I mean that really is grounds for immediate dismissal. So I think it's just giving the student examples of things that could put an organization at risk or could have an adverse impact on employee trust. When you leak something out, their personal information or their pay, you lost trust and it takes a long, long time to build back any trust involved.
Kornegay: Even personal information for the customers.
Kornegay: You don't want people sharing, "Oh so and so has got X amount of dollars in deposits." Kind of not a good plan. So, Diane, would you like to talk about confidentiality in the accounting industry?
Christy: It's critical. It's really everything. I often tell students when I'm coaching them that the information your clients will share with you is intimate personal information. Sometimes, they're going to share information with you that they're not even sharing with their spouse, so you're being given this huge weight of trust that is yours to guard as closely as you can. Again, with these international students who were in my office the other day, they talked about having been part of a VITA program, that is, Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program. It is a free service for low-income families, and how one student had some papers, but it had very confidential information on it and she was working on it in a public area and so they went up to her and said, "You know, you need to be in a lockdown mode when you've got that kind of personal information available to you." We find that students getting their feet wet by doing some kind of public service like a VITA program is so important because it gives them a sense of the kinds of stories that they will hear and the kinds of clients that they will have to discuss, very touchy delicate issues with, and so it gives them a little bit of sensitivity training on that basis.
Kornegay: All right, Laura, I'll give you a second. Do you have something that you'd like to add to that?
Hunt: Yeah, one thing I want to mention is that this can be a whole profession. One of the really cool jobs that we like to highlight during our programs is forensic accounting. So you can look for fraud, for these types of issues and like one of our speakers mentioned before, one of our speakers at our events is Jenneen Kaufman. She is the CFO of the Titans and she emphasized to the students at one of our programs this week that she was shocked when she entered a profession about how prevalent fraud is and how she thought that most people were ethical and honest, and then she quickly realized that once you begin working and looking at financial statements that people weren't so much. So this is a huge issue in accounting that students need to be comfortable with, but if they're very interested in it and especially the fraud side, they can enter forensic accounting.
Kornegay: All right, sounds great. Well, we are getting really close on time, but I'm going to ask you guys just to give a very brief response to the following question, "Do you have any advice for the students participating? Laura, I'll let you go first.
Hunt: I'm sorry, can you repeat the question, Julie?
Kornegay: I was just saying, do you have any advice for students participating?
Hunt: I would say especially get involved with your state society. There are so many opportunities for you as a student that aren't available in other majors. The scholarships are huge if you're a high school student and your state society offers one of the programs like Discover Accounting, I would highly recommend that you attend. You can talk to your teacher about the speaker's bureau program and definitely get involved if you're a college student in your student nights. It's a great opportunity to network. Students find jobs at those events. So there's really so many options. Definitely, check out the websites through the AICPA. The ones I mentioned previously, This Way to CPA and Start Here, Go Places. Those are great places to start as well.
Kornegay: All right, great. Diane, any last-minute advice for students?
Christy: Feel free to ask for help. The students who were in my office the other day just called me up and wanted to come and talk to me a little bit. We are here to do that. It's part of our job that we love so much, making students successful.
Kornegay: That's great. Janet, do you have any last advice for students that may be participating today?
Parker: Yeah, I think when we're in...whether we're in high school or college, sometimes we take the opportunity to learn for granted and it's more about, "Let me memorize this so I can, you know, make a good grade on the test." But when we memorize and we don't understand how to apply concepts, we lose so much and so I would say make the best out of learning and know how to apply the different concepts because, again, as you think about those individuals who really move forward in their careers, it's going to be those individuals who really know and can apply the concepts of their respective discipline.
Kornegay: That's great. All of you all gave great some great advice. Thank you so much. All right, so Amy if you'll move this event to slide 39, our next webinar will explore minimum wage jobs. It's November 29 from 3:30 to 4:30 Central. Our guest speaker is Whitney Mancuso. She is a senior economic research associate analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. And this is a really interesting issue in labor, so we hope that you'll tune in and our slide 40.
So finally on behalf of everyone, I'd like to thank you for participating. If you've joined us via the webinar tool, you likely saw a survey link pop up on your screen. Please take a moment to complete this survey and let us know how we did. We also tend—I'm sorry—will also send the survey email. You only need to fill out survey once. The resources mentioned today are linked into the PowerPoint so make sure to download the presentation or visit frbatlanta.org/education. If you know of someone that would find this session valuable, it was recorded and it will be archived on our Maximum Employment Matters web page in the coming weeks. We'll email an update when it's ready. With that, I'll officially bring this session to a close. Thank you for joining us and have a great rest of your day.