Before joining MFM, I spent most of my 40-plus year career working with property casualty and life insurance company trade groups. I could regale you with countless jokes about the actuaries who make up the backbone of the industry -- the folks whose mathematical analysis determine the price consumers pay for their life, health, auto and home insurance. My favorite? An actuary is an accountant who couldn't take the excitement.
I bring this up because the accounting profession itself seems to have an image problem these days. A recent column by the terrific Joe Queenan in The Wall Street Journal highlighted what he called an "accounting deficit." According to Queenan, "300,000 accountants and auditors have left the profession, many on the dead run."
American firms -- including many media and entertainment companies that are among the MFM membership -- are competing fiercely for a shrinking talent pool and aggressively recruiting candidates from around the world.
One of the key problems, said Queenan, is the depiction of accountants as bean counters -- unexciting number crunchers "who have their heads buried in Byzantine financial statements…obsessed with trivial details." One can only imagine what he thinks of actuaries.
This image problem is exacerbated by the changing attitudes toward work of younger financial professionals. It was once considered a highly respected -- if a bit mundane -- profession that paid well. Now it is viewed as one that lacks meaning, luster and excitement. In a word, accounting is uncool.
Queenan proposes that employers raise salaries to make the accounting profession more appealing and "take steps to make itself more glamorous…including testimonials from flashy, exciting practitioners of the trade."
Hello, media and entertainment companies!
In my first 12 months as CEO of the Media Financial Management Association I've learned two things: 1) we have the privilege of working in one of the most dynamic and exciting industries on the planet, and 2) there's not a single conversation I've had with a group of industry financial professionals where the issue of recruiting and retaining top accounting and finance talent doesn't come up.
There is a wealth of creative content producers at our fingertips -- the folks sitting on the revenue development side of the aisle. How can we put those producers to work, helping us to make finance careers in the media and entertainment industry the first choice of recent graduates and younger professionals looking for a cool way to use their skills?
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is running radio ads in the Chicago area (where I live) promoting the importance of CPAs. Maybe that's a strategy media and entertainment companies can utilize on a more targeted basis. Perhaps this is something MFM can undertake, with the support of members who are passionate about this critical issue.
I'd like to learn more about what you are doing to attract and retain top talent -- and how MFM might be a resource to expand those efforts industry-wide. E-mail me at email@example.com with your thoughts. Who knows? We just might be able to make accounting cool.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.