For CPAs, is it more interesting to work in an accounting firm or in the heart of an SME? It all depends on your objectives.

Working in an accounting firm enables you to work in more than one activity sector and leverage your colleagues’ experience to grow. Here are the main differences between a firm and other types of businesses.

Diversity of files

In a firm like ours, Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs) work with clients in highly diversified fields, each with its own particular challenges. They meet with business managers recognized as leaders in their industry.

This enables them to acquire in-depth knowledge and experience the different aspects of the business world. Accordingly, an assurance specialist can be at a manufacturing client one day, and on the next, at a client who manages hotels.

Sharing of knowledge

Often, in an accounting firm, files are worked on by a team of CPAs from the same discipline or various specialties, in a spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Accordingly, each person offers solutions to the client and develops his knowhow by working with other experts in their profession.

This team spirit enables players to contribute to improving work methods, by brainstorming with their colleagues on the best practices to be introduced.

When CPAs work for an SME, they are often the only CPA in the organization and are required to carry out several duties. For example, a CPA who might be the financial controller could also be involved in analyzing investment projects, searching for financing and improving work processes.

However, this CPA works alone and acquires limited expertise in the employer’s industry, contrary to the CPA who works for an accounting firm.

In other types of businesses, CPAs might work with several other CPAs who can help them and share their knowledge. Nevertheless, their tasks and responsibilities will be rather restricted.

Professional development and career progression

Surrounded by experienced colleagues, young CPAs in our firm will be properly supported by their colleagues. Throughout their professional development, they will benefit from training programs to update their knowledge. If they so wish, they can specialize in a particular discipline, such as tax, financial consulting or corporate reorganization, or develop their management skills.

Everything is structured to lead the professional to grow and excel. If such is their ambition, young CPAs will have the opportunity to be promoted much faster than in other types of companies.

Innovation

In an innovation-oriented firm like ours, it is also possible to explore promising new fields of activity. This is the case, for example, with blockchain technology, an area where almost everything in terms of accounting standards has to be developed and where our company plays a pioneering role.

Is it more demanding and restrictive to work in an accounting firm or in an SME or another type of company? It all depends on the organization that employs you.

Here, we value the best possible work-life balance. That’s why we offer our employees considerable flexibility. What’s important is that everyone benefits from an environment that allows them to express their talent.

Our thanks to Sébastien Roy, Partner, Financial Advisory, and to Olivier Chauveau, Partner, Assurance, for their valuable contribution to this article.

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The accounting profession is in full transformation. The technological and digital evolution is revolutionizing the CPA’s role.

Dependent on businesses’ digital shift and their evolving needs, accounting tasks are constantly diversifying, making today’s accountant a true business advisor.

Broader horizons thanks to technologies

When it comes to information technologies (IT), accounting experts are called to be adaptable and curious. Entrepreneurs have more and more complex digital needs and large accounting firms such as our own must know how to guide them efficiently.

Despite the democratization of tools, easily accessible on the Net, the accounting profession has become more essential than ever. Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs) are governed by a professional order and comply with a code of ethics. This gives them the expertise and legitimacy needed to support executives and play a key role as advisors in a rapidly changing business environment where digital technology is pervasive in organizations’ activities.

The technological shift provides numerous opportunities for accountants to showcase their expertise. Accounting firms like our own should seek to develop new technological tools.

In recent years, we have developed a range of products and services adapted to the new technological realities :

  • Taxo, an online personal income tax preparation service;
  • Operio, a subsidiary specializing in cloud accounting for SMEs;
  • Catallaxy, a subsidiary specializing in blockchain technologies;
  • Abacus, a product that can audit businesses’ digital assets while complying with the strictest of auditor requirements.

Increasingly, CPAs will be able to work with artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to guide companies and organizations that want to benefit from process automation to improve their performance.

The evolution of audit

Although the profession is evolving, some tasks, such as auditing, will not disappear. More than ever, the chartered accountant will be called upon to express an opinion on the fair presentation of the client’s financial statements.

However, the auditors’ role will change, e.g., they may express an opinion on the security of a digital platform, which will be essential, particularly with cryptocurrencies.

A connected succession

Though technologies are shaking up the various functions of the profession, they’re also making it more interesting. Young, upcoming accountants must take an interest in innovation now to fully carry out their future accounting functions.

The profession is much more attractive today for young accounting students. It offers considerable opportunities. Technologies are everywhere in accounting functions and the next generation will undeniably contribute to the transformation of the profession.

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Accounting is far from being a standard job. The CPA’s career can follow many paths. Discover Kamille Lambert’s path.

Kamille, how would you describe your role as a financial strategy and performance consultant?

For me, being a consultant is a bit like managing ten accounting departments at once. My level of involvement varies from one project to another and my schedule is constantly changing. When I get up in the morning, I don’t always know what I’m going to be doing during the day.

When a client loses a resource, is at an impasse or needs a boost, my team is called in to help. Whether remotely or in their offices, I offer tailored support to help make them autonomous. This can range from product costing to a complete review of administrative processes.

What do your everyday tasks look like?

The only constant in my job is that I always have an opportunity to help someone. I think curiosity and adaptability are the two of the most important qualities for a consultant. When I start a new assignment, I look at the inner workings of the company, analyze its shortcomings and formulate an action plan.

This involves assimilating all the necessary information about the client’s business sector and how it manages its operations. My role also requires a great deal of flexibility: not all organizations use the same accounting software and don’t have the same reality. Blindly applying best business practices doesn’t work.

Emotional intelligence, leadership and communication are therefore an integral part of my job. I have to define the solutions that best fit the specific context and then find the optimal way to present these changes to employees.

What do you like best about this job?

The educational component: I have always aspired to become an expert in a field and share my knowledge to help others progress. As a consultant, I learn every day, but I also teach. I train my clients, it’s truly rewarding.

The leaders with whom I interact are people who value my expertise and want to grow. For them, it’s not an expense, it’s an investment in their team’s financial education.

I also have the opportunity to share my daily life with a host of interesting people, both in our offices and at my clients’. It makes all the difference. Since my first university internship, two things were clear to me: I wanted to work in this field and I wanted to do so under the Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton banner.

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The labour shortage is doing a great service to young accounting graduates. But is it an excuse to wait for a job to fall in your lap?

We don’t think so! Rather, it’s an opportunity to do some research to find an accounting internship that really suits you. To make sure you get it, here are some tips from our recruiters to help you stand out.

1. Know yourself

Many young people hesitate to talk about their strengths when they meet with recruiters. They may think they’re doing this for the right reason: they want to avoid appearing arrogant. But there is nothing wrong with selling yourself, as long as you don’t exaggerate.

To identify your strengths and weaknesses, talk to your employer, teachers and family and friends. Ask them to describe your character, what sets you apart. Find actual situations where your strengths have made a difference. This work will prepare you for interviews and help you choose an employer that suits you.

2. Use LinkedIn to sell yourself

Having a good LinkedIn profile certainly gives you a head start. Make sure you use a professional-looking photo, specify your program and profile, list your work experience and skills, but don’t forget to let your personality show through.

Also use this network to show your interest and curiosity by sharing and commenting on articles in your field of expertise.

Before a student recruiting event, many recruiters search for students from the school in question on LinkedIn and contact the most promising ones.

3. Make up your own mind

The CPAs around you probably share their opinions on different firms with you. Their experience may be helpful, but keep in mind that their goals are not necessarily the same as yours.

Before you decide on an employer, keep an open mind and ask around. In addition to the tasks and role you’ll have to perform, you need to consider the work atmosphere and corporate culture that will make a difference.

4. Don’t just stand there. Go for it!

At a recruiting event, go around to the booths and select two or three firms that really appeal to you, then go back to them. Ask questions about the firm and the day-to-day life that awaits you there.

Instead of bringing your CV, bring business cards. Many student associations offer this service to their members. Include your name, photo, school and the internship period you’re aiming for. Also add a link to your LinkedIn profile. It’s less cumbersome and will help recruiters remember you.

5. Follow up without delay

After collecting a few business cards, get in touch with the firms that caught your attention. Write to them the next morning to thank them and ask more questions. The recruiting process moves quickly, and this is especially true in the city, so it’s best not to wait. If you’re interested in a firm, ask to visit their offices.

6. Showcase your personality

What’s the worst mistake to make in networking events, interviews or even internships? Telling people what they want to hear. The recruiters’ goal is to get to know you. They don’t have a list of wrong answers that would result in immediate rejection.

Our talent acquisition team is not looking for robots. We want honest people who recognize themselves in our culture. Everyone knows that your biggest flaw is probably not being too much of a perfectionist. Dare to tell the truth!

All students have a similar profile: they take the same courses. What interests us most is their personality. We’re looking for a connection, someone who is comfortable with us, who is curious and well prepared.

Thanks to Ariane Mailloux Rivard, Consultant – Talent Acquisition, and Caroline Lapierre, Analyst – University Recruiting, for their valuable contribution to this article.