Why Even Young CPAs Should Care About M&A

Levine2In my more recent professional experiences I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some of the transaction advisory/ merger and acquisition (M&A) work that my firm provides to clients. To my surprise, the experiences have been resume-building, eye-opening, and much more educational and challenging than I ever expected. Now, if you are like I was only a few short years ago, you’re likely to stop reading this a few sentences after my mention of M&A, because frankly, that was way over my head and out of my reach. However, what I’ve learned from these more recent experiences is that as an audit staff or senior, you should be doing anything you can to get yourself on an M&A team to have that experience and here’s why:

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2015 there were more than $4.5 trillion in deals. To me, that screams opportunity. The business world has found itself with the perfect mix of investors with capital and business with motivation to grow/sell, and that means more opportunity for firms to provide advisory services and more opportunity for auditors to grow their knowledge base.
  • Working on an engagement that isn’t focused on financial statements can provide a very different perspective, one that is more in line with a business’s everyday focus (i.e. key performance indicators that c-level executives and investors focus on). The knowledge gained on this type of job can be beneficial in annual audit work because of that new perspective. In audit, I find that we sometimes work in a bubble that leads down a path to issued financial statements. Having the ability to understand what else motivates our clients besides a looming bank deadline can be valuable to the audit engagement AND help us provide valuable input in their everyday business operations, regardless of our position within the engagement team.
  • It adds a knowledge-base that you are unlikely to get from traditional audit work and can give you a leg up when it comes to other opportunities whether they be within your current role, with your current clients, or if/when you decide to look for a new position. From an industry perspective, it may make you look like a much more attractive hire by that company that’s looking to start making acquisitions.

Of course all of this hinges on the idea that you actually WANT to veer off the traditional audit trail, but even if you don’t, I’d argue that being part of a few M&A engagements would make you a better auditor. In the end, I encourage you to seek out, not shy away, from these opportunities. If you aren’t sure if your firm offers these services to clients, go ask, raise your hand so people know you’re interested, and give yourself the opportunity to advance farther and faster than you may be able to if you just stick to the well-travelled audit path.

Jessi Engelhard

2016-16 Chair, Young CPA Committee