There's a small decrease in the professional fees you or your firm is paying for the privilege of calling yourself a Chartered Accountant: the full member fee for 2013-2014 came out to be $22.60 lower than the $1107.40 that was charged last year. Savings of 2%.
The total fee is still a hefty $1084.80 including taxes, and breaks down to $520 paid to Ontario's ICAO, $440 paid to the overall Canadian CICA, and $124.80 in HST, and it represents the "on time" payment amount - late fees of $100 extra are charged if you pay after June 1, 2013.
The ICAO kindly explained that the savings are courtesy of a $20 decrease in the CICA portion of the fee.
At least CAs can't complain about rising fees this year.
Curmudgeons are welcome, however, to scoff at the following warning message that is plastered on the bottom of the ICAO's website.
"The ICAO website is optimized using Microsoft's Internet Explorer and it's use is strongly
recommended to ensure that all pages load and act as designed. The use of other web browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox
is not recommended and not supported."
I ran the payment through IE for kicks. I had nothing but annoying prompts every step of the way. Not ideal. Back to Firefox next year.
You may also kvetch about the limited amount of Foie Gras you're able to procure with these savings.
Yesterday I noted that the nomination period for the next ICAO council election is now open.
One of my friends noticed that the original invitation to vote was signed by "Michael K. Banks, CA, Secretary".
Today, a curious second e-mail came out with the subject line "Legal Notice - Official Call for ICAO Council Election Nominations".
I didn't pay close attention to it, with a busy day not giving me a lot of time to look careful - but it really seemed odd they repeated the notice a second time.
That same friend, being a good auditor, took a good look at the second e-mail and noted the enhancement: the second invite is signed by "Michael K. Banks, CPA, CA, Secretary".
I wonder whether someone within the ICAO quickly noticed the missing "new" CPA designation, or whether this was in response to someone outside the Institute calling them out on the oversight? I'm guessing an insider called them out on the mistake - a silly little oversight, though it's symptomatic of the "it feels like they're flying by the seat of their pants and making it up as they go along" sensation this entire merger process is kicking up as it grinds along.
Chartered Accountants are notoriously, famously attentive to detail. It's far too easy to lose their trust and confidence with silly mistakes - the sillier the worse, really. An occupational hazard with the a high risk of missing the forest for the trees, of course, but a reasonable CA will forgive someone a small mistake that arises when high-pressure work under tight deadlines is being completed.
The performance bar and the accompanying room for error for official communications, on the other hand, is significantly tighter, given that people are preparing communications with plenty of advance notice. The more time you have to prepare, the more 'perfect' the messages should be, really.
Chartered Accountants of Ontario interested in serving as members of the Council that oversees the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario have another chance to influence the direction the ICAO is taking: the next vote for positions is coming up soon, with 8 spots open, each for a two year term.
The deadline to apply to run in the election is Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. The application must be accompanied by candidate statements that'll be due on May 31, 2013.
You need two get at least two CAs in Ontario to sign your nomination papers, and submit the other needed documentation explaining who you are and what you've been up to.
Given the entire Canadian "CPA, CA" issue that's been front and centre throughout the year, I'm sure this election will continue to generate a fair deal of attention. In last year's election, for the first time I'm aware of, there were roughly twice as many candidates as their were openings on the Council, with opposing "slates" of candidates both in favour and opposed to the ICAO's handling of the Canadian CPA designation.
It'll no doubt be fascinating to see how things play out this summer - after a series of town halls explaining what the ICAO's been trying to accomplish, are many people as mad as ever, or have enough of them been placated as evidenced by recent developments such as the by-law vote working out in the leadership's favour?
In the "olden days," the only way to become earn your Chartered Accountant designation was by 'paying your dues' and working through your 'slave years' at a CA firm. Didn't matter if it was a small shop or one of the Big 4 (or 5 or 6, or 8, depending on when you started), they got a solid lock on you for the first two or three years of your fledgling career, until you had "put in your hours" at your "CA Training Office" before you were free to fly off.
Well, the market demand for qualified young blood to deliver all that advisory and analytical goodness continued to push for more people, and the accounting and auditing shops could only accomodate so many newbies. The ICAO decided it'd make sense to open the field to other companies willing to
subject train new grads to the UFE process. Hence came "CATOs" outside of the core accounting profession.
New places are announced with regularity - the latest list includes the lovely people at Porter Airlines. Judging from the customer experience one'll hope it's a fun place to work, assuming you're not one of the ground crew people currently on strike. With recently announced plans to expand the flight network with longer-range jets, it sounds like an exciting place. I enjoy flying with Porter, and they're making all the right moves. Of course they're picking Bombardier's jet - why not buy Canadian when trying to expand your Canadian company, especially when your plans hinge on scoring tricky political approval to expand the island airport to accomodate the proposed new planes. There are some clever people working there - bringing in some CA kids is another unheralded but smart move.
From the list of 'Guaranteed method to win friends among Canadians' - Beer.
The results came in wicked-fast: earlier this afternoon the viral video-supported campaign by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario bore fruit. They scored the highest ever turnout, a record of 27.6% of the membership, with 85.4% voting in favour. Here's the press release explaining what the ICAO intends to do with its win.
I won't bore you with the details, there's more than enough bureacratic bylaw details and associated nerd rage to go around if you're into that sort of thing, especially the counter-argument. The video itself was a pretty good summary of the proposal, though.
The ICAO tried a few things to deliver its message. Aside from a series of webcasts and free breakfasts and lunches, the video was no doubt the biggest hit - there's now been over 11,000 views, up from 3496 when I started tracking its virality. Despite it making ICAO Chair Rod Barr feel deservedly silly - he chose not to play it at the breakfast I attended, despite it being in his agenda - it looks like the controversial video succeeded in delivering this dark scary topic out to the masses in its bizarrely happy, bouncy way.
Darkness descends on Toronto
One of the perks coming from working for a large multi-national company is that international opportunities do come up, and relocation services often accompany permanent transfers. I always toyed with the idea, but instead found myself happy to experience short-term adventures instead.
There's mounds of paperwork to sift through when you're moving from one country to another - both the internal reviews and approvals you need to process and get blessed by the right people - and in terms of severing your ties with your old home. There are deliciously complicated tax implications - leaving the country often means the tax authorities "pretend" ("deem") that you have sold your investments, so they can capture one more tax bill from you before you go.
Selling your home is another adventure in red tape. Fortunately the relocation service may take care of that for you. Unfortunately someone still ends up suffering through some form of madness.
Do check out master realtor David Fleming and his story dishing on that madness here.
In a real estate market with same-day turn around expectation, Dave is confronted with a company that needs 5 business days to review a small condo sale, along with a ridiculous laundry list of questions to answer that have nothing to do with the condo he's tasked with selling. He truly earned an arbitrarily honorary Hardcore CA for the adventure he describes. Enjoy the story.
It's good to be proud of your work. If you've done a good job, you can take pleasure in the fact that it's error free.
And yet, people may say things like, "are you sure you didn't double-count those items?"
You may be 100% correct in saying, "of course I didn't," with a self-righteous huff. That doesn't mean you should, though.
Let's assume that you are in fact correct. Rather than scorn those who are helping you by examining your work to avoid embarassing mistakes, thank them for their concern and interest.
Then let's assume that the people asking you are very knowledgeable, and
they aren't just asking the question to give you a hard time.
Now stop and ask yourself, "why are they asking me this?"
Is it, perhaps, because your work may in fact be entirely correct, but you didn't present your thought process in a very clear and logical manner? Are you hiding some important facts or assumptions which cause people to second guess you?
There's nothing wrong with being proud of your work, but if you're too proud to examine your presentation for weaknesses - let's say you're trying to make a coy point about the 102 steps you need to take to setup your computer, and then you bristle when people point out that not all of the steps you're listing are truly relevant to your argument - then people will be turned off by your haughtiness, despite the fact that you, or Troy Hunt, have a very interesting presentation with some valid points, but you've prepared it in such a manner that people are distracted by side-arguments rather than your main point.
Consider distilling your message again in cases like this, so your argument can land more effectively - advice everyone, myself included - would do well to practice more often.
Deloitte may want to add "secure the twitter accounts" to their handbook of "things to do when layoffs begin."
HMV stores are in "administration," which is a form of bankruptcy in the UK and now the mass layoffs are underway, sadly. In business school one of my favourite professors warned us that if our solution to a problem was to just start firing people left, right, and centre, we were Doing it Wrong, and she wouldn't give us a very good mark. Every scenario is different, but I greatly respected her for pushing people away from the noxious "you're fired!" mindset and towards more creative solutions that recognize that jobs are important and the last thing you want to do is carelessly deprive someone of their livelihood.
Anyway, as the news media gleefully reports, while the 190 or so people were being told it was all over, their social media planner Poppy Rose Cleere posted hits like the following:
“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!” read a message sent out over @hmvtweets at about 9:45 a.m.
“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.”
I'll have to commend the planner for ballsiness and for "thinking of the others," as Poppy explained that "As someone without a family to support/no mortgage I felt that
I was the safest person to do so."
This of course isn't Deloitte's fault, I presume, but it reminds me of the crazy war stories I heard from people in AuditLand who did have to do wild things like seize control of stores with dozens if not hundreds of employees with small teams and the Power of the Firm as their only backup in other receivership scenarios. They didn't necessarily have to tell everyone their jobs were gone, but even taking over control of store and warehouses can be an intimidating job for a young CA or other professional accountant.
Still, there could have better preparation - apparently one of the executives was heard asking ""How do I shut down
Twitter?", which sort of betrays a knowledge of the medium, or at the very least a complete state of panic which would be understandable.
Puns about tweets and quacks go here.
Accountants have found that the internet has things like... online videos. The results are stunning.
Rod Barr, the President and CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario delivers a going concern level of delicious snark in the first 25 seconds of this video. He says that we are having an important vote, and "apparently our webinar series is not capturing the excitement of this complex, impending change."
He continues, "accordingly, we have to try something new. How about this?"
Then the "typography"-ish music video kicks into gear through the magic of a glowing yellow orb that appears in his hand. Apparently senior CAs who become FCAs have magic powers that are poorly understood.
Feel free to discuss this madness on ACS' facebook page while I figure out how to upgrade the commenting system here. The video is at 3496 views as of now - curious to see how viral it gets.
A colleague and I chatted about a fancy restaurant today, remarking on how it seats very few people but charges a relatively high price for meals. Could it survive?
We ran the numbers out loud - estimating how much it probably makes each night, and what its likely expenses are. Didn't even break a sweat.
A byproduct of years of experience in the restaurant industry, or just some good business sense developed from doing seemingly everything? The latter is usually the case.
Having made some rather huge assumptions, the restaurant in question may
be grossing 20% after the cost of food and labour. Is that enough to
cover the utilities, rent and other costs we haven't included? We'll see
if they're still open a year from now I suppose.
It's too late for me to edit this down, so here's your summary for the tl;dr crowd: accounting internships are awesome because you actually get paid. Journalism internships are tough to survive because they're typcially unpaid. There's some gender politics mixed in here, so read on if you want a rant on the associated economics of the male/female split on pay.
Planning on writing your thesis on Urban French art and its Semiotic impact on the modern consciousness? Think again.
It's useful to spend time in fields outside of your major or specialist. While I completed by Commerce degree and got a major in Economics, I also tacked up a minor in history. Outside of class, I did various things including student journalism. This really gives you perspective, and allows for much more interesting discussions and parties, when you're able to mix in circles of friends in both the arts and finance worlds.
One of the big eye openers you enjoy, and I noticed this ages ago mind you, is the difference in how early careers unfold for people studying "hard" and "soft" fields. An intern or co-op student in accounting, computer science, or engineering, will typically be working for a large well-funded company that pays an entry-level salary for the work done by "the kids."
Contrast that with the media fields that are notorious for unpaid internships. So much so that some lament that this is some kind of gender-based servitude. In the sense that you get the feeling that women are over-represented in the "soft" fields, particularly moreso on the engineering and computer science side of things, there is some kind of point being made there.
I had to say something though, when I saw this comment to the article I'm linking to: "My boyfriend is an engineering major, and his friends are all
accounting. Both areas are predominantly male areas (at least at our
school - the class photo for their accounting class was 3-4 rows of men,
then the front row was girls). None of my engineering or accounting
friends would DREAM of taking an unpaid internship, because their
internships are almost ALWAYS paid ... I'm sure it has to do with
the fact that these are male dominated fields"(italics mine).
That's "school" cited above is very curious, and I wonder where the old "male domination" still holds. The stats I've seen, coupled with real-life experience both on campus and in the workforce, show me that women are achieving equal if not majority numbers in the accounting fields found in Big City Canada.
And the economist in me takes umbrage at the last assumption that the pay is better because the fields happen to be male dominated. Now, I'm talking about "normal" fields or employment, where you can take a supply and demand curve, and actually explain something. There are sadly some exceptions where "they're paid more because they're men" actually rings true. Professional sports would be the most glaring example - and any other field where discrimination is still prevalent and hard to police against.
In the happy world where people are progressive, meaning that gender is not a factor, let alone "the" factor in hiring decisions, everyone is paid the same because they're doing the same job. This is certainly true in many of the Big Four firms in AuditLand, where the hierarchy of raises is rather tightly controlled, so all the first years start at the same base, and if you get the same performance rating as your opposite gender colleague, you'll be getting the same raise and bonus too.
There's several problems here. The very complex one involves eliminating all the remaining discrimination in the world. Good luck with that. Although the "easy" fix there is to point out that companies that systematically exclude women will be irrationally weakening themselves by depriving themselves of some very talented people. In theory the "smart" companies won't be dragging their knuckles along the ground, will snap up the "overlooked" top talent, and will have a stronger set of employees with which to fight their competitors in the marketplace. Nothing's every that easy.
I had the pleasure of working in offices where the hiring managers would
be looked at strangely if they made a mess of the "gender balance" -
what do you mean, there are no qualified candidates on the other side of
the gender split, people would ask. Things inevitably started to
So there's the easy solution, which involves encouraging your daughters and nieces to go into those supposedly "hard" fields of engineering and commerce, to make sure that when those job applications arrive, employers to indeed have a diverse pool of candidates. There jobs really are not that hard. Well, business or commerce certainly isn't, but the barriers to entry in school certainly are, so be careful about not flubbing the marks needed to get in. Second, you don't actually have to work in "those" fields once you graduate, but it'll be easier to get a job in an area that interests you with those much more "employable" skills in hand. Just ask any Fine Arts grad without the "right" entreprenurial and artistic skills or an extensive family network to support their ambitions.
It's the calm before the paperstorm, and the most wonderful time of the year for Chartered Accountants working in firms that enforce a Christmas Holiday Blackout period, where non-essential work is put on hold to let the staff and partners spend some time with family before disappearing into the dank pit known as Busy Season. I hear PriceWaterhouseCoopers is good about not even agreeing to doing special assignments during the Christmas break - hopefully your firm has a similar attitude towards demands for reports getting issued around December 31 or so.
It being the calendar year end, there are some things that may be inescapable due to poor planning. Such as inventory counts that have to happen on December 31. Good luck if you're stuck on one of those. IT auditors and anyone else who needs "point in time" evidence will also be scrambling with clients who "didn't feel like" or "were too busy" to prepare evidence of password settings and other information during the past 340 or so days.
2012 was rather eventful for Canadian accountants, with the Chartered Accountants deciding that the time to grant everyone a free Chartered Professional Accountant designation was November, so I'm able to add a "CPA" after my name, in addition to the "CA". It's not mandatory.
Until July, 2013.
Then I'll need to get new business cards and update the About page here.
The CA students who will soon be newly minted Canadian Chartered Accountants are giddy or recovering from their celebratory parties today.
The UFEblog, which I have spoken of highly, has served its namesake well by offering detailed coverage. Links to all the jurisdictions' results websites are available here.
There's an interesting inforgraphic here breaking down the details with respect to the winners. 3077 writers passed, compared to a high of 3127 in 2009.
Congratulations to everyone who passed!
If you're a Chartered Accountant in Ontario, you're probably already receiving the "eBrief" e-mails from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario with some rather surprising news.
They've noted that starting this month it's possible to say "Firstname Lastname, CA, CPA" which is a bit trippy since you get a "free" designation to pre-empt the entire talk of merging CAs with CMAs and CGAs. The certificates you can now hang on your cubicle wall with the CPA designation will be mailed out in the next week or so.
If this alphabet soup hasn't thoroughly confused you, you can also sign up for a free breakfast or lunch meeting per the instructions in one of the recent eBriefs at the Hilton in downtown Toronto where the implications will be discussed. There's also an evening session with "light refreshments."
I attended the April informatoin session and was blown away by the impressive show of venom from CAs opposed to the idea of the entire merger. Now that the "free CPA" designation is being printed off and sent to everyone I can only imagine the fireworks which will continue. You think the comments people write at GoingConcern are bad? Well, yeah, many of those comments get raunchy, but the things I witnessed in person were actually pretty nasty too. More news to follow I'm sure.
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Make sure your staff know how to demonstrate all the features customers may expect.
I've installed Windows 8 out of an insane sense of adventure, and it's running better than you'd expect.
"Dip & Squeeze? Pick one, jerks!"
What sold me on it was the fantastic $15 upgrade price, for people who recently bought a Windows 7 system. I was planning on dual-booting both Windows 7 and 8 in case things went horribly wrong. Well the installer was so "user friendly" I didn't even find the option to install the dual-boot version, and before you knew it, I was running version 8. Happily enough, the installation was very smooth, no data was lost, and it was time to sleep.
Except that I wanted to find the "shut down" command. Hitting my computer's physical power button would've worked, but I wanted to find the "software" method. It was late and I was tired, and it was nowhere obvious, so a quick Google search revealed that the quick and dirty option was to hit ctrl+alt+del, which reveled the power button in the lower right of my screen. The next day I also found it under the 'Settings' menu which roughly equalled the same number of mouse clicks as you'd experience in most other systems, so I forgave Microsoft this little quirk.
Things got more bizarre when I wandered over to the Microsoft store in the Eaton Centre, to check out the Surface tablets. Having played around with the iPad, Android, and Playbook offerings, I knew how tablets "should" work. How could I perform some basic functions involving flipping the shared screen between programs I asked?
The grey-shirted sales rep fumbled my question, swiping the screen erratically. Fortunately the senior sales guy - in an orange shirt - rescued him and showed off the solution.
Good for them to find a way to answer my question. Sad to see wildly differing levels of knowledge on what should have been basic functions. Even worse that a tablet, which by its nature should be easy to use and intuitive, would require a two-man intervention before its secrets could be revealed.
Having said all that, it gave me some ideas on how to improve some audit workprograms I'm designing to make sure even the freshest student newly arrived out of school can figure out some simple instructions with minimal guidance. There's always learning moments out there.