Where public meets private
The 2012 Veris CPA Trek started before the W&M MAcc program even left town.
In keeping with our tradition of helping our students look beyond the balance sheet, we started this year’s Veris CPA Trek with a thought-provoking series of films and guest speakers. For two consecutive Fridays, we gathered at the Kimball Theater in downtown Williamsburg to watch the Frontline series “Money, Power and Wall Street” together.
We also brought along some expert friends to help us get the most out of the experience. Bill Bishop, partner at PwC, Richmond, with a focus on Internal Risk joined us on November 9 and Peter Atwater, President of Financial Insyghts and author of Moods and Markets, joined us on November 16.
Tom White, W&M accounting professor emeritus and emcee of the event, sums it up this way: “It really helped the students get a sense of the bigger picture – how the housing crisis and credit default swaps got started and ultimately how they played into the US fiscal crisis. In turn, this allowed them to see more clearly the role of accounting and how it continues to affect today’s business environment. The questions they asked at the sessions really showed me that they were ready to delve deeper into regulatory issues – and that is exactly what they had the chance to do on the trip.”
And what a trip it was. Check out our itinerary here.
Wednesday, November 28
We kicked off our three days of meetings with a presentation on Dodd-Frank implementation from Robert Motyka, W&M Alum and Senior Project Manager at the Federal Reserve Board, in the Board of Governors room at the Federal Reserve. If sitting in Chairman Bernanke’s chair was on any student’s bucket list, then this was the morning they got to cross that off!
MAcc student John Hallenborg says, “I would go to the Fed again in a heartbeat. It was great hearing about the new financial policies being put in place, and learning about how the Fed works and responds to current financial trends.”
Fellow student Matt Richards agrees: “Being able to sit around the Board of Governors' table and learn about current monetary policy issues is the ideal way to learn about the government's fiscal processes. The grandeur and history of that room is seriously impressive and it expresses the magnitude of the Fed's responsibilities for our nation's well-being. It's an experience that I will never forget!”
We spent the afternoon at the SEC, where we heard from groups ranging from Corporate Finance to the Office of the Chief Accountant to Enforcement. We also walked through some of the issues presented by crowd-source funding with SEC Economist Scott Bauguess from the office of Risk, Strategy & Financial Innovation.
MAcc student Eric Albrecht was particularly intrigued by the topic of crowd-source funding. “Right now it is in its infant stage,” he says, “but I learned that this trend truly has the potential to be a major shift in the way of doing business in the long-term future. This could be something accountants will have to adjust to; potentially similar to the way they've had to adjust to derivatives.”
Thursday, November 29
Thursday started off in the gilded hallways of the US Treasury with an impassioned presentation on the quest for greater budget clarity by Senior Accountant Scott Bell.
A midday tour of the White House – all decked out for Christmas – provided some holiday cheer before we headed off to K Street for a look inside the PCAOB.
Speakers at the PCAOB walked us through issues in international accounting firm inspections. They also briefed our group on emerging audit risk topics.
MAcc student KC Dang says, “I was impressed by how engaging the speakers were. I liked how each one talked about different aspects of what the PCAOB does.”
Friday, November 30
Senator Michael Bennett’s Chief Counsel, Jon Davidson, welcomed us to the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Friday morning. In true Capitol Hill style, Jon played to both sides of the aisle and elicited a rousing discussion about entitlement spending, tax reform and political posturing. He ended the session with a call for all interested accountants to consider political office. People who understand balance sheets are needed at all levels of government, he said.
W&M MBA-MAcc dual degree student Linc Puffer says, “Jon’s presentation was highly entertaining – and very thought-provoking as well. While I enjoyed so many aspects of the trip – the presentations at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury as well as a great meal out with my Global Mindset Competition team – I think this was my favorite.”
Shortly after we left Capitol Hill, FASB Practice Fellow Lauren Alexander updated the group about FASB joint projects with the IASB, as well as other current agenda topics in financial reporting.
The trip ended with a trip to the IMF. Issues from how IMF loans are accounted for to how countries’ fiscal viability is rated were covered by a range of speakers from countries all over the world.
MAcc student Harry Boafo found the visit especially illuminating. “I was amazed to see how people from diverse cultures work together, with a common goal and interest, to achieve a common objective,” he says.
“The overarching goal of the trip is to demonstrate the critical private sector –public sector interplay in the US economy,” Tom White explains. “And I think we did that.”
MAcc student Matt Richards sums up his experience this way, “One of the things I discovered from visiting all of these organizations is the range of opportunities available to accountants. Each of the organizations we visited depends upon the knowledge and experience of accountants in writing and enforcing regulations. Even Capitol Hill was sincerely interested in getting more professionals into their ranks with a financial/business background. While I am still very intent on a career in public accounting, it is exciting to know that there are many other career options available to accountants as they gain experience.”
It isn’t easy getting the whole class on the road and in the door at so many key places. But it is a project the W&M MAcc team commits to every year because it provides our students an unparalleled education. And that’s why Veris Consulting, LLC (www.verisconsulting.com) and its Chairman, Larry Johnson, are pleased to provide corporate sponsorship of the Veris CPATREK as well. Veris has a long standing tradition of recruiting the best and the brightest accounting students from W&M, and with this sponsorship, continues its commitment to William & Mary and the Mason School's next generation of accounting students and business leaders.