As a Professional Accounting Fellow in the Office of the Chief Accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Alexander J. Martin, MAcc ’10 works with a team of professionals dedicated to upholding the SEC’s three-part mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.
In his role in the Office of the Chief Accountant, Martin works directly with SEC registrants on consultations involving complex, unusual, or novel accounting issues, including areas where no clear authoritative guidance exists. He also works closely with other SEC Divisions to help support with activities such as enforcement actions, comment letters, and rulemaking. Additionally, he contributes to the SEC’s oversight of the FASB and PCAOB and their standard setting activities.
Martin, who previously worked as a Director in PwC’s Deals practice, had an interest in giving back to the profession of accounting since his time as a student at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, though admittedly his path to the SEC was not by predetermined design.
“One experience during my time at William & Mary that changed the trajectory of what I thought my career was going to be was the DC Trek. A group of us traveled to Washington, DC and met with staff at the SEC, the PCAOB, also the FASB up in Connecticut,” Martin explained. “It gave me a better appreciation for the other side of the accounting profession that involved standard setting, rulemaking, and regulation, so it was exciting when the fellowship opportunity presented itself almost a decade later. Now I get to be involved in all of those aspects of the profession!”
Gaining a New Perspective
A Virginia Beach native, Martin was familiar with William & Mary. After studying business at Old Dominion University for undergrad, he was debating whether to pursue a degree in law or earn his Masters of Accounting (MAcc).
“I was evaluating which path was the right fit for my professional career,” he explained. “I was really taken by William & Mary’s MAcc program when I came up for the interview. Miller Hall was brand new and had great facilities, and I really liked the curriculum. Their holistic approach definitely helped me see the forest through the trees coming from my undergrad program and having done internships in public accounting.”
As a MAcc student, Martin said he received a good grounding in some of the broader areas of the financial reporting system and that understanding served him well as he embarked on his professional career.
“I could see my part of the bigger whole and I was able to help other groups at PwC which was important for my role in the Deals practice,” he said.
Martin joined PwC following graduation from the MAcc program and spent the next decade working as a director in the company’s Deals practice, where he helped clients solve complex accounting, financial reporting, and business issues that arise from deals and other transaction-driven events such as mergers and acquisitions, investments, restructurings, and accounting changes.
“Anytime a large company had a complex transaction, it inevitably involved a lot of different stakeholders from different parts of the organization – my team was just one piece of a much larger puzzle,” he explained.
Accounting Through a New Lens
When Martin learned about the SEC’s fellowship program, he knew it was the right next move for him professionally.
“I thought it was an opportunity to round out my understanding of the financial reporting system, especially from a regulator’s perspective. Until that point, I’d worked as an advisor for preparers and registrants, whereas the fellowship would allow me to be on the other side of the equation serving as an advocate for investors,” he said.
Now halfway through the two-year fellowship, Martin is looking forward to bringing back a regulator’s perspective to his future professional endeavors, wherever they may lay.
Martin also hopes to maintain the strong relationships with the SEC staff he’s built as a part of this experience.
“The amount of diligence and rigor performed at the SEC is impressive. The people there are truly top-notch. Everything is fully thought through and their teams are composed of some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I’ve been so impressed at the level of due care that the professionals at the SEC give to everything they work on,” he said.
But regardless of where he may end up professionally following his tenure as a Professional Accounting Fellow, Martin plans to keep broadening and deepening his knowledge and understanding of the accounting profession.
“The MAcc program showed me that there’s always something else to learn and that is something that I have carried with me throughout my career, including my time as a fellow at the SEC,” he said. “I always share with people that staying open minded, keeping an eye on the big picture, and continuing to learn are three things that have served me well in my career and are incredibly applicable to anyone’s career regardless of what that individual journey looks like.”