Meet one of today’s leaders in the accounting profession, Francine McKenna, CPA. With more than twenty-five years of experience in consulting and professional services including tenure at two Big 4 firms, both in the US and abroad, Francine has a lot say. Through her speaking engagements, articles, her blog re: The Auditors, and more, Francine lays it on the line. Smart, engaging material…spectacular reading, I must say.
Q: Coming from a Big Four background, you’ve carved out a very interesting niche for yourself. Was this by design?
When I look at all my experience I see a straight line through the scatter diagram that’s led to writing and to writing about what I know the best and am most interested in the world of business. I can’t say it was by design but I don’t do anything by default. I just create as many options as possible. I started out at the end of ’06 thinking the blog would be the platform for a book. I haven’t yet written the book. But the blog took off, mostly because of what started happening in 2007 then 2008. The more I wrote about the business of the big four firms in a critical way, the less employable at what I was doing before I was. And the more attention I got for my writing the more I wanted to write. So I committed to write as well as I could and make it a success, at least professionally.
Q: Any insights on where the future of auditing is headed? Or the future of Big Four (or whatever number that’s going to be)?
I would agree with PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty’s latest comments: “The audit industry is flirting with stagnation.” I said on Twitter that the industry is worse. It’s whoring for quarters, selling audit as a commodity again, capitulating to executives to save the engagements and looking for consulting to save the day. We’ve come full circle in ten years since SOx.
Q: If a young professional told you he/she wanted to get into auditing, what would you tell them?
Go into consulting instead.
Q: What would you most like the accounting profession to know about what’s going on in Washington D.C.?
There are good people in Washington DC who want to serve the public. Fortunately for the audit industry they are few and far between. Most from both parties can be bought. Unfortunately, it’s going to cost lobbyists and the audit industry PACs more and more to buy them and politicians are fickle. You have to keep paying to maintain their attention and loyalty.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do on a daily basis?
When journalists I respect say I’ve written something with impact. When my parents say don’t stop because I’m finally using my talents.
Q: What have been some of the key things you’ve learned throughout your career? What might you do differently if you could go back in time?
If I could go back in time I wouldn’t listen to anyone who said I had to wait to earn bigger pay and bonuses, to get my stripes first. I was doing the work well. I deserved to be rewarded for it long before I ever was.
Q: What’s in the future for Francine McKenna?
I just started in the Masters in Liberal Arts program at the University of Chicago. I want to teach. I’ve been visiting a lot of universities lately, talking with students and faculty. Before too much longer I’d like to fully live the life of the mind. And I will write a book, but it may be fiction.
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