Securities & Exchange Commission, Professional Accounting Fellow
BBA 2004 Accounting, Finance
Professional Accounting Fellow at SEC
From The Iowa Ledger, 2013
Chris Rogers built a solid career at Deloitte even before his graduation in 2004 with a BBA in in accounting and finance, and a minor in psychology. While a student, he completed two busy-season internships in the Minneapolis audit practice at Deloitte. After graduation, Chris spent the next nine years following Deloitte advancement opportunities to New York; Washington, D.C.; and the firm’s national office in Connecticut.
Last fall, Chris was approached by firm leadership at Deloitte about his interest in the Professional Accounting Fellowship Program, a prestigious opportunity offered by the Office of the Chief Accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Honored and extremely interested, Chris was nominated for the fellowship by Deloitte’s selection committee. After four months of preparation and a rigorous application process, Chris was ecstatic to learn he was one of four candidates chosen by the SEC to be appointed to a two-year fellowship.
Chris shares his perspective during his first year as a Professional Accounting Fellow (PAF).
Ledger: How did you prepare for the PAF application process?
Chris: It was actually a pretty grueling multistep process. As part of my initial application, I was asked to write a thesis paper about an accounting topic in today’s business market that I felt was flawed. I wrote my paper about the financial asset derecognition model in U.S. GAAP and why I believe the existing accounting guidance is flawed. This an area in U.S. GAAP where we see significant structuring opportunities and at times abusive transactions that attempt to reduce the balance sheet and hide leverage. In my paper, I recommended what I believe to be a better accounting model, and defended that recommendation as a better reflection of the economics of derecognition transactions. I spent the months of November and December developing my views and drafting the paper, and submitted it with my application in early January.
After I submitted the application, I spent the next month and a half preparing for the interview day. Deloitte did a phenomenal job in interview prep. I met with leaders across the firm on various hot topics impacting the accounting and auditing profession to be better prepared for potential questions during the interview day. We also did several days of mock interviews where I presented my paper and answered questions in front of the partner group. The actual interview occurred in mid-February in Washington, D.C.
Ledger: How many candidates were there?
Chris: There were seven candidates and four were selected.
On the interview day, each of us sat on a stage in a large auditorium, and one by one, we presented and defended our papers to a panel of SEC staff, including the SEC chief accountant. The SEC staff asked questions and challenged our views. It was really an interesting experience to have all of us in one room and on the same stage because we each had the opportunity to listen to other candidates and see how the panel interacted with us.
After presenting our paper, the next phase of the interview included an open forum debate among all candidates. We were still in the large auditorium, on stage – and the panel asked our views on broad policy-based questions; anything related to industry, auditing, accounting, SEC reporting requirements, accounting implications from the Dodd-Frank Act, and various rulemakings the SEC puts forth. One topic covered that day is an item still hotly debated: mandatory audit firm rotation. I found it really interesting to listen to the other candidates’ perspectives on important policy matters.
The final portion of the day included a one-on-one interview with SEC senior staff, including the deputy and chief accountant.
Ledger: Congratulations on your selection and surviving intense and intimidating recruitment.
Chris: Thank you. It was a tremendous honor to be selected and has already been a phenomenal experience. The ironic thing is we are now beginning to prepare for next year’s selection process and I’m leading the recruiting efforts, which is kind of interesting since I just went through it six months ago. It is definitely a different experience being on this side of the process.
Ledger: The SEC.gov website says PAF assignments will be developed jointly by the chief accountant, deputy chief accountants, and the PAFs depending on the needs of the commission. Where were you placed and what do you do as a PAF?
Chris: I was placed in the accounting group of the Office of the Chief Accountant and my primary responsibilities are to support the SEC’s chief accountant in his day–to-day activities and the overall mission of the office. We have a multi-faceted mission in the Office of the Chief Accountant. The first is accounting standards setting. We take a very active role with the FASB and IASB in developing new accounting standards. As the regulator of all publically listed companies in the United States, we have a very unique insight into current accounting trends and practice issues. We use this information to help the FASB and IASB develop or revise accounting standards as needed and hopefully on a real-time basis.
The second part of our mission is oversight of public company financial reporting. This is probably my favorite part of the job. As part of our oversight role, we provide consultation to public companies either directly or through the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance on the appropriate accounting and financial statement presentation of various transactions. Often this is done through public companies submitting a “pre-clearance request” to our office asking us to not object to their proposed accounting treatment for a particular transaction. When we get a request, we research and debate the proposed accounting and then decide whether or not to object to the company’s proposal. Usually the issues that come to us are the most challenging and complex accounting issues being dealt with in practice.
The third part of our mission is to support the five divisions of the SEC, including the Division of Enforcement. This part of my role can be very interesting because we get involved in the SEC civil litigation process against parties who commit fraud, insider trading, or securities violations. When Enforcement is conducting an investigation that involves an accounting issue, whether it is a misapplication of accounting rules or fraud, they often look to us for a view on whether any accounting rules have been violated.
The last part of our mission is a broad but very interesting category – legislative activities in Congress as well as SEC rule making. In this area you get pulled a little out of your comfort zone and work in a political climate with legislative drafters who don’t necessarily know anything about accounting, but it is an opportunity for the SEC to influence how congressional legislation and SEC rules are written and to make sure the accounting impact is fully understood.
It’s been fun.
Ledger: Impressive responsibilities. Describe your typical day.
Chris: As you can imagine, every day is different. I spend the majority of my time on public company matters. We often interact with members outside this office; I deal frequently with the CEO or CFO of public companies consulting with our office. They will generally lay out an issue and their proposed accounting, and then I can be involved in several rounds of submissions and questions. I also interact heavily with the large accounting firms. When I’m working with legislative matters, I often speak with congressional staff or staff members at the U.S. Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve.
My very favorite part of this job is that no two days are the same and I’m often pushed way outside my comfort zone.
Ledger: What will happen after your two-year term as a PAF is over?
Chris: Actually I am not sure. Many former fellows have gone back into public accounting. That is certainly a possibility. At the moment, I am enjoying being a fellow and we’ll have to wait and see where this road leads me.
Ledger: How did the University of Iowa and the Tippie College of Business prepare you for this role?
Chris: Believe it or not, I came to the UI as a psychology major. My RA in Quad was a business student and convinced me to take the Introduction to Financial Accounting class as an elective and it immediately blew me away. I had a phenomenal professor and I was in love with accounting before I fully understood what accounting was. I eventually majored in accounting and finance, and the combination of both degrees prepared me well in my early days as an auditor.
I think what ultimately put me on the path to where I am today was when I attended Meet the Firms Night. I was a sophomore and had just one semester of accounting course work. I was introduced to Brian Mallaro, who was on campus recruiting for Deloitte’s Minneapolis office. He convinced me to do an internship that following winter and that’s where it all started. Brian is currently a partner in the audit practice in Minneapolis and a valued colleague of mine. I’m still in touch with him today.
I am grateful for my education at Iowa and in particular the value of Meet the Firms Night.