Accountants in business and industry work for companies ranging from family-owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies. They may work in a variety of areas including financial management, financial reporting, internal auditing, management accounting, and tax planning.
Financial analysts provide analytical support and analysis in support of business needs and overlying strategy. They anticipate information demands with sound analysis and decision-making support to business partners.
Investment Banking Analyst
Investment banking analyst positions entail extensive quantitative analysis of a variety of complex corporate and project finance transactions. Responsibilities include industry and company analysis, valuation of businesses, financial modeling, preparation of offering memorandums.
Corporate development experts interact with all business operating divisions to help those units achieve their strategic goals through acquisitions and divestitures.
Research analysts provide analysis on potential acquisition candidates, track trends and market situations in mergers and acquisitions, and develop new business opportunities.
Accountants working in the financial management area are responsible for analyzing a company's future financial needs, making presentations to and negotiating with banks and other investors, and managing an organization's cash and investments.
Responsibilities in this area include accumulating and verifying the data required for the preparation of the firm's financial statements.
Management accountants, with their detailed knowledge of a firm's operations and their accounting expertise, are playing an increasingly influential role in management decision-making. Most recent surveys of top-level business executives indicate that more of them have backgrounds in accounting and finance than in any other field.
As with public accounting, the size of the firm influences the work done by the management accountant. In small firms, employing only one or a few accountants, the management accountant acts as a generalist. In large firms, employing over one hundred accountants, there are opportunities for specialization. The work performed by the management accountant can be classified into the following areas: general accounting and costing, budgeting, internal auditing, and income tax accounting.
General Accounting and Costing
The general accounting department collects and records accounting data and prepares the financial statements used by the firm's management and others. The management accountant designs the accounting information system used to process business transactions. This includes providing accounting forms, information manuals, computer programs and reports designed to fit the needs of the firm's management. The accountant is especially concerned with generating relevant cost information for decision making.
Budgeting focuses on developing forecasts for the operations of a firm. Budgets serve two purposes. First, as a planning tool, they enable management to estimate the impact of the various actions being considered. This enables the firm to select the alternative with the most desirable risk-return relationship. Secondly, once a business plan is agreed upon and the budget finalized, it provides a measure against which the actual profitability of the firm can be measured. Analyzing the reasons for large variations from the planned results provides management with the information it needs to maintain efficient operations.
Most large firms maintain staffs of internal auditors. They are responsible for evaluating the efficiency of operations and determining whether a firm's established policies and procedures are being consistently carried out. The work of the internal auditor is similar to that of the independent auditor. The scope of the internal audit, however, may be broader than that of the annual external audit. For example, in an operational audit, the internal auditor examines how closely the firm's policies are being followed in the various functional areas. The auditor may seek to improve operations by proposing changes in company procedures. An internal auditor of a merchandising firm might seek to answer questions such as: Are the procedures for authorizing credit-card transactions being followed? What changes in the procedure would reduce losses from stolen credit cards?
Income Tax Accounting
For smaller firms, the independent public accountant typically prepares the tax returns and assists in tax planning. Large companies, on the other hand, may maintain their own tax departments. The functions performed by these departments are similar to those provided by the tax department of a public accounting firm, that is, tax planning, tax compliance and, frequently, tax accounting for financial reporting.
GOVERNMENTAL AND NON-PROFIT ACCOUNTING
Governmental agencies at the federal, state and local levels rely upon the work of accountants to ensure they carry out their duties in a responsible manner. At the federal level, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency hire large numbers of accountants. The General Accounting Office, which audits the operations of the federal government for Congress, employs many auditors and other accounting specialists. Other federal agencies employing accountants include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission.
At the state and local levels, accountants review and audit the millions of income tax, sales tax and payroll tax returns that accompany the tax payments that support these governmental units. They must also supervise the disbursement of tax receipts and perform periodic audits to ensure that these governmental agencies operate efficiently and effectively.
Nonprofit institutions, such as universities, hospitals, churches and museums, are concerned with the efficient utilization of their resources and rely upon the accountant to achieve this goal.