Why does everyone hate accountants?


The title says it all. I mean I get it, just want everyone else's perspective. I would say my hatred started with the "this is my break from invoicing and my time to be important" smile those bastards give you when you finally need your help with something.

Comments (51)

Oct 18, 2019 - 7:52pm

Accountants are generally very under paid. People didn’t appreciate enough the technical knowledge accountants have and they are just fixated in the mindset that accountants just do invoices and not well paid (people tend to look up to well paid positions sadly). I’ve been in both accounting and IB. So far, I found accountants much more technical than bankers. The skills that I gained in accounting would not be gained else where. You learned to focus on the minor details as an accountant whereas bankers are more high-level, deal driven.

Oct 18, 2019 - 7:59pm

My company is paying for my master's in accounting. It's hard. I have a good accounting background, but the real, true GAAP stuff is not intuitive, at least until things start to really click. Until the moment of click, this is some really bizarre stuff.

Oct 18, 2019 - 9:16pm

Because most accountants are dry, boring, and stale as f**k. Very risk averse, and by the book type of people.

My brother is a cpa and I live on the opposite end of the risk spectrum. Let's just say we don't talk too often unfortunately.

"Out the garage is how you end up in charge It's how you end up in penthouses, end up in cars, it's how you Start off a curb servin', end up a boss"
Oct 19, 2019 - 3:11am

16 years ago I was taking an accounting class during the summer at another school in a bigger city.

In my class happened to be an older bank exec who once was a COO for a major hospitality company. We would study together. He was there to get some accounting knowledge. Maybe for a third act in private equity.

He told me, this is the order of people getting paid during a deal (I guess major business event like M&A), first the Management, then the Investment Bankers, then the Lawyers, and finally the Accountants.

Fast forward 16 years until today, and accounting has provided me with income during the darkest days of the Great Recession (I had switch to finance but came back), to growing companies and teams while working with operations folks as part of Management.

Even though in the executive’s example the Accountants were at the bottom of the food chain, they were in the game which helps you get in the game.

CPA is a great credential. Numerous times I’ve worked with investors who are or were accountants and we have this bond.

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
Oct 19, 2019 - 7:56am

Operations/certain senior leadership functions dont appreciate when the controller or someone tells them they cant account for something in the way most beneficial for their bonuses, but besides that I dont think anyone hates accountants. People on this forum look down on them because of compensation.

With that being said, you can still make really strong comp in accounting but it generally comes way later in your career than in certain high finance positions.

You generally make more money working in corporate finance than accounting as well Ive found (at least at lower levels). Understanding how to model the inner workings of a business is extremely valuable.

Most Helpful
Oct 19, 2019 - 8:30am

I think perception is different on these boards versus in real life. Most people in real life, after having a few years under their belt, realize they don't know everything and finance professionals especially understand how important accounting knowledge is for what they do. I worked in FDD before pivoting directions to more operations-oriented finance and I never felt like a second-class citizen by the bankers/PE guys I worked with nor the CFO/controllers whose companies I was helping sell. They appreciated whatever I brought to the table, even though they made multiples of what I do in terms of comp. I've also seen plenty of my peers pivot to investment banks at MM/boutique banks. They wouldn't have been given that shot if people truly thought accountants are useless

As to why accountants get shit on these boards is anybody's guess. My hunch is that most peoples' peers in accounting are still pretty green in their career, which means they're starting off in audit or got churned after 2 years with the Big 4 and are in a low growth industry role as a Senior Accountant/Senior Financial Analyst. Audit really does suck as much as people say it does, IME, because you work an obscene amount and get paid peanuts to do so. Plus, the work is really compliance-heavy and essentially a regulatory requirement that nobody will pay top dollar for. Once you move up in the corporate finance world, after doing time with the Big 4, the pay and work gets a lot more interesting and value-add, like with any career.

The work is also changing and it's becoming much more data-analytics heavy and about monitoring KPIs or operational/financial data to support executive decisions. I think now is an exciting time (or at least as exciting as GAAP can be) to get into the field.

Oct 19, 2019 - 7:55pm

Certainly if you want to have a lengthy successful career you need to start working on business analytics/business intelligence to differentiate yourself. If you are skillful with that stuff and build the requisite industry knowledge you are extremely valuable. Im working on that piece myself because knowing the technology can net you a high comp director seat much faster than not knowing it.

Oct 21, 2019 - 8:38am

As someone who's shared both sides as a "wall street" finance type interfacing with accountants and as an internal corp finance type, having to work hand-in-hand with accountants and controllers, I share your opinion there's enormous value in the folks who have to handle the intricate, minutiae of accounting and record-keeping and those who can paint broad strokes around strategy and value creation. They're two sides of the same coin: we can't have confidence in our historical or projected financials if we don't believe that have competent accounting and finance folks working to preserve the general ledger's integrity, but we also won't have the vision, direction, and dialogue to grow a company without someone who gets their head out of the weeds. I appreciate this a lot more now that I'm further along in my career (~10 years) than at the beginning of it, which encapsulates the younger age cohort these message boards skew towards. And in realizing all that I don't know, I ultimately have to lean on others' subject expertise and not just 'hate' on accountants. I am sympathetic to the numerous ways that accountants and GAAP are bound by some very questionable and rigid rules of how to account for some things, but alas, I'm aware those rules are partially written on behalf of interested parties who want to keep in their favor.

Oct 21, 2019 - 9:33am

That perspective is great and consistent with my own experiences interacting with other professionals and how my perceptions of others' careers have changed after I started working. One thing I will say regarding GAAP is that people (includes accountants and professionals utilizing financial statements) focus too much on the idea that it's a rigid set of rules and less so on the fact that it's a(n extremely) conservative estimate of the economic value the firm is generating. It's a valuable framework/starting point, but that's about it.

For example, GAAP wants companies to expense R&D as operating expenses while investors often want to capitalize these amounts as assets and amortize them over their useful life. Even as a CPA, I wouldn't necessarily think the investors/companies looking to buy a Target are crazy. The definition of an asset is in fact consideration given up for expected future value, which R&D should be producing. The reason why these amounts are expensed under GAAP, however, is that a lot of R&D fails and earnings would fluctuate wildly if companies capitalized these expenses and recorded an impairment after the research failed to yield a commercially viable product. This is why GAAP guides the way it does; not because accountants are boring or whatever.

Neither perspective is necessarily wrong, but I feel like both parties can get overly rigid in the way they were trained and be seen by the other as either "too risk adverse" or "too overzealous". Both parties have a fair point, and it really comes down to working together, along with the scientists, and other departments at the Target, to assess what the fair value of the R&D asset should be. This happens a lot in real life, but even in some of the negotiations i worked on, experienced professionals on both sides of the coin sometimes miss this concept.

Oct 19, 2019 - 10:12am

Mostly because the only time I interact with the bean counters is when they change the comp plan or mess up my commission checks. Leads to me naturally disliking them.

Oct 19, 2019 - 3:09pm

I once correctly guessed, on the first try, a woman's profession as Accountant by how terrible her jokes and sense of humor were through a Tinder communication.

Oct 19, 2019 - 10:22pm

I think the perception of accountants is significantly worse in the US than in other Anglo-Saxon countries. The idea of becoming a CPA at a Big 4 is anathema if you are at an ivy-league school or even a lot of better private schools whereas I have heard the Big 4 is the largest employer of Oxbridge grads in the UK.

Accountants probably end up being underrated in some cases. Take the mining industry for instances. A lot of the guys doing big deals and running the show at the top of the industry have an accounting background. If you don't have a technical background, accounting is a valuable asset in the more old school fields.

But that seems to require a certain kind of risk-loving accountant, one who likes to be creative. Which is not necessarily the mold most staff accountants you might deal with day-to-day are made from.

Oct 20, 2019 - 12:51pm

Most accountants I know seem pretty chill

An incoming medical student interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.
Oct 21, 2019 - 1:01am

Maybe because they think all accounting is AP.
From what I've heard it can actually be pretty cool. Accounting is like law in that you need to memorize a lot of specific rules. Sometimes I try googling accounting stuff and end up seeing a 200+ page guide on the topic.

Oct 21, 2019 - 1:38pm

This. To the average person on the street, bankers are the most hated, followed by lawyers. Most people who have accountants probably like them for saving them time and money.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Oct 21, 2019 - 9:13am

CPA has several tracks:

  1. Big 4 - One of the best ways to learn the inner workings of large corps. May be dry, but excellent training, client exposure, etc. Many will go on to work for a client and rise in their ranks. Lifelong college buddy did just that and is an F150 CFO. Other tracks include staying with the firm and working your way to partner (grind - but very lucrative)

  2. Have very good friends who started B4 and left to start their own firm. They do the same lines (audit, assurance, tax, advisory just on a regional basis with smaller companies. They were recently acquired by a larger regional and made a ton in the sale plus continue to earn a great living as a partner. They really are "Advisors" to their clients as they handle everything from tax and audit, to sourcing acquisition funding, to selecting C- Suite candidates, to M&A. Kings of the local market.

  3. Others hang a shingle and build a small, retail client centric practice. Many times including financial advisory (RIA) which grows to dwarf their CPA revenue.

Get away from the labels and perceived stigma. You can do a lot with a CPA license.

Oct 21, 2019 - 9:27am

I think they're two reasons accountants get hate (and I'm a CPA):

  1. No one knows what they really do. Whenever I tell someone I'm a CPA whats the first thing they say..."can you do my taxes". Most people only interact with a CPA for taxes or audits, which most don't fully understand anyway. Ever try explaining to people that getting more money back from your taxes is actually bad? (this is the same country which people couldn't realize the 1/3lb Wendy's hamburger was bigger than the 1/4lb at McD's). Truly, auditing and tax really aren't accounting, they're audit and tax. Different lines of work. They incoprate accounting, but so do a lot of banking roles. (Warren Buffet says accounting is a BIG part of investing). Accountants get stereotyped like cops though; if you see cops on TV, how many times do they pull our their guns vs real life?

  2. Accounting, by nature, doesn't have that swashbuckling or excitement angle. You can definitely make a lot of money in accounting, but it takes time. People don't want to hear that, they want to hear about one trade that netted $10M, or some guy who runs a hedge fund (which they don't understand what that is also). So most view it as boring, but don't undestand what really goes into it.

Oct 21, 2019 - 10:55am

People may hate *doing * accounting but I'm not sure that many people hate accountants. Accountants are incredibly useful in my work-life across the board. Perhaps the one thing I don't care for would be the lobbying efforts to make our tax and accounting codes so complicated that accountants command high rents.

Oct 21, 2019 - 11:41am

-CPA from public hoping to transition to finance with an MBA-

At my prior firm, some of the management carried themselves like they had the biggest wieners on the street. (My city doesn't have much of a banking presence but has plenty of PE and HF so I doubt they had the largest ones.) It pisses some people off when some of these guys get all high and mighty about working 70 hours a week, for 2 months, on an audit or tax return the client HAS TO BUY. Most of my fellow accountants were nice, smart, humble, hard working people that to be honest just didn't have much charisma. Only a few were the dicks that thought they made the world spin and those guys are in any industry.

I think what actually pisses most people off on this forum is that some accountants stand right next to biglaw or the high finance types on this forum like IB/PE/HF and act like they are similar "young professionals" when they went to some "non-target" you have never heard of and do tax accounting at KPMG. You worked really hard and ended up at a target school, got a BB internship and then you get pissed off when you get compared to some EY auditor, either by the accountant themselves, by peers, or other professionals.

I would say just ignore it and don't let it bother you. Public accountants get paid like firefighters the first 5 years of their career and like an IB associate for the next 10. If you are ripping on back office then chill out and say a prayer for those guys. They have to be your scribe and watch you make 5x the comp.

CEO of Butters' Kissing Company
Oct 21, 2019 - 12:27pm

That's probably the truest part about this. When you are working in the FO in PE/IBD/Consulting: parents, friends, girls only hear finance and say something along the lines of so-and-so also works in finance he is at X firm I'm sure you would get along... Look into it briefly and they are always deep back office and most likely an accountant from a non-target who has 0 peers that work in the FO, got his job after going to a career fair and never looked back.

Everyone who ends up in the first scenario then thinks why did this person just compare me to this average guy, without thinking too much about it, and that probably expands into all accountants are loser average people like him.

Not that accountants are a bad or anything, but there are a lot of people that just "fall" into accounting roles, they don't really understand it all the way but can get the job done. Not sure if you've noticed but most teams in IBD/PE are lean and you can't just get by for more than a year without getting pushed out. This makes it easier to get along with others in IBD/PE a bit easier since at least you know they are going through it all with you/ motivated and will talk to you about their job and you know wtf they are talking about.

Oct 21, 2019 - 1:40pm

Nobody wants to hear this but being an average Partner at a Big 4 Tax practice is as good as being an average banking MD, and a lot more sustainable once you reach that level. The funnel for accounting is bigger but a lot of people burn out of banking at the junior level as well.

Bankers just have a lot of insecurity around their titles and preftige.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Oct 21, 2019 - 2:46pm

I mostly agree but the average compensation is much lower and most firms (Big 4 included) put a cap on what your "Book Value" can be. So it can be difficult as a tax partner to get 7 digit compensation and very hard to get above 2mil without being a very senior partner and a regional department head. I believe the average Tax Partner at Big 4 is bringing in around 600k. (Per one of my old bosses.) I was told the 750k figure I found is for all Big 4 partners and once you back out the consulting and advisory partners compensation the figure drops a bit.

The real benefit is lifestyle and like you said it is much more sustainable. Average Tax Partner at Big 4 can really relax in non tax season. I'm talking 30 hours a week for a couple months with a few networking events. From what I hear (which might be useless b/c i'm not a banker), average banking MD's might consistently clear 1mil but will never see that kind of relief.

CEO of Butters' Kissing Company
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Oct 22, 2019 - 8:13am

You work BO at a bank and now you are trying to act like you are better than accountants? Wake up to reality dude. You aren't a hotshot as a credit analyst.

Oct 22, 2019 - 11:07am

They're seen as unapologetic sellouts.


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

Oct 22, 2019 - 12:51pm
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