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News and Events

Lyceum – Kurtis Krentz, Ernst & Young

Apr 4, 2016, 04:08 by Gies College of Business
by Tom Hanlon

Opportunities Gained Through the Accounting Profession

 Kurtis Krentz has traveled a long and winding road for 27 years for EY—a road whose turns he often could not foresee and that offered a broader horizon and greater opportunities than he anticipated. “I didn’t want to move; I moved three times,” he told students at an accounting lyceum in March. “I didn’t want to work with big SEC companies, and I ended up doing that. I was going to stay in client service and now I’m an assurance managing partner. “You never know what opportunities are going to come your way. But they will come your way, because the demand for you and for your accounting degree is extraordinarily high.” VALUABLE TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE Corporate America is poised to hire public accountants, Krentz said, because of the experience and training accountants receive on the job—management experience, relationship and development experience, conflict resolution, communication skills, leadership skills. “Corporate America knows they can’t replicate that training in their corporate setting because we’re working with different companies every day,” Krentz explained. “We go in to different companies and learn how they manage the business, how they operate, and soon we gain expertise in how various companies operate and best practices. Then we go into the next company and say, Here’s how other companies do it, and we help them improve how they operate. There’s no other profession that allows you to study companies’ businesses and gain those unique perspectives. That’s incredibly valuable.” GREAT OPPORTUNITIES IN PUBLIC ACCOUNTING

“It’s hard to think of a profession that provides more opportunities than public accounting,” says Kurtis Krentz. “The opportunities I’ve had in 27 years with EY have been amazing. It’s not a narrow profession even when you stay with one company. And the doors it opens for you outside of public accounting are even more impressive. The demand for you and your job security are terrific once you have spent some time in the profession.”

Krentz advised students to stay in public accounting for at least five years. “That might seem like a long time, but it’s not much in the course of a career,” he said. “And in that five years you will gain invaluable experience through a world-class training program. And the longer you stay in, the higher your entry point in corporate America.” EVER GREATER OPPORTUNITIES That world-class training and that experience can lead to great opportunities, Krentz said. “When you think about someone we would define as special, they probably weren’t born with special DNA,” he noted. “They’ve just had experiences that created unique opportunities that put them in special positions.” And those opportunities are opening up as the world continues to get smaller, he added. “Public accounting is a global business, and that the world is getting smaller plays into your favor,” Krentz said. As an example of the world getting smaller, he mentioned many tasks that can be outsourced to other countries for lower costs. “But what can’t be outsourced is management, leadership, communication, relationship development,” he said. “As you think about your development, continue to strive for those experiences that will develop you in those areas, because that will drive your success.” THE IMPORTANCE OF PEOPLE SKILLS In terms of relationship development, Krentz noted that there’s not much people do in business that is not about relationships or their ability to develop relationships. “It will have a huge impact on how you progress,” he said. “In this environment you’re learning to deal with others on the team with various personalities. You participate and soon you lead a team. You develop relationships with your clients. Your ability to navigate and forge those relationships with your clients and talk to them about their business and the issues you’re finding is a critical skill that has nothing to do with public accounting. The ability to understand what makes people tick and connect with that, I can’t overstate its significance.” THE VALUE OF MENTORS Mentors play a crucial role in the development of new professionals, Krentz said. “Listen to people who have walked that path and get their perspectives. Glean the perspectives of your professors. I still have mentors I connect with. In public accounting you have access to a lot of mentors early. Then you hit a point where you become a mentor. The opportunity in public accounting to get both sides of that is really powerful.” FOUR CRITICAL CHARACTERISTICS Krentz also touched on some critical characteristics of successful accountants: integrity, patience, passion, and curiosity. “The foundation of auditing is integrity,” he said. “If you don’t have integrity it will be difficult to succeed and develop relationships. It doesn’t take much to build a career over a period of decades and have it be gone in a flash. Don’t do anything to compromise your integrity. Your integrity is absolute. It has to be unwavering.” Krentz said if he could go back and mentor himself, he would tell himself to be more patient. “I went in immediately thinking what’s next. Be patient; get the experience. If you’re feeling impatient and not sure what to do, talk with a mentor. It won’t serve you well to have a lot of jobs over your first few years. “Beyond that, two of the greatest traits you can have are passion and curiosity. They will carry you to a lot of places. Passion and curiosity will drive your career.” EQ OVER IQ And all the intelligence in the world won’t help you if you can’t communicate well and relate to people. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t explain an answer, it doesn’t matter what your IQ is,” he said. “Some people who aren’t the smartest connect with people really well. They can navigate a room, navigate an issue, and resolve conflicts.” IDENTIFY SOLUTIONS Krentz’s final advice for students was to focus on identifying solutions. “There are infinitely enough people identifying the problem and not enough people identifying solutions,” he said. “It’s easy to find things that are wrong. Take the next step and figure out the solution. You’ll differentiate yourself by approaching it that way.” “NO BETTER PLACE TO START A CAREER” Krentz urged students to realize the benefits of the profession. “I am convinced there is no better place to start a career than in public accounting,” he said. “It will take you places you could not even imagine and open up doors of opportunity for you both inside and outside of the profession, because the business environment recognizes what you’re getting through public accounting. It’s really a no-miss career choice in my view. “And just about the time you get comfortable, something comes along that stretches you outside of your comfort zone and presents new challenges. There has never been a point in my 27 years where I feel I’ve plateaued.” Krentz_Kurtis2