PwC Chief Says Global Perspective More Important Than Ever
Accounting faculty at C. T. Bauer College of Business had a rare opportunity to sit down over lunch with Samuel DiPiazza, Jr., Global Chief Executive Officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s leading accounting firms, when the University of Houston alum recently came to campus.
DiPiazza (MS ACCY ’73) led a far-reaching conversation that ranged from his recent appointment as Chairman of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (after serving as vice-chair for several years) to generational changes typical of young accountants hired by PwC, to impending changes in international accounting standards and their effect on accounting programs such as Bauer’s.
DiPiazza said U.S. businesses were well behind their international counterparts in paying attention to issues of sustainability, a concept he defined as including but not limited to environmental initiatives.
“Energy is a big piece of it,” he said, “but it also includes good health, good education, issues of poverty.”
“One day every corporation is going to have to report sustainability,” he added.
On the subject of newly graduated accountants, DiPiazza said most if not all have far different goals than those of previous generations. Whether they live in the U.S., India or the U.K, most have a strong sense of social responsibility and a different approach to their work life, he said.
“They expect different things out of life. I signed up for a career. Our young people come looking for an experience and when the experience gets old, they go away. That’s a huge issue,” he added.
Bauer’s diversity, he said, makes it a particularly valuable place to find business graduates with the global perspective clients desire and expect. He noted that PwC’s leadership team includes people from 16 different countries, and that most spend their time traveling rather than tied to a particular office.
In an earlier session with students he advised them to listen closely to the people they admire, “but don’t try to be them, be yourself.” DiPiazza said those who keep a constant focus on business “become boring,” and noted that he’s read all seven of the Harry Potter books.
DiPiazza also told faculty that “Somewhere in the next 10 years, there will be a big movement toward multinational standards for accounting in the U.S.” and that by teaching those standards to students, “you will distinguish yourself.”
Michael Newman, Director of Accounting Programs and Visiting Accounting Professor, said the department is keeping ahead of that and other major changes in the profession. As Big Four accounting firm retention grows, the department is shifting its focus by preparing more students for mid-sized accounting firms and internal auditing positions. “We are one of the first and few that have an in-depth internal audit program,” he said. Newman expects to offer a class in international standards by next fall.
DiPiazza advised faculty to explain to students that huge changes don’t happen overnight. “This will evolve during their career,” DiPiazza said. “That will mean that what they’re learning today is important, but what they’ll learn over the course of their career is really expansive.”
DiPiazza who co-wrote Building Public Trust: The Future of Corporate Reporting in 2002, is a trustee of the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation and also serves as Chairman, Board of Trustees of The Conference Board, Inc. He is an Executive Committee member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Committee on Corporate Affairs.
He said other leaders are sometimes surprised when he explains that he got his degrees from the University of Alabama and University of Houston, but credits UH with making him feel more welcome than other schools. “They actually cared if I showed up.”
DiPiazza expressed concern about the challenge schools face since the number of hours required to take the Certified Public Accounting exam was increased – but Newman said the department is meeting that challenge by helping students find scholarships, as well as internships and work-study opportunities that are directly related to accounting positions they’ll be seeking.
“We’re coming up with innovative solutions for a lot of the problems facing both employers and our students,” Newman said.
By Julie Bonnin
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Bauer College of Business
The C.T. Bauer College of Business has been in operation for more than 60 years at the University of Houston main campus. Through its five academic departments, the college offers a full-range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in business. The Bauer College is fully accredited by the AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In August 2000, Houston business leader and philanthropist Charles T. (Ted) Bauer endowed the College of Business with a $40 million gift. In recognition of his generosity, the college was renamed the C.T. Bauer College of Business.