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Companies supporting CPAs

A symbiotic relationship in action

Corey Butler, MNCPA communications manager | April 2019 Footnote

It’s a simple story, and one that you’ve heard countless times. Heck, it’s one you can relate to.

Jerah Flynn’s life would be on an entirely different trajectory had he not earned his CPA credential. But, where his story differs from many MNCPA members working in industry is that he obtained — and maintains — his credential with full support of his company, Federated Mutual Insurance.

“In order for me to get to this level at my company, I had to get my CPA,” said Flynn, the accounting manager over cash management and treasury. “Without Federated’s support, I probably wouldn’t have earned my CPA.”

The Owatonna-based company not only encouraged Flynn to advance himself — and, in turn, increase his value to the company — they backed up their vocal support by paying for study materials, providing paid time off the day before and the day of each test, and offering cash rewards for passing each section of the exam. Since earning his CPA credential, Federated has paid for Flynn’s CPE, as well as provided paid time off for his education.

Though not as scarce as a Twins home opener with tropical temps, companies aren’t always known for providing as much support to their CPAs — if any at all.

Increasingly, though, companies are seeing the value in funding credentials for employees. A 2019 Robert Half survey of more than 1,100 CFOs at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees found that 94 percent of respondents said their companies pay for some or all of the costs to obtain professional certifications. Ninety-five percent provided full or partial support to maintain those credentials.

That’s an increase from 2016 when 76 percent of the more than 2,200 respondents said their companies supported maintaining credentials.

Both are significant increases from 2012 data, when only 26 percent of CFOs reported their businesses fully or partially covered costs to maintain professional certifications, as reported by Financial Management. In 2006, according to a similar survey, it was 46 percent.

Same song, different singers

Mark Lais shared a similar experience as Flynn at U.S. Bank, where he is the audit project manager who leads audit engagements over risk management functions. U.S. Bank paid for materials, the exams, time off and ongoing CPE.

Like Flynn, Lais sees this support not only as an investment in him, but also in his company.

“I think my work life would be different without the CPA credential,” he said. “It would be one less achievement that I would be able to point to. Earning my CPA is evidence that I was able to deliver when my employer empowered me.”

Chris Austin took a slightly different, but familiar, route than that of Lais and Flynn. He obtained his CPA while working in public accounting at Eide Bailly LLP in 2006, later arriving at Mankato-based Taylor Corporation in 2013. Though those important three letters came attached to him upon his hiring, Taylor Corporation has been supportive of Austin maintaining his credential in similar ways to the aforementioned Minnesota employers. In fact, Taylor Corporation has an incentive program encouraging staff accountants to obtain their CPAs.

Austin said company leaders understand the value the credential brings to the table.

“Taylor Corporation has benefited from their investment in the learning opportunities because they have more knowledgeable employees,” he said. “This drives savings through tax efficiencies and a reduction in outside adviser costs, especially during times of significant changes to both income and sales tax laws.”

What does it mean to them?

It’s important.

That’s the word all three men shared when asked what it means to have their respective companies support their careers in an ongoing fashion, providing them value not only as an employee of a business, but as a contributor to a larger effort.

“Earning the CPA was a goal I set for myself before joining U.S. Bank,” Lais said. [Having U.S. Bank’s] support helped me to build trust and loyalty to the company because both my personal and employer’s goals aligned.”

For Austin, it signals that Taylor Corporation is dedicated to having and maintaining quality employees.

“They care about my continued growth in my professional career,” he said.

It’s a similar story east on Highway 14 to Owatonna, where Federated Mutual Insurance anchors Interstate 35.

“Federated preaches continuing education and fully supporting us to maintain the credential,” Flynn said. “This allows us to stay on top of applicable changes in the industry, which helps us tremendously in our jobs.”

Convincing others in the cause

Flynn is blunt about the role his employer plays in his professional life.

“I think employers should support their employees in seeking and maintaining credentials, especially in industry where employees don’t always need to maintain an active CPA,” he said.

Additionally, Lais said money goes a long way in showing that support.

“The costs are unfortunately quite high, especially for recent college graduates that are just realizing how much student loan payments and taxes are taking from their paychecks,” Lais said. “Another way to help is telling your employees they can stay late in the office if they want to study at work in a quiet environment.”

Austin said it’s imperative for industry leaders to see the value in the CPA credential and, thus, support their employees in being the best versions of themselves.

“Investing in your employees is always a good investment, and even more so during a time when accountants are in high demand by employers,” he said. “Having programs that push your employees to obtain and/or maintain the CPA credential is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to their careers and, in turn, the employer receives a better work product.”

Corey Butler is the MNCPA communications coordinator. You may reach him at 952-885-5533 or

Making a business case for staying active

Love your letters? Yes, you do!

Love your letters! How about you?

When was the last time you had a conversation with your employer about supporting your CPA certificate? If it’s been awhile, perhaps it’s time to speak up.

Remember, you were hired for a reason. And, often, that reason has a lot to do with those three letters behind your name. Your CPA designation is a tangible reminder of the knowledge, expertise and wisdom you bring to the table.

Companies, clients and colleagues see CPA and know you mean business — literally. You’re well-versed in making a business case for initiatives you believe in. Do the same for yourself. Educate your employer on why their support of your active CPA certificate is critical for you as a professional and them as an organization.

Negotiating a new role? Use your active CPA certificate as a bargaining chip — as in, I’ll bring the smarts if you bring the support. It’s the ideal time to advocate for what you need as a professional.

Ready to go active?

There’s no time like the present to convert your inactive CPA to active. Bonus: You can make the change any time during the year.

Once you’ve earned 120 CPE credits within a three-year period, submit your paperwork and fees to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy. Your active CPA certificate will arrive in less than two weeks!

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