Success by All Accounts: McIntire’s PricewaterhouseCoopers Center for Innovation in Professional Services Provides Unmatched Learning Opportunities

May 29, 2019
Eric Negangard
Accounting Professor Eric Negangard

Dedicated to contributing and sharing new knowledge across the professional services industry, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Center for Innovation in Professional Services at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce hosted a notable schedule of events throughout the spring 2019 semester.

Generous support from longtime McIntire corporate partner PricewaterhouseCoopers allowed the Center to strengthen its program offerings featuring notable scholars, insightful speakers, and topical Commerce School faculty-led discussions. In addition to offering a slate of integrated sessions designed to address the specific needs of McIntire Accounting students and faculty, the Center also launched its Distinguished Speaker Series this year, welcoming interested scholars, professors, and professionals from schools and organizations around the nation.

Distinguished Speaker Series Takes Off
Kicking off the Distinguished Speaker Series April 12, Université Laval Professor Yves Gendron, a preeminent scholar widely known for his work in qualitative research, presented his paper “Accounting Firm Office Design as a Technology of Neoliberal Governmentality” to McIntire’s Accounting faculty, before leading a deep dive on his subject of expertise.

Gendron followed his paper presentation with a workshop on consuming and conducting qualitative accounting research. Providing invaluable information on the topic, the session shed light on best practices for engaging with, publishing, and making sense of the journey of qualitative research in accounting literature. An illuminating panel on new studies in the field closed out the workshop.

“The qualitative sessions exceeded my expectations in several ways,” says Gendron. “The domain of accounting research in the U.S. has until now been mostly quantitative. Yet in the last several years, a number of North American accounting journals have provided space for qualitative studies. One important problem for scholars to address relates to providing training to accounting researchers in North America—those who have been trained as quantitative researchers but would like to learn more about qualitative research.”

The seminar was open to scholars from outside of the University, and welcomed guests from JMU, University of Richmond, VCU, Washington & Lee University, and Virginia Tech, as well as the University of Delaware, University of Dayton, Bentley University, and Florida Southern College. Offering resources and advice gleaned from his vast experience—including a reading list of books and articles he considers important referents on qualitative research—Gendron says that the speaker series attendees were actively engaged with the subject at hand.

“I hope they were provided with a sense that qualitative accounting research is a meaningful way of researching accounting phenomena and to develop one’s career,” he says.

Two Appeals for Transparency and Ethics
At a Feb. 15 event held for McIntire’s Accounting faculty earlier in the semester, Professor Bridget Stomberg of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business presented “The Effect of Reporting Complexity and Proprietary Costs on Voluntary Tax Disclosure,” a paper co-authored with Anne C. Ehinger of Florida State University and Joshua A. Lee and Erin Towery, both of the University of Georgia.

The session delved into their paper’s analysis of the relative importance of inputs affecting managers’ voluntary disclosure decisions, while also examining the drivers of voluntary income tax disclosures, which Stomberg revealed to be an understudied yet essential issue in the wake of demand for greater tax transparency among regulators and activists.

Another speaker recognizing the importance of transparency and having firsthand experience navigating the pitfalls of unethical accounting—Aaron Beam—shared his story about becoming embroiled in a $3 billion accounting fraud that resulted in both a historically large corporate fraud case and his imprisonment in a federal institution in 2003.

The co-founder and original CFO of HealthSouth (now Encompass Health) explained the strain of corporate culture behind the crime, the mechanics of unethical accounting, and the crucial role of ethics and integrity in the current business environment. The April 29 session was open to all McIntire students, with particular relevance for students of GCOM 7360: “Forensic Accounting” and COMM 4150: “Introductory Auditing.”

In-House Auditing Authorities
The Center also produced unique and informative sessions specifically for Accounting students to provide them with indispensable expertise directly from the Commerce School’s top-notch faculty.

In March, Associate Dean of Innovation Roger Martin and Accounting Professor Eric Negangard presented “The Current Status and Future of the Auditing Profession.” Detailing the audit industry while stressing the significance of audit quality, Martin highlighted the auditor’s critical role in financial markets. The session provided a context for understanding the expansive landscape of the profession, including its financial, legal, and regulatory compliance incentives.

Negangard then looked toward the immediate future, weighing the challenges and opportunities afforded by blockchain, robotic process automation, and advanced data analytics, disruptive technologies poised to forever change the traditional audit model.

“Eric and I shared our views about how the future of auditing might be viewed by combining that view of the broad environment with what is happening in technology and the change in capabilities, economics, and competition that will result in the auditing profession,” Martin says. “These students will be affected by this change starting the first week of their jobs, so the pace of change should be something they expect. They should think about how to use their technological skills and adaptability to their advantage in their careers.”

What’s Next
Negangard says that plans for the Center include a future installment of the Distinguished Speaker Series next year. The Center will feature Jeffrey Hales, Professor of Accounting at The University of Texas at Austin and chair of the Sustainably Accounting Standards Board (SASB), an independent nonprofit that develops reporting standards enabling businesses to financially identify, manage, and communicate sustainability information to investors. Hales will deliver a presentation on sustainability relevant to students and faculty interested in this crucial global issue. He will also present a research paper to McIntire and Darden faculty during his visit; the Center intends to extend invitations to UVA colleagues outside of Accounting and to scholars from universities in the surrounding area for the presentation.

And because of the unprecedented level of interest generated from the qualitative research in accounting event, the Center hopes to host an expanded, multiday version of the seminar, complete with extending an invitation for Gendron’s return to Grounds.

Negangard is enthusiastic about the outcomes of the events held this year, and he and his colleague at the Center, McIntire Accounting Professor Jennifer Winchel, offer their great appreciation to PricewaterhouseCoopers and all involved.

“Thanks to the generous funding provided by the PwC Center for Innovation in Professional Services, we were able to have a very cool and exciting series of events,” Negangard says. “The Center allows us to be innovative in how we engage faculty, students, and practitioners. On behalf of everyone able to participate in this year’s events, we express our sincere gratitude!”