Jessica Pollock had never even visited New York City when she started her job there last winter with tax, audit, and advisory firm KPMG. Pollock, a native of Washington state, was among 51 recent graduates of a pilot Master of Accounting with Data Analytics program that serves as a pipeline to KPMG, and she landed in New York to start her new job as an associate in January of 2018 — right in the middle of one of the worst winter storms in memory.
“It was some crazy winter storm name,” Pollock tells Poets&Quants about the January 2018 storm precipitated by a “bomb cyclone,” which many dubbed “Snowmageddon.” “I think I was flying out from my parents’ home to the city for the first time. I’d never even visited before. My flight was delayed three days. I finally got on one of the first incoming flights into the city and the streets still weren’t cleared. It was a mess!
“That was my first impression of New York, and where I would be living for the foreseeable future — but honestly, it took me probably three days even in the terrible weather to fall in love with the city. I have been in the same place since.”
AN AUDITING PROGRAM ‘AT THE FOREFRONT OF CHANGE’
The KPMG Master of Accounting program began as a joint program with Villanova, which Pollock attended, and The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. It has since grown to nine B-schools, including Arizona State’s Carey School of Business, Georgia’s Terry College of Business, and USC’s Leventhal School of Accounting.
The program integrates traditional accounting and auditing courses with the real-world application of technologies and advanced data and analytics capabilities “to develop accountants for the digital marketplace,” according to KPMG, which pays tuition and a stipend for selected students who then go on to work for the company. From 51 initial participants the program has ballooned to 135, and may grow even larger, company spokespersons have said.
“With their grasp of new technology and their unique perspective of how advances in technology will continue to disrupt the auditing profession, these professionals differentiate the firm among our clients,” says Jackie Daylor, KPMG’s national managing partner for audit quality and professional practice. “The master’s program positions the participants and the firm to drive audit quality from the front lines of technological change.”
In addition to the academic work, participants intern with KPMG. The second group of KPMG participants are in the midst of their academic coursework and will begin interning with the firm in January 2019.
“This program truly is ground-breaking and foresighted. The auditing landscape will change over the coming years, and this program allows you to be on the forefront of that change,” says Amy DeVoe, a graduate from the program who is working in the firm’s New York office.
WHERE THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTING INDUSTRY IS MOVING?
Working with DeVoe is Jessica Pollock, who entered the KPMG program at Villanova straight out of undergraduate school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, from which she graduated in the spring of 2017. That summer before starting at Villanova, Pollock interned in KPMG’s Seattle office.
“I was always interested in KPMG as a firm,” she says. “Even before I learned about the program itself, I was extremely interested in someday working for KPMG. Then when this program came out, I just thought it was an absolutely incredible opportunity. Being in the first year, I definitely thought it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. Hearing about the definite benefits during the program in what you would learn in your courses, your basic enhanced accounting knowledge but also at the same time adding in that data analytics piece to the education, I thought was really great.”
Pollock found the program challenging — and rewarding. Analytics is where the public accounting industry is moving as a whole, she says, and KPMG’s master’s of accounting is in the vanguard of graduate education. She joined the firm full-time in August right after graduating from Villanova.
“With this program, you are uniquely challenged to start thinking in a different way, because when you go through undergrad and you’re going through your accounting classes you learn those basics but you don’t necessarily have the data and analytics piece thrown into the mix,” she says. “I think that’s what was probably most challenging about this program — being forced to start thinking in a different way and to start incorporating those data and analytics skills, and really starting to understand to think critically about how you can apply those with your accounting knowledge to your future career.”