Embrace challenges and buck monotony with the ABV® credential
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Embrace challenges and buck monotony with the ABV® credential

Feb 22, 2023 · 5 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

The career path of an accountant can be broad — going far beyond preparing taxes or performing audits — and it’s never too late to branch out by pursuing a specialization and gaining new proficiencies.

Forensic and valuation services (FVS) professionals, for example, are financial detectives and business experts. They are uniquely qualified to help clients through significant business interruptions and challenges, fraud, bankruptcy and other economic or valuation-related concerns.

Forensic accountants scrutinize fiscal data to find evidence of crime and often assist in criminal and civil investigations. Valuations specialists determine the economic value of a company or business, and their reports are used in a range of ways ― litigations, business sales, divorce proceedings and more.

It takes expertise to complete these jobs. The AICPA® Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV®) credential positions professionals as authorities in business valuation.

ABV credential holders work closely with CEOs and company founders to perform functions that include analyzing business risks, articulating financial opinions for litigation proceedings and generating valuation reports on mergers and acquisitions to clarify the assets of a company.

How does the ABV credential help in professional development? Listen to Jason Soman, Ann Gittleman, Nene Glenn Gianfala, Rob Kester and Brian Pearson, FVS professionals with varying backgrounds, interests and experiences, share what they love about the specialization and why they obtained the ABV credential.

Jason Soman: Surround yourself with experts

Jason Soman, CPA/ABV, ASA, CFE, CDFA®, learned business valuation was “so cool.”

During his accountancy internship, Soman said, he was “assigned to the business valuation and litigation support group” and worked with several established professionals who had the ABV credential. Thanks to that exposure, Soman knew he wanted to go straight into business valuation upon graduation.

He did everything he could to study for the CPA Exam and meet the eligibility requirements of the ABV credential. As soon as he received his CPA license in the mail in 2015, he applied for the ABV credential. (Eligibility requirements have changed, and a CPA license is no longer required to obtain the ABV credential.)

Soman, founder and managing member of Accounting & Valuation LLC, based in Boca Raton, Florida, appreciated how the ABV taught him the basics in business valuation and enabled him to work alongside his peers at the firm at their level. “Business valuation is a tough field,” he said. “I think it’s very valuable to be able to peel the onion, look below the surface and find out what this business is really worth based on a true understanding of the underlying accounting.”

Ann Gittleman: Distinguish yourself and explore different career paths

Ann Gittleman, CPA/ABV/CFF, CIRA, Esq., has been working as a consulting and testifying expert for over 20 years and obtained the ABV credential many years ago. She acknowledges her career path has been nontraditional.

Her career started in auditing at a Big Four firm, and she later transitioned to become the firm’s in-house forensic accountant and legal assistant. Then, she earned her law degree and practiced law performing securities and litigation work. This was when her interest in and love for business valuation developed — her work often had many accounting and valuation components.

“I work on cases involving technical GAAP issues, which intersects with valuation issues. That’s what made me become more ingrained in business valuation,” said Gittleman, managing director, expert services at Kroll, a New York­–based corporate investigation and risk consulting firm. Having that credential distinguishes her from other professionals, she said, and added that it allows CPAs to explore numerous career paths.“

A CPA could pursue the traditional route, in public audit or valuation, or CPAs could pursue forensic accounting and valuation work in litigation,” Gittleman said.

“You could really use the ABV credential in varying aspects of many jobs in accounting and finance.”She encourages staff of all levels to earn the credential as it’s a great way to hone competencies and stay sharp. “From a training perspective, it’s really worthwhile to have staff obtain the credential because it has the long-term benefits,” she said.

Nene Glenn Gianfala: Give business valuation a try

Nene Glenn Gianfala, CPA/ABV/CEIV, ASA-BV-IA, tacked on a second major in finance while she was completing an accountancy internship during her undergraduate studies and earned a second internship at her current firm back in 2007. This academic and career decision exposed her to the dynamic work of business valuation.

“I didn’t even know of business valuation. Never heard of it,” explained Gianfala, vice president and shareholder at New Orleans–based investment banking company Chaffe & Associates. “I didn’t know it was a career until I did my internship here and absolutely fell in love with it.”

Working with ABV-accredited professionals at her firm, she was inspired to obtain the credential, too. And now, well situated within her career as a valuation specialist, she loves the learning opportunities of the career and the distinction that comes with the credential.

“[Business valuation] is not cookie cutter. You’re not doing the same thing over and over again,” she said. “If you’re doing tax and audit, try out business valuation. See if you like it.”

Rob Kester: Embrace fresh challenges and excitement

Rob Kester, CPA/ABV/CFF, started working in tax and audit but eventually transitioned into a career in business valuation. His background in accounting provided a great base of knowledge, but business valuation work provided fresh challenges and was more exciting.

“I frequently work with attorneys in litigative matters, and within that specialty I spend a lot of my time working on marital dissolution matters,” said Kester, partner in Blue & Co.’s business valuation and litigation support services group in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kester loves the flexibility of a career in FVS — there are a “wide variety of engagements that a person that holds the ABV credential could work on,” he said.

Every court case and project will be different. “No two companies are identical, so you have a lot of opportunity to work with different clients and different types of companies inside or outside of the litigation arena,” he said.

Because of the nature of his work, Kester believes having the ABV credential demonstrates he has the requisite training to enhance his overall authority. “Oftentimes, our background, education and training are subject to scrutiny, so it’s important to have that additional credibility.”

Brian Pearson: Evolve, learn, and embrace variety

Continual learning might be the best part of business valuation work, said Brian Pearson, CPA/ABV/PFS/CFF, ASA.

Having done valuation studying beginning in some capacity since high school and college, Pearson appreciates how each day he learns something new.

“I learn a ton from business owners. Oftentimes they are very smart people and very business savvy,” he said. “And I’m learning about how different businesses operate. You start to develop a wider business intelligence.”

And this is what has fueled Pearson’s career for nearly four decades: He loves sitting down with business owners to discuss their businesses. “That’s what makes this exciting,” he said. “It’s not the same thing every day. There’s no monotony.”

While CPAs can practice business valuation without the ABV credential, Pearson cautions against it. More than demonstrating expertise, oftentimes certain valuation credentials and the ABV designation are required in certain contracts and agreements prior to getting hired in litigation settings, he said.

“If you’re a CPA and you say you can do valuation work and you’re not an ABV, I think that’s more of a detriment,” said Pearson, managing member of Valuation Advisors, LLC, in Buffalo, New York. “The big benefit is that it shows you went the extra mile to take the exam and demonstrate expertise. It separates you as an expert.”

There is no better time to invest in yourself and advance your career. In the digital forum “Breaking into BV: Fireside Chat,” industry experts talk about how and why they entered into business valuation services, and how the ABV credential enhanced their careers.

Beth Roessner, M.A.

Beth Roessner is a senior content writer at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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