When Amy DeVoe first heard about a new accounting initiative focused on enhancing data and analytics skills in new graduates, she was interested.
When she learned that Fisher College of Business would be one of two institutions to launch the new program, she was excited.
DeVoe, who earned undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees from Fisher, was one of 26 students selected as part of the first cohort at Fisher in the KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics (MADA) program in 2016.
The program, born out of a longstanding partnership between Fisher and the Big Four firm, gives students enrolled in the college’s MAcc program the chance to take a deep dive into the latest analytics technology and data sets. They also have opportunities to participate in applied learning experiences using KPMG’s proprietary tools. The program launched in August 2016 as a collaboration between Fisher, KPMG and the Villanova School of Business. It has since been expanded to other schools.
“The MADA program augmented the typical accounting graduate experience,” DeVoe (BSBA ’17, MAcc ’18) said. “While we were still able to take traditional accounting courses, we also took data analysis, visualization and programming courses.”
The program fully funds students’ tuition and offers a stipend for room, board and fees. It also provides them full-time jobs in an advanced-entry program at KPMG when they graduate from Fisher — or from one of eight other universities within the program.
“We’re excited that these outstanding professionals will join our firm,” said Jackie Daylor (BSBA ’89), national managing partner, audit quality and professional practice at KPMG. “They have learned to embrace new technology and developed strong critical thinking, data science and IT skills to complement their financial and business acumen.”
An additional feature of the MADA program is an intensive internship during spring semester that coincides with companies’ year-end audits. Every KPMG program participant works in the office in which he or she will eventually be placed. The result, while exhausting, is a valuable experience.
“Because of the experience I gained during the program, I was assigned more challenging projects during my internship,” said DeVoe. “This allowed me to garner a more comprehensive view of the audit, and how innovation can take place. Many of us plan to come back to these projects and continue to build them out.”
The MADA program, which has since expanded to include 135 students at nine schools across the country, has helped Fisher focus its accounting program on the industry’s future and the critical role that data and analytics will play. A second group of 25 KPMG students arrived at Fisher in August.
“We kept hearing from sources throughout the industry, at Big Four firms and local firms, that accountants have to be able to analyze and deal with large data sets,” said Tzachi Zach, director of Fisher’s MAcc program. “Today’s audit work demands that they know how to read and clean data sets, and then formulate questions from them. They also need to design statistical tests, learn from them and know how to report on the insights gained.”
“Additionally, programs like this one are a way for a new generation of accountants to know how the data came across their desk and what kind of analysis and programming can be further done to it. This focus on data and analytics also empowers accountants to communicate effectively with computer and software engineers in a way that’s meaningful and efficient.”
As part of the MADA program, students not only have firsthand access to many of KPMG’s proprietary tools, but in the classroom, they learn the principles and theories the tools were built on.
“Using KPMG’s tools in the classroom helped tie my accounting education to the real world,” said Josh Shoulders (MAcc ’18). “The education I received on these tools — and their driving principles — prepared me to join KPMG with knowledge that many don’t have the opportunity to gain this early. When I was assigned projects using these tools on audit engagement teams, I had a base-level understanding that enabled me to complete the tasks more effectively and efficiently.”
“In addition, Fisher’s faculty worked hard to teach me other statistical analysis, coding and data management techniques and skills. I’ve been able to transfer those valuable lessons while working for KPMG.”
That Fisher was chosen as one of two pilot institutions was no coincidence. The MAcc program’s pedigree as one of the top graduate accounting degrees in the world helped position the college on the ground floor of this unique partnership.
“The KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics program is a one-of-a-kind, cutting-edge program that, through its work with top universities such as The Ohio State University, provides a quality education that focuses on how data and analytics can be used in the accounting profession,” Shoulders said. “The program distinguishes me from students at other institutions by teaching concepts and methods surrounding data analysis and requiring experience on proprietary tools used by a Big Four public accounting firm.”
For DeVoe, who will be working at KPMG’s financial services audit practice in New York City, the combination of the MAcc degree and the data and analytics insights associated with the MADA program uniquely equipped her for future challenges.
“Anyone interested in the inevitable immersion of data and analytics in accounting should apply to this program,” she said. “It is truly groundbreaking and built with accounting foresight in mind. The auditing landscape will change in the coming years, and this program allows you to be at the forefront of that change.”
Since we’ve adopted the KPMG initiative and had the MAcc program designated as a STEM program, we’ve been contacted by many schools across the country who want to learn from us. It really shows the pioneering nature of our department and our ability to impact the profession of accounting on a national and global scale.”