CPA John Savignano on the 15 Traits Accountants Need To Succeed

For those considering a career as a personal accountant, or who want to choose an excellent CPA, it’s important to understand the traits and skills that serve an accountant well. For future finance professionals, learning hard and soft skills helps them to decide on the right discipline for their education and growth.

John Savignano, CPA, is a well-known business professional in New York who brings his passion for his industry to every client he serves. He’s had an interesting and varied career in public accounting, serving as a controller and CFO in top global companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers and MasterCard. Currently, he owns his own CPA practice, where he uses his wealth of experience to help business clients reach insights that help them make profitable business decisions.

Savignano has also made it his mission to educate anyone with an interest in the field of accounting. In addition to owning a highly successful firm, he is an adjunct professor at Fordham University.

Here, Savignano dives into the top 15 traits that accountants need in order to do well in the field. He also discusses the personal qualities that benefit a good CPA and a bit about how to become an accountant. For business professionals, there’s also an inside peek at the qualities to look for in a financial partner who’s passionate about what they do.

John Savignano says, “Accounting is not for everyone, but … if you want to be in the business world, accounting is the language and accounting is a good door-opener or stepping-stone to go into other fields … If you want to be in the business world, you should know the basics of accounting.”

15 Traits of a Good Accountant

An accountant needs a number of qualities in order to serve their clients well. Both technical skills and soft skills are integral to success in the field.

1 — Enjoys Socializing With People

Most people think of accountants as only dealing in numbers. But those numbers relate to the things that clients are most passionate about: their business or personal security and success. No matter what area of finance an accountant pursues, it’s important to be personable and  connect with people on a real level. John Savignano explains: “People, I think, shop for accountants more for the chemistry. I find that I’m becoming more of a therapist than an accountant … helping people with problems outside of accounting sometimes. It’s just bringing to the table this actual level of comfort.”

2 — Is Passionate About Math

There’s no way around it: Accountants work with math every day. This should be a strong subject for any CPA student or professional. An accountant who enjoys their work will be much better at it than someone who isn’t engaged.

3 — Pays Close Attention to Detail

A misplaced decimal point can be catastrophic in this field. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Accounting and finance use a lot of data sets and there are intricate laws, compliance issues, and tax structures to understand. A great accountant needs to be detail-oriented, and will constantly work to improve their efficiency in this area.

4 — Enjoys Teaching

For anyone who is a personal CPA or works with businesses, it’s important to be able to consult, as well as do the actual accounting. A great accountant will explain processes and give an overview of choices in different areas.

5 — Loves Data Sheets

Accountants need to deal with a lot of data sheets, worksheets and various reporting methods. This should be something that the accountant not only understands but enjoys.

6 — Likes Learning New Things

Despite the common misperception, accountants don’t do the same thing day in and day out. Many of the best accountants can move between different aspects of business and finance. In order to serve clients well, it’s important to be open to learning about new areas and keeping abreast of current practices.

7 — Knows the Importance of Integrity and Ethics

Integrity and ethics are probably the most important traits that clients look for in an accountant. They want to see credentials, as well, but they need to trust their CPA with important and confidential information, making these qualities not only highly valued but necessary.

8 — Brings a Passion for Organization

Accountants need to be very organized in many aspects of their position. This includes keeping detailed records for clients and presenting deliverables in a well-thought-out and easy-to-read manner.

9 — Is an Analytical Thinker

CPAs often need to see a larger picture of the business, as well as minute details in the books. In order to problem-solve and offer the best service, analytical thinking is a must.

10 — Enjoys Outside-the-Box Problem-Solving

Most people don’t think of creative ability in accounting, but the truth is that a great accountant will be able to bring different disciplines together to offer the best solutions for their clients.

11 — Loves the Industry

Accountants should really enjoy the field. They may work in accounting firms or as solo practitioners, and they also have the ability to move to different industries to work in an accounting capacity. Enjoying what they do shows in a CPA’s work and improves their quality of life.

12 — Thrives on Challenges

Great accountants don’t simply input numbers. They often work with clients who have intricate challenges, and this should be the fun part of the job.

13 — Has a Strong Work Ethic

Most accountants work long hours, especially toward the beginning of their careers. A good work ethic is important to building long-term success in the field.

14 — Technology Is a Strong Suit

In today’s world, most industries need advanced knowledge of technology. Accounting is no different. CPAs need to learn a variety of applications and platforms in order to serve their clients.

15 — Possesses Excellent Communication Skills

This is implied in the first trait mentioned, but it’s a skill in its own right. Accountants need to be able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. There should be no chance of misunderstanding, especially in very complicated projects.

Crunching numbers and balancing spreadsheets are only a small part of the job requirements for an excellent accountant. John Savignano knows that these 15 traits provide an inside look into what makes someone an excellent CPA.

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