insight magazine

IN Play: Q&A With Jason Burian, CPA

This emerging leader has raced through the ranks of public accounting. Here's how. By SARAH HERRMANN | Fall 2018

Jason BurianNational professional services firm CohnReznick has a history of helping its young professionals move between offices and practice areas to develop their skills and expertise and prepare them for key roles, such as practice leaders and partners.

For Illinois CPA Society member Jason Burian, CPA, working in two different offices under four different leaders — each with very different management and mentorship styles and skills — gave him the opportunities and guidance he needed to develop his business and leadership skills. This ultimately earned him a place in growing the firm’s newer commercial real estate practice. Today, 39-year-old Burian is already an office managing partner (OMP) in the firm’s Chicago office.

Q: What’s so unique about trying to lead in these diverse and disruptive times?

While audit and tax will always be part of CohnReznick’s service delivery model, the ability to help clients solve a broader range of complex business issues is now part of my job description. CohnReznick no longer wants managers to just be outstanding service providers. Instead, we are expected to be trusted business advisors to our clients, helping them distinguish themselves competitively, create more value, and fully manage risk.

This means working with clients and prospects to fully understand and address their key business issues — including those that extend beyond accounting and compliance.

Q: What excites you about being a new OMP?

What is truly exciting is that I have a hands-on role in shaping the capabilities of the Chicago office and our employees. Beyond the Chicago office, I am also enthusiastic about what is taking shape within CohnReznick. We are delivering more value-added advisory services, like corporate performance improvement, cybersecurity, and transactional consulting. In fact, along with a graphic refresh of our logo, we recently changed our services descriptor to Advisory/Assurance/ Tax to recognize our quest to become trusted advisors.

Q: So, where do you see CohnReznick in the next five years, and what impact do you hope to have on the firm?

I believe we can become a top 10 firm through organic growth and possibly some strategic acquisitions/alliances. With our recent expansion into Asia and Europe, CohnReznick will continue to grow its global footprint. As an OMP, my role will be to support forward-thinking clients in their growth efforts. Of course, I will also continue to work with the young people in our office and firm to help them acquire new skills and prepare for future leadership positions.

Q: What does the future of the profession look like to you?

Artificial intelligence and other technologies will transform the accounting profession by making many of our processes, such as compliance testing and verification, much more efficient. This will free up time for using data analytics and other evaluation tools to deliver deeper insights into our clients’ businesses.

As a result, our recruiting focus could change significantly. We may hire fewer audit and tax generalists and technical people and, instead, look for consulting, data analytics, cybersecurity, digital innovation, and other specialists that will add value well beyond compliance.

Q: Then what’s your advice for the next generations of talent hoping to succeed in the profession?

Finding success in public accounting requires you to go in with your eyes wide open and with the expectation to stay and build a career. I encourage every professional to be flexible, learn new skills, optimize the use of new technologies, and to jump at the opportunities presented to them.

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