Magazine article The CPA Journal

Examining Satisfaction in Multiprofessional Engagements

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Examining Satisfaction in Multiprofessional Engagements

Article excerpt

A Survey of CPAs, Attorneys, and Financial Planners

CPAs often work with other professional advisors when needed. Many times, no single advisor has all the technical expertise necessary to produce the best result for every client. For example, a large estate planning case may require the expertise of an attorney, a tax accountant, and a financial planner. This raises the question of how CPAs perceive the performance of other professional advisors in such a working relationship. Are CPAs satisfied with the other professional advisors' level of expertise? Are they satisfied with their ability to communicate and manage the work? Are they satisfied with their willingness to collaborate? Conversely, how do those other professional advisors perceive CPAs?

The authors conducted a survey of CPAs, attorneys, and financial planners that asked them to rate their level of satisfaction with each other regarding their work together. The surveys were conducted at several continuing professional education (CPE) seminars held in Maine and Massachusetts. The authors received 61 responses from CPAs, 53 from financial planners, and 21 from attorneys. CPA respondents averaged 22 years of experience, financial planners averaged 18 years of experience, and attorneys averaged 22 years of experience. The survey respondents indicated that they most frequently worked together on client matters involving business formations, purchases and sales of businesses or real estate, and estate planning.

CPAs' Views of Financial Planners and Attorneys

CPAs were asked to rate their satisfaction with financial planners and attorneys using a list of eight skills on a five-point scale (1 = very dissatisfied: 3 = neutral; 5 = very satisfied). The skills that the CPAs were asked to evaluate were broken down into four dimensions. Ln the first dimension, the CPAs were asked to rate their satisfaction with each profession's demonstrated level of expertise (i.e., knowledge and identification of issues). In the second dimension, the CPAs were asked to rate their satisfaction with each profession's communication skills (i.e., communication with the CPA and with the client). The third dimension looked at certain aspects of each profession's ability to manage client matters (i.e., timeliness, efficiency, and follow-up). Finally, the CPAs were asked to rate their satisfaction with each profession's overall willingness to collaborate on matters. The results are presented in Exhibit I.

In rating financial planners, the survey results suggest that CPAs are neutral with regard to their perfonnance. Averages were at the midpoint or slightly higher for the dimensions of expertise, communication, and collaboration, but they were below the midpoint on the dimension of ability to manage client matters. The skills rated the highest were knowledge and willingness to collaborate (3.18), and the skill rated the lowest was timeliness (2.73).

The survey results suggest that CPAs are more satisfied with attorneys than financial planners. Averages were at the midpoint or higher on all dimensions; the skill rated the highest was knowledge (3.82), and the lowest was timeliness (3.05). On the dimension of expertise, the score for attorneys was significantly higher than for financial planners, with the dimensions of communication and collaboration also being somewhat higher. CPAs' satisfaction with attorneys' ability to manage client matters was higher than for financial planners but still was not strong; it was only slightly above the midpoint.

When asked which one of the professionals would typically coordinate these joint matters, approximately one half of the CPAs indicated that they would typically act as the coordinator and the other half indicated that an attorney would act as the coordinator. None of the CPAs indicated that the financial planner would act as the coordinator.

CPAs were also asked to comment on how attorneys and financial planners could work with them more effectively. …

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