November 28, 2010
Denise Pacofsky has been all around the world and then some.
She grew up in the little town along the Ohio River called Vienna, W.Va., and graduated magna cum laude in accounting from the WVU College of Business and Economics in 1993.
She is a partner with Deloitte LLP in the U.S.*. Globally, the Deloitte organization** is the biggest of the "Big Four" professional services networks.
She lives in New York City, is a kick boxer, has climbed mountains in Borneo and South Africa, bungee jumped in New Zealand, paraglided in the Swiss Alps and, by the way, works with some very powerful people on issues of international accounting and finance.
"To be honest, when graduating from WVU, I was venturing out into the world of auditing, but had no idea of the endless possibilities from a career in accounting," she said.
Her professional journey began at the Deloitte office in Pittsburgh where she spent several years as an auditor. Her client base was primarily Securities and Exchange Commission registered companies, most with multi-national operations, and companies in the health-care industry.
But she had an international desire that was not satisfied working in the United States on multi-national companies. She needed to go global. "I reached out to my colleagues in New York who assign personnel overseas, and when I told them I was flexible on locale, they provided me with an offer that I could not refuse," she recalled.
It so happened an international group at Deloitte that works with non-U.S. companies in the process of listing securities on the U.S. capital markets was in its nascent stage and was looking for managers. The opportunity meant that Denise would relocate to New York City, and her client load could take her anywhere in the world.
"I had not considered living in New York, but then again I absolutely love New York, and if this provides the opportunity to work in multiple cities as opposed to a single jurisdiction, then I would frankly be crazy to say no," she recalled. "While I had to say good bye to many wonderful friends in Pittsburgh, I fell hard for New York. Sure there are challenges, but there is always something new to experience, and anything and everything is at your fingertips!"
Coincidentally, at the completion of her two-year assignment doing IPO work, the world changed when Enron and WorldCom hit the news and President George W. Bush signed into law the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (the 2002 law that set new standards for U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms).
"What an unprecedented time for the audit profession, and who knew the opportunities facing me the day the law was signed into law," she recalled. She landed her next international opportunity and led the efforts to assist Deloitte member firms outside the United States to comply with the new law.
Today she focuses on regulatory affairs in the Global Regulatory and Public Policy Group. She does "a lot of interacting with capital market stakeholders around the world—regulators and investor groups—to advance the regulatory agenda and to enhance the quality of financial reporting and auditing globally." She wears a few hats, including being a member of the Risk Directorate to address risk and policy issues globally.
Her career roots really began at WVU. Denise had taken a professional preparation class, taught by Deloitte accountants from Pittsburgh. This led to real interaction with a potential employer. "Needless to say the fit was perfect with Deloitte…..at least I can now say so for sure," she said. Following graduation, Denise joined Deloitte and gave back to WVU by teaching one of these classes for the next graduating class. Further, during her senior year, she was president of her sorority, Delta Gamma, which she called an "important leadership experience."
How did she land such an amazing job and become a partner? "Hard work, focus and being a good listener," she said. "There are opportunities in accounting and auditing. You need to be open and seek opportunities. For example, I decided I wanted to go global and went for it. I am very pleased with the direction this has taken my career and personal development."
She advises students to continuously seek knowledge and to develop themselves. "Don't underestimate the experiences derived from travel. There is much to be learned from other cultures and varying ways to do things. I have learned the 'American way' or the 'Pacofsky way' may not always be the most sound," she said.
She also believes in doing something to make the world a better place. She serves on the board of directors for The DOME Project, an organization that helps New York youths in trouble avoid prison and get a second chance through education. "These are young people who are economically, socially, and academically challenged, and we focus on their education as a means to success," she said. Other not-for-profit groups she works with have included meals for seniors, recording for the blind and teaching English to elderly Chinese Americans.
She likes to stretch herself. In fact, on weekends she forces herself "to do something new to educate myself or to experience something new," she said. This could be anything from a weekend stroll down a new path in Central Park, to something as grand as exploring a new city. The idea has even caught on with friends and family and "has become an obsession with all of us."
The Pacofsky's keep the Mountaineer spirit alive. Denise's father, some siblings, niece and nephews have attended WVU or are currently enrolled.
On the future of accounting, she said, "The potential opportunities for accounting and finance graduates are extraordinary. As we emerge from this inconceivable financial crisis, the path toward financial stability and implementation of new legislation, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, will have far-reaching impact on how companies do business and how the U.S. competes cross border. Should the U.S. decide to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (the international accounting standards which would eliminate U.S. GAAP), the basis for how companies perform transactions, account for day-to-day activity, report to investors, etc. will change. Someone will need to implement these standards in U.S. companies which will harmonize financial reporting globally. Opportunities are limitless!"
* Denise is a partner of Deloitte LLP in the United States and is currently assigned to and working solely on behalf of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
** Deloitte refers to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity.