Los Angeles – (May 15, 2015) – Platinum Equity CFO and CCO Mary Ann Sigler today delivered the commencement address at the University of Southern California’s Leventhal School of Accounting graduation ceremony.

Ms. Sigler, who earned a Master’s degree in Business Taxation from USC in 1980, talked about what she has learned over her 35-year career in public accounting and private equity and offered some advice to the 2015 graduating class.  She implored the approximately 400 students to be creative, be relevant, and above all else, be ethical. 

Excerpts from Ms. Sigler’s address…

On being creative:

There is a stereotype of accountants as mild-mannered numbers crunchers…We have a reputation for being practical but not creative…In the background rather than the forefront …I am here to tell you, those images are just not accurate.

Sometimes the CFO is not the most popular person in the room – many times we are the one with our feet on the brakes…The secret is to [do so in a way] that does not stifle creativity, but rather channels it…to help find solutions that work within the confines of the right way to do things.

On being relevant:

Learn to discern what is relevant, what is important to your clients, your firm, and your career. In the long run it is not a race to see how much money you can make how quickly, but rather a quest to see how much you can learn and give back. Focus on the experiences as a measure of success.

Find your passion and follow your dreams – do what you are excited about, and the monetary side will then fall into place. 

But always be relevant. Do not be the first person out the door at the end of the day.  Instead, be the first person to raise your hand when a project needs to be done. Put in the time, even if it does not sound like the most exciting project. Make yourself relevant.

On being ethical:

Be Ethical. It is the most important rule of all. I cannot emphasize enough today the importance of high integrity in this profession.

There is nothing more important, both personally and professionally, than being able to lay your head on your pillow at night and know that you have done the right thing.  And there is no softer pillow than a clear conscience. 

Ethical behavior is rooted in fact.  It is not based on opinion or judgment.  And it is binary.  You are either ethical or you are not.  There is no gradation and no flexibility.

Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing.  The appeal of easy answers is alluring, and most often there are no easy answers.

The “right” answer may not always be what everyone wants to hear, but in the long run, it is what they need to hear and you will serve yourself, your family, your profession, and your employer well if you always remember that being unpopular about the right decision is better than being popular with the wrong decision.

The moral and ethical makeup of an accountant is the fabric of the profession.  No other profession is more focused on these values and standards.

So I implore each of you: Make good decisions.

Be creative, yes…

Be relevant, for sure…

But always, always be ethical.


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