The recession has affected many companies harder than they anticipated. Most organizations experienced some kind of impact from the financial upheaval, according to a survey by Burlingame, Calif.-based Accountants International of 3,500 accounting, finance and human resource executives nationwide.

“The survey reflects candid feedback from executives who experienced a very challenging 2009 filled with layoffs, budget cuts and hiring freezes,” said Accountants International president Stephen McMahan. “Looking forward, however, these same executives expressed the belief that this is the year for turnaround, and with that, the addition of jobs.

“In last year’s survey, 23 percent of executives anticipated tough times ahead and predicted that revenue for their organizations would remain flat in 2009,” he added. “In actuality, 61 percent of this year’s respondents reported that their companies experienced no growth in 2009.

“Having conducted our survey in the fourth quarter of last year, we spoke with many executives who had just come through a very challenging 2009,” he said. “Some 85 percent reported that their company had been impacted by the economic downturn.”

The surveyed companies provided feedback on specific initiatives they used to mitigate the effects of the recession on their businesses.

“As companies reduced their workforce in response to the uncertain economy, we found that accounting and finance professionals, in particular, were impacted through layoffs and reduced hours,” said McMahan. “However, the majority of these businesses are hiring or planning to hire accounting and finance staff in 2010.”

And of those hiring within the accounting and finance arena, nearly half of the respondents said they anticipated hiring employees at the staff level, followed by support and management level positions, according to the survey.

A surprising finding of the survey was the attitudes regarding International Financial Reporting Standards. While over one-third (36 percent) are in favor of one set of global standards, more than half (55 percent) had no opinion.

“The majority of those surveyed are aware of the movement towards IFRS, yet very few acknowledged this department’s aptitude in this area,” McMahan said.

This is particularly the case with IFRS for SMEs (small and medium-sized entities), the survey shows. Almost half (43 percent) were not aware that the International Accounting Standards Board had issued a modified version for small and medium-sized entities. The standards, issued last year by the IASB, are a modified and simplified version of IFRS, and are designed to meet the needs of private companies’ financial statements.

Practically speaking, many private companies in the U.S. can prepare their financial statements in accordance with IFRS for SMEs, according to the IASB. Among the reasons cited for why private companies might choose to use IFRS are that the private company has a foreign investor, is a supplier to foreign companies, or has a foreign venture partner.

“This [lack of IFRS expertise] provides an opportunity to leverage interim IFRS specialists or consider this initiative as departments rebuild their teams in preparation for possible U.S. adoption,” said McMahan.

However, only 15 percent of the survey respondents said they would consider hiring a consultant to help with IFRS implementation, while 41 percent said they would not, and 44 percent said they were unsure.

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