The abiding value of transatlantic ties


The achievements of the vibrant network of over 700 Chartered Accountants in the US continue to represent the best of the profession and provide a crucial conduit for inbound investment to our shores

US members represent best of the profession

For decades, Ireland’s Chartered Accountants have beaten a well-worn path across the Atlantic, writes Sinead Donovan, President of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Facilitated by a Mutual Recognition Agreement with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), our members have had the opportunity to build their careers in roles across industry and practice.

Many make the move in the early years of their career, looking to explore the world and gain post-qualification experience in a new market.

As you will see in this special report, many remain there through their careers, becoming embedded in the local economy, their achievements in senior positions representing the best of the Chartered qualification.

These more established representatives of our profession become highly effective advocates across the United States, and indeed for the island of Ireland, as they become influential ambassadors for inbound investment to our shores.

This flow of investment is well-established and mutually beneficial for our economies, and I am proud of the critical role our members play in driving and servicing this.

As a membership organisation, one of the most critical things we can do is support members in this work. In what I like to call the “family” of accountants, I have come to realise that no matter how far from home members are located, there is that strong desire for community and a sense of belonging with their fellow members overseas and with the Institute at home.

On the ground in the US, there is also a strong network of overseas chapters, run so effectively by local volunteer members, many of whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year when I visited.

The other crucial way we support members is through the power of our professional network. Over the years, we have built strong and enduring relationships with AICPA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Chartered Accountants Worldwide, among many others.

This collective voice is invaluable in continuing to help our profession to grow and further develop meaningful economic and societal impact.

Colm Mackin, Act+Acre

As co-founder and Chief Executive of Act+Acre, the New York headquartered haircare business he runs with his wife and business partner Helen Reavey, Colm Mackin has just launched the brand in 235 US outlets of Sephora, the cosmetics retail giant.

It is a major milestone for Mackin, a Chartered Accountant from Co. Down, and Reavey, a top hairstylist from Armagh, who launched the brand together in 2019.

They partnered with scientists at Stanford University to develop a range of patented cold-processed haircare products designed to resolve scalp-related issues ranging from product build-up to thinning hair.

Since then, Mackin and Reavey have employed a successful e-commerce strategy that has seen Act+Acre grow from strength to strength, netting the venture US$12 million in private investment.

“That first spark of an idea came from Helen’s experience working at Paris Fashion Week with all these models who were going from show to show,” Mackin explains.

“They had nothing to remove scalp build-up and their hair wasn’t performing. We saw this gap in the market for a range of products that could address these issues and promote scalp health as the basis for healthy hair.”

At the time, Mackin had transferred from PwC in Dublin to work on the international tax team at the firm’s New York office. His decision to leave a secure role in practice for the unfamiliar world of entrepreneurship was bolstered by his pure belief in the Act+Acre concept.

“What I had been doing in practice gave me a really good grounding for what we’ve gone on to achieve with Act+Acre, but there are different chapters to the story,” he says.

“We spent six months researching our products and the cold-processed process behind them. Then, you must get the product/market fit right, build your team and raise the money you need.

“I think that’s where I’ve really seen the benefits of my qualification coming through. America is a place where you have access to investors you wouldn’t necessarily find in smaller markets and being Irish helps because we’re naturally good storytellers and we are naturally passionate.

“That helps to get the conversation started, but being a Chartered Accountant also means I have a very good understanding of profit and loss on a balance sheet. I can speak with confidence to investors; it’s just innate. I can answer their questions. You’re speaking to them on their level and that helps hugely when you’re out there raising money to build your own business.”

US market appeal

Mackin is one of over 700 members of Chartered Accountants Ireland currently living and working in the US.

More than one-in-three are in the 24-44 age bracket, demonstrating the market’s ongoing appeal to, and demand for, talented Chartered Accountants from Ireland building their careers.

While concentrated in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and LA, their footprint can be found right across the country, from Washington State to Florida and from Texas to Michigan.

Eighty-two percent of Institute members in the US work in business. The second largest cohort (10%) work in practice.

Una Troy, SS&C Technologies

One of the 82 percent of Institute members in the US working in business is Una Troy. Troy is a Managing Director with SS&C Technologies, a provider of services and software to the financial services and healthcare industries with some 20,000 clients and offices around the world.

Based in New Jersey, Troy qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Dublin and had already worked in high-level positions in the funds industry in the UK and Australia by the time she found herself en route to the US in 2005.

“I was working with BISYS Fund Services in Dublin in 2005 when the company started hiring people to support its growing hedge fund business in the US and I decided to make the move across to New Jersey,” she says.

Almost immediately, Troy found her qualification as a Chartered Accountant beneficial to her career progression in the States.

“At the time, BISYS had acquired the hedge fund administration arm of an accountancy practice and I was able to help that business integrate into BISYS,” she says.

“My accountancy background gave the local leadership team confidence in me and the group I was leading and, when BISYS was sold to Citi, I became Global Head of Operations for Citi’s hedge fund business.”

Troy was subsequently appointed Managing Director, SS&C GlobeOp, following SS&C Technologies’ acquisition of Citi’s Alternative Investor Services Business.

“I have found the US very welcoming as a place to live and work. There are a lot of commonalities culturally between Ireland and the US; both share a very strong work ethic. There are great career opportunities here and your efforts are rewarded.”

Troy’s advice to Chartered Accountants who have relocated to the US more recently is to make full use of the professional network facilitated on-the-ground by Chartered Accountants Ireland.

“You’ll start to form a network of colleagues within your work role, but it’s also important to broaden your contacts outside that,” she says. “Attend events hosted by Chartered Accountants Ireland and other organisations relevant to your work. Once you start to attend these events, you automatically start to broaden your network.”

The Chartered Accountancy qualification is relatively well-recognised in the US and associated with high professional standards, Troy says, but certain roles may require applicants to hold a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

“For many Irish Chartered Accountants, the qualification itself will suffice but where a CPA designation is required, an accelerated path has been facilitated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) through a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with Chartered Accountants Ireland,” she says.

About the MRA

Chartered Accountants Ireland first signed its MRA with the AICPA and NASBA in 2004 and the agreement has since been renewed several times.

“Irish Chartered Accountants can access the US designation and gain practice rights in the US,” explains Ian Browne, Director of Education, Chartered Accountants Ireland.

“This is of particular relevance to those who wish to work in practice in the US and is increasingly required by US firms.”

To successfully complete the process, Chartered Accountants are required to pass the International Qualification Exam (IQEX) operated by NASBA. This can be done in Ireland before moving to the US.

“Additionally, as the US CPA qualification includes audit rights, you should ideally have obtained the Irish Audit Qualification before you leave should you plan to work in audit,” Browne says.

Ken L. Bishop, President and CEO of NASBA, says the MRA gives Irish Chartered Accountants a relatively easy route to securing the necessary certification to work in the US.

“Irish Chartered Accountants are typically highly valued by the US profession and many have taken advantage of the MRA,” Bishop says.

“I believe that the MRA and the flexibility and mobility of practice privileges that can be accomplished is hugely important. We live in an increasingly global economy, and the business and economic nexus between the US and Ireland continues to increase.”

Alan T. Ennis, former Revlon CEO

For Alan T. Ennis, who has lived and worked in the US since 1999, his qualification as a Chartered Accountant provided the crucial foundation on which he has been able to build a high-flying career in business.

Ennis studied commerce at University College Dublin and qualified in 1991 with Arthur Andersen, where he continued to work as a manager for a few years before moving to the UK to join Ingersoll Rand in Manchester.

It wasn’t until he negotiated a transfer to the US multinational’s New Jersey office in 1999, however, that his career really began to take off.

“I moved through various different financial roles from internal audit to financial planning and investor relations there,” he says.

In 2004, as he was considering a potential move to North Dakota to take up a position as CFO of Ingersoll Rand’s Bobcat division, Ennis was headhunted for a very different role.

“I was offered the position of head of internal audit at Revlon. I was in my early thirties and my choice was between Bobcat in Fargo, North Dakota, and this other role with a very different and much smaller company that would put me in New York.

“Revlon had a lot of debt at the time. It was a high-risk move, but I thought, ‘you know what, I’m going to go for it’.”

It was a risk that would pay off for Ennis who quickly climbed the ladder at Revlon.

“Being a Chartered Accountant put me in a very good place to understand the financial operations of any corporation and that really stood me in good stead at Revlon,” he says.

“I could understand financial statements, I understood the importance of profitability and cash and how investments work.

“What happened next was really a combination of readiness and serendipity. Within two-and-half years, I had gone from Head of Internal Audit to Corporate Controller to President of International and then Chief Financial Officer.”

As CFO, Ennis again found his training as a Chartered Accountant invaluable. “The Board of Directors could see that I knew how the business worked; how it operated.”

After two-and-a-half years as Revlon’s CFO, Ennis was appointed to the top role of Chief Executive of Revlon for five years.

“I had a great run and a superb team of people behind me and when I left that role in 2014, I got a great package and I wasn’t under pressure anymore really to prove myself. I had choices,” he says.

In the years since, Ennis has “dabbled in private equity and joined a couple of boards, both profit and not-for-profit.”

“In everything I’ve done here in the US, my qualification continues to be the most valuable jewel in my chest of knowledge,” he says.

“My advice to Chartered Accountants moving from Ireland to the States now is to make sure you start to connect with other Chartered Accountants over here straight away – and there are lots of us in New York, Boston, San Francisco and other places. That’s a valuable network.

“The other piece of advice I would have is that it’s okay to put yourself out there – in fact, it’s a good idea. Americans tend to be confident in how they present themselves professionally. They are proud of what they have done and they’re confident in their success and in abilities.

“They’re not afraid to talk about it. Irish people, myself included at times, tend to downplay our achievements and abilities. In the US, people won’t necessarily understand that so it’s not a bad idea to learn to advocate for yourself, your skills and talents.”

Significant contribution to New York business community

Irish Chartered Accountants make a significant contribution to the New York business community, writes Helena Nolan, Consul General of Ireland in New York.

Its active members are a testament to the wide reach of Irish and Irish American accounting professionals in the broader New York business and finance sectors.

It was a pleasure to host Chartered Accountants Ireland again for another networking event at the Consulate in New York during St. Patrick’s week in 2023 and an honour to have Irish Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, present to address the gathering of members and partner organisations.

Networking events like these are important for showcasing members’ contribution, for raising awareness of the increasing opportunities available now for businesses in Ireland and to help underpin the vibrant professional relationships between professional organisations and individuals in the United States and Ireland.

The Consulate team is always pleased to support and reinforce these strategic linkages between our two countries and our two economies, where we see an increasingly mutual relationship, in terms of trade and investment, and great potential for the future.

Chartered Accountants play important role in winning FDI for Ireland

Ireland’s investment relationship with the US is strong and enduring with about half of all IDA Ireland clients headquartered in the US, writes Brian Conroy, Executive Vice President and Director, North America, IDA Ireland.

These US companies employ more than 180,000 people in Ireland across a range of sectors such as technology, life sciences, financial services and engineering.

US investments in Ireland are by no means gained effortlessly. With over 30,000 members, Chartered Accountants Ireland plays a very important role in the winning of FDI for Ireland.

The Institute’s members work in senior positions in practice and industry both in Ireland and in the US and provide the financial leadership and talent crucial to Ireland’s success.

A key reason our country is an attractive place for US companies to do business is because people here in government, industry and academia work hard to make it that way.

The activities of US multinational companies supported by IDA Ireland make a crucial contribution to our FDI success.

US members: key decision-makers driving NI inward investment

Alongside our wider diaspora network, professional membership bodies like Chartered Accountants Ireland play a significant role in bringing people together, writes Andrea Haughian, Executive Vice President and Head of Americas with Invest Northern Ireland.

Organisations like Chartered Accountants Ireland afford agencies such as Invest Northern Ireland the opportunity to engage with members across the US, many of whom are, or can facilitate access to, key decision-makers responsible for investment decisions. We deeply value the relationships facilitated by Chartered Accountants Ireland.

For more than 20 years, Invest Northern Ireland has supported US companies to successfully establish centres of excellence in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s global reputation as a trusted business partner with a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, talented workforce and deep expertise in research and innovation, has long been a magnet for significant foreign direct investment from the US.

Companies such as Seagate, Citi, Aflac, and Microsoft have joined more than 230 US-owned businesses operating across the region and employing over 30,000 people in sectors as diverse as technology, advanced manufacturing and engineering, life and health sciences and financial and professional services.

Demonstrating the importance of the relationship between the US and Northern Ireland, US President Joe Biden has appointed Joe Kennedy III as the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs with a focus on advancing economic development and investment opportunities.

This article was first published by CAI at the following URL: