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Accounting And Entertainment?
A career in accounting can take you to some pretty interesting places.
One day, he may help a client purchase an exotic sports car, the next help sell a mansion.
Just ask Arnie Herrmann, CPA. The work he does for his clients is so confidential, so top-secret, and so glamorous he's not allowed to tell us who his clients are. Or even the name of his firm.
Arnie doesn't work for the White House. Or the CIA. He works for an even more privacy-obsessed group: the entertainment industry. As Managing Director for a very prestigious accounting firm, Arnie helps guide the financial lives of some very famous people, including "many Hollywood directors, actors and actresses, and several people that you see on TV very often. It's a world that you don't imagine is out there until you see it for yourself."
From Albany to Tinseltown in three easy steps
Although Arnie loves handling the finances of the rich and famous, it was never his dream. "I went to college at SUNY (State University of New York) in Albany and, like a lot of kids, I didn't really know what I was going to do. I initially took a couple of computer science classes, but realized that wasn't my major strength. So I then decided I couldn't go wrong by having an accounting degree. It would provide a good benchmark for anything going forward."
In his junior year, Arnie entered the SUNY business school as an accounting major. That summer, he landed an internship at Ernst & Whinney, which was then one of the "Big Eight" accounting firms. Once he graduated, they offered him a full-time position. Arnie worked in the auditing area for two years, then transferred to the tax department, for another year.
Arnie passed the CPA exam and was then moved to a very specialized line of business. But he didn't want to get pigeonholed too early in his career, so he started looking around for other opportunities. That's when his "headhunter" told him about a small but growing financial management firm specializing in entertainment. He's been there ever since. "When I started here in 1988 there were only 16 or 17 people in the firm. Today we've grown to a staff of 65."
There's no business like accounting for show business
"We're not just sitting here doing tax returns- each day is different. You get involved with everything from investments to estate planning to all the varied transactions our clients get involved with. It's not a 9-to-5 job by any stretch of the imagination." One day, he may help a client purchase an exotic sports car, the next help sell a mansion.
That's why, Arnie says, it's essential to be organized, to communicate clearly and be able to switch from one task to another on a moment's notice.
"I have clients that are heavily involved in the art business - and I've been to art auctions for them just to watch over their sales. I've also learned about land conservation trusts. How clients can donate acreage to a local county to preserve the environment and benefit both the county as well as the client."
By helping with so many aspects of his clients' lives, and keeping matters confidential, Arnie has earned the trust of some very powerful people. Just don't ask him to talk about it. "We operate in a very private manner. Our business is generated, literally, through word of mouth. Because many clients are in the public eye and are so well known, their privacy is very often the most important thing to them."
Today a tax shelter, tonight a movie premiere
Having powerful, wealthy, famous clients means lots of hard work and long hours. But it's also led to some amazing experiences.
Arnie has been to movie sets, music video shoots, concerts, exclusive restaurants - anywhere where you'll find larger-than-life names. "My wife and I go to movie premieres often. There's always a party after, but we don't stay very long since there is work the next day. We extend our congratulations to our clients and usually leave shortly thereafter."
Arnie Herrmann proves that studying accounting can lead to an exciting, glamorous career. "We're dealing with the lives of the rich and famous here, so because of what they get involved with, we get involved with." Work hard and someday you, too, could see your clients' names in lights.
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