Herschel Frierson on driving diversity in the accounting profession
This episode of the Sage Thought Leadership Podcast features Herschel Frierson. Herschel is the managing director of consulting group Crowe LLP, with over 23 years of experience, and is the 27th Chairman of the Board of Directors with the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)—a nonprofit membership association dedicated to providing networking and career opportunities for black accounting and financial professionals. Herschel was also recently named by Accounting Today as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting”.
Why do you do what you do?
Herschel Frierson: I think first and foremost, I love people. I think we as consultants always want to make our clients better. When we come into a particular project, we want to make sure we leave it better than what it was. I just enjoy knowing that I’m helping people help businesses move forward. But more importantly, making sure that those individuals and organizations that they represent are better as well.
Tell me about what you can do in your role as chairman of the National Association of Black Accountants to help bring more people into the profession?
Herschel Frierson: It’s a unique opportunity and I’m honored to follow the path of our founders. It gives me a voice, a voice to get people who look like me into the profession. It’s so impactful to be able to look in a young person’s face, to be a mentor to them, and talk about the great profession of accounting and finance, and why it’s important. So, I’m just honored to be in this particular position and to support our members. But more importantly, get more people that look like me into the profession.
And does that start at the high school and college level, by inspiring those people to pick accounting as a major?
Herschel Frierson: We need to, and we do, get to people before they even get to college. We have a high school program called ACAP, Accounting Career Awareness Program, where we introduce accounting and talk about the different opportunities in accounting. And we get rid of any particular stigmas that may be out there, break down those walls or silos, and they all say, “Oh, I didn’t know accounting was this. I didn’t know finance was this.”
We need to introduce them earlier, to get them excited about it, and that is part of our role as NABA—introducing opportunities to people that look like me. It’s like “this is an option for you, a very successful option for you”.
It’s interesting because there is a stereotype about accounting, that’s it’s all about numbers. And having gone out to dinner and lunch with accountants, and having them split the bill, I can tell you that it’s not about the numbers.
Herschel Frierson: No, it is not about the numbers. So once again, you want to break down those stereotypes. And once you break down those stereotypes, it opens up the doors in the eyes of young black people who say when they see people that look like me, “I can be them too, right?” It’s all about what you see.
I keep saying that in my next career, I want to be an actor, because we just don’t see the accountants on screen. One movie I keep referring to is a thriller called “The Accountant”, because I’m like, “It’s about time someone made this kind of movie.” It’s just exciting. This industry and this profession is so exciting, and I want to bring that excitement and opportunities to people that look like me and give them the pathways to go into this profession – whether it’s public, private, governmental, or non-profit.
Who is a hero of yours and why?
Herschel Frierson: It’s my mom and dad, because they never put a boundary on me. They didn’t put me in a box. There’s so many people who look like me that get put in a box that say things like, “You can’t be an accountant. You can’t be this. You need to stick to this.” My parents didn’t do that. So just like them, I don’t put young people in a box. I don’t tell them that there’s a limit. I don’t tell them what they can or can’t do. Instead, I ask them, “What do you want to do?”. And I tell them, “I’m going to be here to support you, provide scholarships, financial resources, job opportunities, and mentoring,” because it doesn’t stop at college.
And lastly, Herschel, how can somebody contact you?
Herschel Frierson: Please reach out to me at [email protected] or call me at 317-269-2377. I’m here for you, NABA is here for you, and hopefully we can make some partnerships.
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