The 2020 NYSSCPA Awards: Industry Award Winner Janet T. Verneuille Dedicated to Helping Fellow Practitioners Stay Current

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jun 29, 2020
Janet Verneuille

Janet T. Verneuille, the winner of this year’s Outstanding CPA in Industry Award, said that she has banking in her blood, her mother having worked her way up the industry’s ranks after starting as a rack clerk at Citibank years ago. Following in her footsteps, Verneuille has spent most of her professional life in the same industry, bringing a CPA’s sensibility to the world of community banks.

Like many CPAs, Verneuille came into industry from public accounting, having taken a job at KPMG after graduating from Hofstra University, though even that career path can be attributed to her banking experience. After a brief stint studying horticulture, she began taking accounting courses while employed as a teller at European American Bank, which paid for her bachelor’s degree as she worked her way upward, eventually getting to the branch’s back office for asset-based lending and later becoming a small business lender. She continued her involvement with financial institutions while at KPMG, working mainly in the firm’s financial services audit practice until she eventually became senior accountant.

It was after the birth of her second child that Verneuille decided to make a more formal transition to banking, when a former client asked whether she’d be interested in developing a bank’s internal audit department. Considering her family and thinking about how she wanted to spend her time, she agreed and didn’t look back.

“If I recall correctly, I was the first woman on the audit side at the KPMG Long Island office to return to work after having a baby,” she said. “The profession was male dominated, and flex time was a new concept that was far from being embraced by the all-male partner group. Time to move on.”

Since then, she has served in a variety of capacities at different banks in the Long Island area, including as a CFO and, today, as the chief risk officer at First National Bank of Long Island. Over the years, she has gained an appreciation for the unique accounting challenges that financial institutions present. Practically the entire balance sheet, she said, is financial in nature, which can make proper valuation and accuracy “far from simple.”

“We deal with cash flows and present values and off-balance-sheet instruments, such as derivatives,” she said. “We are constantly making estimates and assumptions in models, to be followed by validating these same models. We ponder, ‘Who validates the model validator?’”

And this is on top of accounting for routine matters such as personnel costs and facilities, as well as implementing the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s current expected credit loss (CECL) standard, which she called “formidable.”

But Verneuille is not content to be just a CPA in banking. She has spent the past eight years as an active Suffolk Chapter member, educating her fellow CPAs through regular morning CPE sessions. Working through the chapter’s Members in Industry Committee, which she co-chairs, Verneuille has brought literally dozens of speakers to the chapter to hold forth on a wide variety of topics, ranging from human resources issues to cybersecurity risk to blockchain to GAAP.

“My take is that we mostly enjoy the human interaction, walk away with two credits, and we often learn something new,” she said. “In retrospect, we have become a circle of people relying on each other for professional guidance, as well as friendship. ... We are fortunate to have so many excellent speakers willing to volunteer their time to prepare and answer the many questions from our members.”

She noted that, as a CPA in industry, she is under a lot of pressure to remain current, since she and others like her can’t get their CPE through in-house training, as many in public accounting can. Beyond allowing for compliance with state requirements, CPE sessions enable members in industry to remain current with the accounting landscape so that they can better adapt to upcoming changes.

“We need to understand and implement [changing standards] long before our independent auditors are at our front door,” she said. “We deal with planning to drive revenues, cost containment to survive, and everything that falls in between, including comprehending tax law. Our knowledge is more specialized in many aspects, but in other ways, broader than when spending a career in public accounting.”

This long and sustained effort in service of the profession has helped her fellow Suffolk Chapter members appreciate the contributions she brings to the Society as a CPA in industry.

John W. Hermus, the immediate past Suffolk Chapter president, who nominated her for the award, called her a “picture-perfect example of an outstanding CPA in industry,” who “serves our chapter through the executive board and several committees, provides unique perspective and ideas on improving our chapter and the CPA profession as a whole, and has helped inspire others within the accounting profession.”

Joel E. Ackerman, a Suffolk Chapter executive board member alongside Verneuille, called her an “absolute pleasure to work with” and praised her committee as one that “runs like clockwork every month and really provides a great information base for the CFOs and CPAs in our business community. She greatly deserves the honor.”

Kenneth B. Laks, the current president of the Suffolk Chapter, noted that he has worked with Verneuille for the past five years as a member of the board. “No one is more deserving of the private industry award,” he said, given her extensive work in support of the chapter, especially members in industry.

The global pandemic has made matters more difficult for Verneuille, in terms of both her chapter work and her bank position. Regarding the former, she said that the chapter has had to make its regular CPE sessions virtual, and it might wind up continuing online presentations for at least some of its sessions going forward, once the pandemic is over. Regarding the latter, she is working hard to support her bank as it implements loans to small businesses under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and complies with other aspects of the CARES Act that have been left to financial institutions, on top of dealing with all the other pressures put on the bank by the government, such as complying with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.

“Under the PPP rollout, it is rewarding to augment the distribution of the much-needed cash into the hands of the small business owners,” she said. “We worked nonstop for days, [including] holidays, to meet the needs of our customers, while dealing with a stressed infrastructure at the [Small Business Administration] and what started as a seriously underfunded program. As bankers and accountants, we rise up to meet the challenges, which is what makes me forever proud to be identified as a certified public accountant.”

This award commends outstanding service and professional  development in industry. It recognizes industry CPAs who have made significant contributions to their business or industry by creating value, leading by example, championing new solutions, inspiring others and promoting the CPA as the benchmark of professional designations in industry.

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