Posted 12.1.15Learn more about John Keyser, visiting assistant professor of accountancy, and why he made the switch to higher education after nearly 20 years in public accounting.
1. Can you please tell us a bit about your professional experience in the accounting field?
I started my career in public accounting in 1994 with the regional accounting firm Bruner Cox in Canton, Ohio. Bruner Cox was a member of the McGladrey network, and after about a year, I took a position with McGladrey in the Las Vegas office. I left public accounting to pursue my PhD in Accounting in Fall 1999. After completing all course work and passing comprehensive exams, I went back to McGladrey for what was supposed to be three months while I was working on my dissertation, and never left.
I returned to McGladrey as a supervisor and was promoted to manager, director and partner in 2003, 2004 and 2006, respectively. While I was in Las Vegas, I focused on the community banking industry and worked on five initial public offerings during that time. Around 2007, I noticed that my community bank clients were starting to invest in more complex financial instruments like private-label mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and even credit default swaps and other instruments with embedded derivatives. I felt that the firm needed someone with expertise and so I went to the firm’s leadership and suggested that I transfer to the national office to provide this expertise to the firm. They had another idea in mind and named me the National Director of Financial Institutions Services. I became responsible for the financial institutions practice, including risk management (e.g., client acceptance and continuance), industry specific policies, methodology and training. While my motivation for a national office role related primarily to accounting and auditing for complex financial instruments, my role quickly evolved to focus on risk management as a result of the economic downturn that really began just as I took over the role. So I focused my energies on risk management matters including staffing engagement based on the risk, training auditors to understand the accounting and auditing issues in a bad economy, and interacting with our regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.
2. What influenced your decision to move into the field of higher education?
In 2012, I was asked to become the National Director of Assurance Services for McGladrey. In that role, I was responsible for the firm’s audit policies, methodology, tools, guidance and training. In order to succeed in this role, I read a significant amount of academic research and interacted with accounting academics frequently. For example, we corroborated with Steve Glover, Doug Prawitt, and Jeff Wilks from Brigham Young University to develop a professional judgment framework for use at McGladrey. I discovered that I really enjoy the area of judgment and decision making research.
In August 2014, I met Weatherhead’s Mark Taylor. He encouraged me to make the move. He also introduced me to Gary Previts and Tim Fogarty, both of whom who have been extremely supportive of my career change.
3. What has been your greatest challenge and greatest reward so far with teaching?
I love teaching and spending time with students. I have really enjoyed getting to know my students over the course of the semester—that is definitely the greatest reward. Although I am working from a small sample (approximately 55 students), I have found the students at Case to be hard-working and eager to learn.
The last time I taught, which was 15 years ago, technology was not nearly this advanced. It has been a challenge to figure out Blackboard, setting up grades and linking to the textbook publisher website.
4. How does your professional experience influence how you teach?
For one thing, I have stories to share. I think that students really appreciate when you can bring real-life stories into the classroom. Students seem to be more motivated to learn skills and concepts that they will be using after graduation, and not just demonstrate for a test.
5. Why do you think Weatherhead is a good fit for you?
I love working with highly motivated students, and that is what I have found here. The faculty is amazing. I enjoy interacting with each one of them.
6. Who has had an influence on your professional life?
There are so many people who have been influential; I hate to list them because I know I would unintentionally leave some out.
My first accounting professor, Tamara Bolender, passed away several years ago but she was a great teacher. My auditing professor, Darlene Kausch at University of Akron, got me interested in auditing and also sensitized me to the CPA’s public interest responsibility. My manager, partner and friend at McGladrey, Tim Tiefenthaler, was also very influential. He was my manager when I moved into the financial institutions industry and took the time to teach me. He later hired me back in 2002 and our friendship continues to this day. There were several other mentors at McGladrey and friends in academia, and more recently I would definitely count Mark Taylor and Gary Previts among those who have a strong influence on my professional life.
7. What are some areas of research that most interest you? Are you working on anything currently?
I am interested in all things related to audit judgment and decision making. I am currently working on my dissertation, which examines how the judgment of audit work paper reviewers is affected by information cues outside the work papers themselves. I am also working on a study related to the classification of internal control deficiencies.
8. Tell us a bit about your family.
My wife Amy and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary this December. We have three children: Alison, age 9, is in fourth grade; David, age 8, is in third grade; and Ashley, age 6, is in kindergarten.
We moved to Ohio a little over two years ago from Las Vegas. Amy and I moved to Las Vegas the first time in 1995, but then again in 2002. We spent a total of about 14 years in the desert southwest. I will put up with hot summers to avoid the cold, snow and icy winters. Amy will put up with the snow to enjoy the milder Ohio summers. All three of our kids were born in Nevada. When we went back to visit Las Vegas this summer when it was 110 degrees, my son David questioned why anyone would want to live in Las Vegas. We did point out that he had done so for the first six years of his life!
9. How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I enjoy traveling and visiting national parks and amusement parks with my family. This summer we were in 18 states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. We visited five national parks: Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, Badlands NP, Theodore Roosevelt NP and Cuyahoga Valley NP.
We also enjoy visiting amusement parks and have been to many including Cedar Point and Kings Island, of course, but also Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Florida, Sea World in San Diego, Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario and Valley Fair in Minnesota. We had an annual pass to Disneyland while we lived in Las Vegas.
Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.