Wharton Doctoral Programs Vice Dean Catherine M. Schrand started a career as an accountant until she realized she wanted to be analyzing data, not auditing it.

Prof. Catherine M. Schrand began her career as an auditor. After getting her BBA from the University of Michigan, she was a staff auditor and audit manager at KPMG Peat Marwick in Chicago.

“I became an accountant because my dad was an accountant,” she said. “Being an accountant is safe, and it was a good career at first.”

Before long, she realized that what she liked about her job wasn’t the day-to-day work of accounting, but rather non-auditing tasks like computer programming, dealing with statistical sampling issues, and researching technical questions for her clients.  It took her a while to realize that the things she liked to do were the right fit for an academic career.

“I liked figuring out technical questions for clients, especially questions that didn’t have black-and-white answers.” she said. “Back in those days computer technology was not plug and play. We had to figure out how to analyze the client’s raw data on our machines because we couldn’t trust their systems, even for something as simple as adding up account balances.”

“I realized that I liked the data analysis, not just auditing the data,” she said. “And I liked to think about the clients’ accounting problems, even outside of work.”

She quit KPMG and pursued her PhD at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation was about a problem she had noticed in her job – the accounting rules for derivative instruments combined with savings and loan capital requirements created distorted incentives for S&Ls to use derivatives for risk management. She chose Wharton as her first faculty position after graduate school and has been here ever since.

Today Schrand’s research continues to focus on risk management issues, although she also does research on disclosure and earnings quality. She teaches doctoral and undergraduate courses and is currently the Director of Undergraduate Research for Wharton, as well as the Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Program.

Posted: June 14, 2016

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