How Dr. Jacob Soll Will Make You Rethink Your Role as an Accountant


Every year, Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) prides itself in providing great keynote speakers to present at the Annual Meeting, many of whom inspire growth and leadership development in both the scholastic and professional space. This year, we’re honored to have been able to speak with one of BAP’s keynote speakers, Dr. Jacob Soll—Professor of History & Accounting at USC. 

Learn more about what Dr. Soll will be speaking on at this year’s Annual Meeting, and why he thinks we should focus on accounting in the past in order to ensure the profession’s future.  

What made you interested in becoming a professor of history and accounting?

I started out as a trained historian of politics and the state. I got into accounting because as I was dissecting archives to understand elements of modern state emergence, I began learning more about how Louis the XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, built the royal library. In my research, I discovered that he was obsessed with accounting, which was his first job. Using his accounting skills, he built one of the most consciously constructed modern information systems of all time.  

I then began looking at other states in relation to accounting and found that when you had strong states and great moments of prosperity, you had expertise of double entry bookkeeping. On the other end of the spectrum, moments of crises can be associated with lack of accounting literacy. I published these findings in my book The Information Master, which discusses the history of accountability and took on a life of its own. It has been translated around the world and I think shows us how much accounting practices today have been positively influenced by the Renaissance and Enlightenment.  

Can you give us a snippet of what your keynote presentation will be about? 

I will be talking about how the first grand accountable society emerged with accounting at its center during its golden age, and how that led to the invention of modern capitalism and culture. This society based on accounting was able to change the world, moving from England to America, and will touch on just how front and center present accounting was in the minds of our founding fathers. It not only permeated economics, but also played a large role in religion, morality, and culture. I’m hoping everyone walks away understanding just how important it is for us to think about accounting in a larger sense. 

What is your best piece of advice for accounting students to be successful in the profession? 

Go to a good accounting school and learn everything you need to know about accounting. Get your CPA license, become a top notch CPA, and then ask yourself: what kind of work do you want to do and where do you see yourself in the future? 

Wherever and whatever that may be, keep in mind that accounting is an art that can be utilized to really help those in need. Great accountants are ones who can see numbers move in time and make valued judgments. Like oracles, they can see the story numbers tell and make accurate predictions about what’s going to happen. Which is why history shows us time and time again that the health of a town is reflected by its accountants. The accountant sees the bad news, faces it, and makes a plan. 

My life was changed by my accountant.

His insights are amazing. He has given me many tools to help me not only financially, but in my everyday life. Therefore, remember that you play a much larger role in this profession than you think. Whether you’re counseling local companies, individuals, or going into public accounting, make sure you’re driven by ambition to do good. The more literal, worldly, and creative you are, the more you’re going to be able to use those skills and do amazing things.

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