Become A CPA

Become A CPA

What's Your CPA Story: Carmen Aguiar

by User Not Found | Aug 24, 2015

To showcase the variety of career opportunities available to CPAs, we asked some WSCPA members, "What's your CPA story?" Here is Carmen Aguiar's story.

Carmen Aguiar, CPA/PFS, CGMA, CFP, grew up in the Big Apple and graduated from Hunter College, City University of New York. Her new career as a tax accountant took her to Park Avenue, only 20 blocks away from where she received her college education. Eventually, Carmen tried a stint working away from public accounting, but a desire to create a family firm serving families brought her where she is today:  the  CEO and founder of a boutique CPA firm in Bellevue, Washington.

Tell us about how your career got started.

Upon graduation from Hunter College, City University of New York, I joined Arthur Young’s very first Tax class directly into the Tax Department without Master or JD degrees. The “Big Eight” firms were trying the direct entry with only a Bachelor’s into the Tax Department for the first time.

I worked with the Financial Institutions and High Net Worth group. Some of the clients I worked with included American Express, PaineWebber (now UBS), Time Warner, and Mobil.

In New York, I was a member of the Firm when we merged with Ernst & Whinney to become Ernst & Young. I then moved to Seattle and continued with the Firm working primarily with expatriates and inpatriates. After Ernst & Young, I worked for a software company in Bellevue as an accounting manager. 

I realized what I really enjoyed was public accounting and working with different people and if I were to stay in Seattle (where my husband wanted to be); I would start my own practice that while small could also be international. I was enjoying traveling and felt there were no boundaries to serving. I wanted to create a firm where CPAs and professionals can do what they love but with flexibility.

In 1993 I founded The Aguiar Group. Today we serve multi-generational families and their businesses in taxation consulting and compliance, as well as personal financial planning. We serve clients locally, nationally and internationally.

What advice would you give to a CPA who aspires to establish a boutique CPA firm?

Our profession is a great profession that is constantly changing and affects every element of life. It is challenging and very rewarding as you see small businesses and families grow and thrive as they reach their goals. It is rewarding to help businesses and families transform as they traverse financial challenges and opportunities that also affect the nonfinancial aspects of their lives.

Our global economy provides opportunities across borders for even the smallest of businesses. It is an exciting time to have a key role in helping entrepreneurs and families achieve success.

What skills are essential for success running your own firm?

Strong values and ethics, communication and technical skills, teamwork and leadership, love for families, small business and community.  A desire to stay current on tax and financial issues.  An ability to adapt and grow by challenging yourself and others.

You served as WSCPA Chair of the Board of Directors in 2009-10. What role did being a member of the of WSCPA play in your career?

I was very involved with the Washington Society of CPAs and then the American Institute of CPAs for many years. As a small firm, my involvement keeps me in tune with what is happening locally, nationally and internationally. I developed leadership skills and worked with great people, many of whom remain great friends.

Our fellow colleagues do become your best friends along the way.  We are a group of professionals that truly want to contribute to our communities and protect the public. 

Can you share your involvement with other boards and organizations in the area?

Thanks to the respect for our CPA profession, I have been involved with numerous boards, not-for-profit to governmental to financial institutions and banks to privately-held companies. I served on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, which is basically a bank for banks. I have been very involved and served as chairman of a community bank in Seattle. My skills have helped me to navigate and work with regulators during very challenging times.

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