Songs in the Key of Sarbox

''The Singing CPA'' puts a new twist on accounting. Also: the new face at FEI.
Laura DeMarsFebruary 1, 2007

If audits, merger negotiations, or FASB rulings don’t put a song in your heart, maybe Steven Zelin can. Calling himself “The Singing CPA,” the 31-year-old internal auditor at French investment bank Société Générale in New York is putting a new twist on accounting with his toe-tapping tunes about taxes, taking sick days, and finding free furniture on New York City streets.

Not surprisingly, Zelin’s most attentive audience is a room full of finance professionals. “Accountants get a real kick out of my music,” says Zelin, whose repertoire includes such songs as “Dear IRS” (about tax returns) and “Stealing from the Company.”

Zelin picked up the guitar at age 16 and hasn’t stopped playing since. Accounting also came quite easy to the Alfred University graduate, who started out as an auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Blending the two was inevitable, he says. “I was writing love songs and songs about living in New York City when my accounting experience just kind of crept in,” he explains.

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In fact, Zelin, who has performed at a variety of CPA events, sees many similarities between his two passions. “A song has one central theme that the rhythm, tone, and lyrics all support,” he says. “An audit report is about one company, and the issues, opinions, and wording all support that one subject.”

Zelin’s “Dear IRS” was so popular after he recorded it in 2005 that it was played on at least nine radio stations and inspired the release of his first CD, Just Take a Sick Day. He says CFOs should keep an eye out for his next CD, The Singing CPA, due later this year. It’s chock-full of tax and accounting songs for those who want to “lighten up a little,” as Zelin says. Or need to.

New Face at FEI

There’s not much in finance that Michael P. Cangemi has not done. He’s been a CFO, a CEO, and a CIO, and has authored numerous books on auditing. (In fact, a collection of more than 250 of his books on auditing and EDP auditing is even housed at the University of Mississippi’s National EDP Auditing Archival Center.) In his latest incarnation, the 58-year-old is the new president and CEO at Financial Executives International.

Cangemi took the reins last month as head of the 15,000-member organization. And while he acknowledges that “these are interesting times for financial professionals,” Cangemi insists that his new role is “a dream come true.”

In the coming months, he plans to improve FEI’s member base and broaden the organization’s products and services, especially in IT and auditing. That’s not surprising. As former president of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association–International and author of Managing the Audit Function — A Corporate Audit Department Manual, Cangemi has lent his expertise in those areas to various organizations, including the SOX Institute and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

But the former CEO and CFO of Etienne Aigner Group Inc., a women’s footwear and accessories designer, insists that his first priority will be FEI members. “I will be very focused on satisfying their needs and helping them contribute to the success of their organizations,” he says.

That sits well with Alan Faber, a vice president in the Boston chapter of FEI. Obviously, he says, “[Cangemi] knows what this organization is all about.” — L.D.