FIU Business alumnus Frank Gonzalez (BAcc ’90) was planning to study law when an accounting class at FIU captured his attention.
The rest is history. Today Gonzalez leads accounting firm MBAF’s audit department across all offices as well as the firm’s financial institutions and SEC practices. MBAF is South Florida’s largest accounting firm by billings, and the fourth largest in number of CPAs, according to the South Florida Business Journal.
At this spring’s FIU Business commencement ceremony, Gonzalez was honored with the Outstanding Alumnus FIU Medallion.
One of the highlights, Gonzalez recalled, was speaking to an auditorium filled with soon-to-be graduates ready to embark on new adventures and their proud relatives.
“I challenge each and every one of you 2018 graduates to go out there and tell the world what FIU Business is all about,” Gonzalez said the April 29, 2018 ceremony. “Join us in making this university even greater for those coming behind you.”
Gonzalez maintains very close ties to FIU. He is a lifetime member of the FIU Alumni Association; a member of the College of Business Dean’s Council; a board member of the FIU Foundation; and a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity Alumni Board.
“I love FIU,” he said proudly.
Gonzalez’ first job upon graduating from FIU was at Coopers & Lybrand, now part of PwC. He later held senior management positions at KPMG and Arthur Andersen, which closed in 2002. Gonzalez joined MBAF in 2002 and in 2016 was named managing principal of its Miami headquarters.
Throughout his career, Gonzalez has worked with public and privately-held companies in sectors including international banking, investment funds/broker-dealers, telecommunications, and technology.
Did you always know you wanted to study accounting?
I really didn’t. I wanted to be an attorney. And then I thought, maybe I’ll study accounting and become a tax attorney. When I took the accounting classes, I liked it more and decided to try it before going to law school. Eventually, I became a CPA. I liked the work and I was happy as I would progress on the corporate ladder of the firms I worked at.
How did FIU’s College of Business experience prepare you for your career and leadership role?
It really prepared me technically for the accounting standards and to pass the CPA exam… and to get good jobs. I was very involved in student government, the accounting association and Sigma Phi Epsilon, and that helped me. In accounting, you need to be able to juggle clients, technical requirements and networking in order to be successful.
MBAF actively recruits FIU students and recent graduates. What qualities do you look for?
I love FIU because students they’re hard-working, and they have good grades. Many hold down jobs and are active in school organizations. They’re not just book smart. We do on-campus interviews at FIU every fall and spring, and we participate in the career fairs and work closely with Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honor society. We can work directly with the students who are looking for internships or job opportunities.
When you were at KPMG, you spent time working at the firm’s New York office. What was that like?
It was definitely exciting, totally different and very fast-paced. You’re meeting with people from all over the world. I worked with an international client and had to learn how to work with different cultures from a business standpoint. It was an international company with business in Spain and Latin America. I learned how to read, write and understand “business Spanish.”
FIU Business has many international students. What opportunities do you open for them?
At MBAF we do a lot of international work, and we always need students with international backgrounds and language skills–and if they know the culture, it’s even more beneficial. For students, having international experience looks good on their resume because they have developed the skills and training many firms look for.
How does the College of Business benefit from having alumni involved not only with the university but also with different entities?
It adds credibility for the university when people and companies learn that FIU alumni are not just successful in business, but we’re involved in the community, professional organizations and work with students. All these factors combined increase FIU’s exposure and we help make the College of Business greater for future generations.
Looking back at your time at FIU, what were the most challenging and most rewarding experiences?
The biggest challenge was getting into the accounting program at FIU. Then, it was to do well in the program and get through it while being involved in the university and working. It was brutal. My reward was graduating. Graduating from the accounting program at FIU opens a lot of doors when you’re meeting with different companies. A lot of firms, and other companies, have for a long time looked forward to hiring FIU accounting students, and that’s even better now.
What was your favorite class at FIU?
The class I most liked, after I took it, was speech. It was a tough class and very demanding, but it helped me tremendously in breaking out of the shell and facing public speaking.
What advice would you give to FIU students?
Get involved. If you can, work – get an internship or a part-time job. Participate in student organizations or clubs. Learn how to juggle multiple projects and put maximum effort into everything. It will benefit you in developing the skills needed for your professional career, as well as leadership and networking. Firms really focus on this–they aren’t just looking for a high GPA or for technical expertise.