Throughout his 40 years with Grant Thornton, he has been viewed by colleagues as a successful, high-impact leader.
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Former Managing Partner, Strategic Relationships Grant Thornton, LLP
Favorite city: New York — ”It’s the capital of the world.”
Favorite restaurant: Il Giglio in New York — “Where I met my wife.”
Favorite hobbies: Touring cyclist (long distance bicycle riding). Next summer, he’ll ride across the United States, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, in about 75 days.
Ballet: “I’ve had the same seats for 30 years.”
Advice for students: “You can influence what you want to do with the rest of your life by looking at what you are doing today. Gain a good knowledge of accounting and financial statements; it will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
Advice for faculty: “I’d love to see more interaction between faculty and the public accounting profession. I think there is a lot we could learn from each other. The interaction could give each of us a perspective that we may have never had before.”
A Leader with an Eye for Change
Cono Fusco M.B.A. ’67 was elected a partner of Grant Thornton, LLP, on August 1, 1973. Throughout his 34 years as a partner and 40 years total with Grant Thornton, he has been viewed by colleagues as a successful, high-impact leader. His career has spanned virtually all aspects of firm operations including: client service; office, regional and national managing partner positions; Senior and National Leadership Team; and Partnership Board member.
During his career, he created and led Grant Thornton’s Merger and Practice Integration strategy, the height of which was the successful integration of 600 former employees of Arthur Andersen, including 60 partners. It resulted in a 24 percent increase in the firm’s personnel and partner head count at the time. More recently, he had been named among the 100 Most Influential People in Corporate Governance by Directorship Magazine. He is a frequent speaker at various conferences and seminars sponsored by business groups, the accounting profession, and academic institutions.
Mr. Fusco’s mother was, in his words, an original “women’s libber.” She worked as a bookkeeper in a private furniture business. Her sister was also a bookkeeper at a food importing company. Mr. Fusco remembers that these women spoke with reverence about the Certified Public Accountant who came in to review the business’ books. It was then that Mr. Fusco first considered a career in public accounting.
As an undergraduate, he went to Manhattan College. Starting out in Manhattan’s engineering program, he switched his major to business after the first year. Married in June of 1964, he finished his degree that same summer and began his professional career in September.
After graduation, he took a job at a local accounting firm. It was a job he considered to be an internship while waiting for entry into graduate school. During the course of the next nine months, he learned everything he could about business and accounting. “To me, beginning a career in public accounting was like a decision not to decide. There are so many avenues to explore, and one doesn’t necessarily have to specialize immediately. In many ways, it was like going to college. I didn’t have to declare a major right away.”
Living in Queens at the time, Mr. Fusco learned about Adelphi University’s School of Business. He started in the graduate program in September 1965. As a full-time student, he took classes in the afternoons and early evenings. To pay for his education, he took odd jobs: as a service-station attendant, parking cars, and finally as a controller for a family seafood restaurant in Queens. According to Mr. Fusco, he “learned enough about accounting at that job to know which end of the pencil to grab.”
Upon completing his M.B.A. at Adelphi in 1967, he had a number of job offers and accepted a position with Grant Thornton, LLP (nee Alexander Grant & Co.). He knew that by taking an additional six credits in accounting, he would qualify to sit for the CPA exam one year earlier. He took those additional two courses, earned a second concentration in accounting, and then passed the exam with only two years of experience versus three as then required by law.
“Sometimes,” Mr. Fusco recalls, “the best decisions are the ones that you never make.” In 1968, a partner at Alexander Grant by the name of Hugh Reed left the firm to join Richard A. Eisner, a new start up accounting firm. Cono was recruited heavily to join Reed and recalls that the offer they made “turned my head.” Knowing that he needed to finish an assignment at Grant, he was prepared to leave three weeks later. But he had a change of heart and was given the opportunity to get into the technical side (review department/quality assurance) of the business. After Mr. Fusco was at the company for three years, he was promoted to manager — a track that usually took eight to ten years to achieve.
In March 1972, Mr. Fusco was asked to go out to Grant’s National Office in Chicago to write a training program on internal control in connection with a proposed revision to the firm’s standard audit program. At the time, he was told it might take two weeks. “Technically, we were very good, but our process was not as good. There was sand in our gears.” Ultimately he became part of the team that completed the rewrite of the audit program. A project that was supposed to take two weeks took four months to complete.
“I think there are certain types of people who go into accounting. Generally speaking, they are quantitative as opposed to qualitative. However, the most successful accountants, in my opinion, have the ability to transition from quantitative thinkers into qualitative thinkers.”
Mr. Fusco offers an important word of advice for current Adelphi students majoring in accounting: “Success does not begin or end with the global six firms, no more so than the only good education you can get is at an Ivy-league school. If you don’t join one of the bigger firms, don’t feel like you’ve failed before you’ve started.”
Now in retirement, he holds two trustee positions: one with The Economic Club of New York and the other with The Committee for Economic Development. In addition, in the “next chapter” of his professional career, he hopes to put his 40 years of accounting and business experience to work — this time, as a director on the boards of a few select large cap or mid cap companies.
With experience like his, the offers are sure to come.
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