In an interview with Ari Yezegel, we explore the unique use of the Calcbench’s API to help prepare students for industry work through performing data analytics on real company data.
About Professor Yezegel, PhD, Associate Professor of Accounting, Bentley University
Professor Ari Yezegel teaches Intermediate Accounting and a PhD seminar at Bentley University. In his research, Prof. Yezegel specializes in financial accounting. He also studies sell-side analysts’ stock recommendations and forecasts. While Yezegel mostly uses Calcbench for teaching, he’s also working on an idea to use Calcbench’s API to extract specific parts of SEC filings for a research paper. Here’s what he had to say about teaching using Calcbench.
An Introduction to Calcbench
I first heard about Calcbench several years ago through a presentation by Calcbench at Bentley. It was through this presentation that I learned about the granular-level data offered by Calcbench’s platform. At Bentley University, we subscribe to Calcbench’s API.
Calcbench API Use Case
Intermediate Accounting at Bentley is for accounting majors who want to continue with a career in accounting. I use Calcbench in my Intermediate Accounting courses to get students comfortable with Python [the computer programming language] within a business context. With the Calcbench API, you only need a few lines of Python code to get the data that you need. So in classes where we are teaching a lot of important concepts, Calcbench makes it easy to download the data so that students can spend the time on the analysis.
Intermediate Accounting has a relatively unique structure at Bentley. Intermediate Accounting classes consist of two parts. First, students are given a fictitious case in which they are working for an audit firm and are meeting with a client, GE. Students are asked to review GE’s performance metrics vis a vis GE’s peers to understand its relative performance.
Second, students are asked to help with some detective work. The scenario: An audit partner suspects that firms are inflating earnings to report a profit versus a loss. Students are asked to collect S&P 500 profitability for the past 10 years and to plot a histogram using Return on Assets. Using five to seven lines of code, they can get this historical data. Once students plot the data, they see there’s an unusual number of companies with an ROA hovering right above zero percent versus below zero percent.
The Growing Field of Data Analytics in Accounting
Most Intermediate Accounting students have never coded before. I created some step-by-step videos to show the students how to code, but the students need to adapt the code for the assignment. As a final project, students record a video about the project.
Students have shared that they are impressed by how easy it is to get information using basic Python. They find it powerful to use the Calcbench API to retrieve the data. I’ve had students use this case with recruiters at Deloitte to get internship offers.
For many universities, including ours, we see data analytics as a growth path for the field of accounting. There’s a lot of industry demand for data analysts in accounting. Calcbench is well positioned to help students prepare for a career in data analytics.
Recommendations for Academics Using Calcbench
Rather than having students install and run Python on their machines, we use Google coLab which runs Python on their browser.
In addition, if professors want to use the Calcbench API in the classroom, they can teach students to code; but they can also use apps such as Streamlit.io to download the data and make it available for students to just perform the analysis.
Improving the Calcbench Platform
The API is constantly evolving and being developed. Given the continuous changes, it’s important to understand, perhaps through a bi-annual update email, what changes have been made.
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