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Chad Greenwell

Chad Greenwell, associate controller at the University of Michigan (U-M), moved into higher education in 2013 after spending time in public accounting and the private sector. He joined NACUBO’s Accounting Principles Council (APC) in 2021, serving as vice chair in 2022 before becoming chair in 2023. Last year, he was named to GASB’s going concern task force, which is charged with providing guidance and feedback to GASB as that project progresses. At Michigan, Chad is responsible for financial reporting and cost reimbursement activities.

Chad spoke with Chris Leach, NACUBO’s accounting policy analyst, about accounting, representing higher education at a national level, and some of his personal interests.

Where did you begin your career? Upon graduating from Indiana University, I began my career with KPMG’s assurance practice in Indianapolis, where I spent two years before moving to Detroit to help service the DaimlerChrysler audit engagement. After making manager with KPMG, I left to join DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, where I spent the next nine years in various accounting and reporting roles. In 2010, I left Daimler to join General Motors, where I spent time in their SEC reporting group, as well as their technical accounting team for North America. I joined the Financial Operations team here at U-M in 2013 and have been in my current role ever since.

What drew you to higher education? After spending most of my career in the corporate world, I was excited about the prospect of working for an organization whose primary goal was to serve the people of Michigan and the world through its core missions of instruction, research, and patient care. In the corporate world, our primary focus was to maximize the overall return to our shareholders. Here at U-M, while we also focus on the efficient use of our resources, it is instead for the primary purpose of maximizing our ability to better serve the world through the performance of our mission-related activities. To me, this is a very refreshing and rewarding distinction.

What are your main responsibilities at U-M? I currently serve as the associate controller, where I have responsibility for both the financial reporting area and the cost reimbursement office. My financial reporting team has primary responsibility for the development and application of US GAAP technical accounting policy, including the production of the university’s consolidated financial statements. This team also helps to oversee the production of eight additional standalone financial statements for both U-M units and closely related affiliates and assists in the issuance of the annual Uniform Guidance report. My cost reimbursement team is responsible for helping to develop cost accounting policy here at U-M, including the maintenance of our system of class codes used to functionalize expense, and the production and negotiation of the university’s facilities and administrative indirect cost rate agreement.

What is your view of the role of the APC? I believe the role of the APC is to assist NACUBO in guiding and shaping its advocacy efforts towards regulatory compliance within the higher education sector. The council is comprised of representatives from various institutions across the country, both public and private, each of whom bring their own unique perspective, background, and experience. I believe the overall diversity of the council is one of its greatest strengths, as it allows us to leverage the breadth and depth of experience across each institution in order to help NACUBO best advocate for its members as a whole.

You’re serving on GASB’s Going Concern task force; can you give us a sense of how that’s going? It has been an incredible experience thus far, and beneficial to gain additional insight as to how GASB approaches the standard-setting process. The task force is comprised of representatives from throughout the government sector and includes key stakeholders from both the preparer and auditor perspective, as well as the user community. Much like the APC, I believe it is this diversity of thought and opinion that will be key to the development of a well-reasoned standard. My hope is that I can share the unique perspective of the higher education sector as we work with the GASB to shape its view of this complex and challenging topic.

The APC is comprised of volunteers from many institutions; what have you volunteered for? I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to share my insight and experience through participation in the APC. My team and I also are supportive of the standard-setting process and recently volunteered to provide testimony to the GASB relative to our views on both the revenue and expense recognition and the financial reporting model projects. At U-M, I enjoy participating in projects and initiatives that make a positive impact on our culture, including those supporting staff recognition and development.

What’s the most challenging GASB statement you’ve implemented? Several years ago, the university entered into an affiliation arrangement with a third-party community health care provider in west Michigan. The transaction qualified as a change in reporting entity in accordance with the guidance as then specified within GASB No. 62 (now superseded by GASB No. 100). Prior to the change in control, the third-party health system was not a governmental entity and therefore produced its financial statements on a FASB basis. In order to properly reflect the combination within the university’s financial statements, we had to assist in converting the third-party entity’s books and records from a FASB to a GASB basis. This task was challenging, particularly given the proximity of the transaction close date relative to the university’s fiscal year-end. I am fortunate to work with world-class accounting and reporting personnel here at U-M, who worked diligently to help ensure the university was in a position to issue accurate financial statements within its existing year-end reporting timelines.

What do you see as the top accounting issue public institutions are facing? I would have to say proliferation of new accounting standards from the GASB. Not only are these new standards challenging to assess technically, but they are often difficult to operationalize and require the implementation of new systems and processes to ensure accuracy and overall compliance. While I certainly understand and support the need for timely updates to existing guidance, I also want to ensure the GASB recognizes the additional cost that can result from the increased complexity of each of these new standards. As the GASB develops new guidance, I hope NACUBO and the APC continue to engage with them to help ensure that they properly weigh the potential benefit of increased accuracy/transparency in the financial statements with the significant cost our institutions must bear in order to implement and maintain these new standards.

What do you like to do in your spare time? I enjoy spending time with my family and taking time to enjoy the outdoors here in the Great Lakes State!


Chris Leach

Accounting Policy Analyst


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