AICPA Accounting Competition: Play the Role of a Personal Financial Planner
There’s nothing like a personal financial incentive to challenge undergraduate students across the country to test their personal financial planning skills. The American Institute of CPA’s fourth annual AICPA Accounting Competition opened earlier this week, with teams competing for a $10,000 top award and second and third place prizes of $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.
The competition underscores the important role CPAs serve as financial planners at a time when young adults are dealing with crippling student loan debt and maxed out credit cards.
I spoke with Erin Curtis, AICPA manager, College Student Recruitment & Engagement, to find out some inside information about this year’s competition and what CPAs can do to help spread the word about the great opportunities a career in accounting provides.
James Schiavone: Tell me about the decision to select personal financial planning as the topic of this year’s competition?
Erin Curtis: Each year, we focus on a different area where CPAs bring value to businesses and individuals. A couple years back we focused on forensics. Last year, the competition focused on the deficit, income tax reform and social security. This year, we wanted to showcase one of the AICPA’s specialized credentials – the Personal Financial Specialist.
CPAs with the PFS credential take a big picture approach to their clients. Financial planning is a natural extension of the traditional work that most CPAs are involved in. They learn about their life goals and create financial plans that take into account a large number of issues like investments, risk management, estate planning and taxes to help them achieve success. And they really have to think through a lot of complexity. Clients often have multiple goals, like starting a business, saving for retirement and planning for a child’s education, that add a lot of nuance to the planning process. Changes in tax law can have a big impact on a client’s financial plans, which makes it even more important to ensure someone qualified is handling the process.
Students will take on the role of a PFS credential holder for a client with big dreams—and debt to match. Through the course of the competition, teams will develop plans to help their client achieve both short- and long-term financial goals, while being exposed to some of the decisions that a Personal Financial Specialist might help a client make.
JS: How was the specific scenario developed?
EC: The case was developed by AICPA staff and member volunteers who hold the PFS credential. The case explores the life and financial milestones of a fictional character facing real-life financial issues and opportunities.
The ‘star’ of the competition is a 24-year-old musician who needs financial guidance to get out of debt and make his idea for a mobile app focused on live music shows a reality. We have a ton of details available on thiswaytocpa.com/competition.
As the competition progresses, the character’s life and the complexity of his financial situation grow, which challenges the students to continue refining the plans they have develop and advise their client through a series of crucial life decisions.
We specifically designed the case to focus on a young adult with an interesting story and potentially lots of money to manage, something that we think would resonate with college students today.
JS: What do you hope participants will get out of the process?
EC: Participating in the AICPA Accounting Competition gives students an opportunity that they might not necessarily get in the classroom to broaden their skill set. To succeed in the competition and earn the top award, students must hone their writing skills, perfect public speaking, practice networking and, of course, put the accounting knowledge they gained in the classroom to work.
Besides the financial incentive ($17,500 in total awards), there is a great deal of prestige in winning one of the top prizes. Every team that participates – not just the winners – will take away amazing real-world accounting knowledge, some important career tips and a stellar résumé booster.
JS: Who will be judging the competition?
EC: Each year, members from the AICPA’s Student Recruitment Committee and Leadership Academy Alumni serve as first-round judges.
For the semifinal and final rounds, the judges selected are subject matter experts. Each year, we coordinate with the associated internal AICPA team to recruit their members to participate.
The AICPA Chairman has traditionally attended the competition finals as well, which gives teams an opportunity to interact with one of the leaders of the profession.
JS: How would someone interested in judging in the future participate? Is there anything AICPA members can do to get more involved with student recruitment?
EC: If someone is interested in judging future competitions, they can contact me (email@example.com).
In addition, for the first time this year, regular AICPA members can serve as team advisors. In addition to providing valuable insight to the students, the advisor would accompany their team to the finals if they make it into the top three.
Also, any AICPA members who wish to become involved with student outreach should apply for the Student Recruitment Committee on Volunteer Central.
JS: How long do students have to submit their entries?
EC: Since time is of the essence to help their client get out of debt, teams need to complete their first round entries by 9/27.
Updates on the competition, including the opportunity for the public to weigh in with their votes for the best entries, will be posted on the ThisWaytoCPA website.
James Schiavone, AICPA Staff.
* NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Competition begins on 8/19/13 and ends on 12/21/13. All entries must be received by 9/27/13. Subject to Official Rules available at thiswaytocpa.com/competition. Open to legal residents of the 50 US states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and US Virgin Islands who are; AICPA student affiliates, who are at least 18 and who are also full-time undergraduate students at community or four-year college/university in one of those jurisdictions. See Official Rules for all requirements, terms & conditions. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: AICPA, 220 Leigh Farm Rd., Durham, NC 27707.