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It’s a Great Day to Be a CPA!

Christen_Tim_headshot_As someone who grew up in the small farming town of Belmont, Wisconsin, the past year has been remarkable for me. I’ve visited more than half the states and met thousands of CPAs working in every professional accounting role you can imagine. And I’ve learned something from every one of them.

There’s nothing like talking with CPAs working with or in real businesses facing complex accounting and tax issues to understand what is important to the future of our profession. They understand we need to evolve to maintain our relevance. The confluence of complexity and rapidly evolving technology has accentuated the imperative for change.

We often discuss the four areas I spoke about at my inaugural address last October. CPAs want to modernize their services, which means adopting new technologies and being a step ahead of what the marketplace demands. They’re asking about everything from how auditors can leverage data analytics, to the latest standards from the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the impact Brexit will have on the work they do.

Something else they want to talk about, and the second area where we can shape our own future and ensure relevance, involves the speed in which we are developing new fields of expertise. These efforts are in response to the changing needs and requirements of our clients and employers. Today the world moves too fast to wait.

For example, just look at what we’re doing in the cybersecurity area. The Securities and Exchange Commission has acknowledged that our profession’s experience with integrating data, reporting and assurance puts CPAs in a unique and influential position to help organizations address their cybersecurity concerns. We are developing guidance for organizations in designing and describing their cybersecurity risk management programs, along with a new cybersecurity examination engagement for firms to perform for clients. And the AICPA is helping CPAs take leadership roles in other emerging areas, such as integrated reporting and crowdfunding.

The third area is increasing our collaboration with others. I think this opportunity is where we’ve seen the most progress during my term as chairman. CPAs are playing more strategic, interconnected and critical roles in business than ever before. Firms are expanding how they support clients by aligning with companies that provide niche or technical services, such as change management, strategic planning or engineering.

One of the most exciting events during my term was the overwhelming approval of the membership ballot on evolving the joint venture between the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). AICPA members who voted passed the measure 86.5% to 13.5%, and CIMA members who voted endorsed it 89.7% percent to 10.3%.

Launching in January 2017, the new international accounting association will provide a platform for stronger advocacy, enhanced member resources, and new ways to reach out to our memberships and the next generation of accounting professionals. The AICPA will remain the membership body for CPAs and the Institute will continue its primary commitment of promoting, protecting and growing the CPA. Together with CIMA, the new association will represent more than 600,000 accounting professionals in over 90% of the world’s countries, raising the profiles of the CPA and CGMA designations worldwide.

The final area where I believe we can shape our future relates to our most important asset – people. During the past twelve months, individual firms and the AICPA have made giant strides in the effort to create the “environment of choice” for the most trusted business advisers of the 21st century. CPAs today demand a more dynamic personal and professional experience. That includes employing innovative ways to help businesses thrive and recognizing that CPAs can be successful working in their own way, on their own time. The modern professional can be just as productive working in shorts from the northwoods of Wisconsin or in the stands at their child’s softball game as they can in a business suit or dress in their firm’s downtown office. 

When looking back on the year, I’m proud of how the profession has progressed to stay ahead of change and maintain relevance. And I haven’t even mentioned exciting initiatives to transform the way CPAs approach learning, the latest developments in our Enhancing Audit Quality initiative, or state and federal advocacy efforts to nurture a landscape conducive to business. 

I’d like to thank the 418,000 members of the AICPA, and to end my term with the same words I used to begin it, because they are as true today as they have ever been. I’m sure you will agree, “It's a great day to be a CPA!”

By Timothy L. Christen, CPA, CGMA -- Chairman, AICPA Board of Directors

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