That Time I Told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession
Last Wednesday afternoon, I read that Mark Cuban said he would not want to be a CPA right now because advances in technology mean it isn’t a profession for the future.
Wednesday night, I sacrificed sleep so I could write a lengthy blog post explaining how Mr. Cuban clearly didn’t consider the many ways the accounting profession is getting ahead of change and anticipating the future needs of the marketplace.
And by Thursday afternoon, I was explaining my argument to him in person.
I was editing the first draft of my blog post on Thursday when a colleague walked into my office to announce that, according to rumor, Mr. Cuban was in the lobby of our office building at that very moment. Could life be so serendipitous that I could get a photo with the subject of my blog post? Naturally, I had to investigate.
The lobby of our office building was quite empty that day, so I immediately saw that the rumors were true. Sitting right there in front of me was the individual that had caused my writing fury. He was engaged in a conversation, but made eye contact with me and smiled kindly. I took that as my opportunity to introduce myself.
Initially I simply asked for a photo, to which he obliged. I couldn’t resist the urge to share with him why I wanted the photo, though.
“I have not slept in two days because I have been trying to very quickly write a blog post explaining all the reasons you are wrong.”
It probably wasn’t the smoothest opening line ever, but thankfully he laughed and asked to which comments I was referring. When I reminded him, he – shockingly! – asked me to sit down and explain to him why I disagreed.
Over the next ten minutes, I shared some of the many ways the profession is embracing technology to innovate new services and methods of providing them. Automation actually frees CPAs up to perform higher value services for clients and organizations. It also enables entry level and junior staff to focus on deeper responsibilities than they have in the past.
As Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for Glassdoor, explained last year, “Even as technology has helped to automate some aspects of the tax and insurance markets, the remaining jobs in these fields require lots of human judgment and creativity that is very difficult to automate.” A study by McKinsey & Company goes further and says that the technology threat is not about whole professions disappearing as some have indicated, but about certain tasks of jobs and professions being automated. For example, McKinsey found that applying expertise as a job function is much less likely to become automated than data collection and processing. Fortunately for the profession, the marketplace is already demanding that CPAs provide advice and analyze data at more sophisticated levels than ever before. Technology is a valued partner in enabling CPAs to deliver higher value services and business insights that the public can rely on.
Case in point: CPAs are becoming a key ally in the fight against cybersecurity threats. In upcoming weeks, the AICPA will release a new reporting framework that companies can use to tell their customers and investors how they are managing cybersecurity risks. In addition, CPAs will be able to provide assurance on management’s description and the effectiveness of a company’s cyber risk management program. The AICPA’s reporting framework provides the first common language in the marketplace, and it aligns with the many different methods organizations are already using to design cybersecurity risk management programs.
Cybersecurity isn’t the only area in which the profession is innovating. In the future, CPAs will also provide assurance on other non-financial subject areas like vendor/supply chain and sustainability. Auditors will be able to provide meaningful assurance on whether a business has met energy goals or emissions requirements, manufactured products in an environmentally safe way, and achieved water recycling benchmarks.
These types of services will require specialized knowledge and abilities, which is one reason the accounting profession will continue to be successful well into the future. And the demand for these new abilities is reflected in the Uniform CPA Examination, which was recently changed to reflect the evolved competencies newly-licensed CPAs need. The Exam has increased testing of higher-order cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, analytical ability, problem solving, professional skepticism and effective communication – all the same skills that Mr. Cuban says are essential if a profession is to thrive in the age of advanced technologies.
At the same time, the AICPA, CPA firms and other stakeholders are also looking at new ways of incorporating technology into accounting and auditing services. This year, the AICPA will release a whitepaper on Blockchain’s potential impact on assurance services and its updated Audit Data Analytics Guide. It’s also working with the Auditing Standards Board, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to evolve auditing standards to facilitate the use of analytics in the financial statement audit. In fact, the AICPA is thinking about how the “core of the profession’s core”, the audit, might itself transform 5 and 10 years from now due to technology and other marketplace forces.
CPA firms are embracing the change, too. Many are already incorporating new technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and drones into their practices to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Advancements in these areas can help reduce time spent pulling information manually, increase collaboration by allowing a team leader in a firm’s home office to see what an auditor in the field sees in real time, and allow CPAs to inspect land and facilities in a safer and more cost-effective way.
With the profession evolving at such a rapid pace, the AICPA launched the Firm inMotion e-Toolkit last October to help firms of all sizes integrate changes into their practices so they can best meet their clients’ changing needs, and even more resources and tools are in the pipeline.
Mr. Cuban is right that technology is changing workforce demands at an unprecedented rate, but the CPA profession is changing, too. With so many future-oriented developments, right now is definitely a great time to be a CPA. And I am thankful that Mr. Cuban was patient enough to listen to a sleep-deprived defender of the profession explain why.
Lindsay N. Patterson, CAE, Senior Manager--Communications and Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants