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New AICPA chair shares his vision for the future

ERIC HANSEN HEADSHOT Today, Eric Hansen, CPA, CGMA, assumes his new role as Chair of the American Institute of CPAs. We sat down with Eric to ask the four questions that will help you know him and his vision for the profession a little better.

You can also watch the video of his inaugural address, delivered to members of AICPA Council, here.

  1. Congratulations on becoming the 105th Chair of the AICPA! How would you define your role as a leader in the accounting profession?

I’m so humbled and honored to join the ranks of so many amazing and visionary leaders who’ve come before me. They are the reason for our success today. And I see it as my duty – and really that of all accountants – to continue to build on that success, keeping the profession strong and maintaining our critical role in protecting the public interest.  

  1. Strong positioning seems especially important now, as we navigate a world defined by rapid change and disruption. So, how do we keep the profession relevant and trusted?

One thing many people may not know about me is that I’m an Eagle Scout. And it was during my time in the Scouts that I learned one of my favorite sayings: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, forget about it.” This is how I’ve approached my life and career, and it’s never failed me.

This is how we need to think about our profession, as well. No one knows for sure what tomorrow will bring. But, if we have the courage to be bold and a bias for action, we’ll be prepared.

  1. It’s interesting how those early life moments can really shape who we are. Can you tell us a little more about your background and the path that got you here?

I was born in Independence, MO – the former homeplace of Harry Truman. My father was a World War II veteran who served on both Omaha Beach on D-Day and at the Battle of Okinawa. After he returned, he and my mother built a small family farm, where they raised my three brothers and me. They instilled in us the importance of hard work and accountability – we had chores from sun up to sun down. Our only real escape for fun was the Boy Scouts. But even that we approached with the same level of discipline. I’m very proud to say all four of us earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Later, I attended Evangel University. It was a chance meeting there that really set the trajectory that got me to where I am today. My auditing class had a guest speaker, Chuck Wells, a partner in the Kansas City office of BKD. After class, I introduced myself, and so began my more than 33-year career with a fantastic firm. Not only that, I met one of the greatest friends and mentors anyone could hope for.

Today, I’m the Chief Operating Officer of BKD, where I oversee firm-wide operations and act as a liaison between the National Office and BKD’s four regions.

  1. Looking at the year ahead, what do you see as the top areas where the profession should focus?

The way I see it, there are three areas where we need to take action today to be ready for tomorrow:

  • Harness technology to create more value for clients and businesses.

We must use data and insights to enhance quality in audit, tax and finance, and continue to evolve these services for the future. And we must take the lead in emerging areas such as cybersecurity risk management.

  • Embrace our role in a hyper-connected, global society.

We will continue to serve as a strong voice of the profession in DC, and tax reform will remain a significant area of focus this year. But we must also recognize that we are part of a global tapestry. As technology binds us closer, one legislation or regulation can have fast and far-reaching ramifications. That’s why it’s so important that we extend our influence to protect the public interest amid increasing complexity.

  • Invest in personal development.

We must focus on evolving skills and competencies, advancing learning opportunities and cultivating future leaders. Last year, we took an important step for future professionals by updating the Uniform CPA Exam. But we must look at ourselves, as well. The skills we’ve relied on to get us here aren’t necessarily the skills that will sustain us - we need to continue upping our game.

Essentially, we must Go beyond. To remain successful, we have to think differently about what we do and how we do it. We have to learn from the past and create the future.

This is an exciting and defining moment for the profession. I look forward to working with members, state societies and other stakeholders to embrace the opportunities ahead. 

Eric and his wife, Jana, currently reside in Springfield, MO. They have three children – Todd, Luke and Elise. He has been an active volunteer with the AICPA and member of the Missouri Society of CPAs. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family outdoors camping, hiking and mountain biking.

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