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Strengthening the Profession’s Core with Relevance, Rigor and Reach

Tommye_barie_headshot2I am excited to write to you as the new chair of the AICPA Board of Directors. I hope to meet many of you at the numerous conferences, state society meetings and firm visits that I have lined up between now and next October. The Chair’s Letter also is a great forum to discuss common experiences and important developments. Throughout the year, I will share my thoughts on key trends and emerging professional issues. I hope you’ll share your comments with me and our fellow CPAs so we can have a robust dialogue.

Let me begin by telling you a little about myself. I grew up in the tiny town of West Liberty, Kentucky, home to about 2,000 people and two stoplights. I was raised on small-town values that remain with me today. These values – hard work, integrity, community and commitment – first attracted me to the accounting profession, and now they will shape my stewardship as AICPA Chair.

As a child, I was always drawn to sports and still enjoy them. During my free time you can usually find me riding the waves on my kiteboard. Kiteboarding is an exhilarating sport. To do it, you strap a small board to your feet and climb into a harness with a large kite. You then catch the wind in your kite and ride the waves while using your core to maintain balance. Kiteboarding is a great analogy for what we as a profession face every day. External forces are changing the landscape faster than ever, and we must use our core strength to ride that constantly changing wind. We must constantly reposition our profession to ensure the wind stays in our kite. Like the kite boarder, the accounting profession’s success and adaptability are directly linked to the strength of our core. During the next year, I will focus on three factors that are critical to enhancing our profession’s strong core: relevance, rigor and reach.

Here’s what these factors mean and the steps the AICPA is taking to address each one: 

  • Relevance means anticipating the constantly changing winds and positioning ourselves accordingly. Our profession’s core services clearly establish our relevance in many areas. The CPA profession is a strong and consistent voice on accounting, auditing and tax matters and takes steps to protect CPAs and the public. But relevance also means keeping up with changing needs and market demands. The Future of Learning project explores ways in which we can modernize our learning model to remain relevant in this changing environment.
  • Rigor means demanding the best of ourselves and our services. To have the core strength to stay on a kiteboard, you have to train, pay attention to details and understand the demands of your discipline. CPAs know all about that kind of rigor. To make sure we maintain our high standards, the AICPA has augmented our commitment to excellence through our new Enhancing Audit Quality initiative, which, among other objectives, will reimagine peer review to meet evolving needs and take advantage of new technologies. Rigor is equally important in business and industry. Beginning this January, CGMA designation candidates will be required to pass a strategic case study exam. A single global exam will help ensure consistency and competence.

Reach also means embracing today’s global economy and the new service opportunities it brings. I’ve experienced this firsthand. One of my clients, a tech firm in Orlando, Fla., handles a variety of software used in numerous aspects of airline travel - from scanning bags to checking in at kiosks. Their reporting is rolled into the financial statements of their parent company in Germany, so we created a package that gets them from GAAP to IFRS. I never imagined my work would have such a significant global component. But that’s the reality of business today. As business expands, and technology removes barriers, CPAs will need to work with broader groups of people in all parts of the world.

We also must be a profession that is as broad as the clients and employers we serve. And as we increase our reach, we must fight the urge to stay in the here and now. We must strengthen our core and control our direction – doing so allows us to leverage the winds and position ourselves for success. I look forward to taking this exciting ride with you.

Tommye E. Barie, CPA, Chair of the Board of Directors, American Institute of CPAs


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