Last month I attended the American Institute of CPAs' Major Firms Group Meeting in Naples, Florida. Not a bad way to kick-off the New Year. Great climate, great colleagues and lots of passionate discussion from key members of the accounting industry.
As chair of the Major Firms Group, I am privileged to be part of what is truly an important value proposition for the firm and our clients. And the venue couldn’t have been better. The meeting gathers more than 60 of the largest and best accounting firms in the country, specifically excluding the Big 4, to focus on the future of the industry. I was surrounded by smart people who all want to improve their firms and our industry to provide more value to clients and better opportunities for staff. Truly invigorating.
The message of the day? There are new, meaningful opportunities for accounting firms if we open our eyes and our minds to them. Conversely, there are also increasing risks if we don’t keep up. Here are a few of the most pressing themes:
1.Relevance, disruption and disintermediation. The traditional financial statement as we know it has a limited life. Investors want to make real-time decisions based on probabilities and deep data analyses. Clearly, understanding this will offer true competitive advantage by providing investors with what they need before someone else does.
2.Cybersecurity. There is no doubt that many companies are asked by vendors and customers these days, ‘how will you keep my information safe?’ Companies wanting/needing more formalized assurance on other cybersecurity processes are right around the bend. Consultants are already starting to dip their toes into the water. This will be an important opportunity for larger auditing practices as our industry embraces a leadership role in the charge!
3.Global reporting. IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) is gaining momentum as a way to find a common platform for financial reporting across the globe. Stay tuned as this discussion continues.
These particular industry topics, and many others, all point to really one thing: change is an absolute – from typical generational issues of employees and buyers, to significant changes in the services our market will want from us. As an industry, we need to keep up with the swift pace of change. As always, the dichotomy of thought is focusing on the “now” to execute today, while positioning ourselves to take advantage of anticipated changes and opportunities in the future. We are up for that challenge, and will lead change, not follow.
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