“We are living in a world where trust is a real premium.” This was one of the opening thoughts from Barry Melancon, president and CEO of The American Institute of CPAs (AICPAs), at the OSCPA’s recent Business Excellence Symposium in Cleveland, Ohio.
The good news he shared about the accounting industry is that while trust is down among the general population — from business leaders to the government, and particularly political candidates — the accounting profession has earned and owns a high place on the trust spectrum alongside the medical profession, one of the most trusted professions around.
Melancon’s optimistic message about the profession’s solid position in the market was tempered with the critical need for the profession to continue to evolve at a rapid pace. He focused on the core service area that may undergo the biggest changes in the near future: accounting. Particularly on the audit side, the next 10 years could be game changing. From using drones to conduct inventory, artificial intelligence and big data to increase the productivity of audits, to rising client needs for cybersecurity attestation —many changes and opportunities are on the horizon.
Another issue Melancon discussed was the call many are making for auditors to report on more relevant information, bringing into play the idea of “integrated reporting,” which could provide different types of information to financial statement users than what they receive today. According to Melancon, this method is already used outside of the U.S. and is slowly making its way into U.S. accounting standards. The reporting methodology takes into account types of capital beyond just financial, such as human capital, and analyzes how the company is strategically managed. According to Melancon, big corporations such as Eli Lily and GE are already using integrated reporting to reflect the integrated way in which they run their companies.
Talent and recruiting remains a top-of-mind issue for the accounting profession across the globe, but what will be expected of college graduates with some of the anticipated changes to the industry? The skill set of an entry-level staff will look much different in the next four to five years, with a greater emphasis on data analytical skills to help connect the dots for clients. There will be more hiring from the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math) and analytics have already begun taking a higher cognitive spot on the CPA exam. A diverse “collection of talents,” according to Melancon, will be needed to meet clients’ diverse needs.
Overall, the presentation drove home the point that even established and trusted professions such as accounting will need to change and evolve to keep up with, and ahead of, clients’ needs. The idea of disruption continues to be something that many industries must seriously consider. It's great that the organizations that lead our profession, such as the AICPA and OSCPA, understand its changing needs and continue to focus on staying ahead of them — with the goal of creating bigger and better opportunities for accounting professionals and the industry as a whole.
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