State Board Report
I am writing this Memo as I am preparing to attend the 32nd NASBA Annual Conference for Executive Directors and Board Staff, commonly referred to as the “ED Conference.” There was a time I would have been somewhat reluctant to write an article about the importance of our Executive Directors, as it may have seemed self-serving in that up until about seven years ago I proudly served as the Executive Director (ED) for the Missouri State Board of Accountancy. After being at NASBA since that time, including a couple of years as President and CEO, the pivotal role of our Executive Directors is very clear to me.
Recently there has been discussion about the significant amount of turnover in the ED ranks. When I look back at the list of Executive Directors who were serving when I started in Missouri in 1999, only about a half dozen remain – and several of them are now talking about retirement. The loss of their institutional knowledge creates a challenge offset by the gain of new knowledge, skills and ideas of those joining the EDs.
In my 15-year history with NASBA and Boards of Accountancy, there have been tremendous changes and accomplishments. To name a few: the conversion to computer-based testing (CBT) for the Uniform CPA Examination, CPA interstate mobility, the Accountancy Licensee Database, and online license renewal (in most states). It would not be an overstatement to proclaim that these and other achievements could not have happened without the participation and work of Executive Directors on NASBA committees and task forces and through unilateral efforts in their home states. These were ideas that benefitted the public and the profession and the Executive Directors were the ones who made them work. Only through the EDs’ willingness to embrace the possible could those improvements have been made.
As I consider the key role Executive Directors have played historically, I do have some concerns about the future. Fifteen years ago, most EDs were dedicated specifically to their Accountancy Boards. At that time EDs were well aware of issues in the profession, shared disciplinary challenges and legislative activities. In addition, most had a common bond with other EDs from around the country. Today, there is a growing number of Executive Directors who have diminished roles with the Accountancy Boards, frequently serving multiple boards and commissions. Often these individuals are unable to attend NASBA meetings, including the ED Conference. This transition has decreased peer involvement and has limited, or even curtailed, the opportunity to leverage relationships with other EDs, thus denying them the opportunity to enhance their Boards’ effectiveness by being current on relevant issues.
We at NASBA are very aware of the changes that have occurred. We are respectful of each state’s decisions as to how its State Board should be staffed and how best to improve efficiency. We are sometimes challenged when “efficiency” decisions appear to be detrimental to the effectiveness of the Board of Accountancy. We have been proactive in reaching out to non-participating states and EDs to see what we can do to provide some relief, and we have developed strategies and programs to close the gap. Several years ago NASBA developed and implemented “NASBA U.” NASBA U fully funds bringing Executive Directors and designated Board staff to our office in Nashville. The curriculum is primarily designed to provide participants with knowledge of the services NASBA can provide them (most at no cost to them or their states) to enhance the ability of their Boards. Another significant benefit of NASBA U is the opportunity it provides to meet and build relationships with fellow EDs and staff members from around the country. If any Board or agency has a new Executive Director who has not attended NASBA U, I strongly recommend you consider it.
As I indicated above, I am very proud of my experience and tenure as an Executive Director. We have several senior NASBA executives and staff members who are former EDs or Board staff. All of us at NASBA are aware of the critical role EDs play and the importance of maintaining and strengthening this network. It is my hope that Boards and agencies consider how the Executive Directors of Boards of Accountancy have helped to improve the profession to better serve the public. If there is anything we can do at NASBA to support your efforts to maintain or strengthen the role of your Executive Director, please reach out to us.
In the meantime, let’s all reach out to our Executive Directors and thank them for their important role in the regulation of a profession on which the capital markets depend!
Semper ad meliora. (Always toward better things.)
— Ken L. Bishop
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