State Board Report
Every year when I write the final President’s Memo of the year I have very similar thoughts and emotions. In a large association with hundreds of delegates, associates and staff and thousands of stakeholders, one should expect any year to contain a range of experiences from celebratory to melancholy. This year was no exception. There were so many great successes and reasons to celebrate, tempered by the loss, illnesses and struggles of some of the NASBA family. It is a time to reflect on both. For me personally, this year-end represents another milestone as I complete my tenth year with NASBA and my sixth year as President and Chief Executive Officer.
It is hard to believe that it has been a decade. Ten years ago, the top priority for NASBA (and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) was to launch the individual mobility legislative effort. I clearly remember the early discussions and the naysayers forecasting that we would never be successful. Yet within a few years, individual mobility had passed and been implemented in a super majority of states. Now, ten years later, every U.S. jurisdiction, except for the State of Hawaii, has mobility legislation that affords unprecedented flexibility to consumers of CPA services — with virtually no harm resulting to the public. Today we are looking at another new unprecedented change.
In 2018, we will begin seriously considering and developing a new pathway to becoming a CPA. After spending a significant amount of time and effort studying and understanding the accounting profession’s rapid transition to the use of and reliance on technology, particularly data analytics, we have concluded that relevant regulatory change is inevitable. That will be seen in several areas, but developing a process that enables data technologists and scientists to become CPAs is an important element of that change.
NASBA and AICPA are working together to carefully research and ascertain if, when and how a new pathway to CPA should be constructed. Several things are clear: The reliance and importance of data technologists in the profession is already apparent. Firms, particularly large firms, are reducing the number of traditional CPAs being hired by more than 20 percent and are hiring data technologists and scientists in their stead. Most of the U.S.’s largest audits are already significantly utilizing data analytics, and products and services are now being developed that will soon expand the use of data analytics into firms and engagements of all sizes.
It is evident that other professions such as engineering and economics are competing for people with the same data specialty skill sets. Providing students and candidates interested in, and with an acumen for, data analytics with the opportunity to become CPAs and join the most respected profession presents a great opportunity, but we recognize they have other career paths available to them. That is part of our challenge.
Ten years ago, in the early discussions about mobility legislation, I often heard comments like “the accounting profession is slow to change” and “CPAs don’t like change.” I now know that those arguments were mostly untrue. The CPAs I have been privileged to work with are some of the most progressive and forward-thinking folks I know, and CPA firms have advanced the use of technology and continued to strive to improve audit quality. However, the naysayers of ten years ago posed valid and important questions that ultimately improved the mobility model. We hope we will experience that same level of engagement as we expose elements of the contemplated pathway. NASBA is committed to transparency and effectively communicating with State Boards on this project and all others.
Before concluding, I do want to take this opportunity to wish all the NASBA family a safe and joyous holiday season and a happy and successful new year. 2018 is going to be an exciting year for NASBA and the accounting profession. I predict that it will come to be seen as a watershed year for the profession, NASBA and for Boards of Accountancy.
Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).
— Ken L. Bishop
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