In last month’s Memo entitled “An Open Mind,” I discussed NASBA Chair Ted Long’s request that attendees come with an open mind to the upcoming NASBA Regional Meetings, prepared to discuss the impact of technology on the accounting profession, including consideration of a new pathway to the CPA. Both Chair Long and I have continually stated that no final decisions have been made on the creation of such a pathway. Because of recent discussions in different forums, including the April NASBA Board of Directors’ meeting, I believe it is important to reiterate that position and to state clearly that we too have kept our minds open. When I recently heard a NASBA volunteer leader say that he understood “Ken’s position on the pathway discussion,” it set me back a bit. That comment clearly illustrated the importance of clarity between transparency and persuasion. I am supporting an open dialog with fresh thinking to address the matter, and I have not reached a personal position.

Following the recent Executive Directors’ conference, we received a letter from Executive Directors Committee Chair Randy Ross outlining the highlights of the conference, including a list of verbatim comments and questions from some attending Executive Directors (EDs) specifically about the technology pathway presentation that was delivered at the conference. Consideration of those questions is ongoing. While some were easily answered, others require research and vetting. During an ED breakout discussion, I found that responding to the questions raised without appearing to take a position was challenging, and I tried to convey my situation to the attendees.

Similarly, NASBA Executive Vice President Colleen Conrad presented the most current information on the proposed technology pathway to the April NASBA Board of Directors’ meeting. As we have gained more knowledge about the proposal, she was able to effectively respond to many of the questions and concerns raised by Board members. At the end of her presentation, she qualified her remarks by stating that they were not intended to be persuasive, but illustrative and educational.

Nearly a dozen years ago, then NASBA Chair Wes Johnson asked me if I would lead NASBA’s effort to promote mobility cross-border practice privileges. It was a radical departure from the existing registration model and many opposed the concept. At the time that Chair Johnson approached me, I too had reservations. However, through transparency, open mindedness and the tremendous combined efforts of NASBA, State Boards, AICPA and State Societies issues and questions were addressed, and the resulting end-product was much improved. Today, everyone recognizes that an unprecedented change in the accounting profession, particularly in audits and attest engagements, is occurring. The reliance on technology is not a future vision but a current reality. Thoughtful leaders were right about the need for mobility, as are those who recognize that the profession and regulators must meet the technology changes that are upon us.

At the Regional Meetings, attendees will see, hear and have an open dialog regarding the current state of the discussion of a new technology pathway. Responses to many of the questions and concerns raised to date will be conveyed. While we want you to be fully aware of all that is under consideration, we particularly want to listen to your feedback. Effectively dealing with what is a disruption, but also a great opportunity for the profession to bolster public protection, is historically important. As in all important undertakings, this effort will be significant and challenging but one that requires recognition of “transparency vs. persuasion.”

I look forward to seeing you at the Regional Meetings.

Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

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