Writing the December President’s Memo is always an interesting endeavor. Because the Memo is written by the outgoing chair in October and the incoming chair in November, plenty happens after September that I don’t get to highlight. December is also a reflective time, not only for considering the last quarter of the year, but for looking back at all that has happened in 2018 — and it was one heck of a year!

This year we saw the impact of major changes to the Uniform CPA Examination, which created disruptions in the candidate pipeline with a resultant significant drop in candidate-related revenue. We launched our new advanced CPA Examination administration system (the Gateway System) and finished our infrastructure improvements to NASBA offices and operational centers in Nashville, New York and Guam, giving us enhanced capabilities and capacity for the future. This year saw continued IT investment into our continuing professional education (CPE) tracking tool, which will launch in 2019. Finally, even with the financial investments and challenges, we spent a record $9.8 million in mission spending in support of Boards of Accountancy.

In 2018 NASBA with the AICPA made a concerted effort to bring the rapid increase in the accounting profession’s reliance on technology to the attention of State Boards. Even as the momentum increases, it has been challenging to gain universal acknowledgement of the key changes that are occurring. The CPA Evolution Working Group was established to let NASBA members and stakeholders grapple with this complex topic and to recommend guidance as to how to best prepare and adapt to the historic progression of the profession.

As we seek to ensure our licensing requirements meet the changing needs of the public and the profession, there are forces actively trying to chip away at regulation. Legislative risk, particularly in the area of anti-regulation, became more prevalent this year and NASBA’s Legislative Support Committee and staff faced unprecedented challenges. Effective legislative activity is unique in that, particularly at the state level, it is localized and grass-roots oriented. To be effective, NASBA members and stakeholders connected socially or politically with legislators and governors in their respective jurisdictions must be identified, then supported with talking points and backed up with technical information and testimony. State Boards, State Societies, NASBA and AICPA have worked together to provide rapid response where needed around the country. We expect 2019 to be just as challenging.

The movement toward a global economy continued to advance this year, albeit with political challenges for international agreements such as NAFTA, and with trade relationships in the European Union (EU) tackling BREXIT. This year, we worked to improve reciprocal practice agreements (MRAs) with Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. The AICPA/NASBA International Qualifications Appraisal Board continues to make progress that will further expand relationships into 2019. Similarly, this year we saw the expansion of the delivery of the CPA Examination into the EU and United Kingdom, and progress has been made toward adding additional countries in 2019. These international efforts enhance the relevance of State Boards, NASBA – and of the U.S. Certified Public Accountant credential.

In the final months of 2018, NASBA has implemented transitional plans aimed at increasing our potential accomplishments in technology. With the continued advancements in artificial intelligence, the critical importance of cybersecurity, and increasingly onerous laws and rules regarding privacy of information, we had to make hard decisions to get where we need to be. Our accumulated assets have put us in a good place to implement the transition.

Finally, I must comment on what an amazing year this has been in our continuing to strive for diversity. I was so proud to witness the transfer of leadership from a great African- American Chair to a highly-qualified woman Chair, and the election of another super-talented woman to be our Vice Chair. Coupled with the diverse makeup of our Board of Directors, our Committees and staff, our progress is substantial.

I would have needed additional pages for the Memo if I were to list all the issues we faced in 2018. As I look back, I am grateful for the skillful guidance of our NASBA leaders, committees and volunteers. I am proud of our talented and dedicated staff and the high-quality work they delivered this year.

Let me end by wishing each and every one of you the happiest of holidays and hoping that you have a safe, prosperous and successful new year. 2018 is about over, but it was one heck of a year!

Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

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