Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

Last month in my President’s Memo, entitled “Substantial vs. Radical,” I discussed the challenge of finding the appropriate words to describe the degree of change needed to prepare the CPA profession for the future. I was surprised and delighted by the number of responses I received and, more importantly, by the comments and suggestions for the “elusive word” included in those messages. Before I highlight them, I want to give credit to our State Board Report team for the recent decision to send the SBR to member Boards and stakeholders electronically as well as in print. I have been amazed by the increased amount of feedback we have received.

Among the first responses I received was from a current NASBA Board member. He entitled his email “Elusive Word,” which I instantly decided would be the title of this month’s Memo. In the email was a suggestion that might help us identify the appropriate word(s): “Tomorrow’s CPA’s clients will demand expansion of services from their CPA. The CPA will have to learn and understand this expansion of services. The CPA exam will have to include testing of these expanded services. The Board will have to regulate these new expanded services.” He makes an important point: We have been discussing how technology will ultimately automate existing services (which may be true in some cases), but technology and new client needs will certainly expand the services CPAs and CPA firms provide.

Another interesting response I received was from a former NASBA Board member, who is a retired accounting professor and one of NASBA’s super volunteers. The conclusion of his email struck a chord: “It is not important to define the degree of change we are facing. Rather the accounting profession will benefit from defining a clear professional goal for every professional accountant: Be intellectually and technologically agile.” The International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB) defines “intellectual agility” as: “The ability of a professional accountant to: consider new, or reconsider existing, data and information; re-evaluate conclusions in response to new or existing facts; identify new or alternative ways of working; and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.” This goes beyond wordsmithing to describe the changes under consideration and focuses on the behavioral change individual accountants and the entire profession will need to embrace.

The final response I will share came from a State Board of Accountancy member who wrote: “My one word would be ‘transformative.’ The definition of ‘transformative’ is ‘causing or able to cause an important and lasting change in someone or something.’” Actually, the word “transformative” has been used in our internal discussions regarding the evolution of the profession, but this respondent referenced an article in the March 1, 2019 edition of Accounting Today written by the visionary author and lecturer Gary Boomer. Mr. Boomer began his article with: “Change is difficult, especially for those whose income continues to increase. Is this trend sustainable without investing more in talent and technology? Most will agree an increased investment in talent and technology are needed to sustain success and be future-ready. However, sometimes change is not enough and transformation is required.”

We have been primarily discussing the difficultly in getting our stakeholders to buy in to the changes necessary to ensure that the profession is prepared for the technological advancements quickly overtaking it. Mr. Boomer’s point is well taken: We also need to understand that practitioners will have to adopt the willingness to transform.

There is not enough space to share all of the many suggestions and contributions I have received, but I sincerely thank those of you who took the time to opine. I am always amazed by the breadth and depth of the knowledge, skill and thoughtfulness of NASBA volunteers and stakeholders, and their willingness to help me find those elusive words. The work toward CPA Evolution continues. Your input can provide new and important guidance for our work.

Before concluding, recognizing other contributed knowledge and skills, I want to acknowledge the very successful Conference for Executive Directors and State Board Staff held in San Antonio, March 26-28. Executive directors and their staff do so much of the heavy lifting in the day-to-day work of regulating the accounting profession. Their input is invaluable to NASBA and we thank them for all they do!

Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

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