When I think of 2020 and my year as chair of NASBA, two words come to mind – “Resilience” and “Collaboration”. Actually three words come to mind, but “Zoom” is part of 2020 that I would prefer to forget.

Resilience because we prevailed. It is no coincidence that Resilience was the theme of our annual meeting. All of the volunteer committees and working groups did not miss a beat; you worked hard, and we completed significant goals in support of our mission. Even prior to the pandemic, our CEO, Ken Bishop recognized the need for flexible work arrangements. Thankfully, we had charted a course for providing our staff with laptops and VPN access for a secure work from home environment, even before the Governor’s stay at home order. NASBA staff pivoted quickly and adapted to a new way of working, while not losing sight of the needs of our candidates and our member Boards. I am very proud of the successful efforts by our volunteer members and our hard working staff. We are well prepared to continue this course into 2021.

Collaboration because we had unprecedented success in working with the AICPA on many fronts. I’d like to highlight our accomplishments:

NASBA and the AICPA are founding members of ARPL- the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing – a coalition of learned professions focused on educating policymakers and the public about the importance of maintaining rigorous professional licensing standards. We have made a lot of progress in 2020 in educating lawmakers, providing toolkits and talking points to our stakeholders, and holding media training sessions. ARPL remains active, engaged, and ready to work with lawmakers for as long as it takes to mitigate this risk.

The CPA Exam remains a high priority. The original tri-party contract between NASBA, AICPA and Prometric was signed in 2002, and we are close to coming to agreement with the AICPA on our next contract extension which will continue to govern each of our roles and responsibilities with respect to the Exam. NASBA and the AICPA, working alongside State Boards and state CPA societies, did a fine job in keeping the candidates top of mind: The joint AICPA/NASBA candidate webinars, including “Navigating the CPA Exam During a Pandemic” helped thousands of candidates to better understand the exam process (especially now with continuous testing), exam content and all of the changes that have occurred due to COVID-19 such as ”notice to schedule” extensions and conditional credit extensions. In these times of restricted travel, we continue to expand testing opportunities internationally. India and South Korea were opened for testing recently; and Egypt and Jordan are opening soon. We anticipate that there will be additional expansion.

The peer review program was also significantly impacted by the pandemic, both through extensions of time to allow firms to have their peer reviews completed, and by granting the ability to temporarily conduct peer reviews remotely. Working together, the AICPA’s Peer Review Board and NASBA’s Compliance Assurance Committee developed these successful solutions.

NASBA and the AICPA share a common workload. There are NASBA representatives on many AICPA-led committees and we jointly staff the Uniform Accountancy Act committee, which had a busy year. The UAA Committee recently finalized changes to the rules pertaining to education requirements, which the NASBA Board of Directors approved in October.

The initiative that has held the lion’s share of my attention this year has been “CPA Evolution.” Significant progress has been made! A year ago, we were still exchanging ideas, receiving feedback, and educating everyone on the concept. Do you recall that you went into our regional breakout groups and force ranked the items that should go into the core sections of the CPA Exam? This exercise, along with a similar one that was performed at the AICPA Council meeting, formed the basis for our new exam model. The amount of work that was accomplished in the past 12 months is phenomenal. And we have so many NASBA and AICPA volunteers and staff to thank for that.

After the unanimous vote of support by the NASBA Board of Directors in July, we immediately began work on executing the strategy. NASBA and AICPA continued their weekly status calls but pivoted towards filling working groups and task forces with volunteers to build out the model. We are also working on launching educator resources. We will work on the required exam changes including a new exam practice analysis, providing model curriculum and internship program recommendations to the academic community, and ensuring that the few statute and rules changes that are necessary are completed within the next two years. All this, for a planned launch of the new CPA Exam in January 2024. We have not let the pandemic get in our way; our timeline is holding steady. I offer my thanks for this to our superb staff and our tireless volunteers – both from the AICPA and NASBA.

Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we have continued our work and carried out our mission to enhance the effectiveness and advance the common interests of the Boards of Accountancy – that is Resilience!

I am proud of the strong and effective working relationship that we have with the AICPA – that is Collaboration!

I look forward to the time we can all meet in person again. Until then, please stay safe and stay healthy. With kind regards, your virtual chair.

— Laurie J. Tish, CPA
Chair 2019-2020

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