In January of this year, my President’s Memo was titled “Time to Unwind.” I described how NASBA had been extremely cautious and risk adverse as we worked through the COVID-19 (COVID) pandemic, but that our intent going forward was to return to in-person conferences and meetings so that we could focus on the important issues, challenges, and opportunities that we face in the post COVID world. As promised, all major NASBA conferences and meetings including the Annual Conferences for Executive Directors and Legal Counsel and the Eastern and Western Regional Meetings returned to the face-to-face format this year, and many NASBA committees are now meeting in person. We are effectively unwinding.
We are now well into the planning of NASBA’s 115th Annual Meeting, which will be held in San Diego, CA, October 30 -November 2. Even though the conferences and meetings held this year have been successful with enthusiastic attendee participation and high quality presentations (resulting in good evaluations from attendees), we have been challenged by the lower number of registered attendees as compared to pre-COVID attendee numbers.
While we anticipated lower numbers of in-person attendees, we were frankly surprised by the degree of the drop off. When NASBA’s Communications and Meetings staff contract with hotels, restaurants, and other event venues, we must commit to a certain number of hotel room nights, and food and beverage minimums. When we fall short of our contracted numbers, we are still on the hook for paying for the rooms and services that were not used.
Again, we anticipated the drop off and thus budgeted adequate funds to manage the financial impact. Obviously, we do not want to reserve an inadequate number of rooms for participants, as we are doing our best to manage the unwinding transition, which includes encouraging our members to attend these critical meetings. I have always believed that NASBA needs to be completely transparent when it comes to financial matters, including any challenges we may face, but in this case, the monetary challenge caused by lower attendance is not my primary concern. In fact, NASBA has adequate asset reserves to work through the unwinding process.
I have been associated with NASBA for more than two decades. I recognized long ago that the relevance of NASBA, and our mission to enhance the effectiveness and advance the common interests of the State Board of Accountancy, is driven by the culture of relationships and the resultant collaboration accomplished through the participation in NASBA’s meetings and conferences. With the rotation and rollover of members and staffing of the State Boards of Accountancy, there are hundreds of new members and staff who have never attended a NASBA meeting. More importantly, these individuals comprise a new demographic that has not had the opportunity to meet their counterparts from across the United States. This is something we must resolve! We need to unwind!
I understand that there are many reasons and challenges to travel, including to NASBA meetings. The headlines describing cancelled flights, the continued number of reported COVID infections, and change of habits after years of restricted movement have all impacted attendee decisions. I wish I could tell you that there are zero risks from travel and attending face-to-face gatherings, but we all know that is not the case. One of the reasons we have continued to require attendees of NASBA meetings (including this year’s Annual Meeting) to be fully vaccinated is to protect our members and participants from becoming seriously ill. In fact, there is very low risk of serious illness or hospitalization for anyone who is fully vaccinated, or who has had COVID and is protected with antibodies.
Recent studies indicate that a majority of Americans, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, have been infected with COVID. In April of this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 60 percent of the U.S. population had been infected. More recent studies place the percentage at over 80 percent. Because of these studies, and the fact that new variants are less severe, there is a high probability that we will end the vaccination requirement for NASBA meetings after the first of next year, and instead, ask that anyone who is symptomatic to attend remotely.
There are many issues impacting the accounting profession and the regulation of CPAs. I believe it is important for Board of Accountancy members to remain current and educated on the important changes on the horizon. This year’s Annual Meeting agenda will highlight the progress of CPA Evolution, changes to the CPA Examination, CPA Pipeline initiatives, Legislative threats and trends, and a myriad of other important topics.
I am hopeful that readers who have never attended a NASBA meeting, and those who have attended in the past but dropped off during the pandemic, will strongly consider registering for this year’s Annual Meeting as a significant first step in unwinding. With NASBA’s scholarship program, there is no financial reason that every jurisdiction cannot be represented, and I promise that you, and your state board, will benefit from the knowledge, collaboration and relations that result from the Meeting.
I look forward to seeing you in San Diego! NASBA needs you to help us in ”unwinding!”
Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).
— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO
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