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Transition Underway at NASBA

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By Michael Cohn, Accounting Today
June 14, 2011

RubinBrown partner Colleen Conrad was named last week to succeed Ken Bishop as chief operating officer at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

Bishop is stepping into the role of longtime NASBA president and CEO David Costello. Costello has held that role since 1994, but he announced his retirement last year (see NASBA Appoints Conrad as New COO, Bishop to Succeed Costello as NASBA Chief and NASBA CEO Costello Plans to Retire).

I asked Costello and Bishop in a phone interview on Monday about how Conrad’s role will differ from the chief executive’s job at NASBA.

David Costello

“Her role will be principally as our chief operating officer,” said Costello. “In NASBA, that means more than just the business end. It certainly includes the business operations and the revenue-producing activities in which we’re engaged. That’s a principal role. Another allied role to that is more of a technical role, one where she can assist us in interpreting emerging issues out in the marketplace, and also announcements being made and exposure drafts being sent out by various technical groups. She’ll be able to help us there simply because of her rich background and experience at RubinBrown.”

Conrad will also be able to help with NASBA’s main activity: the CPA Exam.

“Obviously the biggest business enterprise for NASBA is the CPA Examination and the administration of the exam,” said Bishop. “Colleen will play a leading role in the administration of the exam. Her experience on the Board of Examiners and with NASBA examination committees in the past will be very helpful. Another thing, very often in the executive vice president position we’re called upon by state legislatures to testify on behalf of legislation or budget issues and other things. Colleen is very adaptive to that type of work, and will be playing a significant role in that area as well.”

Bishop also expects his role to change at NASBA as he takes over from Costello.

“I think it will be different, but it will be similar on the front end,” he said. “As we become more involved internationally with the CPA Exam and also the global economy, with regulation becoming more international, in my current position I have been very busy and have been unable to do a lot, especially on the political and regulatory side of international. I’m hoping that she will be able to get involved in the myriad of things that NASBA has been involved in globally and nationally.”

As for Costello, he doesn’t plan to spend his retirement years being idle.

“I’ve got two or three general things in mind,” he said. “Some of the particulars I haven’t nailed down yet. As I have told several people, I don’t look upon this as retirement, but a ‘refirement,’ so I’ll be re-firing in a couple of different directions. One thing that I will definitely continue is my involvement in the NASBA Center for the Public Trust. That is our ethics arm, and we’re doing some great things there to keep the public and the profession aware of what’s happening and what should be happening in an ethical way. I’ll continue that work, but also I’m looking at some other kinds of things. I certainly want to use my background and experience, perhaps on a couple of corporate boards, but I have no firm plans on that yet. I’m still considering different kinds of things. Today I had an offer to teach at one of the local universities. I would certainly consider that as well. But I just don’t have any specific kinds of things. More specifically I will have more time with grandkids and local community activities.”

Meanwhile, Costello will remain CEO at NASBA through the end of the year.

“We’re going through a transition now so that by the time we change roles at the end of December, no one will be able to tell the difference,” he said. “Ken and I are working very closely together this year to make sure that the transition is not abrupt and not surprising, that everything is seamless.”

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