Blessed or Cursed to Live in Interesting Times? is the title of the speech I just gave to the NY Metro Chapter of AAM (Association for Accounting Marketing). Although I covered the standard topics, the main thread of the speech was the accountant's role as "most trusted advisor.”

In particular, I talked about its origination and how firm consolidators were attracted to the possible revenue opportunities associated with clients of trusted advisors. The dilemma that I see is the increased friction between "the accounting profession" and "the business of public accounting" is putting pressure on what actually constitutes this most trust advisor role.

Whether it be a relationship with broker/dealers, outsourcing, or private branding of services by accountants, the varied consulting services that can be offered, Andersen, or the lawsuit against the Big Four, all seem to have something in common. In some way, they are intertwined with the essence of the accountant/client relationship, which has always been a trust in the accountant's professional ability.

We are in a period where both CPAs and nonCPAs are trying to capitalize on this most trusted advisor status. There is nothing wrong with that as long as in the process the status itself is not trampled upon. Unfortunately, it has been to some extent, especially in the public's perception.

I believe the key to remaining as trusted advisors is for CPAs to publicly establish that as their identity and then protect it. Individual CPAs alone can't do it.  Firms and the profession as a whole must take part. This may have to be done by separating from the Big Four.

It is not just because it appears that the Big Four look at lawsuit settlements and awards as costs of doing business. In a large part, it is because the public companies pay the auditors' fees, but the ultimate beneficiaries of the services are supposed to be the public investors. Although we have always been aware of this conflict, it seems to be coming to a head.

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