A Zen-quoting ex-heavyweight boxer once told, “Son, you should be passionate about two things: your family and your job. After that, it’s all bullspit until the check clears.”

I found myself reminiscing about the imposing dispenser of that advice as I sat through the AICPA’s spring meeting of Council last week in the nation’s capital. And then it suddenly struck me. What had been conspicuously missing over the past few Council meetings (at least the ones I’ve attended) was that aforementioned passion.

Now, I would seriously doubt that a majority or even a vocal minority of CPAs in this country are not passionate about what they do, or about the profession they represent. But somehow, when the semi-annual Council meetings convene, the attendees seem to be somewhat muted — this, despite year-long rumblings of dissatisfaction about institute initiatives and leadership on Web sites and chain e-mails. Even the floor microphones provided by the institute for “open forum” discussions were often used like there was a member charge of $10 a syllable.

Which is why it came as a refreshing surprise that Council membership nearly elbowed each other out of the way for an opportunity to debate the institute’s plan to explore potential strategies - including exit strategies for the troika of specialty credentials.

The AICPA’s original resolution, recommended by the National Accreditation Commission and the institute board, sought Council approval to investigate "possible exit strategies…to transition" the Personal Financial Specialist and Certified Information Technology Professional credentials outside the AICPA, while retaining the Accredited in Business Valuation for further development.

At the credential session during the conference, more resolutions seemingly came off the floor than stains after a keg party. When the smoke cleared, Council members overwhelmingly approved an amended resolution that deleted any and all references to "exit strategies."

Instead, they replaced them with strategies to "enhance" all three designations, including potential liaisons with strategic partners. The Council also authorized the institute board to present a final plan on any or all of the credentials for its consideration by the time of the fall 2003 Council meeting in New Orleans.

One Council member rightly explained that if any or all of the specialty credentials were eliminated, it would provide the impetus for other non-CPA designations, such as the Certified Financial Planner to leapfrog over the credentials provided by and championed by CPAs.

Another said that if the designations were eliminated it would run counter to the institute’s much-ballyhooed 1998 Vision process, which exhorted members to penetrate other fields such as technology and financial planning.

But whatever the outcome, it was refreshing to see that after arguably one of the toughest years to impact the accounting environment, members of the profession remain passionate and vocal about what they do.

Now all that remains is for the check to clear.

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