Loretta Doon was named chief executive of the California CPA Society and the CalCPA Education Foundation this May, after serving for just over a year as the chief operating officer for both groups.
Doon, a CPA herself, is one of CalCPA’s 28,700 members and started her career as a controller for an insurance company before spending three years as an Ernst & Young auditor. From there, Doon’s career followed an educational bent, as she went on to spend more than 25 years as the associate executive director of the California Teachers Association. Today, she is also a member of the California Lottery Commission.
In an exchange with WebCPA, Doon talked about the changing face of CalCPA’s membership, the keys to education -- in terms of both financial literacy and CPE -- and the society’s recent success in pushing a practice privilege bill through the state’s legislature.
Can you talk a bit about whether your approach to the job has changed at all since being named chief executive from the position of chief operating officer in May?
I work with outstanding individuals -- both members and staff -- and am grateful to lead a great team. Since becoming chief executive, my duties have become all-encompassing. I focus on ensuring collaboration on all aspects of services to our members. We are working to integrate services and deliver key initiatives, including providing quality continuing education opportunities to members; strongly advocating for legislation that will improve our members' ability to serve their clients; promoting the image of CPAs as the professionals to turn to for sound financial advice; and furthering the cause of financial literacy. We also are emphasizing staff training to enhance our abilities to give members the services they expect and deserve.
What issues or trends seem to matter most to your members?
It is all about value. Members expect that their dues will fund programs that will help them serve their own clients better and, thus, increase their own profitability. I find that they are very concerned about regulation of our profession, technical issues and staffing issues.
How is the make-up of CalCPA's membership changing or evolving? What services and benefits do you think CPAs are going to be in search of five or 10 years down the line?
As with society in general, we are skewing older. So we are encouraging young people to enter the accounting profession. Thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley, the global nature of business today and the complexity of personal finances, we will need more CPAs in the years ahead. We also are reaching out more to CPAs in industry. We hope to institute more programs to better serve their needs.
As for services and benefits, I believe our members will continue to seek our guidance through the regulatory minefield, and will need programs that will help them show their value to the public at large and their clients in particular. We do a lot of news media and community outreach and are always looking for opportunities to put members before the public.
CalCPA's 2006-07 incoming chairman is focusing on reaching out to young CPAs. What do you think is the key in making that outreach successful?
The key to that is contact and establishing a community. We sponsor numerous events -- at the chapter level in particular -- that focus on young and emerging professionals. We also offer scholarships at both the chapter and state levels to encourage young people to enter the profession. And we have a high school outreach program in which members go into the classroom to talk about accounting careers.
Improving financial literacy around the state has been among your group's biggest initiatives. Is there still work to do?
Of course. Financial literacy is an ongoing initiative and one that will never end. Young people are not getting all the information they need at home or in the schools to adequately prepare themselves for financial independence. Seniors and people approaching retirement are faced with perplexing financial issues -- from elder abuse, to Medicare, to ensuring that they have enough money to support themselves. And those of us in the middle have the challenges of figuring out how to better manage our money to ensure that we can send our children through college, stay out of debt, take care of our parents and fund our retirement. I'm proud that our members are going to high schools and community groups to talk about financial literacy.
What's the status of the legislation that would have provided relief to out-of-state CPAs who want to offer their services in California? What other legislative action would you like to see coming out of Sacramento?
We were quite pleased that Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed the practice privilege bill, which our staff worked hard to get passed. It corrects some of the problems created by California's earlier attempt to provide for increased mobility and consumer protection. The new law allows CPAs from outside California to provide temporary services in the state for a small registration fee. We hope every state will address mobility issues so that well-intended, outdated licensing laws do not hinder national and international commerce. We are committed to working on streamlining California's laws to allow continued consumer choice, consumer protection and mobility for CPAs who are required to practice across state lines. We also want to make sure that California CPAs are not disadvantaged in this process.
Besides being a licensed CPA, much of your career was spent as the executive director of the California Teachers Association. And last year the governor appointed you to the California Lottery Commission. Has either of those experiences translated in unexpected ways to your work with CalCPA?
The common thread in my career has been education. The CTA is an advocate of improving the education of California students, and the lottery helps fund programs at California's public schools. What I do at CalCPA and, obviously, the Education Foundation is a form of education. So I don't think you could say that my prior career experiences translated in unexpected ways in my current work. I think you can say that my experiences in the education field have given me insights as to how our organizations can better serve the educational needs of our members and help them provide financial education to their clients and the public.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I couldn't wish for a better job. It is such a privilege to be working on behalf of my profession. I enjoy working with my colleagues at both CalCPA and the Education Foundation, and I look forward to meeting members at chapter events throughout the state.
CPAs are strong protectors of the public interest. I am proud to be one and proud also of the work that the leadership and the staffs of CalCPA and of the Education Foundation do on behalf of our members.
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