New York (Dec. 3, 2003) -- Overall, 2003 was a good year for the American Institute of CPAs, according to chief executive Barry Melancon, who cited institute-led developments such as reformatting the former SEC Practice Section, retaining the trio of specialty credentials and the pending debut of the electronic CPA exam.

“If you look at what we’ve done with our audit centers, setting the credentials up for success, and operationally, we had a good year, if you consider October [at the institute’s fall meeting of Council] the end of a tumultuous year or year and a half.”

Melancon’s remarks came during an editorial roundtable, here, that included 2003-2004 AICPA chairman Scott Voynich.

Melancon alluded to institute initiatives during the year, such as establishing the audit quality centers -- in employee benefit plans and government audits -- allowing the Auditing Standards Board to admit non-CPA members, and reformatting the former SECPS to a volunteer membership entity titled the Center for Public Company Audit Firms.

“Clearly our focus is on differential standards, performance, core values and small business issues. That’s taken the lion’s share of our time and those [issues] have clearly risen to the top.”

“Core values are what set (CPAs) apart and if they don’t, we’re in trouble,” added Voynich.

Melancon and Voynich also alluded to pending technology projects such as the electronic CPA exam scheduled for an April debut and an internal IT project with the state societies.

Despite less-than-successful initiatives such as the WebTrust and SysTrust privacy programs, and the failure of the global credential, Melancon said that those misfires helped shape the current XBRL initiative.

“Marketing is a difficult process. The biggest those two [WebTrust, SysTrust] had in terms of mass acceptance was that they were focused on larger enterprises. But had XBRL come first, and we had not learned from the others, we might have done that differently.

But then you look at the marketing of the profession’s image campaign. We’ve evolved that to a grass-roots program instead of running ads. Student enrollments are up 6.5 percent nationwide and a Gallup poll shows that trust and respect within the profession is back to where it was during pre-Enron levels.”

Said Melancon, “If you look at what we’ve done, that’s a pretty compelling story.”

-- WebCPA staff

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