Top tech topics hold court at New York accounting show

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In its first year under new management -- and its first in a larger venue, New York's Javits Center -- the Accounting & Finance Show NY doubled its attendance over last year.

The accounting show delivered talks that fell under six learning tracks: finance directors, accounting, bookkeeping and payroll, technology, tax management, wealth management and practice management. With 2,000 attendees this year, the sessions were well attended. “Some really great things are being said,” one attendee told Accounting Today, while another said this was the best iteration of the show they’d seen in years.

The tech track garnered a lot of interest from attendees, especially the sessions on automation and cybersecurity. During this editor’s session on automation in accounting, attendees responded well to a message of how technology can make an accountant’s quality of life better by freeing up time, not just to provide higher-value services to clients, but to work more efficiently.

Lehman College professor of accounting Dr. Sean Stein Smith’s session on blockchain addressed the basics, as well as the practical aspects of how cryptocurrency is taxed, and how to provide crypto-related services to clients. Some conference attendees indicated they had already been asked crypto-related questions by some clients.

Joseph Tso, senior IT security compliance analyst for Transatlantic Reinsurance Company, said during his cybersecurity talk that the human element in any firm is always the weakest security link. He emphasized the importance of employee training in security protocol. And the first step towards creating a system-wide protocol? Simply “know and classify your data,” Tso said. And small firms are not off the hook, according to Marc Schein, national co-chair of the Cyber Center of Excellence. Thirty-two percent of cyber attacks occur at companies with fewer than 250 employees, he said.

Dawn Brolin, CEO of the firm Powerful Accounting, ended up covering two sessions herself as her speaking partner feel ill, but her topic — apps to run a mobile practice — proved popular with the audience. One of the most important functions apps can bring a firm, she said, is efficiently and accurately tracking time, of both staff and clients. "Even if you're a solo practitioner, the benefits are huge, from increasing efficiency after seeing how your time is used, to mitigating fraud risk by knowing how time is spent," she added.

Broader messages

The show opened on Wednesday with two keynotes, the first by Victor Wahba, chairman and CEO of New York-based Top 100 Firm Mazars USA. He broadly addressed the changing role of accountants, and how a new mindset is needed to address a new technological and cultural landscape. For instance, he talked about the importance of emotional intelligence and how “empathy is recognized as a commitment by our customers and stakeholders.”

The second keynote speaker was Kelvin Joseph, chief marketing officer and chief operating officer of Steiner Sports Memorabilia. He told the story of how he went from accountant to sales and marketing executive of a large sport merchandising company. He focused on how accountants who just aggregate and present data don’t drive business value, either for clients or for the company they work for as CFO or controller. However, the skills he learned as an accountant helped him take the next step into becoming a revenue-building asset for Steiner: “It’s not about trying my best,” he said. ”It's about results, and not going home until it's done.”

Lessons learned

“It was great to see all the conference theaters packed right up until the end of day two, which is rare in the events business,” said Aidan Brain, head of production for Terrapinn, which produced the trade show. “Terrapinn also learned a lot from the event and I’m excited to take those lessons and make next year (and our California show coming up this month) even better for attendees and exhibitors alike.”

The show format was a little different from what accounting conference attendees are used to. For example, each hour was split into two 25-minute speaking slots for two different speakers on related topics — together, the 50 minutes earned the attendees one CPE credit. For the Los Angeles show, Terrapinn's Brain said they would make the show format and what to expect clearer for attendees. "This is the first time the accounting industry has been exposed to Terrapinn’s way of doing events, so there are some aspects that perhaps attendees aren’t prepared for — such as our shorter, faster speaking slots, and our networking app. After New York, we now know what we need to make clearer and more accessible for L.A."

The Accounting and Finance Show Los Angeles will be held July 25-26 at the L.A. Convention Center.

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