Nearly four out of five CPAs in public accounting believe they will play a key role in preparing their clients for complex challenges in the decade ahead but realize they must understand and embrace emerging innovations, according to a new study commissioned by CPA.com, the technology and business arm of the American Institute of CPAs

The business environment for CPAs and their clients will be characterized by “unprecedented, massive and highly accelerated change” through 2025, according to the CPA of the Future Study, released Monday during the AICPA’s Digital CPA Conference in Washington, D.C. Future CPAs will need to be agile and farsighted, and 80 percent of the study participants agreed that their role will change substantially over the next decade, with more emphasis on consultative business development, risk management and advisory services.

“When we talk about Digital CPAs, we’re talking about the CPA of the future,” said CPA.com president and CEO Erik Asgeirsson in a statement. “Using technology, embracing specialization, advancing their role as trusted advisor—these are strategies that leading firms are already employing with great success and that the profession as a whole must adopt to thrive in the coming decade.” 

The CPA of the Future Study was designed to gauge CPA firms’ “future readiness,” a concept developed by futurist and business advisor Dr. James Canton, CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, which conducted the research for CPA.com. Future readiness means “the capacity to be aware, predictive, and adaptive of emerging challenges, tech innovations, and trends and changes in business, population and social environment,” according to Dr. Canton.

“The idea is that by increasing future readiness, organizations will become more agile and sustainable.” he said. “While there is still work to be done by CPAs to meet that goal, it bodes well that the profession is asking the right questions about the changing workforce, global challenges and emerging technologies.”

The study also found that 70 percent of respondents think government regulation is holding back business productivity and growth. Approximately 80 percent of CPA firms have concerns about recruitment to meet future needs. An overwhelming majority (90 percent) of CPA firms believe the digital future is rapidly approaching. Smart machines, the rise of artificial intelligence and mobile connectivity may offer new risks and opportunities for CPAs.

A copy of the report is available on CPA.com.

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