As part of this year's Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting report, we asked all the candidates: "What has you most excited about the future of accounting?" All of their answers are given in full below.
What isn't exciting about the future of accounting? There are clients who are more engaged than ever and looking for collaboration and advisory services from their accounting professionals. This is a tremendous opportunity for professionals to harness the power of technology and to support customer and client needs.
The increasingly complex global economy relies on the expertise of accounting professionals and it is exciting for us to constantly innovate to provide the best possible tools for our customers so that they can deliver value to their clients.
Karen Abramson, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
I am particularly excited about globalization, not only in the accounting profession, but also across our middle-market client base. Last year we changed our name to RSM US LLP, uniting with more than 120 firms around the world under the common brand -- RSM. Our goal was to better demonstrate to clients the strength and broad reach of our global capabilities, and I think it has been successful so far.
In addition to creating energy among clients and in the marketplace, the RSM global brand has really energized our people. We have more and more individuals traveling overseas to serve clients and taking longer-term secondment and expatriate assignments. I, personally, am spending much more of my time engaged in international activities as well.
Our professionals helped us draft our purpose statement -- committed to guiding clients through their business challenges. The complexities of international business add excitement to our work, provide great opportunities to give guidance to clients and are particularly appealing to the younger generation of professionals whose engagement, energy and enthusiasm are so critical to the future of the accounting profession.
Joe Adams, Managing partner and CEO, RSM US
I think that with the changing of the guard, we will see new leadership embrace significant changes in the way that firms are organized and operated. People models and expectations will change (for the better) as much of the traditional tax season work disappears to automation and we can focus on actually providing services that the client wants.
Gary Adamson, President, Adamson Advisory
The new (and soon to be new) partners in accounting firms all across North America. I have worked with and know hundreds of them and am so impressed with their intelligence, discipline, drive, and courage. They are finding their voice in firms all across our profession and are becoming catalysts for change and innovation within their respective firms. They are way more impressive than I was when I became a new partner in 1991.
Sam Allred, Director, Upstream Academy
I am seeing more firms of all sizes acquiring consulting and advisory companies that complement their traditional accounting and tax services to provide integrated solutions services to their clients. In addition, firm leaders are beginning to invest more in leadership development, which in the long run will help the current succession planning problem. Finally, accounting offers individuals the opportunity to be entrepreneurs, create wealth for themselves and for their clients, and to grow professionally.
August Aquila, President and CEO, Aquila Global Advisors LLC
CPAs are seen as one of the most trusted advisors a business owner or individual can have. In order to maintain this position, accountants have to always stay on top of the latest news and best practices, and find creative ways to continue to be seen as an integral part of their clients' professional lives.
Rather than see this as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity. We must diversify our intellectual ability and our skill sets to be able to keep pace with changing client demands.
Antonio Argiz, Chairman and CEO, MBAF
I think that technology and the information age are breaking down the barriers to enter the profession in a beautiful way. More and more people who don't even have an accounting degree will be able to learn the foundations of accounting, how to serve clients, how to grow their firm and much more from online courses, trainings, and communities. Accounting is an exciting and exhilarating profession that is becoming easier and easier to enter due to improvements in technology and the availability of information and training in the new economy.
Andrew Argue, CEO and Founder, The Argue Co.
I am very excited about the expanding technology capabilities available to firms. The cloud is truly changing how firms can provide historical compliance services. At the same time, it's transforming how firms can deliver outsourced client accounting, one of the highest growth areas in firms today.
Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA.com
After what has felt like three years of pushing the Indiana Jones-sized boulder uphill, it seems that we've reached the tipping point and are now reaping the rewards of what we've been sewing. There is no greater career joy for me than to look back on the path I've just come down and see my partners making huge strides toward bringing their practice online, transitioning to fixed and value-priced models, and truly becoming their clients' most trusted advisors.
Intuit specifically has seen explosive growth out of the QuickBooks Online platform over the past two years. Historically, it took seven years to get the first 100,000 clients on QBO, and less than three months to get the last 100,000 subscribers as we approached 1 million customers worldwide (which we hit in June 2015). Over the past year, our Accountant Segment of Intuit's Small Business Group is the fastest growing segment at the company, and we've played a huge part in QBO soaring to over 1 million clients in the US, and over 1.4 million worldwide as of April 2016.
Kim Austin, Business development manager, Intuit
Accountants are embracing technology in their practices more today than they were even five years ago. This trend will almost certainly continue into the future. This is exciting because the adoption of technology is critical to making sure that accountants stay ahead of software, like Turbotax, that is trying to take away work that accountants can do better, and will always do better, than do-it-yourself software solutions.
Kurt Averell, Founder and CEO, Canopy Tax
Blockchain technology. Even though it was not invented by the accounting profession, it is destined to transform and disrupt how and what accountants do, while adding more value to society.
The Economist labeled Blockchain "The Trust Machine" -- trust the math, not the people ("in math we trust"). George Gilder thinks blockchain is the eighth layer of the Internet -- a trust and transactions layer. Don and Alex Tapscott call it "The Trust Protocol," in their book, "Blockchain Revolution." Other labels include, the World Wide Ledger of value, and a public (distributed) ledger, or distributed (decentralized) database.
Either way, blockchain is a meta-technology -- that is, it affects other technologies. It is not a process improvement technology -- it is a disruptive technology. Similar to any ledger, it could track anything to do with the following (ATOMIC): assets, trust, ownership, money, identity, contracts.
Will blockchain technology lead to triple-entry accounting? Organizations could easily add a third entry to the World Wide Ledger, instantly accessible to those who need to see it -- the company's shareholders, auditors, regulators, etc.
How disruptive will this be to the CPA profession? Auditing is a multibillion-dollar industry controlled by four massive audit firms. According to the book "Blockchain Revolution:" "Traditional accounting practices will not survive the velocity and complexity of modern finance. New accounting methods using blockchain's distributed ledger will make audit and financial reporting transparent and occur in real time."
"Accountants are like mushrooms -- they're kept in the dark and fed shit," said Tom Mornini, CEO of Subledger, a start-up targeting the accounting industry.
If every transaction is recorded in a globally distributed ledger, who will need public accountancies to translate for us? Deloitte & Touche now has 100 people in its cryptocurrency group, spread out in 12 countries. Eric Piscini, who heads up the Deloitte cryptocurrency center, tells clients that the blockchain is "a big risk for your own business model because now the business of banking is to manage risk."
But auditing itself is ripe for disruption. As Piscini said, "Today we spend a lot of time auditing companies, and we charge fees accordingly. Tomorrow, if that process is completely streamlined because there is a time stamp in the blockchain, that changes the way we audit companies."
Or perhaps eliminates the audit function altogether?
Deloitte has developed a solution called PermaRec (for Permanent Record) whereby "Deloitte would record those transactions into the blockchain and would then be able to audit one of the two partners, or both of them, very quickly, because that transaction is recorded."
Will investors demand triple-entry accounting to meet corporate governance standards? After all, Piscini argues, "Who is going to invest in a company that shows you what's going on quarterly, compared to one that shows you what's going on all the time?"
Is blockchain the beginning of the end for auditors and bookkeepers? There's a Chinese proverb that teaches: "When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills." Time will tell whether the accounting profession embraces blockchain, or engages in a futile attempt to keep this elegant technology from disrupting its sclerotic business model.
Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute
Given the world we live in today -- one of rapid technological changes enabling the processing of massive amounts of data -- we have the opportunity to re-invent the profession. Much of the activity we currently perform will be automated in the future. Some studies claim that only half the skills employees use today will be needed in 2020. It sounds threatening but at the same time, it's our opportunity to be what we really want to be -- business advisors for our clients, and to be more relevant to them.
If we embrace the technology available today and that which we can see just over the horizon, we'll be performing at an even more rewarding level. We'll be driving business growth, rather than measuring it after the fact. Further, while this is all occurring we're also training the future leaders of the profession and serving a new breed of client. The inevitable changes in leadership caused by the aging of the profession as well as shifts in client and staff demographics that are more technologically demanding and sophisticated than prior generations is exhilarating.
The client of today expects professionals who serve them to be expert in the digital world (just as they are) and have tools that can enhance their businesses and not simply report on historical information. After all, clients feel they can easily do that on their own. Financial reporting and after-the-fact analytics are table stakes today. What younger clients look for are professionals who can provide them with up-to-the-minute information and data analytics on what impacts their businesses. They want guidance and advice that steers them in the right direction to enhance their position and accelerate their growth. And they expect this information to be available whenever and wherever they need it. The good news -- what excites me about the profession -- is that we have this at our fingertips.
Today, we can connect with these clients through a collaborative portal that's accessible 24/7. We can see their data simultaneously through the use of the cloud and provide proactive guidance and analytics to drive their business growth. We can use workflow tools that truly drive efficiency and allow us to serve clients in a cutting-edge fashion. We have automated research and content that can easily be communicated to our clients, and with the simple movement of a mouse we can advise large and small clients on international expansion. We have sophisticated marketing tools and techniques to drive new client growth in a mobile world. As a result of converging technological changes, we're more mobile, as evidenced by hardware device sales. Excluding the IOT (Internet of Things) market, 92 percent of device sales today are mobile, while desktop PCs are now only 8 percent.
It's very exciting to be part of the accounting profession today. In spite of the challenges we face, the profession is needed by its clients more than ever before. It is developing new, diverse leadership, and we have tools that are up to the task of serving our clients at a much higher level. We are at a time where we can re-invent the profession. What a great place to be.
Jon Baron, Managing director, Professional Segment, Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting
What has me most excited may be what others most fear: that the profession is on the cusp of revolutionary change. The intersection of technology and generational shifts is dramatically redefining this profession. We are seeing the first digital natives enter the workforce -- a generation for whom technology isn't just a tool for them to streamline workflows as it was for the Baby Boomer generation. Instead, it's a completely integrated part of their lives -- the next generation sees the world through a digital lens. The potential for these tools remains in its infancy; it will take the next generation to fully integrate technology into the business world. We see a little of this now, with young professionals launching virtual firms and new lines of business; but once these junior accountants in larger firms are promoted into managerial roles, we will really start to see innovation. Not until then will we see the United States embrace integrated reporting on a large-scale basis.
Joanne Barry, Executive director and CEO, NYSSCPA
The complexity of changing business models will require evolved expertise on a global and industry scale that will make our profession more valued than it is today. As the profession adopts new tools based on technological advances and access to better data, the work we do will be valued and appreciated at a higher level by the organizations we serve. We have an opportunity to provide even deeper impact and value to the public and organizations we serve.
Brian Becker, Partner, technology, and managing consulting national leader, RSM US
Accountants have more options than ever to network, learn, and manage their careers.
We used to be limited by our peer group and geography. Not everyone was lucky enough to find a mentor to teach them how to manage their career, and live near great jobs. Today high performers can teach themselves, network with hiring managers across the country, and find the best roles for them.
A CPA in Iowa can connect with a recruiter in Texas, practice interviewing online, get hired and work remotely with cheap and easy to use software tools. This wasn't possible just 10 years ago.
Bob Berchtold, Founder, CPA Talent
I am most excited about all of this change and the fact that I and every new accountant can focus on "advisory services" and helping clients be more profitable, liquid, and solvent. We can focus on educating them on what they need to do to be successful in their endeavors. Compliance work will be automated so our time can be better spent in discussion on what keeps them up at night and how we can use technology to project, plan and analyze. Technology also levels the playing field so that solo practitioners can compete more effectively with larger firms as online networks and alliances are formed by these smaller players to give them niche experts to collaborate via the Internet.
David Bergstein, Evangelist, Accountant Segment, Intuit
Until now, major corporations have used technology to penetrate deep into accountants' core services (tax, accounting and payroll). Cloud technology has the potential to help accountants reclaim lost ground, better serve their clients and restore their relevance. That's the most exciting thing about the future of accounting, and that's what has motivated AccountantsWorld to use the cloud to offer accountants remarkable capabilities to revamp their practices.
Chandra Bhansali, CEO, AccountantsWorld
There's no question that cloud technology has made it possible for accountants to revamp their practices, and regain relevance. The implications of the cloud are enormous. Unlike PC technology, where the impact was to help increase productivity, cloud technology has the potential to impact every aspect of running an accounting practice, from hiring, purchasing, marketing, performing client engagements, client interaction and staff management. The only challenge is that most accountants are only reaping a fraction of the benefits the cloud has to offer.
Cloud solutions not only make accounting practices more efficient, they also offer accountants the ability to monitor their clients' fiscal health in real-time, right from their office or anywhere else. This capability helps clients avoid potential problems by quickly taking corrective action.
Sharada Bhansali, Executive vice president and co-founder, AccountantsWorld
The rapid advancement of the use of technology is adding a new dimension to accounting and certainly creates excitement about the future of accounting. The increased use, and reliance on, data analytics is an example of the advancement. In a world of self-driving cars, computer-assisted surgeries and procedures, and new, smart computers, the use of technology to improve the accuracy and precision of accounting and auditing only makes sense. I expect to see continuous growth in how technology and data analytics is used to enhance quality, particularly in audits.
Ken Bishop, President and CEO, NASBA
The increasing realization by professionals aged 25-40 that the value of their expertise lies in the outcomes created for clients, rather than the delivery of professional services in and of themselves.
Martin Bissett, Founder, The Upward Spiral Partnership
We now have a real opportunity to run a firm like an entrepreneur. We can take risks, price higher, and offer new and valuable services that earlier practitioners didn't have the opportunity to offer.
Jason Blumer, Founder and CEO, Thriveal Network
The profession has so many opportunities to "re-shape" itself to maintain the historical role as trusted advisor. Will the grassroots support the profession leadership to make the investments required?
Gary Bolinger, President and CEO, Indiana CPA Society
The opportunity to work in a global and exponentially growing marketing. The challenge is most of us were trained to think linear and local. The CGMA is a positive step towards skating to where the puck will be, rather than where it has been.
Gary Boomer, Founder, visionary and strategist, Boomer Consulting
Watching leading firms transform their business models from simply compliance/transactional services to a more advisory model. Cloud and mobile technology has been the enabler of this shift. As firms adopt collaborative, cloud-based tools, hire diverse skill-sets and adapt their business models, they are in perfect position to act as clients' most trusted business partners.
Jim Boomer, CEO and shareholder, Boomer Consulting Inc.
The pace of change. I enjoy the challenges brought on by change and I am ready to change and adapt to the new marketplace. I believe that firms that deploy and know how to use the best technology will be the most profitable and most successful.
Jim Bourke, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
The need for CPAs to be true advisors makes me excited about the future of accounting. This is an opportunity for CPAs to look forward and take advantage of the trust that clients place in them, rather than looking backward and reporting history. One way to do this is to specialize and focus on niche and service specialties. CPAs should utilize their expertise and thought leadership to attract and retain clients who need specific industry-related advice.
Jean Marie Caragher, President of Capstone Marketing
The most exciting development for CPA firms today is the opportunity to play a vastly expanded role in serving their clients, moving from work with a large compliance focus to value-added services in exciting new areas such as cyber security, privacy, transaction assistance, human resources, IT services, business strategy and process improvement.
Technology has played a significant role in creating these opportunities as well as in automating much of compliance work to free up professional time to help clients in new ways.
For years, firms have aspired to be the single point-of-contact that clients go to first for help in addressing their business issues. More than ever before, expanded service opportunities are making this aspiration possible.
Carolyn Carlson, President, StangerCarlson
Paul Caron, Publisher and editor-in-chief, TaxProf Blog
I believe the future of the accounting profession has never been brighter. So much opportunity exists for the practitioners that embrace change. Technology will continue to automate transactional functions, pushing practitioners to offer higher-value strategic services, which will have an increasingly positive impact on the CPA client relationship.
Michael Cerami, Vice president of business development and corporate strategy, CPA.com
The opportunities for those who choose accounting as a profession have never been greater. To stay relevant, professional accountants must broaden their skills and competencies well beyond traditional areas, so they can better communicate, collaborate, and provide insight and strategic direction to their stakeholders. The business issues that accountants are involved in are at the forefront of strategy and risk, which brings extraordinary opportunity for members of the profession to have a meaningful impact on organizations, the public good, and economies.
Richard Chambers, President and CEO, IIA
Two distinct themes:
The first is the continuous thinking that takes place to ensure that the profession remains relevant and adds value. As we all know, technology is the Big Issue, changing the world apace and the profession's response to both the opportunities and the challenges is a testament to its creativity and business savvy. But the thinking extends to promoting the public interest and shaping areas where the profession's involvement is key, such as greater involvement in the management of public finances and new ways of reporting, beyond just the numbers, of how entities create and sustain value.
The second is the emergence of the profession in developing countries, and seeing up-close how important the profession is to nation-building. It's been a privilege to visit many countries in which the profession is building, or rebuilding, in tandem with the economies they serve. The passion and professionalism accountants display in these countries, even when operating in exceptionally difficult circumstances, is unwavering -- as is their dedication to the public interest, transparency and accountability.
Fayezul Choudhury, CEO, IFAC
The U.S. has decided to stake out its own future in standard-setting instead of trying to converge with the IASB in places where it might not always make sense. I think it's fine that we are aware of their directions and try to avoid pointless differences -- but I think we also have to be responsive to the needs of investors here in the U.S. We lost a lot of time on convergence, and I'm glad we're getting back on track.
Jack Ciesielski, Publisher, The Analyst's Accounting Observer
You'll not be surprised that I'm most excited about new technology for CPAs! Technology creates tremendous opportunities for accounting professionals to offer better controls, deeper insights, and improved efficiencies. The combination of those skill sets is going to be essential going forward. Those practitioners who are ready to embrace the latest technologies/new operating paradigm are going to be poised to bring tremendous value to their organizations and their clients.
David Cieslak, Principal, Arxis Technology
Millennials and the change they are forcing in the industry are very exciting. With so many Boomers leaving the industry, the industry is being forced to look at new ways to do business. Technology has become increasingly important not only as a means of gaining efficiency but a way to communicate and gain new business. The firm of the future has to be nimble and adaptable. It has to listen to its client base, which is changing, as well as its employees. The industry has to adapt to this changing business model, which requires a different way of doing business. Firms may no longer be able to require that all employees be in the office from 8 to 5. Rather, they will need to consider allowing the employee more flexibility in how they accomplish their work. I have heard the past two years that mandatory Saturdays are less popular. Value pricing continues to be a topic of conversation.
Lauren Clemmer, Executive director, AAM
The shift from transactional work to being an advisor-focused practice. What I mean by advisor is having the ability to think of future-facing problems or opportunities a client might face, and really play a key role in their life or business. As we see firms also include profit centers/partnerships for service offerings like wealth management, this is positioning many firms to become ingrained into a client's business or life, much more so than before. Part of this change is coming from automation through technology, but also pricing insights delivered through people like Ron Baker. Pairing pricing optimization strategies, with technology automation, and the ability to have strategic conversations (and goal-setting sessions) with clients will continue to make the accountant more valuable, not less.
David Cristello, CEO and founder, Jetpack Workflow
The promise of technology taking over lower-level tasks through such possibilities as continuous auditing, universal ledgers, auto-population of tax returns, and the opportunity to move to a higher level of critical thinking, judgment and consultative value to clients.
Gale Crosley, President, Crosley+Co.
Surprisingly, one of the most exciting developments to me is the clarity projects that were undertaken by the standard-setting bodies. Prior to the clarification of standards, it was difficult for an accountant to differentiate between a requirement and a suggestion as to how that requirement might be achieved.
By segregating the requirements from the illustrations and application guidance, practitioners can get a better understanding of what the requirements are and develop efficient and effective means of applying them, weaning themselves off of checklists and relegating them to the reference tool they are intended to be.
Mark Dauberman, Owner and president, Mark Dauberman Seminars
The things that excite me the most are opportunities to leverage technology to streamline systems, and help clients (and my own) businesses run with incredible efficiency. I love helping clients. I love to see the light come on, when I can show them how they can do things with dramatic improvements to their process.
Seth David, President, Nerd Enterprises
As I spend time with our emerging leaders, I truly get excited about their enthusiasm for our profession. They get fired up when given the opportunity to contribute to our future direction through initiatives around innovation and collaboration.
Rick Davis, Managing shareholder, Elliott Davis Decosimo
The expansion of the scope of services provided by a CPA. The blending and broadening of services and expectations are a challenge but the start of a process to make expansion in the profession happen from a standards and regulatory aspect is exciting. Thinking of the future, growth is good ... grow or die. Although staying in the same place may be comfortable, it's a growth killer.
Loretta Doon, CEO, California Society of CPAs
I see a lot of firms and accounting professionals that are open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
James Doty, Chairman, PCAOB
The development of advanced data and analytics combined with another quickly emerging capability -- cognitive computing -- is exciting. These technologies will take on certain elements of our work, freeing up members of the profession to take on new, elevated roles that focus on the highest risks a company faces. KPMG is investing heavily in these areas.
Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO, KPMG
The people! I am inspired by the passion, commitment, and hard work of accountants. I am excited whenever I meet AICPA members and hear their experiences and ideas. Accountants have unlimited opportunities and are essential for critical decision-making. Accounting is truly a profession with a purpose and I am pleased to join CPAs and CGMAs who serve their firms, customers, businesses, clients and communities in the spirit of protecting the public interest.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Incoming chair, AICPA
It is a great time to be in the accounting and auditing profession. The rapid pace of change and innovation taking place is tremendous -- we're able to witness firsthand how the traditional role of the audit is changing due to the fusion of our physical, biological, and digital worlds. From increased access to information and analytics capabilities, to enhance timeliness, I see greater opportunity to leverage new ideas and technologies, such as artificial intelligence to make a difference in the work we do for the capital markets. What excites me most is the increased scope for higher-order thinking and insights that these changes will enable.
Cathy Engelbert, CEO, Deloitte
We are expanding and growing to be more inclusive in every way -- not just in terms of racial diversity, but also with regard to roles, backgrounds, service offerings, and more. I worked in the "Big Eight" (now the Big Four), owned a small firm, and served in a variety of volunteer roles for different business & civic organizations -- including the AICPA's PCPS Executive Committee. My experiences as a CPA firm owner, as a black woman navigating my career, as a wife and mother trying to maintain balance, and as a volunteer giving back to the profession all melded into a unique perspective that was often different from my peers and colleagues. I have come to see myself as an entrepreneur with a passion for serving the profession who happens to be a CPA, rather than defining myself as a CPA. Tax is what I know but not who I am. I see the AICPA/CIMA merger as validation of the choices I made, and evidence that the future of the profession is more than just being a CPA in a public accounting firm.
Jina Etienne, President and CEO, NABA
That there are so many working together to proactively mitigate the challenges faced. Whether it's human capital, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues or anything on the limitless list of issues, we (as a profession) have grown and are taking ownership to proactively manage accounting firms instead of being reactive.
Kim Fantaci, President, CPAFMA
I am excited about the challenges facing the accounting profession and how it will rise to meet them, most notably the need to employ more judgment as FASB moves towards more principles-based rules.
George Farrah, Editorial director, Tax and Accounting, Bloomberg BNA
It will be exciting to see whether the profession can leverage the growing demand for some form of assurance on new matters such as interim financial information, cyber-security, sustainability, and perhaps other areas as an opportunity to increase the relevance of the audit.
Lewis Ferguson, Board member, PCAOB
The profession's changing, diverse workforce: Accounting and auditing will be shaped in exciting ways as the profession taps assertively into a talent pool that is growing more diverse culturally, that has shown fresh ways of thinking, and that can bring the profession critical new skillsets in computer science, data analysis, and statistics.
Cindy Fornelli, Executive director, Center for Audit Quality
What makes me most excited about the future of accounting is how much fun it is! I know that sounds corny but I can tell you honestly that I am having more fun now than I ever have and am so excited about what we are doing to help our profession both in the U.S. and at a global level. It is an exciting time to be in our profession and for those entering our profession, the opportunities are huge and there is more to get done every day than we know what to do with.
Brian Fox, Founder and president, Confirmation.com
I am most excited about the prospect of the accounting profession finally modernizing and operating at or ahead of the pace of business and society. The future is bright for a highly skilled, robust and diverse accounting profession.
In order to achieve this, the profession must accelerate its current efforts to recruit, retain, and develop a diverse workforce, including improving opportunities for the advancement of women and minorities.
Jeanette Franzel, Board member, PCAOB
There has never been a better time to be in the accounting field. Much of the excitement and investments in technology surround the accountant. SaaS companies like Xero are but one cog that is building around the accountants. FinWeb, FinTech and SaaS solutions are integrating both front and back office tasks. The requirements for IT have virtually gone away, and now businesses require a custodian of their workflow and data, this is the heart of the new role of the accountant. Accountants are the cool kids as they will continually make more and more business decisions for their clients and set up their workflows and their software and of course, compliance.
Russell Fujioka, President, Xero US
The emergence of technologies that reduce "friction," when the bank communicates with your accounting system, and your accountant/advisor gets the same information in real-time; all of this will be seamless from an IT perspective. Soon, doing accounting work, communicating with your accountant, and transacting business will be all as easy as playing games in your iPhone.
The result? Small-business owners will have more freedom to innovate and add value to their customers, while future accountants will be leading the way and helping their clients get "on board" the cloud and these technologies.
Hector Garcia, Principal, Quick Bookkeeping
The scope, complexity, and magnitude of the international financial system present significant challenges and also expanded opportunities for the accounting profession. The evolution and proliferation of virtual commerce has multiplied the exchange of goods, services and currencies -- real and virtual -- across jurisdictions. This growing complexity offers an exciting challenge to the accounting profession.
At the same time, technology continues to expand, allowing us to perform audits more efficiently and incorporate the use of continuous auditing, including use of data analytics to proactively identify organizational risk.
Finally, people are our most critical asset because they play such a vital role in achieving organizational mission and delivering service to stakeholders. Generational change and cyclical labor shortages will continue to increase the competition to hire qualified professionals. As Baby Boomers retire, it is becoming increasingly urgent for firms to secure strong talent and plan for the next wave of leaders.
J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Technology gives us the greatest opportunity to improve financial reporting. It is important to leverage this tool to its fullest.
Russell Golden, Chairman, FASB
I can't wait to see how the firms evolve in their offerings, their leadership and thinking. I know the typical firm model will continue to change and that technology plays a big role in this. The opportunity for innovation and for leaders to step up and lead in innovative ways is exhilarating. The need for services is ever-growing, regardless of what others think. We need to take advantage of the position that we are in as trusted advisors and offer concrete advice to help our clients be successful now and into the future. Our economy is dependent upon healthy businesses and we are uniquely positioned to provide these business owners with the tools and knowledge they need to be as successful as possible.
Angie Grissom, President, The Rainmaker Companies
An already incipient ground swelling grassroots movement will soon irresistibly envelop, inform, and unite the accounting profession and the general public in addressing the public-interest-mission-critical nature and purposes of institutional fund accounting, auditing, and financial reporting legal and contractual requirements and practices.
Dick Haas, Civic advocate
I'm most excited about seeing how the industry is going to adapt as accountants have more time to spend helping clients (as they reduce the time they spend on things like data entry and calculations).
My hope is that our industry will become one that is much more advising and consulting-focused. No one is better equipped than the legion of U.S. CPAs to provide accurate advice and analysis that can drive down the rate of business failure in the U.S. and drive up the rates of growth and profitability among this country's 26 million businesses. The current wave of accounting technology and automation provides a great opportunity to create change in the industry that will yield positive results for U.S. businesses.
Brian Hamilton, Co-founder and chairman, Sageworks
I periodically travel around the country to meet with accounting students various universities, and I am excited to see the enthusiasm these students demonstrate for a career in public accounting. I see the evolution in the training being provided by universities in new areas that I believe will serve these students well, including data analytics and other information technology skills. These students have a promising future ahead of them in a rewarding and respected profession.
Jay Hanson, Board member, PCAOB
I am excited about adjusting to the new world ... . If we adjust we can help guide our clients to a more successful future, not just explain and report on their past. We will also be able to use our knowledge in many different ways as we work with these clients. Many in our industry take CPE just so they can prepare an accurate tax return, which is still important to do. However, we now may have an opportunity to impact what those numbers are not just where they go on a form.
Roger Harris, President and COO, Padgett Business Services
The last few years have brought a flood of stifling regulations to small business that simply cannot continue at the current pace. I think the new political landscape will stem the tide of business regulation and, perhaps, reverse the trend, bringing more favorable legislation.
The PATH Act, which was signed into law in December 2015, is a start. The PATH Act made permanent several business-friendly tax breaks. The law also extended other tax breaks that will help small businesses prosper.
John Hewitt, Founder, chairman and CEO, Liberty Tax
Technology and the next generation of CPAs have me most excited about the future. The exponential growth in technology driven by cloud, mobile, and social technologies is freeing up CPAs to do more strategic, value-added services for our clients and employers. The next generation of CPAs is bringing new skills like collaboration and a curious mindset that is willing to try new things. Together these two forces can transform us and help solve the big issues facing us.
Tom Hood, CEO and executive director, MACPA
The next generation of firm leaders (the Millennials). I have the unique privilege to probably see deeper into firms than most other consultants do. This is because with the Lean Six Sigma work that we perform, I'm always working with a wide cross-section of the firm from staff associates all the way through senior partners, and including administrative personnel, IT and operations. So I get to see and hear the insights and perspectives of all of these various levels as we work together to optimize process performance and technology utilization.
One common theme that I come away with on a week-to-week basis in my project sessions with clients is that our younger people are incredible. I do not buy in to the notion that there isn't talent in the pipeline. There's an abundance of talent and passion. We just need to do a better job of nurturing and developing that talent. But the future is very, very bright based on what I see every week from the lower and mid-levels in firms. I can't wait to be working with them in 10-20 years when they become partners and managing partners.
Dustin Hostetler, Shareholder and chief innovation officer, Boomer Consulting Inc.
Two things really excite me about the future of the profession:
1. The recognition of the importance of transparency and the engagement of the profession by corporate leadership.
2. The advances in technology and analytics in furthering transparency, data utility, risk assessment, testing and mitigation.
Over the past decade, we have seen the audit profession embraced by CEOs, C-suite, and governance bodies and broadly by users of financial statements. There is broad recognition that the highest quality accounting, financial reporting and audits are a critical component of instilling trust in our capital markets. Among stakeholders, there is also the embrace of the challenge to continuing to perfect these nuanced processes.
We have also watched as governance bodies including corporate boards have brought on top talent to address diverse matters of risk, audit and financial reporting. These topics are important matters on the governance agenda. I am very pleased to see the talent, rigor and time dedicated to assessing issues and raising standards across the governance arena.
A catalyst to transparency and audit quality has been the leverage of audit technology, particularly in analytics. We can already see the advancement of big data and analytics having a real impact on what our audit delivers and the insight it provides. EY has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in audit tools and technologies - including EY Canvas and EY Helix - designed to align audit risk with the procedures that address them, and leverage client data to pinpoint higher-risk audit areas.
Access to more data helps financial reporting and early identification of fraud and operational risks, which in turn can be integrated into a targeted audit approach. With technology as an enabler, our auditors now focus more effectively on risk and their response to it, while challenging the audit in a way that simply was not possible before. What this will mean for our clients and the capital markets is the ability to identify areas of risk with a forward-looking perspective. With deeper insights at our disposal through the application of our technology, we are better positioned to ask more challenging questions. This enables us to deliver more effective and higher-quality audits.
These technologies support our industry's highly skilled and well-trained professionals, and will usher us into a new frontier in audit. It is an exciting time for those of us who have been here to see the industry evolve already, as well as those who are just starting their audit careers.
In addition, mobility and the ability to work in different countries and cultures is growing every day for people in the profession.
Stephen Howe, Managing partner, EY
The advances in technology have me most excited about the future of accounting. Many in our profession bemoan the movement toward do-it-yourself accounting and tax software. We cannot deny that software such as QuickBooks and TurboTax have taken a share of the market from us. However, there are so many more opportunities that technology has afforded us that I believe we can now grow our businesses bigger than ever.
Cloud computing offers the opportunity to work with clients around the world without ever leaving the office. Programs such as Quickbooks Online enable us to work on clients' books without having to travel to their offices. Skype gives us the opportunity to speak face-to-face with a client half a world away. Hosting tax software in the cloud keeps us up and running from home when a blizzard prevents us from driving to the office.
The world is forever changing. If we embrace these changes and work with them, the possibilities are endless.
Sandy Johnson, President, NCCPAP
Our young people and technology. Their minds work differently. They see things in ways we never have and I believe that their perspective combined with today's (and future) technologies is going to absolutely change the way our profession operates. I believe if any generation will solve the work compression issue, it will be them. I think they will continue to elevate the role of the profession in business and bring it to an entirely new level.
Sarah Johnson Dobek, President and founder, Inovautus Consulting
The opportunity to provide higher-value-added services with more support from technology should allow skilled accountants to apply their talents more effectively. The choices available for accountants should allow doing work that is enjoyable, fulfilling, profitable and helpful to others. Key skills will need to be added are for operational advisement with business metrics in addition to traditional tax and audit compliance.
Randy Johnston, Executive vice president and partner, K2 Enterprises; CEO, NMGI
I have been increasingly involved in a more global discussion of tax issues through participation in OECD, IFA and CAPA conferences. I'm also heavily involved in collaboration with the tax directors of the Global Accounting Alliance -- my colleagues in 11 countries around the world. The issues of importance to all of us are very recognizable -- BEPS, ID theft, taxpayer rights, tax ethics, confidentiality, tax administration challenges. Yes, there are cultural, social and political differences. But I'm excited to see that the accounting profession's enthusiastic and energetic approach to solutions that involve the profession, including in the public interest, spans the globe.
Ed Karl, Vice president of taxation, AICPA
I am very excited about the current focus on reinventing the CPA's role as an advisor, consultant, business-success coach to their clients. I have always been saddened by the fact that most CPAs are reactive rather than proactive with their clients. Surveys have told us clients want their CPA to be more proactive, yet many continue to focus on compliance services and once or twice a year contact with clients.
Rita Keller, President of Keller Advisors
The convergence of technologies including big data, artificial Intelligence, digital collaboration, mobile tools, and CPA production workflow is happening at an increasingly faster pace, creating new business models and opportunities to serve clients. Accountants that study these interactions and learn to advise clients will find unlimited consulting opportunities in the future.
Roman Kepczyk, Director of consulting, Xcentric LLC
As I travel around the world talking to IFAC's members and the people and communities they serve, a key theme I hear -- especially in developing countries -- is how much they understand that strong public sector accounting is critical to transparency and accountability, and to sustainable, strong public services like education and health. I'm excited at the prospect of a growing and maturing profession in many developing countries being a trusted, ethical partner to public sector leaders and governments to help drive economic growth. IFAC's Accountability. Now. program, which focuses on public sector accounting skills development and in particular, adoption and implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards, is making a meaningful difference in so many parts of the world.
Olivia Kirtley, President, IFAC
Curiously, it is the possibilities that [transformative] technologies have on the business model of accountants. I believe those that can understand these possibilities will have a distinct and lasting competitive advantage over those that do not.
Ed Kless, Senior director, Sage
I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position to have learned from marketers who were there at the start of professional services marketing. These trailblazers inspired me to make accounting marketing a career. I am incredibly excited to see the next generation of accounting marketers. The table is set for great innovation and success. As firm leadership continues to embrace and empower strategic growth professionals, we are going to see change at a pace never before imagined.
The main initiative that I worked on as president of the Association for Accounting Marketing is our Vision 2020 program. This initiative will help to further integrate the role of marketing and business development within firms by furthering the communication with firm leaders. Historically, the people responsible for growth tend to leave the industry. This brain-drain has significantly hurt firms -- imagine if a tax department turned over every two years -- and we see a positive trend towards the growth positions becoming respected careers within the industry.
Jack Kolmansberger, Chief marketing officer, Herbein + Co.
I'm most excited about the major transformation that is taking place in public accounting, whereby firms are reinvesting and retooling from being compliance shops to truly being in the business of helping their clients with their business and financial problems ... whatever they may be! Firms today understand that many of those new products and services don't necessarily have to be created in-house, as we're seeing many, many strategic partnerships and alliances being formed daily. I really believe we have gone from a profession of providing services that clients don't want but need (audits and tax returns) to a profession that's in the business of providing services that clients both want and need.
Allan Koltin, CEO, Koltin Consulting Group
The future is vast and bright. While some of the change seems scary, the reality is that CPAs are always in the middle of that change. We have to make sure we keep the CPA as the trusted advisor going forward. I'm glad I made the choice to become a CPA 20 years ago and still share that excitement with students and recent graduates. The profession can be what you make of it and there are so many successful CPAs out there, which is fun to see.
Mark Koziel, Vice president of firm services and global alliances, AICPA
Robust financial reporting is at the foundation of economic prosperity -- it is vital to sound capital allocation decisions. To that end, our upcoming Invitation to Comment seeks stakeholder input on what financial reporting issues we should address next. This agenda consultation process will allow stakeholders to provide input on our next challenges -- such as liabilities and equity -- and helps shape the direction of our future agenda. This ensures we're addressing the right priorities so that we can continue to improve GAAP.
Jim Kroeker, Vice chairman, FASB
This profession is undergoing massive change, and to me that is exciting. One thing is for sure, the leading firms of tomorrow will continue to diversify their service offerings, specialize, and develop the thought leaders of our profession. Ultimately, there are so many viable paths the profession can and will take, and the open-ended nature of this is what's exciting. I'd go so far as to say, if firm leadership can dream it -- it can happen.
Art Kuesel, President and owner, Kuesel Consulting
Technology will set accounting professionals free to pursue much more substantive work for clients that speaks directly to growth and profitability. We're certainly seeing this now in the compliance sector, with firms using automated compliance tools that allow them to combine knowledge work with time-saving and accurate cloud solutions, delivering a valuable service to clients, who are then more likely to look to their firm for additional advisory services.
Marshal Kushniruk, Executive vice president of global business development, Avalara
Growth! Accounting and bookkeeping firms are extremely focused on growth -- and that is exciting for the future.
In an industry survey, 67 percent of the respondents agreed that their firms will grow significantly in the next one to two years, with 80 percent of respondents from firms with 51 or more employees anticipating that growth.
I love to discuss how firms will grow. Technology plays a significant role by eliminating physical offices and geographic restrictions for employees and supporting an enhanced level of efficiency. It helps firms attract and retain more clients -- regardless of location.
Firm growth will rely on various trends to propel it forward. Do firms provide value-based pricing? Will firms use technology to offer additional services? Will those monthly client visits to collect bills and invoices be eliminated? Is the firm focusing -- and capitalizing -- on a specialty to bring on clients that specialize in a certain niche of business?
There are multiple opportunities for growth for today's accounting firm. I cannot wait to see how strongly the accounting profession surges forward in the next three to five years.
Rene Lacerte, Founder and CEO, Bill.com
I am most energized by the increasing number of highly specialized technology tools available to make accountant-client interaction more efficient and meaningful. Each year finds more and more vendor companies serving our profession. And the "co-opetition" atmosphere among those companies breeds amazing integrations.
Gregory LaFollette, Strategic advisor, CPA.com
Personally, it is the change in the way we are educated. Continuing education is important because it helps us stay current with the (complex) standards. The live seminars were great back in the day, but required travel and a full day out of the office. Then, webinars came along, and they're great, but they require students to be logged in at a specific time. Learning management systems provide the next major enhancement in the way we obtain training. Courses can be provided on-demand, and students can work at their own pace. The interactive features keep students engaged. Forums help students communicate with instructors and ask questions as needed. The integrated quiz and exams make it easy for students to test their knowledge. Certificates of completion are made available instantly after passing the exam. I'm personally most excited about the future of the way accountants are trained.
Jeff Lenning, President, Excel University
Next-generation CPAs are helping firms change the way they work, creating new opportunities for the use of technology as well as collaboration across levels and specialties that will make a difference for clients.
Kristen Lewis, Director of marketing, EisnerAmper
The forward-looking nature of the profession. Moving from looking backwards to forwards to really help clients manage their businesses in a pro-active real-time manner.
Taylor Macdonald, Senior vice president of channels, Intacct
We are witnessing a sea change on every front of the profession, from the competencies required to the nature of services provided to the expectations of clients to the meaning of assurance itself. In 10 years, the profession will be vastly differently from what we accept as today's norm. At the same time, the need for the values which have defined the profession are greater than ever: competence, integrity and objectivity.
Janice Maiman, Senior vice president, communications, media, news & professional pathways, AICPA
The public's need for the knowledge and expertise accounting professionals provide is growing stronger with the complexities extending beyond tax. The automation and collaboration afforded by technology creates an opportunity for accounting professionals to use their talents to truly engage with clients at an advisory level and leave the transactional work to the technology. This changes the expectations a young professional can have in a career in accounting; they are more than a historical reporter, but a key person of influence in the organizations they operate in. We need to educate college students on this change and build practices that take advantage of this opportunity.
Samantha Mansfield, Director of corporate communications, CPA.com
The accounting profession is facing unprecedented change on a global scale. Technology advancements -- and, in particular, cloud-based tax and accounting solutions -- are driving the change. The accounting function remains mission-critical to business, which means it has a place at the top within the hierarchy of a business. In addition to having an obligation to uphold regulatory requirements and ensure compliance, accounting professionals impact the overall direction of the business. These professionals are seeing the potential to harness technology to complement their traditional services to provide integrated solutions to their clients and offer more useful Advisory services -- all while using real-time data from cloud accounting platforms to engage and advise.
Jason Marx, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, North America
I am most excited about the opportunities to leverage technology to expand the role of accounting and tax planning to a much higher level of effectiveness in influencing the success of independent tax businesses. New affordable computer applications will increasingly enable small tax firms to operate on a level playing field with major corporations. Yet small tax businesses will retain the advantage of greater flexibility and the ability to make and implement game-changing decisions quickly.
Chuck McCabe, Founder, president and CEO, The Income Tax School
The increasing ability to leverage data via technology to help clients better understand where their business is headed, how to get there, how to avoid roadblocks and repeated mistakes, how to forecast for incremental growth more accurately, and bottom-line stuff like how to drive efficiencies and cost savings. CPAs who understand that it's about analyzing rather than validating data will soon play a role that involves them much more closely within the C-Suite. This will be great for their clients, and very beneficial for firms that do it well.
Scott McFarlane, Co-founder and CEO, Avalara
Thanks to the cloud, we now live in an online, borderless world, which opens up the accounting profession to new possibilities that change the very nature of the field. The absence of physical limits allows for a global client base, which helps accounting professionals become even more specialized in the industries they serve. This deep verticalization will become a key differentiator in a competitive global market that's no longer defined by geolocation.
In fact, small businesses -- who were once organized by language and location as well-- are also increasingly being organized by the type of work they do. It's both mindboggling and exhilarating to imagine that an accounting firm's client roster can easily include their friendly neighborhood barbershop as well as a corner bakery along the Champs-Élysées. Not only can firms now work with clients they would never have taken on a decade ago, but it broadens their horizons through exposure to new cultures and business practices, and empowers accountants to choose their own clientele and have a truly unique firm.
Jim McGinnis, Vice president, Accountant Segment, Intuit
The opportunity to shape our future. We're not stuck in a dull, never-changing industry or world. To the contrary, disruption is all around us. That gives us the opportunity to be disruptive as well, to help shape the way businesses and markets work in the future. That can be scary, but it's really exciting, too!
J. Michael McGuire, CEO, Grant Thornton
If you look through history, there are inflection points for our profession. The creation of the computer for solving sophisticated problems was the most dramatic in most of our professional lives. Cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence are creating a new inflection point.
Combined, these innovations are dramatically changing how we collaborate with our clients and organizations. One example is the concept of continuous auditing, and the elimination of testing in favor of technology driven, full data set exception auditing. That shift will be a fundamental change. Technology is empowering CPAs and management accountants to deepen the advisory role they already perform so ably. These are just examples. Fundamentally evolving what and how we perform is a challenge for the profession but for every business and service in the world today.
Barry Melancon, President and CEO, AICPA
The future of accounting is directly at the confluence of all that is changing fastest in the worlds of technological and societal change. With the pervasiveness of available information, I am excited about the opportunities for finding content that is of value and delivering a stream of meaning out of an ocean of noise.
The advance of automation, while uncomfortable for many of us as it re-values the work we're accustomed to doing, frees us to do work of higher value -- looking forward for our clients. This will allow us to spend more time helping companies and individuals prepare for the year and years ahead as we spend less time recounting the past, thanks to ever more sophisticated tools.
Steve Mendelsohn, Managing director, Knowledge Solutions, Thomson Reuters
1. As a profession we are getting involved in new areas and business models -- some will work out very well and some won't, but we are involved in some major initiatives. Sustainability, integrated reporting, and corporate social responsibility are major movements that will need accountants to assist and attest to the extensive data gathering and reporting that will be needed.
2. The move by larger firms toward specialization is creating opportunities for expanded knowledge and experience transfer and greater value to clients. At the same time, openings are expanding for smaller firms and practitioners to step into chasms developing by the specializations of larger firms and the partial abandonment by many of them of being a trusted advisor in all facets of a client's financial and business activities. The future is exciting.
Ed Mendlowitz, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
The use of technology is changing that way that accountants do business. It has the potential to take away many of the mundane tasks that accountants don't like to do and let them focus on more "value-added" consultative service to their clients. Data analytics should allow the accountant to be a better advisor to companies and provide more predictive assistance.
Stan Mork, President, ITA
Robots! They'll make the jobs that are left far more interesting. (Until they take those jobs, too.)
Caleb Newquist, Founding editor, Going Concern
My greatest enthusiasm for the profession focuses on non-traditional areas of income and especially watching my clients do extremely well as advisors to the clients while letting younger partners and staff do the numbers stuff. The areas for me that are very exciting include the acceleration of profitability in the assets under management arena. I have been coaching firms in this area since 1997. My clients today have large businesses in this area -- say, anywhere from a few hundred million under management to the $1 billion arena. This is very profitable and throws large sums of cash to the bottom line, all leveraged income. My clients in this area are all very pleased with their ROI here, especially those doing it right. ...
Additionally I'm excited about my clients building huge niches in the R&D Credit areas as well as the 179D energy studies. ... All of these areas yield excellent results to the bottom line. While some firms private-label these services, I'm not a fan of that. It adds risk unnecessarily. Additionally the areas of conducting strategic modeling for clients of CPA firms is also very profitable
Jay Nisberg, President, Jay Nisberg & Associates
The ability to reach potential clients in a large geographic area regardless of the size of your firm. The Internet provides a forum where any tax adviser -- whether at a "big" or "small" accounting firm -- may establish expertise in the form of a blog or other informal communication. These mediums have tremendous reach, and if you put value-added and informative content out there, the people in need of that information will find it. This allows any tax professional to expand the scope of their practice beyond his or her firm's traditional geographic boundaries, and to add value to a wider array of clients.
Tony Nitti, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
Continued innovation in technology will revolutionize how financial information is delivered and used, impacting all capital market stakeholders. If accounting is the "language of business," then we, as practitioners, should look to optimize technology in improving how it is used to more effectively and efficiently to communicate with investors and credit providers. This may include expanding the use of social media, videos, and other platforms. I believe the extent of technology's possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.
Charles Noski, Chairman, Board of Trustees, FAF
Finally, the seeds of change are blossoming all around. Many firm owners now get it. They just need to do it. The more firms change, the better product vendors will produce for us as they will have the adoption they need for bigger and better cloud innovation. New technologies are appearing every day! We are challenged to learn how to implement them in our practice and create new service models that can support them.
Jody Padar, CEO and principal, New Vision CPA Group
Looking ahead, I believe there are several traits that will be greatly prized by tax practitioners, which cut across all tax disciplines and which are driven by technological disruption. In the next five years, tax professionals in all industries and geographies will require:
- Greater mobility, particularly making it easier to advise clients when away from the office.
- Increased automation of time-consuming administrative tasks.
- Time for high-value work.
- Insight -- and less "noise" (i.e. distracting, high-volume, low-value content.)
- Global connectivity.
- Comprehensive, integrated and reliable software platforms.
- Effective compliance and reporting capabilities.
Resonance with new generations of tech-savvy customers and employees.
By embracing technology, I see the accounting industry undergoing a massively transformative shift that will allow us to provide our clients with greater value, do our jobs more efficiently, and appeal to new generations of accounting professionals.
Brian Peccarelli, President, The Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters
Integration of big data analysis coming to smaller firms which will enable firms to provide analysis and insight into their clients' business transactions beyond the general ledger. This integration will come from sources of big data, both public databases and industry specific data that will take the client relationship beyond where it is today. Integration of big data goes beyond the audit, the real value for firms is the analysis of big data integration to help the clients truly understand their operations.
Carl Peterson, Vice president of small firm interests, AICPA
With the accounting industry shifting the expectations of young CPAs, the 2017 CPA Exam changes will provide the next generation of accountants with a better understanding for real situations that occur on the job. The new exam includes adjusted sections and extensive additions, making it more challenging and time-consuming to prepare, as well as requiring candidates to demonstrate higher-order skills. The next generation of CPAs are expected to enter the workforce at a much higher level, with the ability to handle certain challenges from the forefront. Due to the ever-changing landscape and expectations within the accounting industry, I'm most excited to continue to develop the proper resources to help hopeful CPAs efficiently prepare for the next chapter in their career in an enjoyable and effective way.
Roger Philipp, CEO and owner, Roger CPA Review
I think I'm most excited about the ability to service clients beyond the numbers. The tax and accounting profession has never been just about forms and ledgers, but as the economy changes, there is now more of an opportunity to deliver advising and consulting services. It makes sense: Tax advisors are already aware of our client's financial and business needs -- from planning to compliance. Why not be a part of a more comprehensive solution?
Kelly Phillips Erb, "TaxGirl" blogger
I am most excited to see accounting firms offer more "above the line" services, so they progress from reporting to advising and even leading their clients. Business leaders need expert trusted financial management advisors to help craft strategic financial plans.
Jeff Phillips, CEO, Accountingfly
I am excited to see the improvements to diversity and inclusion within the profession. Diversity and inclusion has become more of a focus at national and state levels, and people are caring more about creating open forums to make progress in this area.
The Illinois CPA Society hosted its first Diversity Summit in June 2016, which focused on discussing the biases we have and how to implement programs to overcome these biases and ensure that diversity and inclusion is a priority in our profession. I look forward to learning more about how to be effective in diversity and inclusion and helping to build resources to continue to advance the profession.
Elizabeth Pittelkow, Director of accounting and compliance, ArrowStream
I think the evolving and expanding role of accountants is something that's very exciting, particularly for the younger people just joining the profession. As our economy becomes more competitive and increasingly global, accountants are brought to the table as value-adding business partners, not the group in the back room crunching numbers and telling management why they can't do something. That stimulates greater interest in our profession, making it easier to recruit a talented, diverse workforce, with leaders who are able to connect all different aspects of a business environment.
Terri Polley, President and CEO, FAF
I believe the profession is entering a new era of delivering value in innovative ways far beyond traditional services. Technology and other factors continue to drive down the value of core tax and attest services and this will continue. However, I see firms delivering an increasing array of specialized services in international trade, wealth management, industry-based and other consulting far beyond traditional core services. All the growth the profession has enjoyed during the economic recovery can be attributed to expanding these services.
Terry Putney, CEO, Transition Advisors
Technology. "Give me a stick long enough and I can move the world," said Archimedes. The intuitive nature of technology today is allowing accounting professionals everywhere to serve more clients faster and better than ever before, and to generate higher profits in a shorter amount of time. As new technology emerges, accountants have the opportunity to impact the lives of their clients and make meaningful improvements in their businesses without extending their workday -- now that's exciting.
Matt Rissell, CEO, TSheets
In April, the SEC opened public comment on a concept release on disclosure reform, which invited feedback on how sustainability disclosure must evolve to meet the needs of today's markets. A preliminary analysis of the comment letters confirms one thing: investors want better sustainability disclosure. While just 3.2 percent of the comment release (11 out of 341 pages) discussed sustainability disclosure, 66 percent of unique responses (150 out of 227 non-form letters) discussed the need for better sustainability disclosure.
The SEC's Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative marks an important moment in history -- it's an opportunity to make sustainability reporting meet the needs of both companies and investors.
Jean Rogers, CEO and Founder, SASB
The shift to tightly integrated, cloud-based solutions and the focus on serving distinct client niches. Advanced technology can be leveraged to serve niche clients across the country, allowing firms to expand well beyond geographic boundaries and capture niche markets across the U.S. I believe these two fundamental shifts will allow practitioners to work when and from wherever they want, as well as build a business founded on ideal clients.
Darren Root, President and CEO, RootWorks
The ramping up by firms to do a better job making their firms a great place to work that trains people well and develops them into leaders. But there is still a huge obstacle: There are either few or no provisions for developing people in firm's partner compensation systems. Until the partners' paychecks are impacted by their effort and success at developing people, CPA firms will continue to fall short of their potential in the area of developing a great staff.
Marc Rosenberg, President, The Rosenberg Associates
The trend of greater specialization by smaller and midsized firms. It's very hard to be all things for all people/businesses, and firms are finding what sets them apart and marketing those differentiators. In most cases, this leads to higher realization, happier clients and even more satisfied staff.
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, President, bbr marketing
As I review the challenges the profession faces, I see that the profession building on its relevancy going forward. With new regulatory standards, technology, and human capital development, the profession is more important than ever. Globalization will continue to grow and require skills that many have yet to realize, yet we have such a strong influence over our future and all aspects of accounting, finance, tax, and operations will play a major role in progress.
Michael Sabbatis, COO and Board member, XCM Solutions
We should all be excited by technology's impact on the accounting profession. Many tasks that accountants have done in the past are being revolutionized by smart, awesome technology.
On a practical level, as technology reduces the time needed to complete transactions, a need arises for a totally different business model. "Hours times dollars" is no longer sustainable, and value-pricing is gaining momentum.
On a personal level, I just can't wait to see where this takes us in five, ten years' time. At Sage Summit in Chicago last month, we debuted Pegg -- a smart admin chatbot that makes basic accounting as easy and natural as texting a friend. Accounting firms are constantly having to disrupt our own industry to survive and thrive, and I love the fast pace.
Marc Schiepe, President, Sage North America
Our profession will be retiring many Baby Boomers and, more than ever, we will be able to offer tremendous opportunity to young people from the Generation Xers, to the Millennials, and eventually to the Generation Z. The new generations will be much more diversified and will bring incredible innovation to the profession -- innovation that will be required to address rapid change. Along with this movement, the profession will need to offer experiences to the next generations which will equip them to make solid decisions while implementing change and new innovations. Offering new opportunities to young people has always been a passion of mine and the profession will need to embrace this more than ever.
Dennis Schleper, CEO, CliftonLarsonAllen
It is always exciting to be engaged in an industry that is going through an evolution. I saw an uptick of accounting firm mergers and acquisitions last year and that trend has continued into 2016. The industry consolidation that has resulted from this activity has created new opportunities, resources, technologies, relationships and efficiencies -- all of which add up to greater value for our clients. With such consolidation also comes increased competition for business among the industry's biggest players; however, I see that as a positive. Greater competition has the potential to yield greater value and create a more rewarding client experience.
Russell Shapiro, Partner, Levenfeld Pearlstein
In my view, our profession is standing on the doorstep of a high-tech revolution, where big data, workflow tools, data analytics and artificial intelligence are the first steps being taken on the path to an amazing future. Being an analyst at my core, I'm excited about the unlimited opportunities this presents.
Accounting is the language of business, and harnessing technology will enable the profession to own the role of trusted business advisor, whether supporting the clients of your firm or coworkers of your company.
Todd Shapiro, President and CEO, ICPAS
As much as things have changed for CPAs, there's one thing that hasn't changed -- our role as our clients' most trusted business advisors. Our clients are as confounded by change and complexity as we are. They need someone who will make the future comfortable for them. If we can do that -- if we can learn the skills that businesses will need to succeed going forward, then teach those skills to our clients -- imagine the level of trust we will have earned. We have a huge opportunity here to become the business thought leaders of tomorrow and pass that knowledge on to our clients. If we learn to do that, our status as the most trusted business advisors around will be secured.
Bill Sheridan, Chief communications officer, MACPA
I am thrilled with the opportunities within our grasp in the accounting profession. Recent technological advances have revolutionized the ways audits may be performed and financial reports can be developed. Data processing capabilities will allow accounting professionals to provide more effective business advisory services to clients and offer more relevant financial data points to interested market participants.
James Sinclair, Visiting assistant professor of accounting, Georgetown University
The quantum changes affecting not only the traditional workplace but how people work. Advances in technology have not only allowed staff to work remotely, but now roughly 10-15 percent of newly opened firms are "virtual." It's estimated that by the end of 2017, more than 60 million people will work at least one day out of the office. Also, the premium that was once placed on the timesheet and billable hours is beginning to wane. Staff, meanwhile, is being reviewed by the work completed as opposed to how many billable hours they log. More engagements are becoming value priced. These are more examples of the "culture" of IT.
Joel Sinkin, President, Transition Advisors
We no longer live in a one-size-fits-all world. Business owners want customized solutions tailored to their specific business needs and they crave more insight into their financial data. Apps and software eliminate many of the manual processes of data gathering, so our profession is becoming less about compiling information and more about analyzing big data to produce tangible and actionable insights.
There's a huge variety of add-ons and apps accountants can use to create a more personalized experience, and the professionals who understand the available resources will be able to better position themselves as strategic advisors to their clients. Machine learning will only become even more important as apps become smarter and more catered to you. This will be the major differentiating factor between accountants and will allow professionals to create practices that are reflective of their individual styles and personas, while simultaneously delivering a truly unique experience to clients. Accounting professionals who are able to adapt to these new innovations will also help their small business clients stay ahead of the curve and make better decisions.
Brad Smith, Chairman and CEO, Intuit
The most exciting development for CPA firms today is the opportunity to play a vastly expanded role in serving their clients, moving from work with a large compliance focus to value-added services in exciting new areas such as cyber-security, privacy, transaction assistance, human resources, IT services, business strategy and process improvement.
Technology has played a significant role in creating these opportunities as well as in automating much of compliance work to free up professional time to help clients in new ways.
For years, firms have aspired to be the single point-of-contact that clients go to first for help in addressing their business issues. More than ever before, expanded service opportunities are making this aspiration possible.
Richard Stanger, CEO, StangerCarlson
Technology allows us to capture more data than we ever have before -- not just financial data, but also programmatic data. This big data can provide a whole new level of understanding about your business or government. Using technology to report that data and present it in clever, creative ways lets management focus on the decision-making more quickly.
Jan Sylvis, Vice chair, GASB
It is the new breed of CPA firm that is producing outsized profits for its owners with strategic vision, exceptional talent, and fanatical client service. Mostly, they are flying under the radar, driven by a single savvy owner or a small group of tightly-knit partners.
They flourish in niches and specialties, which you wouldn't find until you go looking. They provide services like cross-border trade; industry-specific regulatory guidance; or management services to the rich or famous, or both. Technology is second nature to them. They don't bill by the hour, but by value. They can afford to be highly selective in their hiring. They shun growth for growth's sake, instead focussing on partner incomes and lifestyles.
They don't want to be famous. In fact, discretion is one of the reasons clients come to them. They are no one's merger target ... yet. They understand that once they merge into a larger firm, they could lose their competitive advantages under the weight of old-school timekeeping, outmoded computer systems, and lethargic bureaucracies.
Rick Telberg, Founder and CEO, CPA Trendlines
Job projections are very robust both domestically and internationally for accounting graduates. Although the new complexities of the profession lead to many challenges, they create opportunities for those who embrace those changes. We'll see a slew of new accounting positions that weren't previously available and the new accountants will thrive in it.
Ralph Thomas, CEO and executive director, NJCPA
We have the potential to be greater influencers in not only improving organizational capability, but to transform entire economies especially in emerging countries with limited infrastructure. Make no mistake about it, the accounting profession makes a difference in people's lives.
Jeffrey Thomson, President and CEO, IMA
We are seeing a rising tide of excitement amongst accountants at companies of all sizes about the potential to leverage technology to have professions that they love. They are asking questions, researching technology, and recognizing that the old batch approach to processing is obsolete. SaaS technologies allow them to select and manage the tools that can revamp their operations without being at the mercy of an IT group.
The concept of "continuous accounting" embodies the changes that accountants are seeking. Continuous accounting embeds automation, control, and period-end tasks within day-to-day activities, allowing the rigid accounting calendar to more closely mirror the broader business and freeing up time for value-add activities.
There's cause for a lot of optimism in finance. By 2020, Accenture predicts that finance productivity will increase by two to three times, and organizational costs will decline by 40 percent. They also foresee a dramatic shift in time spent on analysis, from a mere 25 percent today to 75 percent in the future. These transformative predictions are due in large part to the digitization of accounting, and the digitization of business in general. We believe continuous accounting is the future.
Therese Tucker, CEO and founder, BlackLine
Even though so many firms have automated their processes and work in the cloud, I still get a personal lift whenever I see an accounting firm get on board with cloud-based solutions and realize the incredible cost-savings and efficiency gains -- and then help their clients make the same leap.
Pascal Van Dooren, Chief revenue officer and GM, Avalara
Ultimately technology will lead to timely, searchable financial reports where a given user can more readily access just the information needed -- allowing governments to be compared side by side almost instantaneously. So that's an exciting future to look toward. However, maintaining the world-class level of reliability that we currently enjoy is critical as we move forward.
David Vaudt, Chairman, GASB
The amount of disruption currently occurring in the accounting industry is unprecedented. Millennials, in particular, are introducing the industry to a new way of working, as well as a new set of technology that is changing the way we do business.
From an advisory perspective, we now have the tools required to better serve our small-business clients. From the client's perspective, we're able to move accounting professionals from "the person who does my taxes" to "the trusted business partner I can't do without." While there is a knowledge gap that needs closing, technology is driving new opportunities for accounting professionals and changing the future of our industry.
I'm also excited about the changes technology is creating when it comes to globalization. In the past, accounting professionals were constrained by geographical borders. With the cloud, an accountant in New York can service a small business in the U.K. just as effectively as they would someone in their own backyard. In this borderless tech world, accounting professionals are now rethinking how to market and sell services. With the right approach, opportunities for client prospects are borderless and available for firms of all sizes, not just the large firms anymore.
Amy Vetter, Global vice president of education and head of accounting, USA, Xero
I continue to be fascinated by technology and the way it has changed the accounting business since I entered the industry 37 years ago. Technology has revolutionized the way we work with clients and how we run our firm, and I am excited to see what comes next. I fully expect another technology revolution in how we prepare tax returns and perform audits in the future, and how our work force performs their jobs.
Jeffrey Weiner, Managing partner, Marcum LLP
It is time to tell the great story of accounting and in a big way. This is an amazing profession, with an incredible opportunity for generations to come. There is an inheritance just waiting to be claimed as well as the monetization of the great practices that have been built over the past 50 years by practitioners today. With the technological advances continually being made, we are poised to write the future of accounting now!
Philip Whitman, President and CEO, Whitman Business Advisors
The higher level and stronger relationships that are being built between:
- The accounting professional and the client
- The accounting professional and the consultant
- The accounting professional and the vendor partner
- The accounting professional and other accounting professionals
Our future is all about connections!
Sandra Wiley, President and shareholder, Boomer Consulting Inc.
The bright young leaders coming into the profession. They are smarter, more connected, more efficient, and less attached to "old ways and ideas." It is as if they were born looking through different lenses -- they see things that many established leaders cannot see. Their ability to see possibilities for better solutions for clients and employers, more seamless work/life integration and a finer quality of life and a better profession overall is inspiring.
Jennifer Wilson, Co-founder and owner, ConvergenceCoaching
The same technologies that are disrupting the profession are going to serve as an empowerment to the profession. As bookkeeping becomes more automated, accountants will have access to real-time, accurate financial information from their small business clients. Armed with this information, accountants can play a stronger role as business coaches, engaging clients throughout the year. Simply put, accountants, in increasing measure, will become agents of small-business transformation.
Joe Woodard, CEO, Woodard Companies
I am excited about the possibilities that better use of technology can bring to businesses as well as auditors. I believe that efficiencies can be gained with increased knowledge and processes to better analyze data on a more real-time basis. This will allow the accounting profession to stay relevant and provide valuable information to decision makers in a timely manner.
Candace Wright, Chair, PCC
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