The world is changing, and the profession appears ready to change with it.

CPAs in Maryland and throughout the country are voicing strong support for the proposed creation of a new association that would integrate the operations, strategy and management of the American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in an effort to strengthen the entire accounting profession — public and management accounting included. The new association, tentatively titled the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, “would drive the profession’s vitality and relevance for generations to come,” said AICPA Chair Tim Christen, CPA, CGMA.

The plan is actually the next step in a joint venture launched in 2011 between the AICPA and CIMA. The first step in that venture resulted in the creation of the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation.

The proposal isn’t a merger. The AICPA and CIMA will remain their own entities. AICPA members today will remain AICPA members and keep all of the same membership benefits they currently receive. The AICPA itself will remain committed to serving its members and protecting and promoting the CPA profession. That includes a continued focus on the profession’s core areas like audit, financial reporting, and tax.

What the proposal will do is create a truly international organization of accounting professionals that is dedicated to strengthening the profession and transforming it into a future­-focused network of the world’s most trusted business advisors. Current AICPA and CIMA members would automatically become members of the new association, creating a 600,000-member international organization that works to advance and protect all accountants throughout the world.

Equally important, the new association would be a powerful advocate for the world’s accountants, fighting against onerous, unnecessary regulation and protecting the public interest.

Support strong among CPAs
Maryland Association of CPAs Executive Director Tom Hood said members have been strongly supportive of the plan.

Hood explained the joint venture to members in a series of town hall meetings in the fall. He found that roughly 76 percent of members in attendance said they either “liked it, loved it, or could live with it.” About 20 percent said they needed more information before deciding, and only 6 percent said they opposed the plan.

Most CPAs in public practice were sold in the idea once they understood that CGMAs cannot dilute the CPA brand by providing services traditionally offered exclusively by CPAs, such as auditing, attestation, and tax.

Members who work in business and industry, meanwhile, liked the proposal because it offers them a path to learning vital new skills and providing value-added services above and beyond internal audit and financial statement preparation — services like digital strategy, market analysis, IT, and corporate strategy.

The MACPA’s Board of Directors passed a resolution on Jan. 21 in support of the AICPA moving forward with the joint venture. Other states CPA societies are in the process of introducing the concept to their members and adopting similar resolutions, too.

‘Continual evolution’ of the profession
Given the pace of change and complexity and the increasingly borderless, international state of business and finance, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon said it’s an idea whose time has come.

“We have a responsibility to protect and advance the CPA profession in today’s terms,” Melancon said, “and we also have a responsibility to look further down the road and make sure the profession remains indispensable in the future.”

Melancon equates the AICPA / CIMA joint venture to other groundbreaking changes throughout the profession’s history — among them, the Securities Act of 1933 that mandated audits of public companies, the advent of peer review, the transformation of the CPA exam, the profession’s adoption of cloud-based technology, and the emergence of strategic advisory firms.

“This is not unique for our profession,” he said. “This is part of the continual evolution of the profession. People throughout our history have made tough decisions that gave us a platform to build an incredibly successful profession. Now it’s our turn.”

Hood agreed.

“Since the AICPA launched the joint venture, we’ve seen a lot of valuable research that points to an elevation of the role of the management accountant, and especially the CPAs who are involved in that aspect of the profession. From that standpoint, I think (the joint venture) has been extremely valuable,” he said. “It’s also an important way to begin positioning CPAs internationally. Given the hard trend of globalization and the number of international groups jockeying for position, this is the right time to make this move.”

Protecting the core, growing the profession
While emphasizing the need to move CPAs forward, Melancon said the joint venture also remains focused on protecting the profession’s core. The AICPA, he stressed, will continue to serve members and protect, promote and grow the CPA profession. It also will continue to focus on and enhance quality and competencies in core areas such as audit, financial reporting and tax, along with specialized service areas.

With that core in place and protected, the joint venture offers significant opportunities to broaden the profession and its members. Finance professionals worldwide will gain access to the full slate of resources and networking opportunities that the AICPA / CIMA collaboration provides. This follows a vote in overwhelming support from the AICPA’s Governing Council in October.

Melancon said the AICPA and CIMA will ask their members to vote on the proposal as early as this spring. If both memberships support the proposal, implementation could begin in January 2017.

“It wouldn’t happen overnight,” Melancon said. “It would be a gradual, strategic, methodical approach. Twenty years from now, we don’t want somebody to ask, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ We want to build up to something that maximizes our opportunities in the future.”

I spoke at length with Melancon about the joint venture during the AICPA’s fall meeting of its Governing Council. Here’s what he had to say

More resources

Find out more about the AICPA / CIMA joint venture here:

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