What are the top challenges and trends facing Maryland’s largest CPA firms?

Earlier this week, we gathered about 20 of the managing partners of Maryland’s largest CPA firms to hear an update on the major issues facing the profession. Wayne Berson, long-time MACPA member and CEO of BDO, the nation’s sixth largest CPA firm, provided an update from the AICPA’s major firms meeting of the Top 100 firms.

It is no surprise that the major theme was the increasing rate of change happening in the profession, from standards and regulatory changes to the advent of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence coming to auditing (see AI is coming faster than you may think).

While some say we have seen change before, most agreed that the size, scale, and speed of change are different this time. The word “transformation” of the profession versus incremental change was a major topic of discussion.

The presentations from Wayne and I covered these four major categories plus the mandatory legislative update from Annapolis:

  1. Technology: The major developments in technology and accounting are challenging us to rethink the future of the audit and adopt new technologies and explore fast-growing practice areas like client accounting services. Big Data, cybersecurity, and cognitive computing topped the list of their top technology trends to watch.
  2. Talent: If you automate, you must elevate the skills of your people. These exponential times require us to challenge what we learn and how we learn. Strategic and critical thinking topped the list of skills needed and that is consistent with our research.
  3. Time: Everybody is busier than ever and time is a new competitive advantage for those who can prioritize balancing the future with the present in the age of the disengaged and overwhelmed employee. Turns out that technology can offer some solutions to this with workflow, collaboration, and cloud office and communication platforms.
  4. Transformation: This is the first time I’ve heard an active discussion of the need for us to transform our profession, from the workplace to our business models to our cultures.

At the end of the meeting, many of the firms reached out for copies of the presentations, resources, and connections. They agreed to meet physically every year in January to get the national update and continue our quarterly ThinkTank sessions for briefings and updates.
How can we help?
Over the past year, our Board of Directors and our team have identified the top value-drivers from CPA members and have come up with these major priorities:
  1. Advocacy: Protecting and promoting the CPA in the legislature (federal and state), State Board of Public Accountancy, and with the AICPA and regulators.
  2. “Lookout Post”: Our diverse membership and influence as a leader in the CPA profession provides us a vantage point to see farther and identify emerging trends and issues we can inform our members about. This meeting was a great example of that in action.
  3. Accelerate the future readiness of our members, firms, and corporations who support us. This involves new skills that help CPAs be aware, predictive, and adaptive of emerging trends and changes in the environment. We have engaged a leading global futurist to help us with this effort and the Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance Edition is the cornerstone of this effort. We accomplish this through three objectives as follows:

Connecting our members to the Innovators and Technolgy companies shaping the landscape of the Profession. We are actively seeking strategic partnerships with these leading innovators and will be showcasing them at our townhalls and culminating at our CPA Summit every year in December. (This year is Dec 13th, 2017 https://www.macpa.org/product/2017-cpa-summit/). Think of it like curating the best of te best and helping to refer you to trusted sources to help you make the transformation. See our recap from last year CPAs make history and anticipate the future at CPA Summit.

Developing ‘future ready’ success skills for the future. Our Business Learning Institute has led the Profession nationally in ‘success skills’ for the Profession since we participated and led the CPA Vision Project in 1998. Critical ‘success skills’ like strategic and critical thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, and the newest missing competency of ‘anticipation’.

Creating a community to share and learn our way into the future, together. This is what we were founded on in 1901 and the heart of any membership organization. Our diverse membership crosses major firms, public companies, CPAs in business, government and non-profit. The power of ‘we’ and our ability to convene and leverage the brainpower of these groups will provide the strength and insights to continue to shape our future.

Or as we like to say: Connect, Protect, Achieve.

I left feeling that we are all in this together and that means we can shape the future just like our forefathers and mothers did in 1901as this “new” profession was created.

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