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PCAOB’s Olson: Crisis puts CPAs in spotlight

Olson Global business is a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full proposition. Those who play in the global arena are either worried about the challenges it presents or drooling over its opportunities.

As chair of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Mark Olson gets paid to focus on the challenges. As its name suggests, the PCAOB oversees the accountants and auditors who keep watch over the nation's public companies. Olson's job is to find the broken stuff in that system and fix it.

At the Maryland Business and Accounting Expo, though, he was all about the opportunities.

In a speech before Maryland's newest CPAs, Olson said the globalization of business and efforts to converge accounting standards via IFRS "have turned the CPA credential into a global asset."

"The complexity of accounting in a global economy highlights the importance of applying professional skepticism by the CPA," said Olson, who will step down as PCAOB chair on July 31. "The same factors that create complex ethical challenges are also creating an environment where new opportunities abound. An increasing global economy, rapidly changing technology and the depth of our capital markets are driving new opportunities for CPAs and changing existing jobs at a remarkable rate."

In other words, he told the new CPAs, it's a great time to be joining the profession.

But it's not just about career development. The recession's global reach has brought unprecedented complexity to the investment, credit and regulatory functions and placed renewed importance on the role CPAs play in the global economy.

"The public looks to the technical skills of the CPA to untangle the complexities inherent in the financial crisis. Companies and investors look to CPAs to provide critical insight and strategic thinking when faced with the challenges of operating in today's environment," Olson said. "The current global economic crisis demonstrates the vital role CPAs play in the effective operation of financial markets and the financial regulatory regime."

Olson had lots more to say, not only about the global business environment but about ethics and CPAs' responsibility to protect the public interest as well. Listen to his speech in its entirety in this CPA Spotlight podcast.

What opportunities are you seeing on the global stage these days?


Bill Sheridan