Town halls and the future of accounting

In an era of exponential change, the need for communication has never been greater, and MACPA CEO Tom Hood takes the message of “the future of accounting” hand-in-hand with a professional issues update to the association’s 9,000-plus members through a series of town hall meetings across the state, throughout the year.

These meetings provide an opportunity for two-way dialogue via real-time surveys tallied instantly using mobile devices and, as well as during Q&A within the presentations and through informal networking at the event.

Attendees at a recent town hall meeting in Owings Mills were among the first to be presented with breaking news released by the AICPA and CIMA − that the two organizations were proposing a further evolution in their joint venture. Hood noted that the CGMA competency framework developed jointly by the AICPA and CIMA encompassed the value-add desired by clients and employers in business and industry, moving CPAs from their traditional comfort zone with numbers or technical skills into a fuller range of business skills, people skills and leadership skills.

“Don’t just talk about history,” Hood advised, noting a survey by the Sleeter Group showed that the biggest reason clients leave their accounting firm is a lack of proactive service.

Part of being proactive is to anticipate change, and this is a skillset that can be honed. Hood explained that the MACPA and the Business Learning Institute have developed a cutting-edge program with noted futurist and New York Times best-selling author Daniel Burrus called The Anticipatory OrganizationTM: Accounting and Finance Edition, based on Burrus’ landmark self-study program, which he customized for the accounting and finance function. 

MACPA Fall Town Hall / Professional Issues Update - 2015 from Tom Hood, CPA,CITP,CGMA

“The biggest growth areas in the profession are not in audit,” observed Hood, adding, “The fastest growth rate is in consulting, then tax, and the fastest growing service niche is CFOs for hire.”

In terms of talent management, he noted, “The three secrets to employee engagement are (providing a sense of) purpose, career development, and managing employees with a focus on their strengths, maximizing talent.” Engaging your employees in these ways is a key to productivity. Hood added that the talent war is heating up in the profession and will be a major differentiator between firms.

Hood reiterated his “5 Cs” that are key to CPAs’ surviving and thriving in times of exponential change: context, certainty, capacity, competency, and core beliefs. He explained at length what this means for MACPA members and how the association provides educational programs (conferences and webcasts), other networking opportunities, and advocacy on behalf of the members on issues relating to regulation of the profession, tax legislation, and more.

He encouraged attendees, who included students as well as members (in this case, students from host Stevenson University), to attend upcoming MACPA programs, including:

The MACPA and its members are highly regarded in the profession, Hood noted, with numerous members highlighted in Accounting Today’s list of the 100 most influential people in the profession. Significantly, he noted that Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, currently vice chair of the AICPA and former MACPA chair, would make history next year when she becomes not only the first AICPA chair from Maryland, but the first black chair of the AICPA. These leaders exemplify the types of skills and qualities that town hall attendees indicated (through their real-time surveys) were most in need in the profession today. Technical skills were taken as a given, but these skills were recognized as most important:

  • Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  • Collaboration
  • Mobilizing consensus
  • Strategic / critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Inspiring others

Explaining “exponential change” and contrasting it with “linear change,” Hood said exponential change appears gradual at first, then rises suddenly. Exponential change can be explained in part by Moore’s Law, which in turn feeds into the three digital accelerators identified by Daniel Burrus: bandwidth, storage and processing power, the growth of which have driven exponential change.

Key disruptions often come from outside your own industry, Hood noted. He quoted former GE CEO Jack Welch, who warned, “If the rate of change on outside exceeds rate of change of your organization on the inside, the end is near.”

So, what’s an accountant to do? Will we be rendered obsolete by technology, as pondered by AccountingWEB? Can we really beat machines like IBM’s Watson?

No, says Hood. We have to “friend” them.

Want to learn more?
Learn more from Hood about top trends in the profession, and get the latest professional issues updates on tax, audit and accounting standards that could impact you and how the MACPA is advocating on your behalf at one of the remaining town hall meetings slated between now and Dec. 3. Or tune into the webcast of the Dec. 3 town hall. Follow the action on Twitter at #PIU15.

Special thanks to our sponsors (slide 10) Sage, Wolters Kluwer CCH, Citrix Sharefile, Kelly, TriBridge Partners, BB&T, Avalara, CPA.COM, AON and others fro making these possible.