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Accounting’s Changing Face (Roy M. Boyd Commentary)

3 min read

During the Arkansas legislative session of 1915, Act 299 was passed, forming the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy. The act allowed for the licensing of Certified Public Accountants in Arkansas. The next year, on Sept. 11, 1916, the Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants was established. As I have looked back at our 99 years of history and looked forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary next year, I see that the change in the accounting profession during that time has been phenomenal.

As the current president of the Arkansas Society of CPAs, I have traveled the state speaking to local chapter members and university students. My message this year has been “It’s about change.” Change is coming whether you want it or not. As a speaker at the recent AICPA fall council meeting said, “You either meet change head on and use it as an opportunity, or you can be run over by it and be left behind.” The question is not whether to change, but how.

The business and technological environments that I practice in today are nothing like the environment that existed when I passed the CPA exam and started my career. My world then — I’m a baby boomer — was one in which there was no Internet, no online research, no personal computers, no cellphones, no video conferencing, no Excel, Word or PowerPoint software. Microsoft and Apple were only visions in Bill Gates’ and Steve Jobs’ 18-year-old minds.

At most offices today, everyone has a desktop computer with multiple monitors and high-speed Internet, many are in the cloud, and many have moved to paperless environments. Email is the most common means of communicating with others, information is transferred via the Internet using secure portals, and iPhones, iPads and laptops are as common as pencils used to be.

CPAs commit to a lifetime of learning in order to retain their certificates. We have to stay abreast of countless changes to the accounting, auditing and tax rules and regulations. But the biggest change that has occurred lies in the skills that employers of Certified Public Accountants want them to have. According to studies done by the American Institute of CPAs, the top five skills, in addition to accounting knowledge, that employers of CPAs want them to have are:

  • Leadership skills, the ability to develop and share insights and the aptitude to inspire others to action;
  • Communication skills, the ability to make thinking clear to others;
  • Strategic thinking skills, the ability to link data, knowledge and insights to provide quality advice;
  • Collaboration skills, the ability to effectively engage others and work together; and
  • Information technology and other tech skills, the ability to anticipate technology changes.

The AICPA currently has an exposure draft of a new CPA exam out for review and comment by its membership. The new exam will be finalized during 2016 and will begin to be used during 2017. The new exam will focus more on higher learning skills and problem solving than in the past. The exam is being changed to focus more on using information in conjunction with the five skills listed above.

In response to all of this change, the Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants is committed to helping students in their pursuit of their degrees in accounting, sitting for and passing the CPA exam and with supporting them after they become CPAs. We offer free student memberships that entitle them to:

  • Access the student lounge section of the ASCPA website,
  • Discounts on the CPA exam reviews by several providers,
  • The ASCPA Guide to Public Accounting Firms in Arkansas and
  • The quarterly student newsletter and monthly ASCPA newsletter.

We also have a Student Education Fund that annually provides scholarships to deserving students. In June, at the new CPA certificate ceremony in the rotunda of the Arkansas Capitol, I was happy to announce that there were five former recipients of those scholarships receiving certificates that day.

Once students graduate and after they receive their CPA designation, the Arkansas Society of CPAs is there to provide them with educational programs and publications that help them keep up in this fast-paced profession. I invite you to visit our website at ArCPA.org for more details.

Roy M. Boyd, of the Pine Bluff accounting firm Newton Owen Boyd & Smoke Ltd., is president of the Arkansas Society of CPAs. Email him at RBoyd@NOBSCPA.com.
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