By Guest Blogger Roland J. O'Brien, CPA, Daniel A. Winters & Company CPAs
I have been very fortunate in my accounting career to have had excellent mentors who instilled within me an obligation to increase my professional and personal competencies, as well as a duty to give back to the profession. Giving back, as I was taught, is not just becoming a nominal member of a committee or organization to build one’s résumé, but rather to be actively involved through contributions of one’s time and talents.
Pursuing that ethos of active involvement, 10 years ago I contacted Allison Henry at the PICPA to discuss the possibility of forming a committee for employee benefit plans. Neither of us on that initial telephone call could have predicted the overwhelming response of PICPA members from all areas of Pennsylvania, in both public and private practice. It’s now one of the largest PICPA state committees. During our initial meeting, the committee recognized the need for an employee benefit plans (EBP) conference to provide affordable and qualitative training and education for all of those practicing in the EBP arena. That mission was adopted years before the Department of Labor (DOL) suggested that individual state societies form committees and conduct “boot camp” training for those performing audits of employee benefit plans. Once again, the PICPA was on the forefront of a trend. Today, the PICPA is sponsoring its ninth EBP conference, all because many of the original committee members also felt they had a duty to give back to the profession.
If the story ended there, it would seem that I had fulfilled my duty to my profession and the PICPA. But additional opportunities awaited. It was at this time that the DOL had stepped up its enforcement to address substandard audits. What better place to continue giving back to the profession than being on the Professional Ethics Committee? Among other things, the Professional Ethics Committee reviews and adjudicates cases the DOL has referred for disciplinary action. Serving on that committee was an eye-opening experience, particularly seeing the lack of adherence to professional accounting and auditing standards. That experience further strengthened my commitment to audit quality through education and remediation.
The AICPA also became quite interested in addressing concerns with the peer review process in general, and specifically peer reviewers’ qualifications to perform adequate reviews to identify those substandard audits. The PICPA sent a letter to the AICPA requesting that a task force be created to address those concerns. Within days the AICPA responded, and I had yet another opportunity to proudly serve: this time on the Emerging Risk Industries Task Force. From my involvement on that task force, I was invited to serve on the AICPA Practice Monitoring – EBP Task Force, which is charged with revising and updating the peer review checklist for employee benefit plans.
Being active in the PICPA has presented outstanding opportunities to meet many people with the same passion and commitment to audit quality, regardless of their field of expertise, that I have. I have also served with, and learned from, generous professionals who give freely of their time and talents to improving the CPA profession through education, service, and mentoring. The people I have met are not only my peers and colleagues, but many have developed into genuine friendships and further mentoring possibilities.
If you are seeking opportunities to give back to the profession and increase your competencies, the PICPA provides the perfect forum for you to become involved. After all, the PICPA’s motto is “Belong. Grow. Achieve.” Put that motto to the test.
Roland J. O'Brien, CPA, is senior manager, employee benefit plan audit practice, with Daniel A. Winters & Company CPAs in Chadds Ford, Pa. In 2007, he was the founding chairperson of the PICPA Employee Benefit Plan Committee, and was instrumental in creating the annual PICPA EBP conference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.