By Vinita Weir, CPA, FCA, and Matthew Wheatley
With two-fifths of current U.S. CPAs being baby boomers (roughly ages 58 to 75), a great wave of retirements is getting underway. Combine this with the fact that the rate of new CPAs joining the profession is falling, and this means a dangerous shortage of qualified CPAs is looming.
Many of the larger accounting and consulting firms that are facing difficulties recruiting have been actively advocating for staff with chartered accountancy qualifications joining the ranks of CPAs, and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) has been supportive of chartered accountants obtaining the CPA qualification.
So, what is a chartered accountant? Chartered accountants are accounting professionals who qualified outside the United States and have undertaken a minimum of three years of in-depth training, passed a series of rigorous examinations in financial management, auditing, business strategy, and taxation, and committed to continuing professional development to keep their skills up to date. Similar to CPAs, chartered accountants are bound by a code of ethics, are subject to disciplinary procedures, and are required to hold a practicing certificate and professional indemnity insurance if they provide professional services to the public.
Chartered accountants hold influential positions around the world as business leaders, decision-makers, and trusted advisers. They work in every part of the economy, providing advice, strategic guidance, and financial expertise that informs the management of businesses and public sector organizations alike. Many work in public practice in accountancy firms providing a range of accounting and tax services, as well business advice, management consultancy, as well as audit. The majority of chartered accountants, however, work in industry, providing strategic business and finance advice to management. They occupy roles such as finance director, CFO, or CEO in all sizes of enterprises.1
The skills, perspectives, and rigorous training that chartered accountants have, combined with their commitment to working in the public interest, make them ideal professional candidates to help bolster the current CPA staffing shortages in the United States. There has never been a better time for governments, businesses, and individuals to learn about and embrace the value of chartered accountants. The chartered accountancy designation is highly regarded and globally recognized. In addition, many chartered accountants also become CPAs, as this is often a requirement to become a partner in a public accounting firm in the United States. Chartered accountants can obtain a CPA certificate, as many of the global chartered accounting institutes have reciprocity agreements with NASBA and the AICPA. Where this is in place, rather than having to sit for all four parts of the CPA Exam, chartered accountants can sit for the International Qualifying Exam (IQEX) to obtain a CPA qualification. The IQEX is similar to the REG module taken by CPA candidates.
Chartered accountants have the breadth of skills, commitment to ethics, and global expertise to help business thrive and to help shape a resilient and sustainable future. There is a community of 1.8 million chartered accountants and students in more than 190 countries who uphold the highest technical and ethical standards. Chartered Accountants Worldwide brings together members of 15 leading chartered accountancy institutes, and together support, develop, and promote the role of chartered accountants as trusted business leaders, difference makers, and strategic advisers.
Chartered Accountants Worldwide Network USA is the first regional network of Chartered Accountants Worldwide to support the 7,000 chartered accountants living and working in the United States and to help raise their profile and reputation in the world’s largest economy.
1 More than 85% of FTSE 100 companies have a chartered accountant on their board as chair, CEO, or CFO (Source: FTSE 100 data as of December 2019).
Vinita Weir is an audit and accounting manager at Kreischer Miller in Horsham, Pa. Weir has over 25 years of experience in the accounting profession, both internationally and in the United States.
Matthew Wheatley is CEO of Veritrove, a tech-enabled ESG and sustainability firm in Canonsburg, Pa., that helps organizations drive business value beyond compliance. Wheatley is a chartered accountant (ICAEW) and has about two decades experience in Fortune 500 and private-equity businesses.
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