Taking the helm of the PICPA for the 2019-2020 year is a tremendous honor. But the role also carries the substantial responsibility of maintaining our organization’s relevancy well into the future. At the core of this duty is communicating the value of PICPA membership to our 22,000 members.
To understand our members’ needs, we must first consider the current state of our profession. Future CPAs will use skills far different from those deemed necessary in the past. Many of today’s tasks are being radically transformed through the use of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robotics. We are seeing firm hiring trends that are more technology-focused than accounting-focused.
An area of great concern is the national trend that shows declining numbers of CPA Exam candidates each year. The reasons vary. Some experts cite the cost of taking and studying for the exam, work/life balance and tax season workload compression, and the extra year of education now required to obtain licensure. We must address the narrowing pipeline in our profession before it is too late.
To confront these challenges and to provide ever more valuable services to our membership, the PICPA recently commissioned a membership survey. Nearly 1,600 PICPA members responded. Here are a few of the widely expressed opinions that it revealed:
- Experienced CPAs cite that keeping up with developments in technology can be a challenge while they are also staying current with regulatory and accounting changes.
- Young CPAs find it increasingly difficult to learn leadership skills while keeping up to date with accounting and regulatory changes.
- Members rely upon the PICPA for professional news, appreciate the networking opportunities, and believe that membership adds to their professional credibility.
- Members appreciate PICPA’s advocacy efforts.
- Professional education remains the most important aspect to members, including free CPE offerings and our ever-increasing online programs.
My goals for the coming year are derived from the results of this survey and address the breathtaking changes occurring in our profession.
Improving the PICPA value proposition – The PICPA continues to enhance its technology to offer new services to members, including new forms of CPE delivery and enhanced electronic communication, such as podcasts and webinars. It is imperative that we embrace the trend toward competency-based learning. The profession is recognizing that the adoption of new skills and refining existing skills can be best measured without reference to hours spent on the endeavor. The PICPA team must increase awareness of the vast array of programs and benefits available to all our members.
Driving students to careers in accounting – Our Pennsylvania CPA Foundation provides more than $150,000 in annual scholarships to accounting students. We must continue to grow this fund so we can increase scholarships and continue our diversity initiative to include underserved communities. Continuation of our long-standing efforts to engage with college students through a variety of programs is essential, but we also need to consider those who make career choices while in high school. We need to broaden our efforts to include high school students and faculty advisers.
Engaging corporate finance leaders – Identifying and responding to our members serving in corporate finance functions will continue to be a priority. We recognize that their needs differ from those in public practice, and we will develop more services directed toward these valuable members.
Advancing our advocacy efforts – Our profession is well respected at both the national and state level due to the efforts of our CPA advocates. We need to protect the CPA brand and work for a regulatory environment that makes professional compliance more understandable and yet protects the public. PICPA’s advocacy efforts also work on behalf of taxpayers, so we must continue to ensure fairness and ease of compliance.
CPAs are among the most highly regarded and trusted professionals. Every action we take today will determine the future viability of our organization. The PICPA is relevant today and it must be an essential part of the future of our profession in Pennsylvania. Your continued membership plays a critical part in all of this. The PICPA promises to continue to find innovative ways of providing value to each and every one of you.
Martin C. Levin, CPA, CVA, is managing director of RLB Certified Public Accountants in Allentown and 2019-2020 PICPA president. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.