New AICPA Chair shares her vision for our new normal

Golden Ellevate-0698rtTrue story: In high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Become President.” As a part of a military service family, this plan made total sense to me — until I arrived at college in Washington D.C. and realized I wasn’t really interested in the “D.C. scene.” So, I needed to rethink my plan. I did like business classes, however, so I changed my major. I contemplated every area of business — finance, marketing, management — and landed on accounting because it encompassed all of those things and more.

Now, as we embark on the new normal in response to COVID-19, I know that my choice is more relevant than ever. Accounting is the core of business. It’s the starting point as we envision a new venture. It’s the map we follow as a business grows and evolves. And it’s the guide to resilience for overcoming unexpected financial events. As accountants, we understand that businesses rely on us to serve as trusted advisers every step of the way.

And as businesses and clients look for a way forward in our new normal, we are needed now more than ever for our insight and leadership. As daunting as this task may seem, I also see opportunity for the profession as we lift up our organizations and clients.

Here’s how I can see us doing that:

Find strength in our connections with one another

At Deloitte and through my time volunteering with the AICPA, I have grown my professional network and met new clients, colleagues and mentors. I have learned what I needed to know to thrive as an accountant and how to use this knowledge to serve my clients with distinction. I have been able to help shape the future of the profession through volunteer service. And I have made many great friends along the way.

Our current environment has only reinforced our need for deep connections — and it has given us new ways of creating those. Through technology, we are meeting up for virtual happy hours and game nights with family and friends. Many of us are connecting with clients in new ways, too.

I’d like us to consider, though, that maybe these are ways we should have been connecting with clients sooner. Perhaps we have not pushed the need for digital transformation and connection hard enough in the past, because it’s now impossible to deny that going digital is vital.

To continue our growth, we must reimagine how we connect with clients and what our value is for a changing marketplace.

Seize the opportunity to make much-needed changes

Much of what lies ahead for us depends on our ability to interpret trends, understand business and give wise counsel. As accountants, we see the big picture of business, which enables us to help identify and mitigate risk. For our own risks, this means both responding to today’s immediate needs and reimagining our role in the future.

And we are doing just that.

As a profession, we have grown our role in system controls by expanding tools like the SOC Suite of Services to include SOC for Cybersecurity and SOC for Supply Chain. We are changing the way we audit as we move to remote auditing amid COVID-19 travel restrictions.

We’ve also evolved our services in sustainability reporting and assurance in recent years. Consumers are even more interested in transparency and accountability in organizations. Integrated reporting is the perfect way to show transparency while highlighting intangible value.

In the wake of COVID-19, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that low trust is driving the need for sources of credible information. In business, we are that source. We bring trust to information through our assurance services. Many of us are trusted advisers for our clients and our organizations, and they expect us to bring insights and help solve problems. Take stock of your communications with clients and determine if you need to change the amount and quality of information and interactions. Our clients and organizations are counting on us to lead conversations.

Evolve in order to thrive

To truly thrive, though, we must each take responsibility for our own evolution. We must grow our skillsets and our practices to meet new marketplace needs.

We are seeing more tax practitioners growing their personal financial planning practices, and management accountants are evolving their digital, business and leadership skills. The need for trust in the marketplace provides opportunities to go beyond assurance of financial information.

We must also reimagine how we view growth. “Growth” today isn’t just about getting up to the next rung on a ladder. It’s about crossing over to all new ladders — creating a new path for ourselves that may look different from every other professional around us. It means remaining flexible and ready in a world that changes at an increasingly fast pace.

The profession is evolving, too. For example, through CPA Evolution, the AICPA is embarking on an amazing journey to rethink and enhance what it means to be a CPA. We are hopeful that NASBA will adopt this recommendation, so our profession can grow and thrive in our new normal.

Of course, the AICPA is here to help you along every step of the way, with learning and resources on everything from remote auditing and audit data analytics, to retirement planning and business continuity.  With today’s pandemic, one of the most popular resources, Coronavirus (COVID-19) audit and accounting hub, offers relevant tools and learning for planning a remote audit, risk assessment and response, communications and reporting, and professional ethics.

Our clients have always been interested in personal financial planning, and now with recent drops in the market, they are even more concerned about preserving a stable retirement fund. We know business continuity is even more important during times of crisis, so at the AICPA, we created useful articles like this paper, Five steps for business continuity amid COVID-19. And for those of you who want to move up to the next level, consider earning the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) certification.

I’m excited about the future of the profession because I know that, although the pandemic has created major disruption, we accountants will be key in the recovery. As you look ahead to the new normal, know that the AICPA and Association are here with you, helping you all the way.

Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA, Chair of the American Institute of CPAs, Chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants