Greg Anton, CPA
Title: Founding partner, Anton Collins Mitchell LLP
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, University of Northern Colorado
Date of birth: Nov. 6, 1963
Family: Wife, Julie; sons Cameron and Jake
Hobbies: Mountain biking, skiing, fly fishing
Device he can’t live without: iPad
Caff or decaf: Neither
Good read: 212: The Extra Degree, by Sam Parker
Whether he’s barreling down a mountain on his bike, meeting with business owners who are clients of his accounting firm or listening to CPAs network in a conference room, Greg Anton sees reason to be optimistic about the path ahead for the profession.
His confidence is infectious as he describes the landscape he sees. Here’s a glimpse of his vision:
Technology is transforming how CPAs work, offering efficiency, freeing up time for more strategic services and allowing greater freedom to integrate life and work.
A new global management accounting designation is creating additional avenues for CPAs in business and in management roles within public accounting to engage with the profession and for the profession to highlight the work of CPAs driving performance in companies around the world.
A professionwide discussion taking place on private company financial reporting could remake and enhance standard setting for nonpublic entities.
Perhaps the biggest cause for excitement in the months to come: The profession will reach a milestone in 2012 when the AICPA turns 125 years old.
As the Institute’s 2011–2012 chairman, Anton wants to highlight the significance of the anniversary and rally the profession around the historic event. It’s a role he knows something about, having served as chairman of the Colorado Society of CPAs during that organization’s 100th anniversary.
While the lingering U.S. economic doldrums and global financial volatility have rightfully caused many to be pessimistic, Anton points to encouraging signs for CPAs.
“Our profession has been involved in solving complex problems and helping ignite business and commerce for 125 years,” he said. With the world at a crossroads as markets, countries and businesses seek solid footing, he sees a crucial role for CPAs.
“I think CPAs are well positioned to help solve the problems of the next generation.”
FIRE IN THE BELLY
To understand Anton’s leadership style and vision, it helps to know something about his defining characteristics. He’s passionate about the profession that has brought him both abundant success and satisfaction. He’s a relationships person nourished by helping clients reach their goals, who balances that instinct with an entrepreneurial streak that propelled him to start his own business. He believes that success comes through tackling challenges, evaluating risk and overcoming setbacks.
He traces the fire in his belly back to several influencers, including his great-grandfather, an Albanian who settled in the U.S., got work as a logger, taught himself to read and write English and ultimately opened a grocery store, the first IGA market in Maine. Anton’s father stepped away temporarily from a successful career in pharmaceutical sales to launch a business focused on one of his loves—high-end cookware for chefs.
Watching his father take that leap and face challenges taught Anton about risk taking. Nine years ago, he joined forces with Jim Collins and Gary Mitchell to launch Anton Collins Mitchell LLP, a Denver accounting firm that now has nine partners and more than 80 employees. “We evaluated the risk. We evaluated the reward. We took on the challenge, and thankfully we’ve had a significant amount of success,” he said.
Anton’s volunteer work, much of which is focused on early childhood education initiatives, is fueled by his mother’s efforts as a school social worker, his wife’s work as a kindergarten teacher’s aide and his own struggles as a young student to overcome dyslexia. He’s grateful for the help he received early in life, developing a learning style to combat dyslexia, and he’s eager to see the business community give back by offering its expertise to school systems.
While he turns 48 this month, the avid mountain biker has no qualms about cycling with 20-year-olds. He’s a believer in the power of exercise and the importance of allowing employees and himself, when needed, to blend work and personal obligations or interests. His firm buys annual ski passes for all employees who ski and supports other outlets for those who don’t.
“I have really tried to demonstrate work/life integration, which is different from work/life balance,” he said. Integration, driven by smartphones, laptops and tablets, is erasing the traditional lines between the office and the rest of the world and bending the definition of a workday. The same device used one minute to negotiate a business deal the next minute turns to who’s picking up the kids or what’s for dinner. And skiing down a slope with a business colleague can be a great way to get work accomplished. “How you find ways to integrate what people enjoy with the work experience is what work/life integration is all about to me. It’s how I’ve lived my life, and I have found success in living my life that way,” Anton said.
Anton will measure his term as chairman in part by the success of the AICPA’s 125th anniversary celebration. In speeches and when meeting CPAs, he often talks about showing deference for the past and honoring leaders who created a strong foundation for or advanced the profession. He also talks about the importance of the next generation of CPAs leaving the profession better off.
“Moving the needle is something that has always been significant to me,” he said, referencing the book 212: The Extra Degree. “That book talks about at 211 degrees you have hot water, but with one extra degree you have boiling water, and boiling water can power a locomotive. So I will view success as having one more member engage in a bigger and better way with the profession than they did before.”
He’s also focused on turning the anniversary into an opportunity to enhance public awareness of the profession and the roles CPAs play in areas ranging from capital markets to financial literacy. “I’m optimistic we can be part of the solution at companies, in government, in education, in every element of the profession.”
Anton sees the joint venture between the AICPA and the London-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) as a key initiative in the effort to advance the profession. The joint venture will introduce in January a credential called the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). The CGMA designation will complement the CPA, advance the profession of management accounting and provide an opportunity for AICPA members to demonstrate expertise in areas such as managing change, risk and uncertainty; promoting operational efficiency and effectiveness; protecting corporate assets; and helping organizations make better informed decisions.
“Imagine the possibilities,” Anton said. “When we look back at the history of the profession, I think that those who created the CPA credential were geniuses.” They created market awareness and a strong and lasting brand while, among other things, setting the gold standard for accountants. Anton envisions the new designation becoming a must-have for many CPAs because the CGMA will be a way to signal to employers and the marketplace that the designation holder has committed to driving sustainable business performance.
The joint venture will also enhance awareness of the U.S. CPA globally through CIMA’s marketing efforts in the 168 countries in which it has members and students.
Within the next 15 years, Anton said, there will likely be a global auditing standard and a global set of financial reporting standards. “So looking into the future, we have to make sure that the U.S. CPA is relevant on a global scale, not just within our borders, but beyond our borders and across the world.”
PROGRESS FOR PRIVATE COMPANIES
During his term, Anton hopes to be able to applaud significant changes in private company financial reporting. Most of his clients are private companies. “I have many clients that report with GAAP departures. They’ve made a decision that an element of GAAP is either too expensive, too time-consuming and/or not relevant, and the banks don’t care about it,” he said.
“They’ll also produce financial information on a tax basis of accounting, which is taking a massive GAAP departure,” he said.
“The Blue-Ribbon Panel on Standard Setting for Private Companies deliberately went through all of the rationalizations of what makes sense, what doesn’t make sense, and ultimately came to a solution of differential standards for private companies set by a separate board that has specific private company constituent experience, so that they can evaluate accounting standards for what makes sense for a private company and how are they relevant for a private company,” Anton said.
On Oct. 4, the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) issued for comment a plan calling for the creation of a new council on standards for private companies, but the council’s proposed changes would be subject to ratification by FASB (see “FAF Rejects Independent Standard Setter for Private Companies,” page 92, for complete coverage). The Blue-Ribbon Panel called for a board whose decisions would not be subject to FASB approval. Comments on the FAF proposal are due Jan. 14.
“We as a profession need to step in and exercise leadership in taking advantage of the work of the Blue-Ribbon Panel, educating our clients, educating our partners, educating educators so that they can spread the word and create inputs to the FAF through letter writing,” Anton said. For information, go to aicpa.org/privateGAAP.
THE LONG VIEW
In the coming months the Institute will be drawing attention to how members can use the results of the CPA Horizons 2025 project, led by 2010–2011 AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlin with participation by many of the profession’s leaders. The project called on CPAs from all areas of the profession to take part in defining the future for themselves and for those they serve. It involved survey responses from more than 5,600 CPAs of all ages from across the country and every area of practice.
In the CPA Vision Project in the late 1990s, the Institute identified core values and core competencies needed to ensure a successful future for the profession. “These values and competencies have stood the test of time, because 15 years later they are substantially the same,” Anton said.
But much about the world and how CPAs do business has changed, he said. “When we were doing the evaluation of the late 1990s, we had massive file rooms to hold all of our tax files and audit workpaper files. If you go into a firm or a business today, we don’t have file rooms. The file room is on a computer that is the size of a small toaster. It’s amazing—that transition from hard copy to electronic data,” said Anton, whose firm uses cloud-computing tools to store data.
Technology continues to allow CPAs to become more relevant and strategic, he said. “We don’t have to know everything. We have to be able to take the body of knowledge, decipher it, translate it and implement it for either our clients or the businesses that we work for,” he said.
Anton likes to compare the CPA Horizons project and its findings to mountain biking, one of his passions. “If you’re looking at the ground three to five feet out in a strategic plan environment, you’re never going to get to the top of the mountain.”
Kim Nilsen is the JofA’s executive editor. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact her at email@example.com or 919-402-4048.
Photos by Edward DeCroce/DeCroce Photography
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