CPAs must embrace change if they are to succeed in the future, newly elected AICPA Chairman Robert R. Harris said Tuesday during his inaugural speech at the Institute’s fall Council meeting in Las Vegas, where he began a one-year term.
Harris has served the Institute in many capacities, most recently as vice chairman (2008–2009). He also has been on the board of directors, was a member of the AICPA’s Council for 15 years, and has served on several task forces and committees. He is managing director of Harris, Cotherman, Jones, Price & Associates, CPAs, in Vero Beach, Fla.
For more on the chairman’s goals for the year, read an interview with Harris in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Accountancy, “Preparing for the Next Opportunity.” Watch excerpts from his inaugural speech or read the entire speech online.
In his speech Tuesday, Harris said he will focus on four key areas during his tenure:
International Financial Reporting Standards. Harris said he will ask members to think globally about the future of the organization, the profession, and about the most important issues CPAs face—one of the major forces being the global move toward IFRS.
Sustainability. Harris described sustainability as, “the practice of considering the environmental and social costs of doing business when measuring the performance of an organization.” He challenged CPAs to take the lead in developing guidance on how sustainability can be incorporated into business planning, emphasizing that the global market is driving social responsibility.
Reregulation. Communication—with members and other organizations acting as the financial industry’s “police force”—is imperative, Harris said. Empowering people with knowledge through programs like 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is also core to helping them overcome their fears of the current economy as reregulation efforts continue, he said.
Involving young CPAs in the profession. Harris stressed the need to find younger CPAs to volunteer for AICPA committees, asking that someone under the age of 36 be appointed to every committee within the Institute.
In other news Tuesday:
The Institute released results of a survey showing that more than 80% of Council members strongly support GAAP differences, where appropriate, for U.S. private companies and not-for-profit entities from GAAP applied by U.S. public companies. The survey was conducted during Monday night round tables, the results of which were released Tuesday by Paul V. Stahlin, the new vice chairman of the board.
The news followed a statement to the Council on Monday by Judith H. O’Dell, chair of the Private Company Financial Reporting Committee, that “now is really the time to consider the need for separate private company GAAP.”
In the round-table surveys, 80% of respondents circled “5” on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest level of support, and more than 95% circled “4” or “5”—some even tried to vote a 6.
“Initial analysis clearly shows a sense of urgency, and we get it,” Stahlin said of the survey results.
Additionally, 91% of Council members said the idea of having a self-contained, stand-alone GAAP for U.S. private companies and NPOs is worthy of major exploration and AICPA leadership—with only two of 57 respondents saying “No” and three answering they were “unsure.”
The AICPA also announced that it will launch a new Web site at www.aicpa.org following the traditional busy season in April 2010 to meet the goal outlined in its fiscal years 2009–2011 strategic plan calling for, “ a leading-edge technology solution for communicating with members.”
The new site is not merely a redesign. It has been rebuilt from the ground up as a result of extensive member research.
“Members want the information they want, when they want it, and they want to be able to control how they get it,” said Janice M. Maiman, vice president–Communications & Media Channels, citing a project survey. “The new site was designed to deliver on this premise.”
Research showed members wanted a better search function, easier navigation, more timely news and a seamless experience across all AICPA Web sites. Desired functionalities included RSS feeds, videos, member-exclusive content, comprehensive help support, account management and customization.
The new site takes all of this into account.
For example, the search engine will provide quick and accurate results and dynamic navigation helping visitors browse by advanced criteria to yield specific results, such as “article,” “video” or “practice guide.”
A single sign-on, set up through member profiles, will allow members to access AICPA-related sites and pages for which they may need a username and password—AICPA.org, CPA2Biz.com, enrollment and account management. Once the username and password are entered upon visiting the site, a member will be able to access all pages requiring a username and password that he or she is eligible to view.
AICPA News will pull together important information from various other pages on the site to give members and others a quick view of current accounting and professional issues. It also will feature the Chair’s Column (formerly in The CPA Letter), videos and selected resources for CPAs to use (e.g., FAQs).
Member interactivity will provide members with a broad range of methods for interacting with the Institute and for seeking and receiving crucial information, including RSS feeds. Social media networking will provide easy access to AICPA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Visitors will have access to live, chat-based, online help during business hours. Online support will be provided 24/7 through a Web-based bank of written answers to users’ common questions.
The AICPA also announced a “Start Here, Rock Out” iPod sweepstakes designed to encourage high school students to complete their FutureMe profiles on Start Here, Go Places (startheregoplaces.com), the interactive Web site the AICPA created to inform students about exciting career opportunities in accounting. The contest is active now.
The Institute will give away 10 iPod touches a week for seven weeks and will give away 50 iPods at the end of the sweepstakes. Each touch will be preloaded with a video about the accounting profession.
Creating and saving the FutureMe profiles encourages students to envision where they’re headed in life and what career path they will choose, said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president–Students, Academics & Membership.
Students can customize potential career paths based on responses to a series of questions about their personalities and preferences. The model career path gives insight into what life is like in a particular position, the expected salary and weekly hours. It also provides a timeline of how a student might achieve this position and an outline of the necessary steps to arrive at a FutureMe.
Additionally, the Meet Real Life CPAs feature on the Web site allows students to gain an understanding of accounting straight from the professionals. The program offers job shadowing opportunities for students to spend a day at work with a CPA and provides state-by-state information about scholarships. Patton encouraged AICPA members to complete a profile at aicpa.org/CPAprofile for inclusion in the Meet Real Life CPAs section.
The site also includes a forum for teachers and guidance counselors that provides them with classroom resources, blogs, a wiki library and a calendar of events happening around the country.
The site was originally launched in 2001 and was redesigned earlier this year. Since 2006, the site has had more than 600,000 visitors from 211 countries.