Five key trends worth watching

BY KEN TYSIAC
May 19, 2014

Demand for the services of CPAs is likely to intensify in the coming years.

But in attempting to meet that demand, CPAs and the businesses they serve appear destined to face challenges in recruiting and retaining talent.

These were some of the developments in a forecast for the accounting profession presented Monday at the AICPA spring Council meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, by Lawson Carmichael, AICPA senior vice president–Strategy, People & Innovation.

Carmichael explained how external factors are likely to affect the profession in the coming years and sought feedback from Council members on the risks and opportunities those factors present. Here are five key developments that members of the CPA profession need to be prepared for in the coming years:

1. Demand for services

The number of U.S. accounting jobs is projected to grow 13% from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Core accounting services such as audit and tax are expected to remain a central focus, but firms also are focusing on advisory and specialty areas for growth. Firms also will shift their focus from cost cutting and collections to growth and talent management, according to AICPA research.

In business and industry, the finance role continues to evolve into a more strategic role, with business planning, strategy, and risk management at the forefront along with the traditional financial accounting and reporting duties.
 
2. Talent challenges

Businesses as a whole are expected to find it increasingly difficult to attract, retain, and develop high-quality talent.

Not-for-profits may be hit particularly hard, as difficulty paying competitive salaries, heavy workloads, and inability to promote staff have been cited as top retention challenges in that sector. And employment “branding” will become more strategic than ever as company cultures and brands become more accessible through social media, giving candidates more information as they decide where they want to work.

Succession planning will be critical within firms as Baby Boomers retire. Meanwhile, recruiting and development of female and minority accounting professionals will be an important objective for the accounting profession, which continues to make enhancing diversity in its workforce a key priority.

3. Globalization and growth led by emerging markets

The overall economy is expected to be one of modest growth, as the Conference Board projects a worldwide GDP growth rate of just over 3% from 2014 to 2019. Emerging economies are projected for higher growth at slightly above 4% during that period, while mature economies are expected to grow a bit less than 2%.

By 2025, emerging regions are expected to be home to 46% of companies with $1 billion or more in yearly revenue, and will generate over 4,700 new large companies, according to research by McKinsey & Co. In addition, small and medium-sized businesses are expected to join the largest companies in aggressively pursuing global opportunities.

4. Technological disruption

Emerging technologies are expected to disrupt business and make an impact on the accounting profession, but at the same time will create new revenue and cost-savings opportunities.

Cloud computing, Big Data, 3-D printing, and predictive analytics were highlighted as example key trends. New cognitive analytics will help bridge the gap between data and practical decision-making, and gamification in learning will motivate and engage learners and reward desired behaviors.

5. Increasing regulatory complexity

The quantity of financial regulation across the globe is expected to increase, and rising compliance and enforcement costs are expected as a result.

Costs for Americans to comply with all federal regulations exceeded $1.8 trillion in 2013, according to a report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Many of the financial regulations in the United States are a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, P.L. 111-203.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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