CPAs in Business and Industry: Gearing Up for the 21st Century


In a major expansion of its services to CPAs in the private sector, the American Institute of CPAs established the Center for Excellence in Financial Management on January 1, 1997. The center serves as the umbrella for the AICPA programs, products and services that support the 140,000 members in business and industry. The centers objective is to help CPAs retool and develop new skills to meet the demands of their expanding role as strategic business partners and advisers within their organizations. The centers offerings and activities are also relevant to CPAs in public practice, who often must wear many hats for their clients, including accounting manager, controller and chief financial officer.

"By establishing a clearinghouse from which AICPA members can obtain state-of-the-art and timely information and training in cutting-edge subjects, we are meeting an important need," said AICPA President Barry C. Melancon. "Moreover, we are helping our members enhance their professional standing and economic potential by adding value to their companies and clients in the 21st century."

The collective package of offerings and activities through the center will include professional education, research, benchmarking and publications; one of its most important functions will be the interchange of information. The center will develop strategic liaisons with other accounting and business management associations to capitalize on all available expertise.

The education content will focus on "the new finance," a term created by the AICPA management accounting executive committee to describe the revolutionary changes that have taken place globally in financial management and the expanded roles and responsibilities of CPAs in business and industry. The new finance encompasses such subjects as shareholder value creation, capacity management, competitive intelligence, just-in-time production systems and value chain analysis.

The center will establish relationships with universities to foster cooperative research, develop executive-level education programs and design and produce seminars and workshops relating to the new finance.

Research services will be provided through partnerships with other forward-looking organizations such as the Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing-International and the Society of Management Accountants of Canada. The center also will provide case study grants to document the application of 21st century business and financial management knowledge in companies of all sizes. Information on business and industry will be available through the AICPA library, the AICPA technical hotlines, AICPA Online and its hyperlinks, Accountants Forum on CompuServe (including online chats and conferences) and the programs provided by the AICPA and its partners in research.

"Rapid changes in the business environment, driven by major advances in information technology, have revolutionized the role of finance professionals," said John K. Shank, former chairman of the AICPA management accounting executive committee. "There is an acute and growing demand for CPAs to provide strategic decision-support information as a crucial competitive weapon."

The center is a concentration of data, knowledge, products and services from a great many sources that can be delivered to members through many channels of communication. There is no single location or library called the "Center for Excellence in Financial Management." Rather, it is a much broader, future-focused entity that is not confined within conventional walls. The center is coordinated by the AICPA industry and management accounting staff. For information on the Center for Excellence, call 212-596-6157.

The establishment of the center marks a milestone in the road to preparing the AICPA and its members for the 21st century. One of the centers first offerings is the collection of articles that follows.

As the opening of a motion picture provides the story setting and some clues of events to come, so these articles sweep the tumultuous landscape of accounting and finance in 1997, accompanied by snapshots of the status quo and signposts pointing to some ways CPAs can excel as valued business strategists in the 21st century.

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