BY KEN GERBETZ AND ROBERT S. SCALEA,
arket research on the global business credential concept began in 1999. A consortium of international accounting organizations conducted qualitative and quantitative research to gather feedback on the credential concept in 11 countries including Australia, Canada, England/Wales, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. The data indicated high interest in the concept.
In the fourth quarter of 2000, the Interpublic Group (IPG), a world leader in market research, conducted a more detailed study to gain a deeper understanding of the demand for the global business credential among those who hire senior personnel and professional services firms.
IPG conducted 335 telephone interviews among randomly selected C-level executives (CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, etc.), other senior executives, HR executives in professional services firms and a mix of other industries. The research is statistically valid and provides a confidence level of 95%. Respondents were carefully screened to represent a range of company sizes as determined by revenue and number of employees. Following is a summary.
Strategic Business Planning Is Increasingly Emphasized: Among U.S. corporations, there is a significant increase in the amount of resources devoted to the strategic planning function (defined as any senior position involved in devising strategies for an organizations future profitability). Seventy-six percent of survey respondents say they will be increasing strategic planning resources over the next five years.
Good Help Is Hard to Find: When it comes to hiring staff, 53% of executives say it is harder to identify people with suitable strategic planning skill sets than five years ago. The reasons for this include a lack of skilled people, more competition for attracting talented individuals and a tight labor market.
Companies Want Consultants with Strategic Skills: Among corporations who hire professional services firms for strategic planning, the skills of consultants are much more important than the reputation of the firm (75% v. 17%). The majority of executives interviewed said they would be more likely to hire a professional services firm with people possessing the global business credential.
Receptivity to the Credential Concept Is High: Receptivity to the global business credential concept was high, with 44% saying the concept was very valuable, and an additional 43% responding that people with the credential would be somewhat valuable to their organization. This appeal translated to a greater likelihood to hire professionals who hold the credential. A full 83% stated they would be more likely to hire someone with this credential than a comparable candidate without it. In addition, the majority (56%) would be willing to pay a premium to hire someone with the credential for a strategic position. On an open-ended question regarding how much more they would be willing to pay, the answer averaged 14%.
An overwhelming 75% say they are more likely to hire professional services firms with people who possess this new credential, while 42% are willing to pay a premium for professional services consultants carrying it. The premium averages 11%.
Among the global business credential concept elements tested, highest level of integrity associated with stringent business ethics was viewed as the most valuable. Other highly valued elements of the concept were proven business experience and track record and recognition of the ability to leverage knowledge from a broad range of disciplines.
The Perception of CPA Skill Sets Improves: Based on the data, no single professional specialty appears to be generally accepted as a standard of strategic business planning. Fewer than one-third of executive respondents have a positive impression that either CPAs or MBAs possess strategic planning capabilities today. Interestingly, management consultants, business lawyers and IT consultants scored far below CPAs and MBAs. Also noteworthy was the fact that most of the higher ratings for CPAs in this area come from smaller firms.
Evaluation of specific strategic planning attributes shows CPAs fare well on esteem (51%) and a unique skill set (43%), but low on breadth of business knowledge (26%) and providing strategic business insights (24%). In contrast, the profile of MBAs is the reverse, scoring well on providing strategic insight (53%) and breadth of business knowledge (52%), but scoring poorly on being held in high esteem (35%) and having a unique skill set (11%).
On both an absolute basis and relative to MBAs, the feasibility of expanding the CPA credential is low. When asked, How feasible do you think it would be to expand the CPA designation to include this new credential? only 12% of demand-side respondents thought it would be very feasible.
While the CPA brand does not seem to be stretchable, the skill sets of individual CPAs appear to have significant stretchability by adding the new credential. Sixty-one percent of respondents say the presence of the new credential would increase their rating of the CPA.
CANADA MIRRORS THE UNITED STATES
The same study was conducted in Canada in conjunction with the U.S. study. The responses, taken from 214 telephone interviews, generally mirror those for the United States. For instance, the percentage of Canadian respondents who indicate they would be more likely to hire a person with the global business credential (90%) is comparable to the corresponding figure for the American respondents (82%).
However, a few areas showed statistically significant variations between Canada and the United States. Among executives, the belief that finding senior personnel for strategic business planning positions has become increasingly difficult over the last five years is even more prevalent in Canada than in the United States (64% v. 53%). A higher percentage of Canadian executives believe that people with the global business credential would be very valuable to their organizations (59% v. 44%). A higher percentage of Canadian executives would be willing to pay a premium to hire someone with this credential (70% v. 56%). Finally a high percentage of Canadian executives say their rating of people in the initial target credentials would increase if these professionals also had a global business credential.
The market survey suggests there is a significant and growing demand for an organization that will develop and credentialize professionals with strong strategic skills.
The degree of perceived need and interest in the concept suggests that with proper marketing, the launch of the global business credential could achieve a high degree of success. Data also suggest that the credential offers significant benefits to the CPA credential holder and the profession and can play an important role in complementing and enhancing the CPA credential over the long term.