This month the Journal of Accountancy celebrates its 100th anniversary, a tremendous achievement for any publication. The JofA ’s long history is a testament to the maturity and staying power of the profession it covers.
As we look forward to the JofA ’s next century, CPAs ought to feel proud of where we stand today. Recent independent research has shown the profession has maintained its strong, positive reputation. In the study, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, CPAs received very high favorability ratings from business decision makers, executives and investors. This is a tribute to the incredible quality of our members—350,000 professionals nationwide who are trusted in the business, social and civic arenas. Although we can be very critical of ourselves, we clearly enjoy tremendous goodwill among the public and will continue to do so.
After facing two most difficult years, we are well-positioned for the future. There is a broad appreciation of the value of our core services, including a renewed understanding of the importance of the audit given today’s economic realities. We have taken action to investigate the development of private company financial reporting standards, something that has been debated for more than 30 years. We are examining the need for differentiation between standards for private and public companies because it is clear our professional services are relevant and valued in both environments. There are approximately 24 million small businesses in the United States, and they represent 99.7% of all employers. Financial reporting for these companies ought to reasonably reflect the needs of their financial statement users.
Within companies, we have also witnessed renewed public faith in CPAs in business and industry and a deeper appreciation of the important role that they can play in corporate governance. Outside the profession, we remain committed to working in close collaboration with regulators, maintaining a dialogue with them on professional issues and offering our unique perspective on the business consequences of their proposals.
The future certainly looks bright. The Wall Street Journal has named accounting as one of the best jobs to have, and young people clearly recognize that fact. Student enrollment in accounting programs is essentially at capacity, and working with state regulators we have successfully launched a cutting-edge computerized CPA exam to enhance our testing process for new entrants to the profession. It’s said that young people today may be able to experience as many as nine careers within their working lives. Because of the highly portable skills it offers, accounting is one of the few disciplines in which you can enjoy all nine of those careers within the same profession.
Like the profession, the JofA has gone through many transitions during its long history, evolving from a very academic publication to a more practical resource. It will continue to change in the coming years to reflect the attitudes and needs of a new generation of CPAs. During its next century, CPAs may face further crises, but we are obliged to hand over to the next generations a profession that will sustain itself and maintain its high standards. Demographic challenges are among the issues we will need to address. Many of our 45,000 member firms face serious succession issues as Baby Boomers retire. In academia, too, we will need to groom new professors to teach the next generation. And while opportunities for women in the profession continue to evolve, we have not done as well in recruiting minorities. The strength of the profession is in its people, and to best serve American businesses we should reflect the diverse ownership of those businesses, which includes not only women but also African Americans, Hispanics and Asians.
Change is inevitable—for the JofA and the profession itself. When people tell me the profession is not adept at change, I point out that we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of our technology conference. We have been on the leading edge in this area for a quarter of a century, a very long time in the technology arena. In its future issues, the JofA undoubtedly will be reporting on the many ways in which the profession continues to embrace and create change.
—Barry C. Melancon