At a time of rapid technological developments and a dizzying pace of change, Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA, is committed to helping CPAs continue to use their bedrock of core values to anchor their clients, the business community, and the public.
CPAs deliver trusted services amid a raging storm of change. Golden, who was installed as the 107th chairman of the AICPA board in May, wants to use her time as a leader of the profession to position CPAs to continue providing those trusted services long into the future. She begins her term as chairman at a time of unprecedented challenge, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening lives and livelihoods globally. The virus has given greater urgency to the work CPAs perform to help support businesses.
"In fact, now more than ever, CPAs are needed to help bring our country and the world out of business disruption related to COVID-19," Golden said. "We are skilled in business transformation and business modeling and can help guide the way on the path to global prosperity. We are seeing many instances of CPAs helping their clients and employers find ways to get through this by securing access to funding, delivering their products and services in new ways, and more generally, making good decisions to plan for the future."
The evolving environment will require current CPAs to continue to develop new competencies even as the profession works to update the requirements for the credential, Golden said.
"We expect new CPAs to begin their journey with the right overall skill sets," she said, "and already-licensed CPAs to lead the way by embracing technology, data analytics, and new service offerings, while upholding the same level of quality, the same level of rigor, the same basis of trust that CPAs have always provided, along with integrity and ethics."
With the CPA Evolution project, the AICPA has joined forces with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to draft an updated licensure model that is designed to help newly licensed CPAs obtain the skills and competencies they will need in the workplace of the future. The model would require candidates to develop strong core skills in areas that are foundational to CPAs — accounting, auditing, taxation, and technology — and also develop deeper knowledge or abilities in tax compliance and planning, business reporting and analysis, or information systems and controls. As of this writing, the model was scheduled to come to a vote at the AICPA governing Council's virtual meeting in late May; if approved, the model would be voted on by NASBA's board of directors at a later date.
FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY
An enhanced focus on technology in the model, encompassing both education and the CPA Exam, is designed to help the profession provide opportunities that college students have told Golden they crave. As surveys show that accounting firms are hiring more non-CPAs to handle data science and technology duties, the CPA Evolution project and other initiatives are underway to develop CPAs who possess knowledge in these areas in the firms of the future. Technology is already becoming a bigger part of the accounting curriculum in many colleges, and CPA Evolution will allow the licensure model to expand on these efforts and to enhance testing of competencies in areas that are important to firms and businesses alike.
"It's our future membership that wants this," said Golden, who is an Audit & Assurance partner with Deloitte & Touche LLP.
Golden has dedicated years to working on the issues that are most important to maintaining the success and relevance of the CPA profession. Her connections to accounting academia and understanding of the importance of a pipeline of graduates sitting for the CPA Exam grew when she served on a task force that examined the accreditation of accounting programs in accredited business schools, which led to her current role on the board of directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). "Much like CPA Evolution, the AACSB is focused on enhancing accreditation standards so that business schools and accounting programs will benefit from additional flexibility in delivering the high-quality education associated with being accredited," Golden said.
Enhancing quality of services, which is a constant focus of the profession, also has been a staple of Golden's work for years. She has served as an engagement quality control reviewer for Deloitte & Touche LLP's financial services industry clients and is a consultation resource for many insurance client engagement teams, and she has chaired the AICPA Peer Review Board.
"I'm passionate about quality in the profession," she said. Golden is similarly committed to advancing diversity in the profession. Her mother, Katherine Caigoy, was a single mom raising Tracey while working two jobs when she met and married Medardo Caigoy, who at 24 years old stepped up and adopted Tracey on the day he married her mother.
Katherine and Tracey were immediately accepted into a large Filipino family with Tracey becoming her new grandparents' first grandchild, a source of great pride for them among their close-knit Filipino community. The love she received from her new family played a large role in who Tracey has become.
"Their acceptance is the reason I have always been accepting, and how my sister and I grew up to be inclusive," Golden said. "It never really mattered what your background was as long as you were a good person."
A STRONG FOUNDATION
Golden also grew up around strong role models. Her grandfather, Pablo Caigoy, was a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II and barely survived the notorious Bataan Death March, a brutal 65-mile trek in which thousands of POWs died or were killed by their captors.
He was left to die, but his wife, Hermenegilda Caigoy, went searching for him, found and rescued him, and nursed him back to health. They and their four young children immigrated to the United States around 1949, when Golden's father was about 6 years old.
Golden's mother, meanwhile, worked as a hairdresser and bartender as a single parent in the small western Massachusetts town of Greenfield before marrying Medardo when Golden was 5. Medardo served in Vietnam, supported the Apollo missions at NASA, and subsequently returned to the Army, providing the opportunity for Tracey to live in both Asia and Europe while growing up. She had these and many other examples of strong men and women around her.
Golden went on to become the first female Audit & Assurance partner in the accounting and reporting consultation group at Deloitte & Touche LLP. She is the sixth female chairman of the AICPA board, a confident leader created from the mold of the family members who came before her.
Golden made her mark serving Deloitte & Touche LLP's investment management and insurance industries, where few women worked at the time.
"She was willing to tackle any issue that was presented to her," said Phil Callif, CPA (retired), a former Audit & Assurance partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP who was Golden's mentor. "She realized that she was going to be looked at differently, but she wanted to apply her skills to issues that women historically hadn't usually worked on."
While Golden was working on the account of an insurance client in Jersey City, N.J., Callif encouraged her to pursue a professional accounting fellow position in the SEC's Office of the Chief Accountant. In that position, one of her duties was to serve as liaison with the AICPA Auditing Standards Board (ASB). After she returned to Deloitte & Touche LLP, she was asked to chair an ASB auditing standards task force, which led to additional opportunities with the AICPA.
She chaired the AICPA Audit and Finance Committee as well as the Peer Review Board. She has served as the AICPA board of directors liaison to the AICPA Foundation Board of Trustees and on a task force dedicated to keeping university accounting education curricula current in a fast-changing environment.
She is married to Russell Golden, CPA, whose seven-year tenure as FASB's chairman is ending in June, when Golden's year as AICPA chairman will be beginning. The Goldens have an 18-year-old son, Connor Golden, of whom she is proud. "Connor is currently serving our town as a volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter, helping to keep people safe and to get the medical assistance they need. He is also an outstanding, award-winning photographer, and even helped his mom out by taking the cover photograph on this magazine," she said.
Golden thinks of herself as what's called a "utility infielder" on a baseball team, a person who can play in various spots and contribute to the team.
"That's how you build more relationships and different opportunities," she said. "Always seeking out the next challenge, right? What would be the next big thing I could do?"
One big thing Golden has already done is beat breast cancer — twice.
"I believe I have been able to remain strong both times because of the strong women I looked up to throughout my life," she said. "I am also very blessed that so many have showered me with love and kindness during my recoveries. Their support and that of my family has been incredible, and I am so grateful to everyone."
Her first cancer diagnosis came in 2014, and after treatment and several years in remission, she learned during a routine checkup in the fall of 2019 that the disease had returned. Golden is a testimony to the effectiveness of regular mammograms, which her primary doctor always ensured she had on time.
She strongly encourages other women to undergo regular screenings as well. "I have been lucky that both instances were caught early where treatment and/or surgery led to good outcomes — being cancer-free," she said.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
As she embarks on her time as chairman of the AICPA board, Golden has many priorities after succeeding in so many roles:
Golden helped former Deloitte LLP CEO Joe Echevarria develop the organization's audit quality imperatives, and some of the most important work Golden has done with the AICPA has been related to enhancing audit quality. "I have seen many instances of where issues arise, and I know that there's a way to build the right culture, but it takes tone at the top as the driver," she said. "This is not something that can be grassroots. It's a come-from-the-top kind of approach." Golden's interest in quality extends far beyond audits to every service a CPA may perform to ensure the relevance of the profession for the long term. That's why it's so important to her to see CPAs now and in future generations build knowledge and expertise in the most critical and relevant skills.
Advances in technology are changing the accounting profession so rapidly that continuous reskilling is more important than ever as CPAs seek to maintain their pivotal role in the current environment. "It's how we're going to try to anticipate where we need to go and what we need to do, ultimately," she said. As part of her lifelong learning focus, Golden also sees the CGMA designation as a springboard for members who pursue opportunities in, or move to, business and industry to get the training and tools they need to succeed. "The benefits we can get from the synergies of having an expanded set of good professional development, one comprehensive set of resources and tools, and everything that forms the membership experience for business and industry is dependent on using the CGMA designation as the basis for that, and growing that in the U.S. and globally will be important," she said.
Attracting talented young people
Golden spent 18 months working on an AACSB task force that studied university accounting program accreditation in an effort to ensure that accounting programs have the flexibility to provide the courses students need to prepare them for the work they will do. She believes the CPA Evolution project will make the CPA credential more appealing to young people. "Our future leaders need additional skills that we may not currently bring to the table," Golden said. "The young people who want to do what we do see the value of doing it with, and even through, technology. They don't necessarily want to do it the way it has been done in the past."
Golden is concerned that young people don't always understand or appreciate the wide variety of work performed by CPAs. Many young people think of CPAs as number crunchers, and some in the public at large think of CPAs primarily as tax preparers. While many CPAs do prepare tax returns, Golden said the profession should find ways to showcase that CPAs also help clients expertly plan their financial strategies; perform audits — the important work that helps keep our capital markets running efficiently; work in all aspects of business management and treasury management; and provide advisory services to clients in a diverse and interesting group of industries. "Becoming a CPA means you have a skill set that transcends all of business because when you know the language of business, you can do many, many things," she said. "We should say those things to young people and excite them with more great reasons why you should want to be a CPA. We can show them how CPAs make a difference as we work with our clients, our employers, and our communities to help build a stronger future for everyone"
PASSIONATE PURSUIT OF PRIORITIES
Callif, her mentor, expects Golden to pursue her priorities with vigor.
"She's going to take positions and not back down on issues that are important to her," he said.
The future of the profession is most important to Golden as she begins her tenure as chairman. Young people are one of the keys to that future. When she speaks with them, she highlights the numerous opportunities associated with being a CPA.
If they're passionate about environmental or sustainability issues, the CPA is a pathway for them to make a difference. If they are interested in cybersecurity, there are important roles for them to fill as a CPA. And there are many other careers that can be reached through the CPA pathway.
When candidates become CPAs, they bring the history of trustworthiness, quality, and objectivity that people associate with the credential.
"With CPA Evolution, we're trying to put the right skills together to create the CPA of the future," Golden said.
With an eye on the future and respect for the still-relevant principles from the past, Golden is excited to lead the profession, as learners at all stages continue to develop the skills that will bring them success.
Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA
Term as chairman of AICPA board begins: May 21, 2020.
Title: Audit & Assurance partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP.
City: Weston, Conn.
Education: Bachelor's degree in Business Administration—Accounting from Georgetown University.
Date of birth: Dec. 26, 1962.
Family: Husband, Russell Golden, CPA, who has been FASB's chairman for the past seven years; son, Connor Golden, who will be a freshman at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., in the fall.
Fun fact: Golden grew up in a military family and lived for a time in Taiwan and Germany while growing up. She learned to speak Taiwanese, a dialect of Mandarin Chinese, as an elementary school student.
First career aspiration: When she was a high school student, Golden's goal was to be president of the United States.
Hobbies: Cooking, collecting wine, and enjoying the beach at her vacation home at St. Simons Island, Ga.
About the author
Ken Tysiac is the JofA's editorial director. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact him at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.