The AICPA on Wednesday released the findings from a yearlong initiative to examine what’s on the horizon for CPAs and the accounting profession.
CPA Horizons 2025 leveraged insights from more than 75,000 comments from CPAs in all segments of the accounting profession, regulators, thought leaders and futurists to highlight key trends and chart what the profession will face in the years leading up to 2025.
This major effort, undertaken in partnership with the state CPA societies, builds on the CPA Vision Project undertaken in the 1990s.
The research shows that the profession—from sole practitioners to medium and large firm members to members in business and industry to those in government and academia—has a bright future and will need to respond quickly and competitively to the shifting ground on political, economic, social, technological and regulatory fronts.
Insights and directions related to opportunities and challenges for the profession emerged. Using these insights and directions as a road map, CPAs and the accounting profession will mold their future.
Other key findings included:
- CPAs overwhelmingly agreed that the profession’s core purpose, “Making sense of a changing and complex world,” remains relevant today and for the future.
- The profession’s core values remained substantially unchanged.
- The profession’s core competencies evolved to reflect the 21st century.
- The services provided by CPAs have become so varied and diverse that the concept of core services is no longer representative of the profession.
· Council’s feedback
During sessions held Monday leading up to Wednesday’s vote to approve the report, AICPA governing Council members offered perspectives on the findings. They emphasized the continuing need for the profession to evolve as it responds to unprecedented regulatory changes, demographic shifts and technological advances. Furthermore, many Council members indicated that these future trends already are beginning to affect their workplace.
The following is an excerpt from the CPA Horizons 2025 report. Information on the report is available at cpahorizons2025.org.
Insights and Directions
Through the information-gathering phase of CPA Horizons 2025, thousands of CPAs provided feedback that was aggregated into the major themes that significantly influence the current state and future of the profession. The Advisory Panel further examined these themes, assessing their impact on the core values, competencies and purpose. Ten key insights emerged that shed light on how the profession is conducting and will conduct business, serve clients and employers, attract and retain employees and new business and remain competitive in the marketplace.
Here are the insights along with details on how each is likely to impact the profession. (The list is not ranked and its order does not indicate priority or weight.)
1. Technology: Understand and leverage relevant technology in conjunction with core CPA competencies to deliver superior services.
- CPAs must stay current with, embrace and exploit technology for increased efficiency and expansion of services.
- The profession must find solutions to offer investors and stakeholders up-to-date, real-time financial information and to increase transparency.
- CPAs must embrace mobile technologies and social media to modernize and enhance interaction and collaboration with clients and colleagues.
- Fraud may be easier to commit and more difficult to prevent and detect. CPAs must continue to be vigilant in ensuring data is captured and managed properly and protected from malfeasance.
Pre-certification and Lifelong Learning:
Evolve the educational framework to keep pace with the changing
dynamics of business, government and our profession.
- CPAs must devote more time to staying current with regulations and standards and social, economic, technological and political trends domestically and abroad.
- CPAs must further develop interpersonal skills to enhance relationships with colleagues, clients, businesses and employers.
- Real-time learning in the workplace will change the way CPAs learn and will help them adopt and adapt quickly and knowledgeably to ever-changing circumstances.
- Requirements for new CPAs must remain rigorous and demanding and be practical and relevant.
- New CPAs must have a broad knowledge of business and soft skills and not simply focus on technical accounting.
the CPA as a preeminent designation of the accounting and finance
throughout the world.
- CPAs must be increasingly aware of international business issues and trends.
- CPAs must assess the trend toward outsourcing overseas and create opportunities to expand services to serve these markets.
- CPAs must continue to market the quality and value of their services in order to expand and thrive globally.
Pride in the Profession:
pride among CPAs in the CPA profession and in the value CPAs create
- The profession must continue to advocate on behalf of itself to ensure continued recognition as a trusted advisor.
- CPAs must uphold the integrity of the profession and maintain high standards in an ever-changing environment and in cultures where business practices differ from U.S. practices.
Preserve the role of the CPA as the trusted attester of financial
and other information.
- The profession must stay vigilant in defending its unique role as providers of audit and attest services. All CPAs benefit from the public trust that is rooted in the provision of audit and assurances services.
- Audit and attest functions must evolve to meet changing regulatory demands and client and business needs.
6. Trusted Advisor: Promote the CPA as the trusted advisor who, in addition to providing core CPA services, develops solutions to complex problems by integrating knowledge, expertise and resources from multiple disciplines.
- CPAs must continue to evolve as strategic partners of clients and employers, applying multidisciplinary and integrated problem solving to expand traditional services and enhance nontraditional offerings and the perception of trusted advisor.
7. Market Permissions: Leverage the strengths of the profession to expand market permissions.
- Emerging opportunities for specialization will allow CPAs to strengthen their expertise and provide additional value to clients, employers and business.
- The profession must continue to evaluate which services it offers locally and globally and how it will deliver these services in order to adapt to the needs of clients, employers and business.
8. Marketplace: Address continual changes in the marketplace, economy, businesses, and regulations by managing change.
- The exact nature of the work that CPAs perform must evolve to respond to shifts in business, society and technology. These changes will offer opportunities to enhance the value of CPA services, positioning CPAs to be leaders in helping clients and employers adapt to change while also responding to change themselves.
- Lifelong learning will take on greater importance as a way for CPAs to stay up-to-date as the pace of change accelerates.
Increase the visibility of the profession’s value proposition by
demonstrating the profession’s core values in multiple areas
of business and society.
- By listening to and understanding the needs and challenges of employers and clients, opportunities for CPAs to develop services that align with core values will emerge.
- The profession must spend more time demonstrating their value to clients, businesses and the public about the role and value of the CPA in order thrive amid increased competition and economic pressures.
to offer opportunities that enhance the appeal of the profession and
be proactive in addressing both US and global demographic shifts.
- The profession must strive to reflect the demographic shifts of incoming accounting students, clients, business and society.
- Programs offered to support minorities, women and young CPAs in the workplace must be more widely implemented throughout the profession.
- Experienced and older CPAs must continue to mentor young CPAs and identify leadership and advancement opportunities that will foster stronger relationships and loyalty.
- In order to attract and retain younger generations, employers must increase flexible work arrangements and work-at-home options.
- The profession must continue to support and enhance programs that build awareness of the CPA profession to young audiences.
More from the JofA: