24th Annual Meeting Takeaways

This year’s annual meeting was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We had over 20 attendees including members, prospects and international guests attend the two-and-a-half-day conference. Below is a synopsis of the session highlights.

Trends Update

We were pleased to welcome Michael Colgan, CEO of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), to present a trends update at our annual meeting. Michael provided an overview of the key forces driving change for the CPA profession today and in the future. The discussion identified disruptions impacting the accounting profession and the resulting opportunities they provide. Within the next five years experts are predicting the following will disappear:

  • Technology such as the iPad, Kickstarter and Square
  • Cash & Checks – heading towards a digital only wallet.
  • USB Sticks
  • Passwords will be replaced by facial recognition and fingerprints
  • The remote control
  • Tangible documents and paper agreements

These will be replaced by virtual and augmented reality, wearables, smart cars, artificial intelligence, drones and self-charging phones! The massive growth technologies, such as the cloud and blockchain, is accompanied by a risk of technology displacing professions. Accountants and auditors have a high probability of loss to prepare for. Will a robot take your job?

In retrospect, technology also presents opportunities in terms of big data. For example, audit methodologies could move to 100% sampling.

Additional trends that will impact the accounting profession include:

  • New behaviors driven by social media and the web
  • The millennial workforce
  • Globalization, as we move towards a no boundaries, international landscape
  • Mobility, the ability to work anytime, anywhere and on any device

CPA Examination Update

Michael Decker, Vice President Examinations Public Practice of the AICPA, presented on the CPA exam update launched on April 1, 2017. Michael covered the new examination’s content and structure as well as future changes.

A major initiative for the AICPA is to ensure that professionals possess the skills that are critical to the future of the profession, especially efforts to enhance audit quality. High order skills the AICPA are testing for include: competent in recognizing issues, identifying errors, challenging assumptions and applying both professional judgment and skepticism.

It’s no longer only about understanding the information you’ve learned, but also being able to properly apply that knowledge; making a competent judgement of a scenario. To assist candidates in preparing the AICPA has introduced “examination blueprints” a resource that provides a complete and comprehensive overview of how these skills and knowledge will be tested. For any candidate preparing to take the exam, this document should be their first stop.

Michael also gave an overview of the examination structure and administration. The main takeaways being:

  • Each section of the exam is broken down into five smaller ‘testlets’
  • The examination is offered four times per year
  • In response to candidate feedback requesting additional days of testing, the AICPA, state boards of accountancy, NASBA, and Prometric extended each quarter’s testing time by 10 days. They have yet to determine if this 10-day extension per testing window will continue beyond 2017.

Attendees also received a glance into what is ahead for the examination. For instance, in 2018 the AICPA plans to leverage technology to modernize the presentation of the exam through a new user-friendly software, enhancing the testing experience.

There are many tools and resources available to CPA candidates, found on aicpa.org/cpaexam.

CPAsNET is currently putting together a group of CPAsNET member CPA candidates to assist them in passing the exam.

Managing Your Capacity: Tools and Processes for Schedule Management

We welcomed Karen West, COO of the Mercadien Group and Jillian Denarski, Project Coordinator of the Mercadien Group to talk about their successful approach in managing their firm’s capacity. Karen and Jillian discussed the tools and processes they utilize to get jobs done on time and on budget. What works for them?

  • Teams – having teams in place helps them manage a body of work and drive efficiencies
  • Weekly debriefs
  • Backlog updates
  • Timely reports include due dates, capacity, budgets

The session generated a discussion around scheduling, specifically what firms are doing to automate time and billing.

Successful Recruiting Strategies

Jeff Phillips, CEO of Accountingfly, delivered a powerful and interactive presentation that addressed a profession-wide problem: finding and keeping CPA talent. While there are dozens of recruiting agencies out there, these services don’t meet the needs of accounting firms. Traditional job boards are over-populated and flooded with recruiters, your odds of connecting are minimal.  Accountingfly owns the largest pool of passive CPA candidates on the web. In this session, Jeff discussed new staffing models accounting firms can leverage and how to make hires now.

Jeff explained the importance of a well-crafted job post and that “posting and praying” is not an effective strategy. You must sell the candidate because they want to experience the culture and make connections with the people at your firm. The job post is a starting point, but isn’t enough to accomplish these things.

Bobby Vawter, a partner at Vawter, Gammon, Norris & Company, P.C., was brought in virtually to share with attendees his experience using Accountingfly to make two new hires. Bobby shared with the group that by utilizing Accountingfly, he successfully filled two senior positions that he had previously struggled to fill. What makes this even more remarkable is considering the defined market (Cordova, Tennessee) Bobby is in. Simply put, Accountingfly works!

Jeff was able to share with attendees a glimpse into the results of Accountingfly’s 2017 unpublished compensation survey. The survey provides insight as to:

– how CPAs found their current position,

– how their bonus is calculated,

– how many weeks’ vacation they receive,

– how they rate their work/life balance, and

– how satisfied they are with their overall compensation.

The session ended with a discussion around where staffing is heading:

  1. Remote work opportunities
  2. Project and seasonal based talent

Fraud Interviewing

Pam Baker of Barbacane Thornton shared with the group more about their fraud and forensic work and specifically how they are approaching fraud interviews during their audit. They have developed and delivered several training sessions internally and to external groups on this. They showed two videos on their techniques and talked about the outcomes from their approach, sharing real fraud they helped uncover during their routine audit process. The program is generating value to the audit, additional consulting opportunities, and brand recognition for the firm.

Special Interest Groups

CPAsNET introduced two special interest groups at the Annual Meeting. A brand-new membership benefit, the technology and nonprofit SIG is focused on addressing the issues specifically relevant to that niche. The roundtable format allows for open discussion of topics such as:

  • Trends member firms are seeing
  • Topics for future discussions or presentations
  • Nominating a chairperson

The SIG’s are open to CPAsNET member firms. We encourage participation from not only partners but also managers and staff. For more information or to sign up for the technology or nonprofit SIG, contact us today.

Wealth Management Practice Area Update

There is much discussion around how CPA firms can increase revenues through fast-growing niche services such as wealth management.  While traditional CPA services across the nation are growing at annual rates of 1–3 percent niche services, such as wealth management, are growing at annual rates of 10–15 percent.  1st Global has been conducting research of some of its top revenue-producing firms to see what common characteristics contribute to their successes.  This study also identifies the amount of wealth management revenue that is extracted from the revenues of the CPA firm.  1st Global Vice President of Strategic Relationships Al Prentice and Director of Strategic Relationships Craig Johnson, presented the details of this research and identified the key conclusions of how these firms have successfully integrated wealth management into their existing CPA practices.

IDEA Audit Software Live Demo

Eric Wiley of Barbacane Thornton and Company (Wilmington, DE) delivered an interactive session on data extraction software. Eric defined data extraction software as a tool used to identify trends, anomalies, outliers and other “oddities” within a dataset. Simply put, it provides the capability to dig deeper into datasets to aid in auditing than traditional audit techniques.

Using such a tool has two major benefits:

  1. Increases audit efficiency
  2. Increases audit effectiveness

After the background information provided by Eric, we had Scott Smith, a sales engineer at Audimation Services, Inc, join us virtually to deliver a live demonstration of IDEA Audit software. The demonstration provided attendees an inside look as to what the software is capable of.

Utilizing such a software is an added value you can provide clients. The best way to add value, according to Eric, is to ask board members or others charged with governance what is most important to them – specifically “what can we do for you throughout the year to help you feel more comfortable about the financial operations of your organization?” Using IDEA can reduce the audit issues and testing required during fieldwork.

If this is something your firm is considering Eric suggests the following steps:

  1. Designate a team
  2. Research
  3. Provide sufficient time and resources for the team to research, investigate and experiment/test
  4. Designate a pilot audit to test and evaluate
  5. Have a definite goal

Performance Management Best Practices

People development is a top issue for most accounting firms. Building and sustaining great accounting firms starts with excellent management skills. In this session, Sarah Johnson Dobek, President of CPAsNET, discussed the trends and changes in performance management, what employees need from you and the most successful ways to manage and develop your employees.

If you would like more information or ask a question directly to our speakers, please let us know. All presentation files can be found in our meeting archive.

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