Accounting Profession Faces Huge Challenges

By Anne Rosivach

 
The pace and magnitude of changes in the accounting profession are dramatic: from new regulations and changes in public policy to the coming transition of ownership within firms to meeting the challenges of globalization. In a recent exchange with AccountingWEB, Gail M. Kinsella, the newly elected president of the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA), shared her perspective on the kinds of challenges the NYSSCPA and the profession as a whole must be prepared to deal with in the near term. 
 
Kinsella is a partner in the Audit Practice Group of Testone, Marshall & Discenza, LLP in Syracuse, New York, where she coordinates the firm's Quality Control and Peer Review programs. 
 
Q: What are some of your personal goals for the coming year?
 
A: As president, it's less about my personal goals and more about setting a path that will move forward a 28,000-plus membership organization of CPAs during a time of rapid change. That being said, I would like to cultivate a sense of inclusiveness among the membership and attract a more diverse membership and younger professionals to the society. In order to be successful, we'll likely need to ask difficult questions, the answers to which may require transformational, progressive change. It requires us to continue building upon the strong cornerstone of the society's mission and standard of excellence. In addition to those priorities I'll be building on the operational improvements and relationship-building initiatives already in place. We need to educate the public and the policy makers and advocate for practices and procedures that aren't reactionary, but sound and effective. In order to do that, we need to get the right message to the right people in the right fashion. 
 

Gail M. Kinsella, NYSSCPA Newly Elected President

At the NYSSCPA's 115th Annual Election Meeting and Dinner, Kinsella stated: "As an organization formed in large part to serve and protect the public, we must remain focused on our role as public advocates of our profession. I believe that cultivating a more flexible and inclusive membership will be critical in effectively representing the public that we protect, and in shaping the future of the profession. Change is upon us, now is our opportunity." 

 
Q: How do you plan to build the Society's membership with younger professionals?
 
A: Communicating the advantages of membership to younger professionals has always been an important recruitment tool, but as most of us now know, effective communication is no longer solely dependent on what we say or even how we say it, but also the tools with which we convey this message. Young adults often communicate by text and social media, so we're really focused on meeting accounting students and young professionals where they are ‒ online ‒ by upgrading our technological infrastructure and enhancing our social media outreach. We need to get on their radar, engage them, and demonstrate our value, but we'll be doing it in more ways. For example, we're planning to create online communities where younger professionals will be able to access a database of New York firms and companies for internship opportunities as well as a virtual mentorship program. For an active member, describing the advantages of membership to younger people is an easy conversation to have. They provide necessary and valuable input. Even with all of the benefits of a virtual community, face-to-face networking and participation are still extremely valuable, and we continue to provide those types of career-building opportunities through our Young CPAs committees in each of our fifteen chapters throughout New York State.
 
We're also working with group leaders in business and accounting, getting them to support membership in the state society. There might be some barriers; for example, possible time away from the job or membership fees. Professionals just starting out might need some financial support. 
 
Q: Do you have plans for keeping retirees involved? 
 
A: We do have a significant amount of involvement from our retirees. Retirees continue to participate in the society, mostly through our committee division, and it's really a two-way street. The NYSSCPA benefits from their expertise and relationships with regulators, and the members benefit because service on the committee keeps them current ‒ they continue to network with members from large and small firms, members in industry. Committee service really gives them that 360-degree view of the profession on an international, national, and local level. That being said, again, we go back to technology and how it allows us to segment our membership even more than before. It's easier to reach those who are already involved. We want to be sure that the value of membership is diverse enough to appeal to different segments. Here too, we need to ask how to communicate about the future, how we should reach out, by an invitation to a conference for example.
 
Q: What's new at the NYSSCPA?
 
A: Some of our initiatives for the coming year include continuing the development of strategic partnerships with external groups and regulators. We're one of the most prolific state societies when it comes to issuing comment letters, having issued twenty-five so far this year to various accounting regulators and legislators, thanks to our committees. We're also forging relationships with other New York State professional associations that may have a common interest on a particular issue, such as the New York Society of Security Analysts, and continue to take a more active role in making our members available as a resource to various state agencies. 
 
Our Foundation for Accounting Education celebrates its fortieth year this year, and to recognize this milestone, we're implementing a new business plan that has a strong focus on webinars, webcasts, and on-site education. We now offer a menu of online CPE sessions and products, and we're creating new course content based on demand and new ways to deliver it. 
 
We're also working on a new government relations plan. We want to be sure that the concentration of knowledge that CPAs have is available to external groups, so that the outcome of legislation or rule making protects the public and the profession.
 
Q: What kinds of challenges do you see for the profession near term?
 
A: One of the biggest challenges, possibly in the evolution of the profession, will be the transition taking place in ownership and management of firms and businesses in the next few years. In addition, globalization is no longer just a concept, it's a reality, and it has huge implications for the regulators - not just the standards setters - but the licensing regulators. New York just adopted cross-border practice mobility, but mobility is bigger than providing services across state lines. It also includes providing our expertise across national boundaries. How do we get it right? The pace of change is dramatic. That's why I can't understate the importance for CPAs to be involved. The decision makers that set the policies aren't always CPAs. We have to make sure our perspective, our voice, is heard.
 
Kinsella took office as the NYSSCPA 2012-2013 president on June 1. She succeeded Richard E. Piluso. She is a member of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), AICPA Council, Institute of Internal Auditors, and New York State Government Finance Officers Association (NYSGFOA). She has served as president-elect, vice president, and a member of its Board of Directors and Executive Committee. She was chair of the NYSSCPA/FAE Affiliation Task Force. She is also a former president of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for Accounting Education. Kinsella is past chair of the United Way of Central New York and the Hospice of Central New York Board of Directors. She was past trustee of the Onondaga County Public Library and served on the Samaritan Center Finance Committee.
 
Representing 28,000 CPAs, NYSSCPA is the oldest state accounting organization in the nation.
 
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