AICPA Chair Answers Questions on 'XYZ' Credential
Provided below are answers to the questions presented during the AccountingWEB workshop on the global business credential held on August 22, 2001. Since many of the questions cover similar topics, I have grouped them in categories for easy reference. The answers to many of these questions also can be found by reading my presentation on AccountingWEB  or by visiting the FAQ and Credential Information sections on the Global Credential Member Information Center at www.globalcredential.aicpa.org .
I recognize that many members have questions about the global business credential. I am happy to provide the answers. But members also have a responsibility for due diligence—taking the time to read and assess the materials available to them. A complete list of information was sent with my letter dated August 20, 2001. Those materials also are posted on the Global Credential Web site (once again, www.globalcredential.aicpa.org ). I encourage each of you to visit that site and take time in preparation for the membership referendum this fall to review the many important documents.
Once again, I want to thank all of you for participating in the AccountingWEB workshop. Regardless of the outcome, CPAs are stepping forward to share their thoughts about the profession, the credential and our future.
Chairman of the Board, AICPA
Richard Ferrone: Ms. Eddy, have you been monitoring the AccountingWEB discussion  of the XYZ proposal? If so, I would like to know your take on the discussion.
I did briefly visit the AccountingWEB discussion of the global business credential. As with all discussions on the credential, I am excited to see members passionately engaged in a dialogue about the future of our profession. But it also is apparent that a lot of misunderstanding continues. Many of the concerns that members have expressed and continue to express have been addressed in a wide variety of materials as well as on the Global Credential Member Information Web site. By now, many also have received the July/August issue of The CPA Letter and the September issue of the Journal of Accountancy, both of which contain special sections on the credential. I encourage all members to give those materials a full and impartial review.
Andrew Blackman: Are there any opponents to XYZ on this panel or are they all supporters?
Andrew Blackman: Is any member of this panel an opponent of XYZ? I am asking you as you have been the one panelist that is speaking ahead of the workshop.
Andrew Blackman: Apart from the negative comments that have come in and been posted from members, why have XYZ opponents not been accorded equal time and AICPA dollars as have the supporters who appear to be involved in a brainwashing exercise rather than an even-handed, and even-funded, debate?
Andrew Blackman: Is any one on the panel against XYZ? If not, why were alternative views not included in this forum?
Andy, the workshop was an opportunity for me to make a presentation on the global business credential and then open the floor for questions from members, many of whom were opposed to the concept. Accounting Web never intended for this workshop to be a panel presentation.
I want to respond to your comment about representing various points of view on the credential. Like you, the members of the AICPA Board have read and studied the credential and through that analysis, each member of the Board came to their own conclusion. In this case, the decision was unanimous: the global business credential is a sound concept with the potential to greatly benefit this profession. We believe it is our responsibility to bring such opportunities to the membership for their review, and ultimately their decision.
Our information program has been designed to help members understand the intentions behind the credential: what it is or could be, how the concept was designed, and how it could work if members vote favorably. In our efforts, we have repeatedly pointed out member concerns about the credential, and have thoroughly exposed the opinions of those opposed to the concept. In addition, media coverage on this issue has in fact focused more on the opposition’s arguments than on the credential concept itself. In sum, we believe anyone who spends time investigating this issue will have ample exposure to both the pros and the cons of the credential. In the end, what is most important to me and the leadership of the AICPA is that there has been good, dynamic dialogue on the subject. I trust that CPAs will perform their due diligence and make informed and impartial decisions when the ballot is distributed.
Andrew Blackman: How many people had you hoped to reach today?
As many as attended. I was pleased with the turn out.
Authority to Create Credential
David Storhaug: What justification is there for using AICPA resources (money and otherwise) to help start a new profession? If XYZ is such a great concept, it should be able to start it separately without any involvement by the AICPA, since there are many other legitimate visions of the future other than the XYZ vision.
Thank you, David, for your question. I answered this question briefly during the workshop, but let me add a few things here. As a member of the Global Credential Steering Committee, the AICPA is involved in the development of the global business credential. However, pending final Council review in October, a ballot will be mailed to members asking for authority to create a separate self-funded organization that would issue the global business credential in the United States. This organization will not be the AICPA, and membership in this new organization would be optional. The AICPA will not have ongoing financial obligations for the new entity.
You ask what justification the AICPA has for using resources to create the credential. The global business credential initiative grew out of the Institute’s volunteer member Strategic Planning Committee's search for opportunities, consistent with the grassroots CPA Vision, that would enable AICPA members to continue to excel in a very competitive marketplace. During the member committee discussions, a proposition emerged that the AICPA leadership decided to test. That proposition was the global business credential.
In regards to other visions—Yes, there may be other visions for the future and other entities pursuing the establishment of XYZ-type credential. But the question is this: Do we want other organizations, other professions, to determine the rules for an evolving professional services market? By taking the lead in the business strategy and knowledge integration arena, CPAs can determine the standards of performance and ethical conduct. Among all professionals, we are known for our integrity and our objectivity. Why not take these core values out into a larger business strategy space? That gives CPAs a head start in the future of the business world.
Kendall Wheeler: You said our profession has the "right to stake the claim..." - the AICPA, in my opinion, has no right to stake any claim other than to promote the CPA credential as it was set up to do.
The CPA credential is a license to perform the attest function. But about 85% of the members of our profession make part of their living, if not all of their living, doing something other than our franchise service. This is a crucial statistic, because one of the complaints we’ve heard about the new credential is that instead of creating something new, we should instead support the existing profession. That would have some resonance if nine out of ten CPAs made their living in our core traditional services. In that case, the new credential would not be particularly relevant to the profession. But once we realize the diversity of our profession, playing the leading role in creating a new global credential that recognizes what so many CPAs are already doing begins to make a lot of sense.
Andrew Blackman: Is there a legal opinion grounded in the organizational documents (charter, by-laws, etc.) to support the AICPA's venture to develop a cross-disciplinary designation?
Andrew Blackman: I feel that reply was side-stepping my question. Telling us that it fits within strategic planning seems like a big stretch. Am I to understand that a legal opinion was not secured before entering into this initiative?
We have been advised by legal counsel that actions taken by Council, the AICPA Board of Directors and management in connection with the XYZ concept is fully consistent with our Bylaws and Certificate of Incorporation. We are doing exactly what we are obligated to do in, among other things, promoting the interests of CPAs in a new global marketplace with a credential that has the potential to enhance their practices and their reputations as advisors and problem solvers.
Tom Morris: In a conference call in July, Barry Melancon said that the AICPA would announce a proposed name for the credential in the first part of August. What is the status of that development?
The Global Credential Steering Committee completed the naming research, conducted with AICPA members and executives in the marketplace, in early August. They are now conducting the trademark and linguistic searches based upon the findings from these two groups. An announcement on the name should be coming within the month.
Richard Stinson: When will the new designation be known? Will it be announced prior to the referendum?
See the answer above.
Mark Glochowsky: When will we get a final decision on a name for the credential?
See the answer above.
Membership Support and Vote
P T: My understanding is that the member vote the AICPA will be taking is whether or not to set up an organization to administer the global credential. How does this vote relate to whether or not the global credential initiative by the AICPA should continue?
A membership ballot is scheduled to go out this fall, at the end of October. The voting period lasts through December. The question will be based on whether members want to amend the bylaws to allow the AICPA to create a new organization to issue the credential in the United States.
To pass, the vote will need two-thirds approval by those members voting. If the ballot does not pass by two-thirds, the U.S. involvement in the global business credential initiative will conclude. The bottom line is that AICPA members carry all the weight. The decision is up to them.
Mark Glochowsky: Do you have any idea what the level of awareness is of the credential among membership? I know that there have been mailings, letters, articles etc., but how are you gauging effectiveness?
As we continue our member information effort, more and more CPAs are learning about the proposal. At this point, we estimate approximately three-quarters of the membership has some awareness of the credential.
As mandated by the AICPA Spring Council resolution, member awareness of the initiative will be studied using generally accepted research methodology. A representative from the California, Indiana, and New York State CPA Societies, along with myself, are serving as the oversight committee of the Member Awareness and Attitudes Assessment Project, which will occur in September. Statistically valid quantitative results will be reported to Council at its October meeting in Miami.
Gail A. Perry: How long will you continue to support this credential if it doesn't seem to take hold in the marketplace and among business professionals?
Members will vote on whether to authorize the AICPA to set up a separate, self-funded organization to issue the credential. If the vote carries in the affirmative, a separate organization will continue to support the development of the credential. The AICPA will remain focused on its advocacy of the CPA profession.
Sonya Graywolf: You say that the initial requirements are a work in progress. How can we vote on supporting the credential unless we know those facts?
The interim and ongoing admissions requirements have been publicized widely and are available on the global credential Web site. Other aspects of the credential are still “a work in progress” because a decision to proceed with full development is pending a vote by the membership.
Even so, the Global Credential Steering Committee has developed many resources to inform members about the planned infrastructure, competency framework, and other aspects of the credential. I encourage you to visit the Global Credential Member Information Center at www.globalcredential.aicpa.org for more information.
For the record, here are the admission criteria:
- A degree from an institution of higher learning
- A psychometrically rigorous credential examination
- Five years of experience (if applicant already holds a recognized professional credential, such as the CPA)
- Eight years of experience, plus attestations by two credential holders (if applicant does not hold a recognized professional credential)
- Commitment to uphold ethical standards, as set forth by a new credential governing body
- Commitment to continuous learning, as required by new credential governing bodies.
CPAs with five years of relevant work experience, plus the other qualifiers above, by December 2005 could exercise an “early adopter” opportunity. They would be able, until December 2008, to obtain the credential by completing a psychometrically rigorous self-assessment, which would be subject to a random audit. Additionally, “early adopters” would need to demonstrate a commitment to uphold the ethical standards and continuous learning required by new credential governing bodies.
Mark Glochowsky: Are you confident that enough of the member base will have a sufficient understanding of the credential and its ancillaries to make a proper decision? I wonder how many of the self-selected group here today have bothered to read the white paper or visit the global credential web site.
You bring up a very important point, Mark. Members must spend some time exploring this issue, reading the materials that are available to them and keeping an open mind. If they do, we are confident that our members will have sufficient understanding to make an informed decision about the global business credential. That is the purpose of the Member Information and Response Program that was authorized by Spring Council.
Mark Glochowsky: It would be a shame if the vote were a thumbs down because members didn't take the time to educate themselves.
Yes, I agree. I hope that members will talk to other members about the initiative and encourage their state societies to provide forums and opportunities for such discussions. There is a lot of information out there for members to gain an understanding of the global business credential. Please visit the Global Credential Member Information Center Web Site at www.globalcredential.aicpa.org. Other resources include the July/August issue of The CPA Letter, the August and September issues of the Journal of Accountancy, state society Web sites, and Accounting Web.
Brenda Richter: Will the AICPA consider changing the proposal based on feedback it is currently receiving?
Currently in progress is the survey of membership also mandated by Council and overseen by representatives from the California, Indiana and New York State CPA societies along with AICPA leaders. Council will review the results at its October meeting in Miami. Based on those results, the Global Steering Committee may consider refinements to the concept.
Kendall Wheeler: Along that same line, what will be the determination be as to whether or not the credential is successful?
First, members must weigh in on whether they believe the credential should be created. If they vote no, U.S. participation in the credential development will cease. If they vote yes, then the credential will be developed and offered in the marketplace by the global institute. At that point, the marketplace and potential credential holders will determine its success.
Larry Kropp: the AICPA marketing (logo, for example) has never impressed me. Can we count on AICPA to properly market GBC to the public? i.e., simple, memorable, stressing benefits rather than attributes?
The global business credential will not be marketed by the AICPA. The vote authorizes the creation of a separate, self-funded organization to issue the credential, in the United States only.
The global institute will develop marketing for the global business credential. The marketing and communications program will be extensive, directing messages to the marketplace, i.e. clients and employers, as well as potential credential holders.
Branding and Competition Issues
Melody Thornton: Have you considered expanding CPA requirements for new entrants to meet the additional challenges and retain CPA instead of making a new credential?
Attempts to broaden the CPA exam and modernize accounting education are difficult battles in which the AICPA and state societies have long been engaged and will continue to be engaged.
It is also important to remember that the CPA credential is defined by U.S. regulation as a license to perform certain business functions. It is not owned by CPAs or CPA associations, but by the 54 governmental jurisdictions. The profession, therefore, cannot change most of its rules and regulations unilaterally.
Kendall Wheeler: You say that you are concerned with the future of the CPA profession. In my experience, I am relied upon more and more today BECAUSE OF MY CPA designation. How does the creation of a new designation help me as a CPA?
We are concerned with the future of the CPA profession. That is a part of our fundamental responsibility: to ensure the ongoing vitality and relevance of the CPA profession. We believe that future is bright, and that innovative programs such as the global credential are critical to tomorrow’s CPAs.
There are five fundamental reasons why individual CPAs may choose to obtain the global business credential as an additional credential:
- To associate with a newly established global professional credential, with strong continuing learning and ethical requirements, that is not regulated by government or hampered by market perceptions.
- To gain national and international recognition for strategic business advisory competencies already achieved, as well as for the ability to integrate knowledge from various disciplines.
- To gain access to a unique self-assessment process linked to powerful tools for building on and maintaining required competencies.
- To participate in a worldwide knowledge network and learning system to acquire new competencies, which in turn could lead to new market permissions and client development.
- To become a member of a network of elite professionals, who share an internationally consistent set of ethics and competencies recognized worldwide by colleagues, customers and suppliers.
The global business credential is not about renaming or rebranding the CPA. It is about establishing a new credential that many CPAs, especially those operating outside of traditional CPA fields or those immersed in the new digital world economy, might want to acquire. In considering how we can help many of these individuals, we have heard from members in public practice and in business and industry, that preconceptions about the CPA credential have often been a hurdle they must clear in order to be viewed as broad-based strategic business advisers. While many CPAs have established an individual or firm brand among their clients and in the marketplace that they compete, the CPA brand isn't necessarily viewed in the same way. We believe this additional credential may be an effective way of extending the CPA brand.
The global business credential represents an opportunity for CPAs to create value for their clients and employers, as well as for their own careers. They will have access to a Knowledge Resource that can bring value to any client or employer. This Knowledge Resource can only be “brought” to clients and employers through the credential holder. It will be information not available to the general public.
Melody Thornton: Are you trying to license consulting?
No, the global business credential is not a license. It is market-driven and will not be subject to regulation. It is a validation of expertise in integration of disciplines and knowledge.
Kendall Wheeler: An MBA does not compete with the CPA in that the services offered are quite different, yet the XYZ will undoubtedly compete. How do you reconcile this problem?
First, the XYZ is not about delivering a specific set of services. It is about validating, developing and enhancing a unique and valuable set of competencies.
Whenever CPAs step out of their core services in accounting, auditing and taxes, they compete with other professionals such as MBAs. In fact, one of the primary concerns identified by the Vision Project was competition from non-CPAs. Many CPAs who are practicing in industry and in areas of the digital economy do experience competition from MBAs and other business professionals every single day.
Another reality is that many in the CPA community are working cooperatively with non-CPA professionals. Firms of all sizes have been increasingly hiring or otherwise affiliating with non-CPA professionals to enhance the value of the services they deliver to clients. A number of state societies have expanded opportunities for non-CPAs who work with CPAs to affiliate with the society. The national university accounting society, Beta Alpha Psi has opened its membership beyond accounting majors.
The intention of this initiative is to create a "difficult-to-obtain" and highly regarded credential for professionals in the wide area of strategic business services and knowledge integration. We believe that many CPAs will be among the first to obtain this credential. Also, since CPAs are engaged in its development, we can help to ensure that credential holders would be held to the same kind of exacting ethical and professional standards that our profession has long held valuable, thus giving our members a marketplace advantage.
Kendall Wheeler: No doubt, the XYZ credential would boost the CPA designation. The problem here is that this designation does not require the CPA credential - isn't that where the competition comes in?
The CPA is not a prerequisite for the XYZ since they represent different although complementary knowledge sets. In its initial years, however, it is expected that most credential holders would be CPAs and CAs.
Competition for many of the services that CPAs provide is already fierce. In my opinion, the proposed credential will not introduce any new competition for CPAs. It is already there. Rather than creating competition, the credential offers an opportunity for CPAs to leverage and extend their skills in today’s marketplace.
The market research clearly indicates that a potentially lucrative market space for a strategy-minded knowledge integration professional remains unclaimed by any one existing profession or credential. The question should be why not the CPA profession? Why shouldn't the CPA profession benefit from being first to market in designing and populating a globally recognized business credential?
CPAs can claim the early adopter advantage by having the greatest penetration in the market space when the global business credential's brand equity begins to reach critical levels in the near future.
Another reason for the CPA profession to get behind the creation of the credential is to have maximum influence on what the global business credential will stand for. If the CPA profession takes the lead in developing the concept, the ground rules will be consistent with our frame of reference and culture. We will set the bar for entry, and ensure that our core values, such as a strong ethical foundation and a commitment to continuous learning, will set the tone.
Finally, XYZ will stand for breadth of knowledge and excellence in the strategic knowledge integration arena. The CPA will stand signify in-depth knowledge and premier expertise in finance and business operations. We believe that many will find the combination of these skill sets to be a top choice in the professional services market. An XYZ by itself will not be as strong a competitive position as CPA/XYZ. We also believe that CPA by itself will remain a unique and highly valuable credential, especially without parallel in the area of foundation services.
Jonathan Dismukes: Jay Dismukes: Have you been in contact with the SEC regarding the credential and would a CPA holding the credential jeopardize his auditor independence?
We have briefed the SEC on the proposed credential.
We do not foresee any regulatory oversight of the proposed credential because it would be market-driven and not regulatory-based. There is no reason to expect that the XYZ would impair independence. CPAs will continue to be expected to fulfill their professional responsibilities. That won’t change for those CPAs who perform attest functions and who also choose to become XYZs.
Mark Glochowsky: Couldn't the other aspects you've described, lifelong learning, competency assessments, consistency etc. be included as a part of a society's membership requirement, just like AICPA or the state societies? Are we overlooking a simpler way to accomplish the same thing?
The characteristics you list—lifelong learning, competency assessments, consistency—are already features of the CPA designation. Other features of the new credential (interdisciplinary focus, international code of ethics, worldwide knowledge resource drawing upon the intellectual capital of elite professionals from various disciplines, etc.) would be far more difficult if not impossible to implement under state society and AICPA auspices.
You have to remember that the CPA license is owned by 54 state jurisdictions and specifically relates to the attest function. The profession, therefore, cannot change most of its rules and regulations unilaterally.
David Storhaug: What do you say to CPA practitioners who are perfectly comfortable with current abilities to render services beyond the attest function, and yet who are extremely concerned about being characterized with attributes of INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, and OBJECTIVITY, which originated in the attest function, and of which INDEPENDENCE clearly will not be part of the XYZ/GBC credential?
Your premise would be correct if the global credential was intended to be a replacement for the CPA credential. It is not. The requirement for independence is associated with the delivery of attest-related services. The values of objectivity and integrity apply to all CPA services, and will be values built into the new credential as well. Those CPAs who are comfortable where they are need not pursue the credential.
Independence will remain a unique and highly esteemed distinguishing characteristic of the CPA. However, it is important to remember that not all services performed by CPAs require independence.
David Storhaug: At the beginning you said XYZ requirements would be clearly rooted in the values and traditions of the CPA profession. Was that not a misstatement by you since it has been made clear in interviews with Mr. Melancon that INDEPENDENCE will not be a part of XYZ as it is for the CPA?
The global business credential is rooted in many of the values of the CPA profession. These include a commitment to a code of ethics, professional competency and continuing learning. Since the global business credential will not be a license to perform the attest function, independence is not a requirement.
Kendall Wheeler: If many students view the credential as a complement to the CPA, why not get the best of both worlds and make XYZ a sub-designation of CPA rather than a separate designation?
You are correct that students see the credential as a complement to the CPA. 83% of all college students see the credential as a complement and only 8% see it as a replacement.
The researchers believe the data shows that the credential could have an ancillary benefit of drawing more students to the CPA profession from a wider range of backgrounds.
The bottom line is we believe that for many students, pursuing a combined CPA/XYZ career will be the best of all possible worlds.
Establishing a CPA specialty designation in the business strategy and knowledge integration area is an idea that has been given some consideration and does have some merit. However, the decision to explore the creation of a separate credential open to non-CPAs and granted by a newly created organization was made for several reasons. One important consideration was to maximize acceptance of the new credential among buyers of professional services and not build the perception that this is a re-branding of the CPA. Another consideration was the value to potential credential holders of an interdisciplinary network of professionals. After reviewing the research and much deliberation, our leadership determined that the approach we've chosen best addresses these opportunities.
Jay Dismukes: Can you explain in greater detail why it is necessary that other professions be permitted to obtain the credential?
This is an important question, Jay. Let me first inform you that at our Regional Council meetings last March, we proposed revising the credential admission policies so that it would be reserved only to CPAs and CAs for a specific period of time.
The representatives at each of our four Regional Council meetings, which included participants and state societies that had come out in opposition to the concept overall, rejected this alternative proposal.
The number one reason why they rejected the proposal was the sentiment that such an approach would diminish or undermine the value of the credential and translate into a rebranding of the CPA, which would be unlikely to succeed in the marketplace.
The ability of highly competent non-CPA professionals to obtain the credential is important for the following reasons.
First, no one professional discipline alone has captured or is likely to capture the lion’s share of the significant new economic value associated with the strategy and knowledge-integration market space. And no one profession has an exclusive franchise to operate in this space.
Allowing other high-level professionals to sit for the global credential examination also brings added value to credential holders. They will become members of an exclusive international network of elite professionals, and contribute to an unprecedented worldwide resource bank. They bring diversity and new information to the Knowledge Resource.
Bringing in non-CPA professionals and holding them to the same high standards as CPAs is consistent with the CPA profession’s other efforts with non-CPA professionals. Specialists from other disciplines are often employed to enhance the value of services delivered by CPAs to clients.
CPA financial executives frequently collaborate and coordinate the work of other professionals, holding them to the same high standards of performance. Some state CPA societies and Beta Alpha Psi, the national accounting fraternity, have recognized the value of non-CPA involvement in the profession by creating new membership categories.
Finally, acknowledging the active presence of other professionals in the strategy space adds credibility to the credential in the eyes of the marketplace. The global business credential can't be characterized as an attempt to re-brand the CPA.
Gail Okon: Would "XYZ" be available for accountants worldwide to obtain, and have there been any studies conducted internationally?
Yes, accountants worldwide could obtain the global business credential, if they are meet the exacting standards of the admissions requirements. The CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants) has completed research that parallels that done in the U.S. Interestingly, the response of their members and marketplace was even stronger than the results in the US with regard to the need and interest of the initiative. Research in Australia and New Zealand is underway. Research in Italy is being planned now, and anticipated to be “in the field” this fall.
Charles: ACCA already has this with individual modules for various countries' tax laws, etc. How do you qualify this? You cannot test in Malaysian language or geography or business practice in a general exam. Why not ask for a global language? Isn’t this utopian?
The global institute would be responsible for setting the examination procedures, and it is anticipated that the exam would be conducted in all appropriate languages.
This initiative is by no means the only global effort that tests individuals on a worldwide basis. The Global Credential Steering Committee is gathering information and researching the most psychometrically effective methodology for testing and assessing candidates.
Charles: Doesn’t this just impose US GAAP or IAS on others?
The development of international accounting and auditing standards vis-a-vis US GAAP and GAAS is and will remain an important issue for the AICPA. This arena, however, is completely unrelated to or untouched by the proposed global business credential.
Jonathan Dismukes: If CPAs have reached out to other areas, but are still known as the people who do taxes, why not spend AICPA resources changing public perception of the CPA?
The AICPA is working to promote the CPA brand as extensively as it can. In fact, the Institute’s longstanding image enhancement campaign is currently being intensified. In addition to the $3+ million spent annually by the AICPA on national CPA advertising, the AICPA recently allocated $1 million in matching funds for state societies to increase their 2000-2001 image enhancement spending by 25% or more.
In addition, the AICPA's governing Council has approved a $25 million, five-year effort aimed at changing high school and college students’ misconceptions about the CPA profession.
But we need to remember that the CPA license is national, even while many begin to work globally. And, the CPA credential is defined by U.S. regulation as a license to perform certain business functions. It is not owned by CPAs or CPA associations, but by the 54 governmental jurisdictions. The profession, therefore, cannot change most of its rules and regulations arbitrarily.
The AICPA has also been working for a long time on broadening the CPA exam and enhancing accounting education and we will continue to do so.
The expansion of the CPA image, to which the AICPA and state CPA societies are still committed (as evidenced by the expansion of our image and student recruitment campaign) cannot be achieved in isolation. There are a number of concerns that complicate our ability to efficiently and effectively stretch the CPA image:
- Changing a stereotype is extremely hard; selectively changing a stereotype is even harder. It is very difficult to selectively excise elements of a stereotype (e.g., CPAs are narrowly focused and concerned with historical, financial data) while simultaneously preserving the advantageous market attributes (or stereotype) that CPAs are noted for integrity, trust and competence. Vision-aligned branding focus groups confirmed this difficulty.
- Reaction from the regulatory environment on the state, national and international levels poses additional challenges to efforts to change perceptions and create market acceptance. While we continue to deal with these challenges that surround the CPA designation, we can't let the opportunity to claim the high value strategy market space pass the profession by.
- Computerizing the CPA exam and changing accounting education are two issues that the AICPA and State Societies have long been working on. Requirements for licensure, exam content and the competencies employers seek are all areas we as a profession can influence but not control.
- Altering the self-perceptions among CPAs themselves remains a great challenge. For example, many individuals as well as small and large firms no longer use the CPA to identify themselves or to build public awareness. In fact, during the CPA Vision process, we found that many CPAs who have moved outside the attest and tax functions believe that it is inappropriate to identify themselves as CPAs since they are no longer "working as CPAs."
The launching of XYZ, with the support of the CPA profession, may in fact help move the market perceptions of CPAs. Market research among buyers of professional services indicates that the combination of the global credential and CPA can help to accelerate the expansion of the CPA brand.
Sandy Pierce: What other competing efforts do you see on the horizon that may move to fill this need if the AICPA doesn't go forward with the Global Credential?
Currently, there are several organizations creating credentials that will occupy similar market space as the global business credential. These include such venerable educational institutions as Stanford and Harvard as well as Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management and Michigan State University’s Academy of Multidisciplinary Practice. In Illinois, there is a relatively new organization called the Association of Professionals in Business Management, which offers a Certificate in Business Management.
Market Differentiation between the Global Business Credential and MBA
Mark Glochowsky: How will a professional with, say, an MBA go about obtaining the global credential?
Applicants for the credential who do not hold a professional credential recognized by the global organization (e.g. CPA, JD) will be required to have eight years of relevant work experience and attestations as to their qualifications by two holders of the global business credential. They also will have to pass a rigorous examination.
Mark Glochowsky: Since one of the major differences between the global credential and an MBA is the code of ethics, wouldn't it make more sense to create a sort of 'MBA Society' that has a code, rather than create a whole new credential?
It is not just the Code of Ethics that would change for the MBA. The commitment to continuous learning, periodic re-certification and extensive relevant work experience are not required of MBA holders. Also, the set of competencies has a different focus, based more on those obtained through work experience rather than academic work.
Fred Shelton, Jr: How can you possibly compare XYZ to an MBA? An MBA normally requires at least 48 hours of intense courses and examinations.
An XYZ will be required to possess 5 to 8 years of relevant work experience, plus pass a psychometrically rigorous entrance examination. We believe this combination can provide a validation of qualification and competency as powerful or more powerful than 48 hours of course work and classroom examinations.
The global business credential also differs from the MBA in several key areas.
The proposed global credential stands for a breadth of high-quality knowledge and skill, comparable to those often associated with the MBA. But it would go further than that degree by adding international consistency and recognition, adherence to ethics, continuous learning, a worldwide professional association and access to an exclusive learning platform. It requires that applicants have several years of relevant work experience, demonstrating an ability to apply knowledge to provide strategic business insight. Currently, the quality of an MBA is dictated largely by the quality of the institution at which it was earned. There are no continuing learning requirements, so an MBA from ten years ago may not hold the same meaning in today’s market. Plus, MBAs are not subject to the professional rigor that is associated with the CPA and would be associated with the global business credential.
The following chart summarizes the distinctions between the CPA, MBA, and the global business credential.
Cross-disciplinary, CPA:No, MBA:Yes, Global Credential:Yes
CPE required, CPA:Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:Yes
Code of ethics, CPA: Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:Yes
Work experience required, CPA:Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:Yes
Internationally consistent competency standard, CPA:No, MBA:No, Global Credential:Yes
Admission examination, CPA:Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:Yes
Regulatory-based, CPA:Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:No
Based on a license to perform a set of services, CPA:Yes, MBA:No, Global Credential:No
Sarah Werley: So what will students study for...a CPA or an "XYZ"? Won't we lose young professionals to a new credential (much like the MBA)?
There is no specific course of study currently available for becoming an XYZ. Students could pursue any number of professional tracks, most particularly the CPA, in anticipation of one day obtaining the XYZ.
In fact, two of the credential’s distinguishing features are its interdisciplinary nature and relevant work experience. The admissions criteria for XYZ require at least five years of relevant work experience for CPAs during an interim period and eight years for applicants for the credential who do not hold a professional credential recognized by the global organization (e.g. CPA, business lawyer).
Also, as I said in the workshop, the data does suggest that the existence of the global business credential would actually have a positive effect on the number of students interested in becoming CPAs. The combination of CPA/XYZ combines the most powerful attributes of each—depth of knowledge in all areas of finance and breadth in a wide range of business disciplines. The CPA/XYZ would signify the proven ability to integrate knowledge and create value for clients and employers. This description appeals to students.
Melody Thornton: How will individuals without CPA/CA licenses show their expertise in "accounting" areas?
No one is expected to be an expert in all disciplines in order to qualify for an XYZ credential. Although most candidates will probably bring with them at least one area of particular expertise, e.g. accounting, law, finance, marketing, they would be required to understand enough of multiple disciplines to be able to integrate them and apply them appropriately and strategically.
The assessments and examination will test every candidate’s ability to understand, apply and integrate interdisciplinary knowledge, as described in the cross-disciplinary section of the Competency Framework.
Pat Meyer: CPAs, Business Lawyers, Information Technology Specialists and others each have unique skill sets. Although there is some overlap between them, they cannot substitute totally for each other. Wouldn't it be better to work for truly Multi-Disciplinary Practices where CPAs, Lawyers, IT Specialists and many other professionals could work side-by-side for the client, rather than trying to make them all do everything?
The global initiative does not purport to mean that the credential holder “does everything.” Rather, it denotes a professional who understands key issues in disciplines other than one’s own core competency and brings that understanding into play when helping clients and employers.
Melody Thornton: How do you equate collaborating between professionals with issuing one credential for different backgrounds?
The global business credential is not intended to replace specialization. Nor is it intended to create professionals who “do everything.” Credential holders will be required to demonstrate competency in and understanding of a wide range of business disciplines. The global business credential holder is not required to perform as a specialist in all those areas, but to draw upon such broad-based knowledge to solve problems and create economic value for clients and employers.
The global business credential is intended to actually increase cooperation among professions, since the credential holder could function much like a “general contractor,” bringing together many professionals from different business disciplines.
Laura Hay: I'm a CPA in industry with 13 years of experience, including public accounting. My current responsibilities lean more toward internal business operations, organizational strategy and management, and I would be very interested in such a credential, and in obtaining it myself. I like what I've seen thus far outlining the scope of the credential and the ultimate admissions requirements. My one concern is the initial entry period, when it is proposed that CPAs will be able to self-assess their qualifications for the credential. I believe for the credential to have market acceptance, it must have the rigorous entry and continuing skills requirements you discussed for all credential holders. What is being planned for verifying the qualifications of those who go through the self-assessment process?
The purpose of the admissions policy is to ensure that members meet consistent global standards for competency, experience, and integrity. It is designed to present a high hurdle for those who seek the benefits that come with this credential. The Global Credential Steering Committee is researching and gathering information from companies and people who have in-depth experience in designing and administering psychometrically valid assessments on a worldwide basis. The intention is to design a “high stakes” assessment that ensures appropriate validation of competencies and for each assessment there will be the risk of audit.
I also want to say that I am confident that the integrity of CPAs would help to ensure that only those that are truly qualified would assess themselves as such.
Melody Thornton: Will a CPA/CA license be a prerequisite to obtaining the global credential?
No, the CPA certificate will not be a prerequisite for obtaining the global business credential. But, without the CPA, or another recognized credential, the work experience requirement is greater and one must be “sponsored” by two credential holders.
Donald Lockart: What other professions or degree holders (e.g. Lawyers, MBAs) will be eligible to hold the credential?
The credential is anticipated to be most applicable for CPAs, business lawyers, IT professionals, management consultants and MBAs. Those without a credential, recognized by the global institute, will have more extensive entry requirements. The definition of a “recognized credential” is part of the work in process.
Gail A. Perry: I heard Bob Elliott speak on this topic last year and at that time he indicated that initially CPAs would probably be grandfathered into this credential. If you expect to require such a large base of knowledge for this credential, how can you justify grandfathering CPAs?
There will be no grandfathering. No one will be grandfathered and receive the credential automatically. During an interim period, CPAs with at least five years of relevant experience can earn the credential by completing a detailed assessment, subject to randomly selected audits, in lieu of the credential’s standard entry point, a high-level examination. The evaluation will cover the candidate’s understanding of a commitment to a rigorous Code of Ethics; ability to integrate knowledge from multiple business disciplines; ability to apply this knowledge to provide strategic business insight; and ability to demonstrate mature professional competencies.
Larry Kropp: How do you envision that the experience factor in assessing competency will be evaluated, for CPAs becoming "charter" GBCs, for non-CPAs, and for continuing assessment of credential holders?
The Global Credential Steering Committee is researching with experts in the field the processes and methodologies for that type of rigorous assessment.
The global business credential is envisioned as an experience-based credential. The type and quality of experience a professional has will be a key factor in whether or not an applicant is initially qualified or continues to be qualified for the credential.
Kendall Wheeler: As a privately owned license, how will it be regulated? How will I know that one XYZ is as qualified as the next without peer-review and regulation?
The credential will be overseen by a global institute, which will set all the standards. The credential will not be granted by any governmental entity and therefore no government regulator is writing the rules. The National Credential Granting Organizations will oversee and enforce compliance with standards on a complaint-based system comparable to the regulation of CPAs. Periodic re-evaluations of the holders will be conducted to ensure the maintenance of their competencies and eligibility.
Mark Glochowsky: Do you think that the initial self-assessment for admission will be rigorous enough to guarantee the quality of the first credential holders? After all, just because I am a CPA doesn't mean I have the other requisite skills ...
Yes. The global institute is committed to a high stakes admissions process. Those who wish to obtain the global business credential will have to earn their way through a system as rigorous as that associated with the CPA profession. And you are correct, all CPAs will not have the requisite skills.
Mark Glochowsky: Please explain the process by which a non-CPA will become credentialed under this program.
Admissions criteria for the applicants who do not hold a professional credential recognized by the global organization (e.g. CPA, business lawyer) will be required to have eight years of relevant work experience and attestations as to their qualifications by two holders of the global business credential. Applicants also must achieve a passing grade on the psychometrically rigorous entrance examination used to assess their level of competence.
Brenda Richter: When will a draft of the initial self-assessment be available?
The self-assessment is under development by the Global Institute and will require extensive research to ensure its psychometric validity and rigor. The draft date has not yet been specified.
Stanley Henslee: Is the self-assessment going to be subject to any review or challenge process?
Absolutely. The Global Credential Steering Committee is currently working on this aspect of the self-assessment process.
David: Which professions have currently shown interest in adopting this?
There have been discussions with various other professional groups whose members would fall into the category of interested parties. These discussions are ongoing.
Our focus, however, has been creating this first as an opportunity for CPAs and CAs.
Kendall Wheeler: Where will the funding to promote the XYZ credential come from?
Once established, the new global institute and its efforts to promote the credential will be funded primarily by dues and other fees paid by those who choose to seek the new global credential. Another key revenue source will be royalty payments from vendors providing education and services to those credential holders.
On an ongoing basis, not one dollar from CPAs who don’t hold the new credential will go to support it. The business plan, based on conservative estimates for membership and vendor support, calls for no additional financial support from the AICPA after 2002.
However, any new idea or organization needs some initial financing for development costs. All of the member organizations in the global coalition, including the Institute, are contributing development dollars on a per capita basis.
The AICPA's share amounts to about 1.8% of its total budget on this initial effort--essentially what the AICPA typically spends on long-term strategic planning initiatives. In other words, the funds came from those specifically budgeted for research and development efforts.
It is projected that the global institute will be self-supporting sometime in 2002. And the business plan for the new credential calls for our initial investment to be reimbursed over time.
Kendall Wheeler: I have heard that some of the profits from CPA2BIZ will be used to promote the new credential. Is this true? If so, what if the portal fails?
Profits from CPA2biz will not fund the credential. As stated above, the new global institute will be funded primarily by dues and other fees paid by those who choose to seek the new global credential. Another key revenue source will be royalty payments from vendors providing education and services to those credential holders.
Marianne Brams: If no portal resources will be used to develop the new credential, where will the millions required come from?
Please see previous funding questions.
Kendall Wheeler: Will the Global Institute reimburse the AICPA for all monies spent to investigate and produce the new credential?
Yes. It is projected that the global institute will be self-supporting sometime in 2002. And the business plan for the new credential calls for our initial investment to be reimbursed.
Marianne Brams: Have you already talked to these "experienced providers," and, if so, who are they, specifically?
The Global Institute is currently in discussions with a variety of educational providers. It would not be appropriate to share those names at this time.
Gail Okon: "experienced providers of face to face and on-line education" is not very clear to me. Are you talking about Universities, Colleges? Who exactly is this?
See answer to previous question.
Andrew Blackman: I have heard that XYZ will not cost the AICPA anything, as all expenses will ultimately be reimbursed from the new organization that will be formed to administer XYZ. My question is what happens if XYZ is ultimately rejected by the membership? Will not the AICPA have spent millions on a failed initiative, which already seems to have ample opponents? Does this not place the internal supporters in a difficult position of succeed or else? How am I to feel about the effect on my AICPA dues, if the initiative fails and I was against it from the first day?
The global credential initiative came out the AICPA's long-term planning process, which includes member participation through the Strategic Planning Committee and the Group of 100. If the XYZ program was not being pursued, it is likely that those resources would have been devoted to other long-term initiatives or special projects designed to position members for success in the future.
If the global business credential is rejected by the membership, we will have lost little and gained much. Funding for the credential has come from funds allocated for research and development, and the value of the R&D effort is substantial. We have gained a great deal of knowledge from the market and student research efforts, particularly in the areas of the CPA’s image and student interest in the profession. This knowledge is invaluable.
As to your last point, dues will in no way be affected by the success or failure of the global business credential.
David: How do you foresee the new credential being used? It sounds as though the market research only points to it increasing the value of a resume.
The Global Credential Steering Committee, of which the AICPA is a member, hired the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (IPG) to investigate the market appeal of the proposed new credential.
When a description of the new credential was read to CEOs and human resource professionals, an overwhelming majority (87%) said that people with a global business credential would be valuable or somewhat valuable to their organization.
More than four out of every five (83%) also said they would be more likely to hire someone for a senior strategic position if that person had the new credential. Among professional service firms, nearly two-thirds (63%) said that their clients’ perception of their firm would be at least somewhat enhanced if they hired people with the credential.
More than half (56%) would be willing to pay a premium to hire someone with the new credential -- on average about 14% more. A high percentage (42%) would also be willing to pay more for professional services consultants who have the global business credential -- 11%, on average.
Other opportunities to CPAs include the worldwide knowledge resource and networking with professionals around the globe.
David Storhaug: You mention various studies and polls with respect to response to the proposed GBC. Where can we obtain the raw data to these studies and polls?
Research results are available on the Global Credential Member Information Web site at www.globalcredential.aicpa.org in the section under Credential Information.
Richard Ferrone: Is there more detailed information available on the Interpublic Group of Companies market survey report?
See previous answer.
Gail A. Perry: Who was surveyed by the Interpublic Group of Companies? Were these surveys made in the United States or worldwide?
The Global Credential Steering Committee, of which the AICPA is a member, hired the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (IPG) to investigate the market appeal of the proposed new credential. The research was conducted in the United States.
In total, more than 2,800 professionals were surveyed, plus IPG conducted over 300 telephone interviews among business leaders, senior executives and human resources directors from a representative sample of small, medium and large organizations throughout the US.
The research shows that 83% of employers and 75% of clients would be more likely to hire someone holding a global credential for a senior strategic business planning position or engage a professional services firm that employs credential holders.
Fifty-six percent of senior executives expressed a willingness to pay a premium (on average 14% for an employee and 11% for a professional services firm) to holders of the credential.
Moreover, this research suggests that the global credential could have a positive impact on the CPA profession. When asked whether their rating of the CPA would increase, decrease or stay the same if a CPA also had the new credential signifying a broader professional footprint, three out of five senior executives (61%) said it would increase. Virtually no one (1%) said it would decrease. In other words, the credential could result in a greater percentage of business leaders attributing strategic advisory abilities to CPAs.
As to the second part of your question, the CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants) has completed research that parallels that done in the U.S. As I said before, the response of their members and marketplace was even stronger than the results in the US with regard to the need and interest of the initiative. The other accountancy institutes on the Global Credential Steering Committee are spearheading research in their countries. Research in Australia and New Zealand is underway. Research in Italy is being planned now, and anticipated to be "in the field" this fall.
Pat Meyer: Was any research done on law students, since Business Lawyers are seen as another group that would be interested in XYZ?
No, the student research, conducted by the Taylor Research and Consulting Group, focused on the impact the credential would have on undergraduate student interest in the CPA profession. The student groups surveyed covered a wide range of undergraduate majors.
Larry Kropp: Does the market research indicate any difference in the public's acceptance of GBC between having it be a sub-set of the CPA designation, versus allowing participation by non-CPAs?
Yes, the research told us that if the global credential were a sub-set of the CPA, it would be viewed as a rebranding of the CPA
Kendall Wheeler: For XYZ to be a truly global credential, wouldn't all countries have to accept the credential? We know that a few countries have already dropped their support for the initiative. Doesn't this rule out a truly "global" credential?
No, global doesn't mean universal. There is clearly a global representation on the Global Credential Steering Committee, whose membership continues to grow. Please see the next question for a full listing of countries involved.
Sonya Graywolf: Who is involved on the international front? What countries?
The international consortium or "Global Credential Steering Committee" consists of representatives from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand. In July, Italy’s two leading accountancy bodies, the Consiglio Nazionale dei Dottori Commercialist and the Consiglio Nazionale dei Ragionieri e Periti Commerciali, joined the initiative.
A number of international representatives (e.g., France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Japan) participated in the early planning meetings held last year in New York. Thus far, France and South Africa have expressed renewed interest in joining the initiative. Others are still considering participation.
Richard Stinson: How many (and which) countries have signed on to the GBC?
Please see previous question.
Gail A. Perry: Originally the concept of a global credential was exactly that - worldwide. Now, with influential accounting organizations in Europe rejecting or retracting participation in this credential, it sounds more like this is simply a super CPA/MBA/plus credential that has no real global attributes. How do you define global and which countries at this point in time are solidly on board to participate in this form of certification?
Global represents a number of countries on the Global Credential Steering Committee—from Australia to Italy to New Zealand and the United States. For a full listing of participation, please see the previous answers in this section.
Kendall Wheeler: What about England and any Asian countries?
The U.K., Hong Kong and Japan participated in the early planning meetings.
Donald Lockart: What has the reaction been from important international business centers such as the UK, Germany, Ireland, etc?
Many of the countries we have talked to have been very positive about the global business credential. Their accountants see the credential as supplementing their current credentials and validating their capabilities as strategic business advisors. The U.K. Institute was part of the early discussions on the global business credential. They have decided to take a different approach by repositioning the CA-based credential as being THE premiere credential for business professionals. However, there is data to suggest interest in the XYZ among many professionals in the UK.
Melody Thornton: What is the UK's reason for not joining?
The U.K. Institute participated in the original effort to explore the global credential. They made a decision not to continue because of internal concerns at their organization.
Stanley Henslee: What actions are being taken by the other countries to set up a global credential?
Right now, the Chartered Accountants in the UK are positioning a CA-based credential to be global.
Stanley Henslee: What actions are being taken in other countries, and by whom, to develop this new credential? How much are they budgeting to spend in the next few years? and where is their money coming from?
All of the member organizations in the global consortium or Global Steering Committee are contributing development dollars on a per capita basis.
The CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants) has completed research that parallels that done in the U.S. Their members and marketplace have indicated even stronger results than in the US with regard to the need and interest of the initiative. The other accountancy institutes on the Global Credential Steering Committee are spearheading research in their countries. Research in Australia and New Zealand is underway and research will begin in Italy this fall.
Charles: Isn’t this just a dream for students in Eastern Europe, who are not earning real money now? Will it pay off?
Charles, I do not know whether any Eastern European students will pursue the credential. Certainly we hope that National Credential Granting Organizations will be established in a number of countries or regions. Will it pay off? Ultimately, the market will decide. Everything we have learned from our research indicates that it will.
Rod Adair: Kathy, this is Rod Adair, how do you feel this will impact the local firms?
I have a small practice myself. I think that the new global credential presents a unique opportunity for sole practitioners and small firm partners to broaden their market reach, while retaining the valued attributes of the CPA practice.
Many smaller firms are advising their clients on a wide range of strategy matters, such as acquisitions, integration of technology and other growth strategies. These CPAs will benefit greatly from access to a global network of elite professionals and an extensive interdisciplinary knowledge resource associated with the new credential.
The credential also can contribute to leveling the playing field for smaller firms vis-à-vis larger firms as it validates the competencies that many have already developed in practice and gives them the tools to continue to enhance their knowledge and skills.
Stan Mills: "Ethics" was brought up many times as an important part of the new credential. How do you defend the ethics of the president of the AICPA whose interests in CPA2BIZ scream "Conflict of Interest"????
The decision to invite AICPA President/CEO Barry Melancon and several other AICPA managers to purchase, at fair market value, a limited amount of stock in CPA2Biz followed an exhaustive review and approval process directed by an independent committee of the board. Every stage of the CPA2Biz development has had AICPA Board and Council approval.
The committee engaged outside, independent legal counsel to ensure the transactions would adhere to the AICPA’s bylaws and all applicable governing laws and regulations. In addition, an independent, nationally known valuation firm was retained to help determine the fair market value of CPA2Biz so that a fair price for the stock could be determined.
At its May 2000 meeting the AICPA Council, consisting of over 250 Institute members, engaged in a full discussion of the portal issue. In the vote that followed, Council was nearly unanimous in approving the new portal and AICPA management’s stock purchase.
The subsequent investment by Mr.Melancon in CPA2Biz was made entirely with his own funds and at his own risk, without any guarantee of return. To ensure that there was no self-dealing, the agreement was reviewed by the Board and independent counsel. Neither Mr. Melancon nor key executive staff members have any stock options in CPA2Biz.
Furthermore, if CPA2Biz goes public, all AICPA members will be given an opportunity to have equity in the company, with the aim of our members owning a minimum of 20% of the portal.
I have not benefited nor will I benefit financially or otherwise from my involvement with CPA2Biz. I do not own any CPA2Biz stock, nor do I have any options or rights to obtain any. In addition, no volunteer member of the AICPA Board of Directors has received any benefits.
The global institute will be a self-funded organization separate from the AICPA. No board member or AICPA leader has invested or will invest in its development. The global institute will be funded by those who choose to pursue the credential and from royalty payments from vendors providing services.
Arthur C Joy: What is the proposed time frame for implementation of the new credential?
If membership votes to authorize the development of a separate, self-funded organization, the credential is expected to be available in 2003.
Melody Thornton: If we approve XYZ, when do you hope to offer the first exam?
The first self-assessment is expected to be available in 2003. The first exam is expected to be available in 2006.
Jonathan Dismukes: IF credential is approved, how will the AICPA maintain an influence over the new credential if the credential is to be handled by a new entity?
All five of the current steering committee members will have a seat on the board of the Global Institute, which will consist of approximately 15 members. In addition, through the U.S. National Credential Granting Organization, the AICPA will represent the interests of CPAs in the U.S.
Kendall Wheeler: Isn't the on-line education now being offered through CPA2BIZ?
The education on CPA2Biz is designed to support CPAs, not holders of the global business credential.
Stanley Henslee: How many AICPA staff will leave the AICPA and go to the "global institute" if the vote passes?
Recruitment for staff of the global institute will be done independently and on the open market as any new business would do.