AICPA Spring Council: Celebrating 125 Years of Service

By Adrienne Gonzalez

In his opening remarks to AICPA Spring Council Wednesday, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon was nostalgic, waxing poetic about the profession's humble beginnings and major milestones in the AICPA's 125 year history, which is being celebrated this week in Washington, DC.

Showing the audience a 1908 Marwick & Mitchell audit report that criticized the client for "books badly written and in a slovenly manner," Melancon discussed how audit, tax and financial reporting have evolved through his organization's history.

"Technology is a driver of change," he said, explaining how social media is changing client service and the way in which the profession communicates. "It will change the way we are as a profession in ways we cannot imagine."

"250 million tweets are sent a day," he said, scanning the room. "Some of you in the audience are contributing materially to that number."

Melancon touched on the danger of information overload but called it an opportunity for the profession, as CPAs are still the trusted advisers they were 125 years ago. The audit reports have changed and today's regulatory landscape would be unrecognizable to a CPA 125 years ago, but skilled CPAs remain critical to the well-being of financial markets.

Melancon talked about the importance of recruiting and retaining talent in the industry, telling Council that in 2009, a record number of students majored in accounting on both the undergrad and graduate level. He also said 2010 saw a record number of candidates sitting for the CPA exam, and, currently, the AICPA is seeing all-time record membership. But he stressed that these good numbers are not enough. "Record numbers for a few years are not going to solve our people problem," he said.

"Other professions would love to have the reputation people in this room have," he said.

Melancon talked about the success of AICPA programs such as Feed the Pig, Start Here Go Places, This Way to CPA, and the Accounting Doctoral Scholars program, but he made it clear that the AICPA is always looking to evolve, grow, and serve not only the profession but those who rely on the profession. Born 125 years ago from a need for the profession to self-regulate, he spoke on the AICPA's evolution with a heavy focus on where the organization - and the profession - will be 50 or even 100 years from today.

"We can only evolve with bright minds," he said.

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