A Conversation With...Robert H. Krebs

As the new president of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Robert H. Krebs Jr. already knows his first order of business-attract more members.

The Pittsburgh-based partner of the small Goff Backa Alfera & Co. LLC firm is hardly alone in his plight. Countless leaders of professional organizations and clubs can commiserate with Krebs.

Whether the arguments hold true that memberships are suffering from more demands on time, or from complacent Gen Xers who widely view the associations as dinosaurs, Krebs is undaunted by his challenge.

In an era when the profession is undergoing significant change - mostly brought on by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 - accountants need to be informed now more than ever, he believes.

"With all the regulations, we can't afford to be complacent," Krebs said. "Everybody has to get involved, because if we don't, we have to deal with the consequences."

The PICPA boasts more than 19,000 members split about equally between firms and industry. While the association's membership is holding steady, it could be higher, Krebs said.

He should know. The Penn State University graduate began his bean-counting career in 1964, with the Big Four-firm now known as PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He also worked at private companies and one public corporation, LTV Steel in Pittsburgh, before starting his own firm in 1988. He came aboard Goff Backa in 2001.

Krebs recalled a time when the managing partner of a firm would call a rookie accountant into his office, offer his
congratulations and extend a membership to the PICPA. Krebs is skeptical whether the practice occurs anymore.

"The trend is that we're getting older," Krebs said of the
association's membership. "But we have a problem getting younger volunteers and older volunteers."

Krebs began his involvement with the PICPA in the late 1970 and chaired the Peer Review Committee in the late 1980s when firms agreed to undergo reviews to ensure professional standards are followed. An outside firm, for instance, reviews Goff Backa every three years.

The process entails an analysis of a firm's quality control system in accounting and auditing and is a licensing requirement in Pennsylvania for firms that perform the reviews.

Krebs proceeded to chair the Peer Review Committee. His path to the presidency included stints as treasurer, vice president and president-elect.

At Goff Backa, Krebs practices in the accounting and auditing areas. Despite its small size - it employs six CPAs - the firm audits six public companies.

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