Richard Piluso: NYSSCPA President Looks to Expand Membership and Minority Involvement

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By Jason Bramwell

Richard Piluso, CPA, has had a productive first four months as president of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA): New York became a CPA mobility state in August, legislation the NYSSCPA supported; the society celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its successful Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program; and the NYSSCPA is preparing for the state's mandatory quality review program that goes into effect January 1, 2012.

But Piluso, a retired vice president of internal audit for Loews Corporation, has his sights set on accomplishing three major goals before his one-year term as president expires next May.

Piluso's first and main goal: To expand the NYSSCPA's membership, particularly with young CPAs.

"We just recently saw an increase in membership for the first time in five years. This was good news to us and showed that some of the new recruitment programs are working, such as offering new membership and committee opportunities to CPAs in larger firms", Piluso told AccountingWEB. "A majority of our membership is over 50. We need younger CPAs in the leadership pipeline. We need to adapt our programming to make sure younger CPAs see the NYSSCPA as a place where they can develop professionally. Part of that will be fostering community, not only through face-to-face meetings, but online, as well."

According to Piluso, there are several groups within the NYSSCPA in which younger CPAs can participate, including a statewide Young CPAs Committee as well as chapter committees for young CPAs. The Young CPAs Committee sponsored a two-day conference in June that enlisted speakers and panelists to talk about several topics, including:

Effective communication techniques

  • Conflict management
  • Goal setting
  • Personal branding
  • Networking
  • Forensic accounting
  • Team building
  • Leadership skills
  • Fraud detection

"Beyond the practical advice offered, attendees are given the opportunity to plug into a network of their peers and begin to make the type of connections they will need to ensure success throughout their careers", Piluso said.

The NYSSCPA also has joined several social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. "Having an account is one thing; fostering real community through these tools is another issue entirely", Piluso said. "Technology is advancing at such a rapid clip that you want to make sure any change you make in your technological infrastructure will provide the most benefit to the membership."

Piluso's second goal: To increase active participation in the society's technical committees.

"We have more than sixty [committees], most of which are open to any member", he said. "The ability to network, exchange ideas, and learn of new advances in any specific sector can be best achieved in committees. It is my goal to impress upon our membership the value they would get from joining. On top of all this, they can also receive one or two hours of free continuing professional education by attending certain committee meetings. You could pay thousands of dollars and not receive greater practical experience in dealing with other professionals."

Piluso's third goal: To expand and enhance the representation of minorities in the accounting profession.

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)2011

Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report, minorities made up 21 percent of accounting employees at CPA firms in 2010. However, of that 21 percent, only 9 percent were CPAs.

"We have an issue that needs to be addressed", he said. "The firms are hiring minorities, but what happens after they are hired? What are the barriers that are preventing them from earning a CPA license and becoming partners in the firms?"

Piluso said the NYSSCPA will work with member firms' diversity officers and human resources managers as well as minority professional association leaders, educators, managing partners, and COAP alumni, to establish mentorship and CPA exam preparation programs for minority college students and minority firm associates.

He also praises the society's COAP program for its work the past twenty-five years in recruiting minority high school juniors from public and private schools in New York to the CPA profession. More than 2,800 students have graduated from the program, 53 percent of whom went on to study business or accounting, according to 2010 NYSSCPA survey data.

"It is a great program. Many of our members volunteer their time to the ten COAP programs we now have across the state", Piluso said. "You only have to go to any of the closing banquet ceremonies . . . to see the value of COAP, to see how excited the young students are, and to hear them talk about all that they have learned and express a real interest in accounting."

Piluso realizes that having a one-year term makes it difficult – if not impossible – to achieve all the goals that he has set out to accomplish. "However, with a continuum of like-minded professionals, all good initiatives do come to a satisfactory conclusion for the betterment of our members and the profession at large", he said.

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