Changes within the accounting industry occur quickly due to advances in technology and a new company culture coming to firms. At a recent Accountants Club of America meeting in Manhattan, the financial backbone of the United States, Joanne Barry, the executive director of the New York State Society of CPAs, presented several topics on current CPA trends.
According to Barry, the accounting industry is facing dramatic changes, and firms must adapt to those changes. The executive director likens the fast pace of change to a chessboard where firms must think two or three moves ahead, and these moves should occur in the next few months rather than two or three years. Several factors work to evolve CPA trends in 2015.
Demographics represent one major disruption among accounting firms as a new generation of workers overtakes traditional baby boomers who hold leadership positions. More millennials enter the workforce every year, and these younger people fill ranks of entry-level positions. However, younger CPAs do not enter the workforce fast enough to make up for the vacuum left by retirees. This leads to mergers among firms.
Technology also plays a huge role in the accounting industry. Firms can access client information remotely thanks to cloud computing, and employees may access firm software from home. This allows younger workers to have a telecommuting option. Video cameras on laptops lead to video conferencing rather than in-person meetings, which eliminates the need to commute and allows firms to expand to clients outside of their normal territory. Computer software lets firms sync scheduling among employees, reach out to clients through social media and expand IT departments.
The CPA exam plays an important role when it comes to current accounting trends. In New York, many more students take accounting classes and have accounting majors than in years past. However, not all of these students take the CPA licensing exam. Accounting industry advocacy groups plan to conduct research and surveys to determine why students desire to earn an accounting degree yet do not take the licensing test.
One solution to the exam problem revolves around firms that encourage non-CPA employees to take the test. Perhaps companies should pay for administrative staff and valued interns to take the CPA exam to help retain more accountants. Upon passing the test, firms could offer higher-paying positions, as this move helps ease any staffing concerns brought on by retirements. The accounting industry faces a succession crisis, and finding ways to get new accountants into the fold represents one way firms may survive the coming onslaught of older partners leaving the company.
Another way to mitigate staffing concerns includes providing leadership training for new hires. Accountants may know how to crunch financial numbers, but they may not know how to lead teams that help clients. Without mentoring programs in place, the accounting industry may find a dry well that leaves firms scrambling to catch up to innovators. Companies must change with the times or face obsolescence.
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