Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Generation Next: A Wave of New CPA Leaders Is on the Rise, and Accounting Will Never Be the Same

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Generation Next: A Wave of New CPA Leaders Is on the Rise, and Accounting Will Never Be the Same

Article excerpt

The next couple of decades will see massive change for the accounting profession. More than 100,000 baby boomer CPAs are likely to retire, creating a void that new leaders will have to fill. Technology will radically redefine what accountants do and how they do it. A rapidly evolving global economy will create unprecedented challenges and opportunities. The confluence of so many changes is prompting many to ask what the future holds for CPAs.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is, what does the next generation of accounting leaders have in store for the profession? The JofA gathered five members of that generation to discuss how the accounting profession--and the professionals in it--will evolve over the next several years and how today's leaders can best motivate and mold the CPA leaders of tomorrow.

Participating in the discussion were:

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* Jason Blumer, CPA/CITP, owner and chief innovation officer of Blumer & Associates CPAs in Greenville, S.C. He also is founder of the THRIVEal+ CPA Network, a blog and private online community for current or prospective "next-gen" CPA firm owners that seeks to promote disruptive change in the accounting profession.

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* Lauren Foster, CPA/CITP, CGMA, global tax technology lead at General Motors. An alumna of the inaugural AICPA Leadership Academy, she previously worked at KPMG. She is also vice chair of the Michigan Association of CPAs Ethics Task Force and chair of the Detroit-based Health Alliance Plan's audit committee.

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* Greg Kyte, CPA, controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza, a fellow of the VeraSage Institute, and the co-host, with Jason Blumer, of the THRIVEcast, the monthly podcast of the THRIVEal+ CPA Network. He also regularly performs as a stand-up comedian.

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* David Nagy, CPA, owner of Nagy & Associates, an eight-person CPA firm in Wilmington, Del. He is active in the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section small networking group, as well as in his state society

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* Kem Washington, an accounting professor at Dillard University in New Orleans who writes a personal finance column for the New Orleans Tribune and has her own financial blog at kemberley.com. She previously worked as a revenue agent and a criminal investigator with the IRS.

Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, moderated the discussion. Following are edited excerpts of the conversation. To access a two-part podcast via the online version of this stow, go to journal ofaccountancy.com and enter 20114842 in the search box.

Drew: How do you see the marketplace and structure of CPA firms changing over the next 10 to 20 years?

Kyte: I think we're going to see a lot of similarities between the accounting profession and what we've seen in manufacturing in the United States. In manufacturing, the grunt work is being done by robots. In accounting, the pick-and-shovel, staff-level accounting work is going to be done largely by computers. It's going to be automated, and it's going to be commoditized.

A lot of trends support automation. We're seeing XBRL (see "The Future Is Now: XBRL Emerges as Career Niche," page 122), where you're tagging data. We see the IRS talking about real-time tax system initiatives, where they're giving feedback about your tax return, while it's still in process. In terms of structure for CPA firms, I don't think you're going to see as many levels of management, because those commoditized, automated services aren't going to be in the firm anymore.

I also am convinced that, before I'm done with my career, the billable hour is going to go away The billable hour is sub-optimal, not just for your clients, but also for your firm. It's a great way to disincentivize your employees. We're seeing more (accounting firms) moving away from billing their time to fixed-price agreements, to value pricing. …

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