CPA.com Blog

Erik Asgeirsson

President & CEO, CPA.com

Executive Roundtable Debrief: What are the Key Trends for 2018?

One of my favorite events each year is the AICPA/CPA.com Executive Roundtable, a gathering of accounting technology executives, practitioners and thought leaders.  I think it’s the best pulse check on the state of innovation in the profession.

This year’s event in January was no different. We had presentations from 41 startups and leading-edge companies, as well as panel sessions on key issues confronting CPA firms. Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Artificial intelligence is ascendant. Numerous executives expressed their belief that artificial intelligence will become like cloud technology is now – an expected component of business, not something seen as an extra or add-on service. We’ll use AI to improve customer service, ferret out financial irregularities and even write code for our apps, as one of our speakers, Tomer Dicturel, founder of Crane.Ai, said. Except artificial intelligence’s adoption rate will be a lot faster than that of the cloud.
  • Some barriers still need to come down. Hundreds of competing client software systems make it difficult for AI solutions to bridge the gaps, practitioners say. And for both AI and blockchain, more regulatory guidance is needed before firms really take the plunge.
  • A rising tide lifts all boats. Our roundtable participants include a fair number of executives from companies that compete in the marketplace. What’s always impressed me is the commitment from attendees to take a big-picture approach and discuss how we can push the profession forward together. This isn’t a zero-sum game.
  • Don’t ignore security risk. If you don’t have a plan to manage cybersecurity risk for your firm and your clients, you’re playing with fire. Hackers and criminals are creative, committed and have shown a willingness to collaborate with each other to breach systems and steal personal data, according to Ted Ross of SpyCloud, one of our session speakers. CPAs need to be aware of what they’re facing.
  • Predictions for the coming year. Our next roundtable is Jan. 16-17, 2019. By then, I expect we’ll have heard a lot more about the evolution of the audit and technology inroads in tax and financial planning. We’ll also have a firmer sense of the implications of AI and blockchain on the profession.

 
Watch for more about our Roundtable insights as the year progresses. It’s an exciting time to be a CPA, and CPA.com is committed to providing you with the tools and resources to make the most of it.

Michael Trabold

Director, Com- pliance Risk, Paychex

Three Steps to Assessing Your Client's HR Compliance Needs

Small business owners without a designated HR manager often feel overwhelmed by all of the HR responsibilities that come with having even just one or two employees. HR has evolved far beyond payroll and ensuring your employees are paid accurately and on time – although, payroll does remain a critical component of the employer-employee relationship. In fact, according to a recent Paychex Small Business Survey, 21 percent of today’s owners lack confidence in their organization’s ability to keep current with HR compliance.

From background checks to onboarding to employee handbooks, every step of the employee journey requires a deeper understanding of HR and employment laws than many small business owners are not prepared for. After all, they got into business because they had an idea – not because they are HR experts.

Upon starting their business or hiring their first employee, small business owners can struggle with where to start when it comes to HR. But, in a few steps, you can help your small business clients assess their HR needs and better understand how to get their HR functions up and running efficiently:

  1. Assess your client’s understanding of and compliance with employment laws. Is your client aware of the federal employment laws that impact his or her business? How about the state and local laws (especially if they conduct business in multiple locations)? According to those business owners who responded to the Paychex survey, the top three employer regulations they’re either not complying with or not aware of are: youth employment standards (42%), employee classification laws (37%), and overtime laws (36%). Getting a gauge on where your clients fall on the compliance spectrum can help guide your HR recommendations with regards to solutions and providers who offer trainings and can lift some of that compliance burden.
  2. Take stock of their current HR assets. Knowing what HR tools and processes your client already has in place will help give you both an idea of what they need moving forward. Start from the beginning of the employee journey and work from there. What are the tools your client currently uses for recruiting, onboarding, employee file and record retention, training and development, benefits administration, performance management, and employee relations? What about these tools and processes is working for them? What could be more efficient and how?
  3. Assess their HR execution. There may be HR policies and procedures in place, but how is your client communicating those to his or her employees? For example, is the employee handbook up-to-date and easily accessible to everyone? Automation is one way to increase confidence when it comes to key HR functions. Paychex’s study revealed only 30% of small businesses leverage technology to automate the onboarding process. Additionally, 38% percent of those surveyed report tracking time and attendance manually rather than via an automated system. Embracing automation to accomplish such critical tasks not only saves time, but can also reduce the risk of human error.

HR is evolving and it’s a critical component to any business that wants to succeed. The HR process decisions your clients make can impact their ability to grow and your ability to help them remain compliant and plan for the future. Starting conversations about HR and employment law early can help your client tackle the challenges that inevitably arise and discover solution providers who offer the HR tools and resources they need. Not only will this help cement you as a trusted adviser to your clients, it will also you ensure you’re getting the accurate HR information you need to remain compliant as you carry out financial activities on their behalf.

Mike Trabold is director of compliance risk for Paychex, Inc. Paychex is a leading provider of human capital management solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Tom Hammond

VP of Corporate Strategy & Product Manage- ment, Paychex

Maximizing the Future with Data Integration

In today’s digital world, accountants rely on multiple platforms to serve their clients’ diverse needs. From cloud-based solutions that track expenses to account reconciliation, it’s essential to ensure the integrity of data across platforms and solutions.

The good news is, technology is making that task easier than ever before. Through a network of APIs, cloud solutions allow for defined communication between platforms, delivering real-time data integration.

This fall, accountants using both Paychex and Sage Intacct saw a big boost in productivity when seamless, real-time integration from the Paychex General Ledger Service (GLS) to Sage Intacct was introduced.

Helping to save time and reduce errors, this real-time integration provides accountants and their clients the critical information and data insights they need, when they need it, delivering data directly from the Paychex GLS to Sage Intacct.

Users can easily sync payroll and accounting data, and post payroll entries to their Sage Intacct accounting package, in just seconds. With automatic general ledger posting to Intacct dimensions as soon as payroll is released, data integrity is ensured by easily identifying unlinked categories and rapidly transmitting data from Paychex to Sage Intacct.

This is just one example of Paychex’s commitment to delivering technology solutions that meet the needs of accountants. With an eye toward the continuously evolving future, we’re positioning our services and solutions to deliver greater value than ever before to the accounting community.

Data automation is here to stay. And with it comes great opportunity. From enhanced productivity to strengthened client relationships, data integration is a true growth driver for the accounting industry.

Erik Asgeirsson

President & CEO, CPA.com

A San Francisco Treat: DCPA 2017 Takeaways

After I gave my keynote on the final day of the Digital CPA Conference last week, I had a chance to take a moment and look out at the crowd in the San Francisco Marriott Marquis conference center.  And what hit home to me was just how far we’ve come as a community in the past five years.

The first Digital CPA was scheduled to be held Oct. 28-30, 2012, in a hotel with an impressive all-glass lobby just outside of Washington, D.C. Some of you may remember those dates as the East Coast landfall for Hurricane Sandy. We postponed the conference until December, and were grateful most people tore up their busy schedules and showed up. We had a tight-knit group from the beginning.

Now it’s 2017, and many of the practitioners at this year’s event have played a key role in the fast growth of virtual CFO services and the reinvention of client accounting services. And many of these same lessons learned are now being applied to new opportunities emerging in audit and tax. We’re poised for big things in the profession, and Digital CPA – with its energy, enthusiasm and vibrant setting – was a great reflection of that potential.

Here’s some of my takeaways from the conference:

We have a big tent, and it’s getting bigger all the time. We had 430 people at Digital CPA this year, and another 40 connecting remotely. We had more than two dozen people flying in from five different countries outside of the United States, so the strength of the programming, like the challenges and opportunities it addresses, extends across many borders. That’s a lot of momentum, and I want to thank all of you who have helped build this community from the ground up.

The pace of change offers great opportunity. Technology is rapidly transforming the practice of accounting, and all of the discussions at the event made me feel even stronger that there has never been a better opportunity for CPA firms to grow and thrive.

Complementary skills are going to be more important than ever going forward. AICPA Chairman Kimberly Ellison-Taylor talked about this during my Digital CPA keynote, and it was underscored in conference sessions. Technical skills and good judgment are never going to go out of style, but CPAs are going to need expertise in communications, technology and marketing, among other areas, if they’re going to successfully establish high-value advisory practices.

Mistakes and failure aren’t fatal – they’re prerequisites to growth and innovation. This was one of the lessons from Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph’s fantastic presentation. Not everything works out. As a profession, we’re devoted to service quality, and that’s always the goal. But we can’t be afraid to move fast to try something, and move on if it’s clear an approach isn’t working.

Education will move us forward. Blockchain will bring huge changes to the audit, in ways that aren’t fully clear yet. Digital CPA attendees have a high curiosity about this area. This is why we teamed up with the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance this past fall, and why we’re committed to providing context and insight to CPAs on this topic. There’s a whole new world forming in finance and accounting, thanks to blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics. At CPA.com, it’s our mission to provide thought leadership and guidance for firms navigating these changes. We’ll be here for you.

And if you missed this year’s conference but are curious about next year, check back at digitalcpa.com for updates. We’ll be in Washington, D.C. again from Dec. 3-5, 2018.

Frank Fiorille

VP of Risk, Compli- ance, & Data Analytics, Paychex

Attracting, Retaining, and Developing Millennial Employees at your Firm

In 2016, Millennials became the largest generational group in the American workforce. As with every generation, their experience in the workforce and what they want out of their jobs is unique and will continue to evolve as they grow in their careers. For firms looking to attract Millennial talent, it’s important to understand current Millennial workforce trends. A new report by Paychex takes a deep dive into Millennial wages, geographic distribution, and industry preferences, analyzing their current status, growth rates, and what this all means for businesses trying to attract, retain, and grow talent in this increasingly important employee group.

Here is a snapshot of Millennials in the workforce, and, more specifically, in the Professional and Business Services industry, today:

  • On average, Millennials make $21.80 hour ($5.79/hour less than the all-generation average), but Millennial wages are growing at a rate nearly double that of all generations (5.8 percent compared to 3.0 percent, respectively).
  • Females employees make up 45.3 percent of the Millennial full-time employee population, compared to 54.7 percent for males.
  • There is a higher percentage of full-time Millennial female employees in the Professional Business Services industry than full-time Millennial male employees, 39.7 percent and 38.6 percent, respectively.
  • Aside from the Leisure and Hospitality industry, Professional and Business Services has the highest percentage of full-time Millennial employees (39.1 percent), 1.1 percent greater than the percentage of full-time Millennial employees nationally.
  • Millennials in Professional and Business Services have the highest hourly earnings among industries ($26.05/hour), but have the lowest annual growth in wages, 5.3 percent.

Those facts can keep your firm competitive when it comes to potential salary requirements for Millennial candidates, but once you start the recruitment process, there are a few additional factors to consider. First, be proactive and effective in your recruitment effort. Millennials don’t like to drag out their job decisions. When conducting the interview, really listen to what the Millennial applicant is looking for in a workplace. While you don’t need to change your entire business model to adapt to Millennial employees, there are perks – flexible work hours, work from home/telecommuting options, casual dress days, etc. – that can make the difference to Millennial candidates in choosing a firm and remaining content and engaged there.

Once the employee is hired, offer meaningful work opportunities and foster connections. Millennials seek to be effective and impactful in their roles. As the job allows, let them work on projects that they are passionate about that also impact results. Along the same lines, provide Millennials with opportunities for development, whether a special project, exposure to other departments, or classes/training outside of the workplace. Ask them early on about their career aspirations, develop a plan to help them get there, and regularly monitor progress toward those milestones.

Each generation brings unique energy, ideas, and expectations to the workforce. A lack of understanding of the factors impacting a generational employee group can cause you to lose out on talented candidates.

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