News & Releases

How Technology is Transforming Accounting and Auditing

If you believe some pundits, technology represents a threat to accountants and auditors. Machines, the thinking goes, will be able to do sophisticated compliance work and the kind of in-depth analysis that only humans can offer now. We see it differently, though: technology is going to change the role of the accountant, not replace it.

"The most obvious application for blockchain and accountants is in the audit, since it provides verification of transactions"

Everyone knows the pace of technological change today is unprecedented, with deep implications for the way we work. But we see opportunity in this transformation, and are pushing to redefine and expand the accountant's traditional role as a trusted business advisor. Automation and innovation are powerful tools in that effort and, if used correctly, will increase the strategic value of the accountant.

Think back to the early days of cloud adoption. One of the biggest trends for CPA firms over the past decade has been the rise of virtual CFO/controllership services, in which practitioners harness technology to offer outsourced finance and accounting services, bill management, human capital oversight, and the like. This category – known in the accounting profession as client accounting services – was a low-margin service mostly seen as a client retention tool before the cloud. But the ability to analyze real-time data, present it in easily-grasped dashboards, and collaborate more closely with clients to shape business decision-making has revolutionized this service line. It's now grown to roughly 10 percent of the average firm's revenue, and it's typically the fastest-growing piece, according to research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and CPA.com.

Tax and audit practices still anchor offerings for CPA firms, but these areas are undergoing some of the same transformations due to technology innovation as client accounting services. We expect artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain to have a major impact on how these services are delivered in the next few years.

Blockchain – a distributed, secure database that creates an immutable chain of transactions – may be the most interesting case. Gartner predicts the business value added from this emerging technology will exceed $3.1 trillion by 2030, from a negligible base today. Public blockchains – best known as the systems that support bitcoin and crypto-currencies – are probably less relevant to applications in a corporate setting than private blockchains, which are more scalable, have faster transaction speeds and are limited to only authorized users.

The most obvious application for blockchain and accountants is in the audit, since it provides verification of transactions. Unlike some of the hyperbole associated with blockchain and auditing, accountants will still need to provide assurance in several areas, such as configuration of these systems, management estimates of financial statements, etc.

How blockchain's uses will unfold precisely is still unclear, although there is considerable experimentation going on with the Big Four and other top accounting firms. That's one reason the AICPA and CPA.com have joined forces with the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance, an association devoted to education and advocacy surrounding blockchain for financial market professionals, to define the impact of the technology on accounting. It's imperative that CPAs and management accountants educate themselves about blockchain and its potential applications, since it's such a fast-moving area.

Now more than ever, accounting and finance staffs must develop complementary skills to ensure they are providing quality service to employers and clients. The skill set for transactional or compliance services is not the same as for advisory services, which we see as a critical future skill for accountants. Finally, we see the future for accountants who leverage technology and advance their skills as one full of opportunity and increasing value for their clients.

Read more

Accounting Firm Leaders and Innovators Gather for Strategic Discussions on Blockchain Technology

Symposium Hosted by AICPA and CPA.com Focuses on Impact of the Technology in Accounting, Auditing, Tax and Finance

NEW YORK (May 8, 2018) – More than 60 leaders from innovative CPA firms, technology companies, consulting firms and influencer groups came together last week to map out strategy for the advancement of blockchain technology within the accounting profession. A timetable was also set for the creation of working groups, educational materials and other goals.

The event, the Blockchain in Accounting Symposium, was hosted May 2 by the American Institute of CPAs and its technology subsidiary, CPA.com, and is part of a larger collaboration with the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA), a leading nonprofit trade association promoting the adoption of blockchain technology across global markets.

Blockchain is a secure, distributed database that leverages cryptography and peer-to-peer technology to group data into blocks and create an immutable chain of transactions. Its emergence is widely seen as having significant implications for the evolution of financial audits and other complex processes that require verification and confirmation.

“This was a strategic and important discussion related to the new capabilities and opportunities blockchain offers to many areas of the practice,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “With this group of leading experts, we defined a list of key areas of focus for the coming year for our working groups."

Next steps include:

  • Distribution of a report later this month that synthesizes the symposium’s findings
  • Formation this summer of blockchain-related working groups by practice area
  • Release of initial materials from the working groups by November

“We expect blockchain will impact all areas of practice,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, executive vice present for public practice for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “Collaboration will be critical to the profession’s success. We received feedback from a broad range of experts at the symposium, and we heard their urgency about making tangible progress.”

The AICPA and CPA.com formed an alliance with the WSBA this past October to help guide and speed the adoption of blockchain technology. The AICPA and CPA.com are administering the WSBA’s working group on tax and accounting, a focal point for advocacy and education on blockchain implementation within the profession.

“The WSBA is proud to be part of this accelerating effort to guide the evolution of the global accounting profession in a future with blockchain technology,” said Ron Quaranta, chairman of the group. “Across the range of accounting workflows, from auditing to tax, financial reporting and beyond, we look forward to our continued joint efforts to advance the world of accountancy and its use of blockchain technology.”

About CPA.com

CPA.com is known for bringing innovative solutions to the profession, either in partnership with leading providers or directly through its own development. The company has established itself as a thought leader on emerging technologies and as the trusted business advisor to practitioners in the United States, with a growing global focus.

Our company’s core mission is to advance the technology ecosystem for the accounting profession, drive the transformation of practice areas, and lead technology research and innovation efforts for practitioners.

A subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs, the company is also part of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the world’s most influential organization representing the profession. For more information, visit CPA.com.

About the American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 418,000 members in 143 countries, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for its members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, offers specialized credentials, builds the pipeline of future talent and drives professional competency development to advance the vitality, relevance and quality of the profession.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and Ewing, NJ.

Media representatives are invited to visit the AICPA Press Center at www.aicpa.org/press.

About the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants, combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power opportunity, trust and prosperity for people, businesses and economies worldwide. It represents 650,000 members and students in public and management accounting and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigor and resources, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.

About the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance

The Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA) is an industry leading 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association created for global market professionals. Its mission is to guide, influence and promote comprehensive adoption of blockchain and distributed ledger technology across global markets.

For information about the WSBA, including membership, visit www.wsba.co or email to info@wsba.co.

Read more

Tim Christen, Chairman of Baker Tilly International, to Join CPA.com Board

NEW YORK (March 12, 2018) --Tim Christen, CPA, CGMA, former chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, has been named to the board of directors of CPA.com.

Christen is currently chairman of Baker Tilly International, one of the ten largest global accounting and advisory firm networks, and formerly CEO of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, a top 15 U.S. firm with revenue of more than $500 million. As chair of the AICPA, Christen championed innovation and rapid technology adoption. He also played a key role in securing membership approval for the formation of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the 650,000-member global accounting organization that serves as the unified voice of the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

“Tim brings an important strategic perspective to our board,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “As an experienced and respected firm leader, his insight and guidance will inform how we work with firms to transform core practices areas. It’s an exciting time for both the company and the profession and we’re fortunate to have someone with Tim’s background join the board at this critical juncture.”

Christen has been recognized by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 most influential people in the profession, and by Inside Public Accounting as one of the five most admired U.S. managing partners.

"We're entering a critical time regarding the evolution of the audit and how that impacts the profession," said Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs, the parent organization of CPA.com. "Having someone with Tim's large firm and auditing background on the CPA.com board will help us greatly in setting our strategic roadmap."

About CPA.com

CPA.com is known for bringing innovative solutions to the profession, either in partnership with leading providers or directly through its own development. The company has established itself as a thought leader on emerging technologies and as the trusted business advisor to practitioners in the United States, with a growing global focus.

The company’s core mission is to advance the technology ecosystem for the accounting profession, drive the transformation of practice areas, and lead technology research and innovation efforts for practitioners.

A subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs, the company is also part of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the world’s most influential organization representing the profession. For more information, visit CPA.com.

Read more

Editor's Corner: What Firms & Vendors Really Want

It’s a relationship that has been needful, fruitful and even distrustful at times, but accounting firms and the vendors that serve them are an essential component to moving business in general forward.

For all of these reasons and more, the AICPA and their marketing arm CPA.com have been assembling top executives to their New York offices in an annual, UN-style meeting known as the Executive Roundtable. Through this moot, the present and future of the profession and those that serve it are discussed in detail. So what came of this year?

Representing approximately 40 companies targeting the attentions of the accounting community, executives were questioned about their own challenges with the profession, their own competition and where they may be headed. Overwhelmingly, thoughts turned from what was once a heated debate about cloud to one of blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, they realize the profession as a whole continues to struggle with cloud not so much as a "why" question but "what makes the most sense" and “am I moving fast enough?” Vendors clearly feel the pain of their accountant customers and recommenders but in the same right also need to keep pace with what their competitors are doing and what business trends demand (and will).

The overall tone of the meeting was summed up by AICPA CEO Barry Melancon, when he said, “What we are trying to set a tone for globally is this notion that our profession is incredibly valuable and in order to be successful we have to be a profession that is in a constant state of transition.” To that, he added, "It is even more frightening to accept that we are on a job that will never be done.”

The point being, both vendors and accountants are trying to keep up with a future that is already happening. And from an accountant perspective (yes, there were several present at the Roundtable) they are looking for, what I deemed to be partners, no pitches from the vendor community.

So yes, AI and blockchain are technological advances that are happening now to vendors and accountants alike. Where it will take both remains to be seen, just like cloud from 10 years ago. Another consensus, on this point, was that these advances will happen much faster than cloud did in terms of their impact on product and profession.

In the end, with all of this “change” happening and not about to slow down, what are the majority of firms (who, by the way are solo owned or have fewer than 12 employees) to do? Again, it seemed to be up to the vendors to step up and act more like partners to firms to help manage this change. As Jeff Brown, a partner at Top 100 firm Moss Adams so eloquently put it during a large-firm, Q&A session, “If I was a smaller firm, I'm worried I don't have the resources to serve my clients and figure out what to do with AI” and the next wave of technological change.”

To this point, CPA.com VP for Strategic Alliances & Business Development Michael Cerami said, “The training that needs to happen to become a better advisor goes well beyond technology.”

This is true. Somehow firms have to be motivated to change, or at least deal with it, and without proper training on new systems and the ability to manage change outside of just learning tech, stagnation and possibly irrelevance will happen.

So, we go forward from this meeting with the question: Will we see more of a partnership between the vendor and accounting community around these specific issues?

Read more

Podcast: Evolving with blockchain

As much as it will change the profession, the new technology offers tremendous opportunities for accountants. Ron Quaranta of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and Erik Asgeirsson of CPA.com discuss why it’s exciting, not terrifying.

Read more

Pages