Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA, became chair of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) early in the COVID-19 pandemic. As she completes her tenure this month, we asked about her year and her vision for the future.
“Unprecedented,” “challenging” and “extraordinary” are words we hear used a lot to describe life and work during the COVID-19 pandemic. What has it been like to serve as AICPA and Association chair during this time?
It’s been inspiring to see how quickly the profession has adapted. It was as if 10 years happened in five minutes. At the AICPA and Association, we’ve been talking for a long time about how technology is transforming the business environment and the profession, but technology adoption accelerated seemingly overnight. Members rapidly transitioned to continue to deliver high value to clients and employers by adopting new technology tools, moving to the cloud and consulting with clients and colleagues via video.
Of course, it wasn’t just with technology where the profession pivoted. CPA firms and finance teams, led by CPAs and CGMA designation holders, did so much important work in business relief, business continuity, scenario planning, forecasting, tax compliance, personal financial planning and remote auditing — all in an environment of extreme uncertainty and while dealing with their own challenges.
I’m also incredibly proud of how the Association — uniting the strengths of the AICPA and CIMA — pivoted to support members, students, the business community and the public. We’ve been influential advocates for relief and economic recovery measures, focusing on helping small businesses make it through these really tough times. We brought members together online to share information and insights with our AICPA Town Halls and our premier ENGAGE event. We also started offering continuous CPA Exam testing, which added 60 additional 2020 testing dates. The Association's integrated report, released this month, covers these and many other accomplishments.
What lessons can we take away from this time?
The pandemic has underscored the imperative to be nimble and agile, so we can quickly pivot amid disruption, whatever shape that disruption takes. The more prepared the profession is — with technology adoption, with firms expanding to advisory services and finance teams partnering with teams all across their organizations — the better able we’ll be to continue to deliver value as we face challenges. At the individual level, this means we must make time for continuous learning, using our increasingly important CPE for reskilling and upskilling. Our clients, the businesses we work for and the public interest depend on us adopting a continuous learning mindset, and it’s what keeps us relevant and ready for the next pivot.
Another lesson — which I think will be long-lasting — is the importance of prioritizing people and their well-being. I know as a breast cancer survivor who benefited from early screening that taking time to take care of oneself is indispensable. I also welcome the increasing attention employers and firms are giving to the importance of mental health.
I think of diversity, equity and inclusion as part of this focus on supporting talent. With the highest percentage ever of people of color enrolling in accounting programs and more women than men on this career path, we have to commit to being truly inclusive and cultivating and advancing talented individuals from all backgrounds. The profession, organizations and clients will all benefit.
How can we encourage and support the next generation?
With young people having gone through this time of extraordinary uncertainty about their future, we need to encourage them to recognize and celebrate their ability to adapt, knowing that adaptability is a cornerstone of their resilience.
At the AICPA and Association, a central way that we support the next generation’s resilience is through evolving our professional qualifications for continued relevance far into the future. I’m very proud of the steps we’ve already taken to future-proof the CPA and CGMA designations. In 2020, the board of directors at the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA Council voted to advance the core plus discipline model for CPA licensure. The Association also rolled out the CGMA Finance Leadership Program, a new online pathway to the CGMA designation that incorporates in-demand competencies identified in our Future of Finance research. With these steps, we’re ensuring that future CPAs and CGMA designation holders have the right skills to meet evolving marketplace demands.
What's your vision for the future of the profession?
As a profession, we will continue to create, develop and perform new services, and provide new value to our clients and to the businesses we work for. We will do this by taking to heart the imperative to continuously evolve and improve. The opportunities are limitless.
Our ability to embrace these opportunities is strengthened by being part of our global Association. In June, it will be five years since the AICPA joined with CIMA to form the Association. Our vision was to be stronger together for a stronger profession. We’ve made great progress in these past five years, and I’m excited to see the profession’s bright future as we continue to adapt and thrive.