In this interview, Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA, answered questions about the challenges and opportunities of the past year and how the profession is preparing for 2023.
How did accounting and finance professionals demonstrate resiliency and adaptiveness in 2022?
The accounting and finance profession has always been at the forefront of problem-solving and driving transformation, none more so than in the last three extraordinary years. In 2022, certified public accountants (CPAs) and Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) designation holders were asked to take on yet another challenge — to lead our global economic systems through inflation, rapid economic downturns and the financial and supply chain impacts of the war in Ukraine. Our profession responded, without hesitation, to successfully guide clients, firms, businesses and communities. Although they’re no doubt weary, I’m proud of how CPAs and CGMA designation holders continue to rally around those who depend on them.
Our profession used the agility honed during the pandemic to address these new disruptions. And, because of this, we anticipated challenges and adapted to change while continuing to uphold a foundation of trust, objectivity, ethics and quality. The Association has also undergone an extraordinary transformation in the last few years. Still, our priority has stayed the same: supporting our profession, members and candidates.
What do you think is in store for the profession in 2023?
Going into the new year, we must evaluate and re-evaluate what’s needed for long-term success. For example, finding and retaining talent is a top priority. However, skilling and re-skilling are critical to identifying gaps in knowledge that can have an impact on future business success. This is especially true for mid-career professionals, who can combine new skills with hard-won work experience. Having the right people with the right skills at the right time will allow firms and businesses to respond to the marketplace, enhance decision-making and drive productivity.
These are the same things we’re talking about at AICPA® & CIMA® as we work to prepare the profession for the future. The coming year will bring challenges, but opportunities are also on the horizon. It’s our role to help accounting and finance professionals seize the opportunity.
Specifically, how will AICPA & CIMA help members “seize the opportunity” in 2023?
We’re developing initiatives to help members and candidates succeed in the new year.
In 2023, we will continue to grow our CPE/CPD programs through the Business Learning Institute and CGMA skills badges. To help the profession develop a transformative mindset, we will publish research papers and modules to build competencies around soft skills like strategic thinking, productivity and decision-making. Although our members undoubtedly have the technical skills to lead businesses and clients through uncertainty, it’s their soft skills that build connections and make a lasting impact.
CPA and CGMA candidates are the profession’s future, and that’s why an ongoing focus on the pipeline is so critical. The new year brings exciting changes to the CPA Exam through the CPA Evolution initiative. We’re now in the home stretch, and updates to the CPA Exam Blueprint and the updated Exam will be released soon. We will also expand our efforts to make the CGMA designation the gold standard choice and global passport for finance and controller roles through the continued rollout of CGMA pathways from the Americas to Zimbabwe ― through the CGMA Finance Leadership Program and the new Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners.
We will increase advocacy efforts globally, working with CPA societies and CIMA branch communities and engaging with regulators and policymakers. These efforts leverage the profession for the public good and offer meaningful inputs on everything from tax policies to effective government programs.
In the United States, we will continue our efforts to address the aging Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operations and clarify complicated tax issues. In the United Kingdom, we will maintain work to address cost-of-living pressures on businesses and people. In countries such as Ghana, Poland, Hong Kong and South Africa, we will continue advocating for greater support of small-to-medium-sized entities and the growth of accounting and finance skills. And we will be an even stronger voice in environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters, advocating for rational and consistent ESG standards and reporting frameworks.
Our work in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) continues as a high priority going into 2023. We will work with candidates, members and employers to increase representation in accounting and finance. Additionally, we will continue to unite our profession through networking opportunities such as our Women’s Global Leadership Summitand other DEI events.
Lastly ― most importantly ― we will remain committed to putting our members at the heart of AICPA & CIMA. We know some of our operational service delivery fell below the standards we set ourselves. During 2022, we started a new technology approach to better service members. Inevitability, as with any major platform change, transitions can create frustrations for some members. We appreciate member patience and cooperation both in 2022 and into 2023 as the phase-in continues.
How did the profession face the challenges of 2022, and what are some of the successes?
The accounting and finance profession ― as well as AICPA & CIMA ― demonstrated a unique and powerful ability to evolve and innovate in today’s changes and anticipate tomorrow’s disruptions. Because of this, we drove change in extraordinary ways.
Global economies suffered rapid inflation and recession, and our profession’s response demonstrated the value of its international presence. To help them succeed, we met with members and their firms and businesses to understand their specific pain points. In response, AICPA & CIMA kept up the popular AICPA Town Hall Series and released quarterly Business and Industry Economic Outlook surveys. We also created AICPA and CIMA resource centers to help members understand the business impact of the Russia-Ukraine War.
CPAs and CGMA designation holders redefined business integrity and performance in the ESG space through a focus on growth and sustainability. AICPA & CIMA are committed to helping our members walk the walk ― through resources such as the Sustainability and business: Environmental issues brief series.
A digital-first profession, accounting and finance professionals also embraced technology such as anti-fraud programs, data visualization tools and artificial intelligence (AI) to strengthen fragile supply chains. Management accountants proved that leveraging data analytics and visualization can lead to better decision-making. And as cybersecurity continued to be one of the top issues in every company worldwide, the profession doubled down on efforts to provide high-quality cyber risk management and assurance. AICPA & CIMA have supported them by transforming our learning services for on-demand CPE/CPD compliance and skills building. We also expanded our webcast and conference offerings.
Do you have any concluding thoughts for the year ahead?
I see so many great leaders in our membership ― leaders who guide their staff through changes and challenges, mentor and inspire the next generation and continue the legacy of this profession.
In 2023, I see us further embracing innovation and agility on our path to continuous reinvention. We will remain invested in the digital world and technological advances and protect integrity by upholding high professional standards, ethics and conduct. And, importantly, we will always deliver trust.
Together, through AICPA & CIMA and the accounting and finance profession united, we will continue to inspire trust, seek and capitalize on opportunity, and drive prosperity for today and tomorrow. As we enter 2023, I wish everyone a very successful, healthy and prosperous year ahead.