"The Extraordinary Possibilities of the Accounting Profession" Are Neither Extraordinary Nor Possibilities

Have you guys met Richard Caturano? He's the AICPA's latest chairman; a blue collar kid from one of the most racist towns in America who believes in wonderful things like diversity and the value of the CGMA. God love his spirit.

Anyhoo, he wrote a piece for the AICPA blog the other day that trumpets the many wonderful opportunities that exist in the profession, opportunities which we hope his CGMA and new position with the AICPA will help realize the extraordinary possibilities of the accounting profession:

I was a kid from a blue-collar immigrant background, growing up in a neighborhood where most adults cobbled together a living from two or three jobs. When I turned 12, our community got its first CPA resident. That’s when I learned what a CPA was, and that it could lead to a better life. Thanks to the CPA profession, I grew up to be able to live the great American Dream.

Man, that is so touching.

After throwing in the required buzzwords and comments about how adaptable and opportunistic the profession is, he goes on to point out three ways to make sure to continue the vibrancy of the profession for the future:

We need to actively monitor and address changes in the world around us. A mark of our profession’s greatness is the ingenuity and intelligence with which we anticipate and respond to change. The AICPA is actively engaged in developments related to globalization of business, audit quality, attest services, financial reporting, legislation and regulation, tax law, technology and more. In addition, CPAs who hold the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation will determine what management accounting looks like in the future, and will be integral to shaping the profession as we move through the 21st Century. We must continue to address challenges and shape our future on many fronts.

SO. We can take this to mean that maintaining the vitality of the profession will involve coming up with designations for no reason at least. That's awesome to know, let's all prepare accordingly. You guys better start saving your pennies so you can keep up with this change sweeping your esteemed profession by buying more letters after your names.

Moving on:

We must maximize our talent pool by making sure everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or anything else is aware of the rewards and possibilities of the accounting profession. We need to make the profession more desirable to the smartest people from all backgrounds. During my term, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to achieve diversity. In Sept., we launched the AICPA National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, which brings together advocacy groups and employers to help all stakeholders implement best practices while sharing resources and knowledge. We also will be focusing on improving gender diversity in the profession and promoting women’s advancement. Attaining enhanced diversity today will help the profession recruit the brightest minds of tomorrow. The nation’s demographics are changing, and it’s essential that the profession be an open one that makes our clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders feel welcomed.

Now listen, just in case those hacks at Yahoo! or Monster or the many other career sites that just love writing up fluff pieces about how great the accounting industry is and how many opportunities are available for anyone with a pulse and half a brain, let's note what he said here specifically: DIVERSITY. He didn't come out and say we already have enough Asians and middle class bros (which he himself was when he entered the profession) but we can probably safely assume that's part of the message. It's not enough to promote who is most worthy of a promotion or hire who is most worthy of a job based on skills and expertise, we have to come up with more ways to call attention to diversity so firms get warm fuzzies every time they hire a black guy or a working mother. After all, what is diversity without an initiative to call attention to it? If a public accounting firm hires a black guy in a forest and no one is around, was he hired?

Lastly:

We have to develop a sustainable framework so the profession continues to thrive. To accomplish that goal, we will have to challenge ourselves in several areas. We must, for one, remain deeply involved in advocacy in Washington to protect the interests of the profession and the public. We also need to do some introspection. For instance, I think we should consider whether it’s time to change our firm revenue model and the way our practices are structured and managed to meet the needs and expectations of a new generation. And we have to ensure new CPAs are prepared to take on leadership responsibilities and become the stewards of our profession in years to come.

For all the years I worked on the fringes of the industry and have been writing about this stuff, I am still not entirely sure what "sustainable framework" even means but I think it requires at minimum a commission or two and some white papers on the subject. That said, I have nothing else snarky to say about this last point, he's totally right. The AICPA does great work in Washington year-round and firm revenue models are clearly broken. But if the AICPA were that committed to meeting the needs of a new generation, we'd see someone like Jason Blumer running the AICPA. As long as they continue to reap their leadership from the status quo (read: old white guys), all this talk about diversity and change is just that, talk.

But hey, keep talking if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, bro, that counts for something.

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