January 17, 2019

Heads Up Future CPAs, TPTB Are Considering Testing Your Competency in Tech

Robot Guy

Although this news is unlikely to affect anyone currently studying for the CPA exam, the potential impact on future accounting majors cannot be ignored.

From the Journal of Accountancy:

A working group formed by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA is exploring possible changes to the CPA licensure requirements that would incorporate the skills and competencies in areas such as technology and data analytics that increasingly are needed in practice and business.

Through an effort known as the CPA Evolution project, NASBA and the AICPA have discussed possible approaches to the changing demands in the accounting profession. NASBA and the AICPA have consulted with various stakeholders on this issue in an effort to help the profession meet the challenge.

Despite the anxiety this may give future CPAs as they read it, this is most certainly a good thing. As we all know, the profession is reactive rather than proactive, and if CPAs are going to win against the robots waiting to take their jobs, they’re going to have to adapt to the rapidly-changing world around us.

Five years ago, I had to drive to the store to buy beer. Now, some stranger magically appears at my door in two hours with a 12-pack and a smile. Ten years ago, I had to pull up a calendar on my tablet-sized phone and scroll through my events; nowadays, enslaved AI with a cute voice sitting on my kitchen counter tells me about my day as I make coffee, and then plays me a gay European EDM track off my Spotify playlist when she’s done. While these modern conveniences are awesome for lazy alcoholics such as myself, they’re also kind of scary when you think about the pace of change and what that means for a profession entirely founded upon the “Same as Last Year” concept.

That’s why this working group is a good thing. For all the obvious technological advancements around us, imagine just how much is going down that we don’t know about. Especially when it comes to automation and whatever that blockchain nonsense is. Not to mention the fact that while the firms may be living in the dark ages when it comes to diversity and working conditions not all that unlike those experienced by child miners in West Virginia circa 1884, they’re still always interested in saving a buck, which means if a robot is cheaper than a warm body in a chair (yep, that’s you), you better believe they’re gonna make friends with tech.

“Technological innovation and changing client demands are rapidly transforming the skills accountants need to thrive,” said Cathy Allen, CPA, a managing member of Audit Conduct LLC and a member of NASBA’s board of directors. “We want to reimagine the CPA learning and licensure approach. Working group members recognize the critical role of technological and data analysis expertise needed in firms and businesses today. Our goal is to recommend a strategy that provides the guiding principles for how to build related knowledge and skills into accounting curricula and how to test for those proficiencies on the CPA exam.”

According to the JofA article, the working group is just the start of what promises to be an interesting evolution of CPA requirements. I wouldn’t expect a total overhaul of exam content — this is the accounting profession we’re talking about after all — but hopefully universities are paying attention and thinking about how to pump out more future-proof little accountants to satisfy capital markets’ demand.

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