Summary of Member Views
In March 2016, the AICPA’s governing Council authorized, by a vote of 222-0, a member ballot on a proposal by the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to create a new association that will integrate operations and represent the entire accounting profession, while preserving the AICPA and CIMA membership bodies. Dues paid to the American Institute of CPAs will result in automatic dual membership in the American Institute of CPAs and the new association. The Institute will continue to provide existing services and promote, protect and grow the CPA. The proposal’s objectives are enhanced advocacy and expanded member resources and education opportunities. Fifty-two state CPA societies have passed resolutions of support for the proposal and it has been endorsed by the AICPA Board of Directors and several AICPA committees.
Ballots on the proposal were sent to regular voting members the week of April 18. Consistent with our member ballot procedures, we invited members to express their views on the proposal in order to share the opinions of those who had comments with other members.
Common themes appeared in both the proponent and opponent positions presented in the comments. The following is a summary of members’ views.
Of those in favor of the proposal, some members simply expressed enthusiastic support. As to those who provided additional comments, among the reasons cited for voting in favor were:
- Rise of international business issues. Several members commented that they are helping clients navigate more international regulations and other cross-border issues and see the proposal as helping build their expertise. “CPAs today need a much broader understanding of all the forces impacting the business environment,” said one member. Another said, “Times have changed and we live in a global society. Even small firms may have international clients. In my opinion, for the AICPA to survive it must also change. It can no longer have a singular focus. If it does, it will become a smaller and smaller player in an ever larger world to the point that the AICPA become immaterial.”
- Stronger voice for CPAs in business. Some members anticipate a stronger champion for CPAs and their capabilities in business. According to one member: “I am all for making this move. I am a controller in industry and we are rapidly fighting a losing battle against the FINOs…Finance In Name Only. It is becoming harder to sell the value of a certified professional and I lose opportunities daily to those who insist their backgrounds far exceed anything the company can leverage from a CPA.” Another member wrote, “The combination with CIMA will be good if it improves resources available to those of us in industry and improves the public’s perception of our relevance and value.”
- More resources for professional development. A theme in the comments relates to the types of tools and insights that will be created and the implications for preparing staff to handle evolving client needs. “I have found in my firm it is very hard to find staff with international abilities and we spend a lot of time training. It would be very reasonable to expand the AICPA to give international clients the security that our staff are as qualified as their local staff. This would be a major improvement,” one member wrote. Another shared a similar view: “This will create broader market for the firm and for an individual professional. We as professional would be business partners instead of just business advisers/inspectors. The experience of both accounting bodies will provide tools which will enhance our business acumen and professionalism that will allow us to deliver more effectively to our clients. The global business environment and continuous technology changes is a challenge for the world and we can play a vital role by assisting our clients as public accountants and global management accountants.”
- Better positioning for the next generation of CPAs. Some members commented that this proposal is not about them – and that’s OK. They see the proposal as an effort to help the next generation of CPAs. One commenter summed up the sentiment: “Standing still is going backwards. This will have minimal effect on me and many of my baby boomer brethren, but could have significant impact on new generations entering the profession.”
Among members opposed to the proposal, reasons offered include:
- Speculation about AICPA dues. Some members worry that the proposal may lead to added costs and bureaucracy. “I don’t feel that another organization is beneficial. Yes, you say membership is included – but for how long? Call me cynical, but I can see in three years that this is just another source of potential revenue as these split apart,” one member wrote. Another was concise: “Another way to increase our dues. Not in favor!”
- Preference that AICPA focus solely on public accounting. Some members believe that the AICPA should focus solely on the needs of those in public accounting and do not see value in affiliating with another body with expertise and history in promoting management accounting. According to one member: “Many CPAs are not well prepared for industry after leaving public accounting and the AICPA needs to accept that they cannot be the jack of all trades in accounting or they will become the masters of none.” Another member commented, “Keep it simple. Quit pretending public practice and industry practice must ‘mesh,’ and do some real work.” A third noted, “I think the AICPA should not expand its franchise, focus, or brand. I would like things to remain where they are.”
- Changing perception of the CPA. Some commenters expressed a fear that the proposal could impact respect of the CPA in the market. “My only concern with amalgamating associations is that the CPA designation will lose its prestige, as I and many before me have spent countless hours and sleepless nights attempting to pass the exam and to finally accomplish and be recognized both professionally and financially, is a true testament to the AICPA efforts in promoting the brand successfully,” wrote one member. Another said, “The CPA designation is and should be the gold standard. Most importantly, CPAs represent the interest of the public. CPAs provide oversight over management in the interest of the public.”
- Distrust of the proposal. Some members doubt the stated goals of the proposal. Representative comments include this one, from a member who earned the CPA and joined the AICPA in the 1980s: “In all that time, I have felt like a second class citizen in the organization. The Institute has never dealt effectively with CPAs in industry. I feel the [this proposal] is the first step in getting rid of us in management accounting so you won’t have to deal with us further.” Another member asked: “What is the real reason this is being pursued? I get the feeling there is some hidden agenda.”