The Changing Role of CPAs
The role of CPAs is changing as is evident by the new CPA exam implemented by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) effective July 2021. The changes in the U.S. were adopted through research from individual CPAs and CPA firms. CPA Canada is currently requesting feedback from stakeholders and subject matter experts on their newly released draft Competency Map (CM 2.0) by September 30, 2021, which reflects the changing landscape of the accounting profession. The new CPA Canada Competency Map will lay the foundation for a new certification program, including education, accreditation, examinations, and practical experience requirements. It will also define the knowledge, skills and proficiency levels candidates must achieve to become a Canadian CPA. The new CM 2.0 must reflect current workplace expectations and requirements to remain valid. CPA Manitoba also launched a collection of over 140 live-stream courses and over 250 on-demand courses for its members for 2021-22 Professional Development season. Many of the courses are being offered for the first time to strengthen current CPA technical and soft skills (such as business acumen, leadership, communication, planning, and scheduling).
Many traditional number crunching tasks have been automated for accountants and more focus is now placed on strategic thinking. Over the last five years, accounting firms have been hiring fewer true accounting graduates. In the U.S., the number of accounting graduates hired declined by 29% from 2014 to 2018, and the percentage of Fortune 1000 CFOs who are CPAs fell to 36% in 2019, an all-time low, as reported by Wall Street Journal. Accounting firms have been hiring IT and data sciences graduates for data analysis and ability to handle large data sets, which were skills not always found in accounting graduates.
To ensure the relevance of a CPA designation in the future, AICPA realized that there needed to be changes made to the focus of the existing CPA exam. The four sections covered under the new CPA exam include: Auditing & Attestation, Business Environment & Concepts, Financial Accounting & Reporting, and Regulation. Most of the changes are as follows:
- A thorough understanding of business processes from inception to completion, including automation, risk identification and internal controls
- Data-driven thinking and use of data analytics
- Increased reliance on System and Organization Controls for Service Organizations
AICPA has removed topics that aren’t considered necessary, such as the differences between the U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
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