When I attended my first AICPA Council meeting in 2011, I remarked that the room seemed to be filled with the same "old white guys" that have been "leading" the profession as far back as we can all remember. I asked out loud why I seemed to be the only person under the age of 40 in the room and as a result, a few young folks came out of the woodwork to say "Hey! We're here and we matter!" but not much has changed in the last three years.
In attendance this year as in previous years, Donny Shimamoto is a good example of a younger professional who actually cares about the kind of stuff covered at Council. The thing is – as I pointed out 3 years ago – that though we don't all have the luxury of taking three days to hang out in Washington, DC, what happens at Council affects not only all 360,000+ AICPA members but taxpayers, your clients and your neighbors. Those in attendance don't just come to DC to pat themselves on the back, they come to talk about the direction the profession is going and take to the Hill to speak with Congress about the issues that impact the profession and those which CPAs can help Congress better understand. As freshman rep Tom Rice of South Carolina said during his talk with Barry Melancon, "if we had more CPAs in Congress, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now." So yes, the spring meeting of Council does eventually cap off with a little self-important lobbying on the part of Council but someone has to remind Congress CPAs are watching.
Another Council staple under the age of 40 is the new chair of the Maryland Association of CPAs, Byron Patrick. Fresh off debuting his new CPA tattoo at the Maryland Innovation Summit (which, I might add, he got from my tattoo artist in Annapolis), he attended Council again this year as MACPA Chair, which shows just how on top of things Maryland is by fast-tracking a young CPA to such an admired position within their own organization. Sure, he's lucky that he owns his own technology firm and lives close enough to be able to take a few days to run around Washington but more importantly, he gets that whatever happens at Council matters for his CPA, his firm and his career.
Last but not least, I have to point out that I finally had the opportunity to meet the one and only AICPA VP Susan Coffey and she is more amazing in person than I could have imagined. She was totally cool with us calling her an "accounting hottie" and I plan to frame the photo Jackie Brown of the MACPA took of us at dinner above my mantel just because.
This is your profession. And if I can drag myself up there to hear about what's big for you guys, maybe you can bring yourself to read about it. I'll make it easy with a few key points from this year's meeting:
- Globalization is a big, big deal. As much as I'd like to say it's about revenue, it's all about relevancy. The CPA remains an internationally-recognized and admired designation, and if the AICPA wants to legitimize its other offerings, I guess international "credential-sharing" is the way to go.
- Diversity, diversity, diversity. Let me tell you, I went into Monday's diversity panel anxious to troll but came out of it thinking maybe, just maybe, the profession is ready to have this conversation. The big takeaway I got from the panel was when they said diversity will no longer be an issue when we don't have to talk about it anymore. There are socioeconomic roadblocks and the same old stereotypes that have existed for generations but if the profession is going to get beyond talking about how much more diverse it should be, it needs to start reaching out not only to high school students but middle schoolers, and show that it welcomes sharp minds from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Without mentoring and evangelism at the high school level, the profession is still missing out on recruiting the next generation's best and brightest, regardless of where they come from. Incoming AICPA chair Rich Caturano has made diversity his big issue so I look forward to seeing how he's going to make a genuine push for inclusion that isn't filled with talking points and affirmative action-type responses.
- The AICPA is doing alright, financially at least. Apparently, the AICPA has recouped its investment in revamping the CPA exam years ahead of schedule and is doing pretty good.
Why should you care? Because eventually, you guys are the ones who are going to have to go to Council, speak to your Congressional leaders about issues that impact the profession and be up there in Barry's place talking about where the profession is headed. You don't have to care but you should. Because if you don't, no one will.