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The Profession Is Well-Positioned For Change Says Guy Who Has Held the Same Position Since 1995

Barry Melancon

Last week, CPA Practice Advisor shared remarks made by AICPA CEO Barry Melancon at this year’s ENGAGE conference and … uh. Let’s just get straight into it.

That resiliency will be needed going forward, with more changes to come from technological disruption, expanded categories of non-financial reporting, and the rapid evolution of new service lines and business opportunities, Association CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, said during the panel session at ENGAGE, one of the leading events dedicated to accounting and finance. Clients and employers are also facing increased complexity on several fronts, many heightened by the pandemic, and they’re looking for the profession to solve it for them.

“It’s hard to argue with the notion that we are in a world reimagined,” Melancon said, adding that the profession is nevertheless well positioned to capitalize on opportunities tied to change.

You’ll note that Barry Melancon became AICPA CEO waaaaaay back in 1995 at the ripe old age of just 37. I’d barely entered high school at that point and am now a very arthritic 40 years old, so that tells you just how much time has passed between then and now. Hell, most of us didn’t even have computers back then. Perhaps if we put this in economic terms it will seem even that much further away from where we are now. Here’s a quick breakdown of what it cost to exist in the first world back then:

  • Yearly inflation rate U.S., 2.81%
  • Year-end close Dow Jones Industrial Average, 5117
  • Interest rates year-end Federal Reserve, 8.50%
  • Average cost of new house, $113,150
  • Average income per year, $35,900
  • Average monthly rent, $550
  • Cost of a gallon of gas, $1.09
  • U.S. postage stamp, 32 cents
  • Average cost of new car, $15,500
  • Loaf of bread, $2.02
  • Ground coffee per pound, $4.07
  • Loaf of bread, $1.15
  • Dozen eggs, 87 cents

The most popular show on TV was ER, followed by Seinfeld and Friends, the latter of which debuted the year before and concluded its first season in September 1995. Batman Forever was top at the box office and no one except kids rich enough to afford then-premium Disney Channel had heard of Britney Spears.

Barry has topped the Accounting Today most influential list for 10 years, and while his illustrious career as benevolent overlord of the AICPA has no doubt had a powerful influence on the profession, the days of a “rudderless” AICPA are long behind us.

Nothing against the guy but don’t you think a little change is in order? While we’re on the topic of change and all. I mean, we’re standing at the precipice of technological change the likes of which our ’90s selves couldn’t have possibly imagined given that it was only in the last 10 years or so that we managed to have always-on Internet at our fingertips. For all this talk of being future-ready and harnessing AI and whatever other boogeymen lurk beneath the beds of the profession’s leaders, perhaps it would be appropriate to step into said future with a little fresh blood at the top.

Or whatever, we can always go with same as last year. And the year before. And the year before that. That seems to be working out fine.