The Smoke Detector: Why the Next Gen CPAs won’t be like us

By Christopher Doemland posted 19 days ago


While reading through several different magazines and trade publications to find something topical for this week’s blog, I ran across a short opinion piece by Hitendra Patil from the October 2017 issue of Accounting Today titled “Your Child Probably Won’t Be an Accountant.” This was funny to me, as I have one child in college and one starting next year, and I typically get asked if either of them want to get into accounting. The answer in my case is “no,” but why might the author’s statement be true?

The author was actually writing about what seems to be outdated definitions of CPAs, accountants, auditors, bookkeepers, etc. and by reading those definitions, the young people of today will not perform half of those tasks due to technology.  So, no, they won’t be like us when we started our career.

Father-Son___Tech.jpgBut that is not bad news. There are so many opportunities in our profession that go beyond the traditional definition. The CPA profession is changing dramatically and at a fast pace. Technology is already used in preparing tax returns and payroll without using people, for example. Blockchain, a list of encrypted records and transactions that are verified, is now being utilized in the audit sector that can take place of entry-level staff work.

This gives management an opportunity to teach and develop staff with a different skill set to begin their career – such as analyzing, interpreting and advising – as opposed to just putting numbers into a tax return.

With two children in or near college, I am also amazed at the number of majors that are available. Data analytics, data science and statistics will be used in industries that relate to the CPA profession. They will probably be a norm in public accounting in the near future as integrated reporting becomes more common.

Just because technology stands to replace some of accounting’s calculations and gathering, we still need CPAs to analyze the data, interpret possible solutions and advise our clients.

So what should our call to action be as CPAs?

First, I believe we need to embrace the change that is happening with more technology in our profession and how it might change our staffing and processes. This is imperative in order to move our profession forward.

Second, this should encourage us to look into our own firms and companies to see how we can develop our employees with the proper education and training to excel in a more consulting role in our places of business. Collaboration and mentoring is ideal for this as well.

Last but certainly not least, look for opportunities in your workplace that can get your employees involved in these other areas of accounting. Do you have any ancillary services that might give staff a more rounded experience? If not, innovate. We need to be on the cutting edge of our profession even in this time of change.

So, maybe our children won’t be accountants as they are currently known. Maybe that is ok, too. We are moving into an age where the CPA profession is innovating more and using technology to take care of lower level calculations in order to concentrate on the value we can provide with our expertise.

Share any examples of what your company is doing to embrace this change.