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International Accounting Day

On International Accounting Day, Let’s Celebrate Our Past, Present and Future

By Samantha Mansfield

Perhaps there is no better day in recent decades to recognize and thank accounting professionals than International Accounting Day 2021. Quietly, behind the scenes, accountants have been serving as the lifeline to our financial well-being. 

They have put in long hours meeting with clients, staying on top of ever-changing regulatory requirements, moving operations to the cloud, and communicating financial recovery and scalability strategies to help their clients survive the global pandemic. 

Though accounting methods are centuries old, the complexity, technology and services surrounding them have been evolving. The profession is establishing the services and processes of tomorrow, today.

On November 10, 1494, an Italian mathematician, Luca Pacioli, released his first mathematics book. It included a section describing how Venetian merchants used a double-entry bookkeeping method. Accounting goes back even earlier than this, but Pacioli is credited as being the “Father of Accounting.” International Accounting Day is recognized in many countries on the day he released this book.

The basic methodology of accounting is still the same as in Pacioli’s time, but today’s regulatory and global markets make it far more complex. The value of accounting is becoming more about tapping into the specialized talents and insights accountants can provide than the historical records they produce. Accounting demands the use of new technology to keep up with client needs and to analyze increasing amounts of data. That data allows accountants to provide more in-depth insights - and foresight - to their customers (internal or external to their organizations).  

Innovations in Services and Delivery

Advisory services have been on the rise for years within the accounting profession, and the global pandemic has only accelerated that growth. Client accounting advisory services (CAS) has been the fastest-growing service line in U.S. accounting firms for the last several years. In 2018, practitioners offering CAS had forecasted approximately a 15 percent growth rate. 

However, in the latest CAS Benchmark Survey conducted by CPA.com and AICPA PCPS, the reported growth was 20 percent, a third more than projected. Some of the highest revenue growth services reported were forecasting and budgeting, financial planning and modeling, and business process design. 

The specialized skills of accountants are being leveraged in other ways as well. Accountants are typically regarded as trustworthy, responsible, analytical and process-oriented. As additional expectations and requirements for transparency arise, like cybersecurity risk management and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, it is logical that the accounting profession will perform these services. 

Practitioners are creating their own ways to continue to support their clients as well. Not just during a time of tremendous unpredictability and volatility, but also looking to their future needs. Gabby Luoma, CPA, CGMA, was instrumental in her firm developing “a digital product that will enhance and bring coaching and consulting to an online platform.” Other practitioners focused on getting data to clients faster through financial dashboards and pertinent KPIs. Many firms got creative in how to educate their clients on the quickly changing regulatory environment. You can read  about some of these innovative practitioners at CPA.com and even vote for the most Innovative Practitioner by November 15.  

High Tech Profession

This problem-solving mindset applies to challenges in their own teams as well. They are overwhelmed with the demand for their services and talents, and there is a shortage of trained accounting professionals. Leaders have turned to solutions to ease the workload and meet the needs of their customers. Technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and cloud computing have seen significant adoption growth over the last two years. The profession is automating time-consuming procedures that prevent accounting teams from performing at their highest level, while creating flexible work environments by shifting to work-from-home arrangements. 

Accounting has really evolved into a high-tech field. In fact, in the summer of 2021, new legislation was proposed to make accounting a part of STEM, which aligns well with the change in the CPA exam. In 2024, the exam will include technology as part of the core competency and specialties in information systems and controls and business analysis and reporting.  

Blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to change auditing services. Blockchain makes the complete transaction and entire dataset available to the auditor. AI makes analyzing the entire dataset a possibility. By diving into these technologies, accountants will begin to focus more on people, systems and processes. 

On International Accounting Day 2021, take a moment to celebrate what the profession has accomplished. Recognize the contributions accounting has made in the lives of your colleagues and clients. And continue to forge a path forward that leverages your specialized skills to build a future-ready profession. 

Thank you for all you have done - and will do!

Samantha Mansfield is a Michigan-based consultant, public speaker and founder of Samantha Mansfield LLC. She has been in the tax and accounting technology industry for over 20 years, consulting firms on implementation and business model transformation.

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