NASBA CEO Discusses Challenges, Opportunities Ahead

Ken L. Bishop, who recently stepped into the role of president and CEO for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), would like to see the organization embrace its beginnings.

NASBA, founded in 1908, is best known for its involvement with the AICPA in the Uniform CPA Exam and its huge National Registry of CPE Sponsors, with more than 1,700 providers.

Its core mission is to help the 55 state boards regulate the industry more effectively, and Bishop feels NASBA may have become overly focused on wider issues in recent years.

Converting the CPA exam to a computerized format, expanding its reach internationally and working on broad, legislative matters have taken much of NASBA’s time and attention. Bishop says he wants staff to balance these national issues with improved services to individual state boards.

Bishop says one important step in getting back to basics was creating a new executive position – vice president of state board relations – to serve as an advocate for state boards of accountancy and find new opportunities to provide support and service.

Bishop, in an interview with IPA, discusses his “Back to Our Roots” initiative, his vision for the future and his commitment to NASBA’s Center for Public Trust, among other matters.

You took over as CEO of NASBA on January 1. Can you tell us a little about your background? Bishop likes to say that he’s a C-O-P, not a CPA. He most recently served as executive vice president and COO, but his background is in law enforcement. He served as an as sistantdirector in the Missouri Department of Public Safety, overseeing police academies and certification of police officers. He was executive director of the Missouri State Board of Accountancy and an active volunteer. He joined NASBA’s staff in 2007 as CEO of Professional Credential Services (PCS), and played a key role in the international administration of the U.S. CPA Examination.

As you step into this role, what do you see are the biggest challenges for NASBA? The biggest challenge, Bishop says, is change. Much-discussed issues include the convergence to International Financial Reporting Standards and the debate over whether it’s necessary to have two sets of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)—one for large publicly traded companies and another for smaller nonpublic entities. “Our biggest challenge is to keep up with that pace, and to participate in that change and to make sure we keep state boards where they need to be.”

What are the biggest opportunities? Bishop says he’s begun working on putting together a legislative support office, so NASBA can respond when legislation emerges that could threaten a state board, such as budget cuts, for example. Bishop said he’s “parachuted” into states to testify before legislative committees at a moment’s notice to help out. “We’ve been shooting from the hip. I want that to be a polished, professional legislative office that gets in early and does it right.”

If you could wave the proverbial “magic wand” and make something different in the world that you operate in, what would that be? “The profession gets nervous when a regulator does things differently than they’ve traditionally done,” Bishop says, referring to NASBA’s enhanced legislative capacity. “If I
had that proverbial magic wand, I would tap these folks and say give us a certain level of acceptance and trust that we’re not going to run amok, we’re
not loose cannons.”

Tell us about the Center for Public Trust – what is it and why is it important? The Center for Public Trust was formed in 2004, the brainchild of former NASBA president David Costello, who believed strongly in shining a bright light on good, ethical behavior by businesses and individuals in light of the Enron and World Com scandals a decade ago. Since then, the center has attracted more than a dozen student chapters, has handed out ethics awards and has raised the profile of companies that embrace best ethical practices. “If we can get young accounting students to really weigh and assess the importance of ethics, the more likely they are to do the right thing,” Bishop says.

What’s the message you want firms and their leadership to hear loud and clear from you? “Well I guess if we have a central message it is that NASBA
takes very seriously our role to enhance the state boards’ ability to protect the public.” Bishop says that a century ago, when state boards began, leaders
understood that regulation was needed to protect the integrity of the CPA credential. “It was the correct assumption in 1900 and it’s the correct
assumption today.”