At 100-Year Anniversary Of Indiana CPA Society, Leaders Acknowledge Challenges Ahead

As the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) celebrates its 100th anniversary, it seems just as important to note what has remained constant as it is to mark the society’s many changes and look ahead to its future.

INCPAS board chair Kent Williams, Assistant Professor Business at Indiana Wesleyan University says the society, which started with five members and now has 8,000, has stayed true to its mission to help members succeed while respecting the public interest and adhering to the highest ethical professional standards. “Some things have not changed. A hundred years ago, accounting professionals looked at this as their professional home in Indiana and they still do today.”

President and CEO Gary Bolinger agrees. “It’s very clear as you look at the society’s history and up to the present day, this organization – the volunteers and staff alike – their commitment to the mission and core values is unwavering. They’re not just words.”

Both Williams and Bolinger spoke to IPA a few weeks after the society celebrated its anniversary with a centennial gala, which attracted 800 attendees, including 28 past board members. The society has also created a book outlining its long history, which includes information on national accounting figures from Indiana, such as Marshall Armstrong, once MP of Geo. S. Olive & Co., a past chair of the AICPA and the first chair of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Naturally, though, the anniversary is a time to look ahead as well. In fact, the board of directors spent much of last year doing just that in creating INCPAS 2025, which outlines challenges the society faces to best meet member needs in 10 years.

Bolinger says that all CPA Societies are wrestling with that question in an increasingly complex business environment, in which CPAs are becoming more and more specialized. This will challenge the traditional types of continuing education CPA Societies have offered for decades.

Another challenge includes attracting young people who are not “joiners” to INCPAS and to the accounting. Millennials are likely to have five to seven careers in their working life, Bolinger says, so perhaps these professionals can be attracted from other careers, such as real estate or social work.

The society is also faced with the need for its membership to better reflect the demographics of Indiana. “We have to do a much better job – not work a little harder – but do a much better job of creating opportunities for young people who have diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” says Bolinger.

Williams, who is an assistant business profession at Indiana Wesleyan University, takes special pride in a year-long mentorship program for minority high school students called the INCPAS Scholars Program. The 21 scholars who are in the 1014-2015 program go through a number of career and college-prep events. They receive a CPA mentor, a college accounting student mentor, a $500 academic gift and a letter of recommendation. Of the 76 who have gone through the program since its inception in 2011, at least 90% are studying accounting, Williams says.

Wouldn’t it be amazing, Williams and Bolinger say, to celebrate INCPAS’ 110th anniversary with several hundred INCPAS Scholars who are active in their CPA Society? “That, to me, would be incredible,” Williams says.

Bolinger says, “I think if the society is going to be successful in the next 10 years – in the next 100 years – we’re going to have to be agile, adaptive and resilient to what’s happening in our members’ environment. And we intend to do that.”