Ferro of Baker Tilly Named to AICPA Council

Jeff Ferro

Jeff Ferro

Chicago-based Baker Tilly Virchow Krause (FY17 net revenue of $546.6 million) congratulates Jeff Ferro regional MP and Philadelphia OMP, on being named to the AICPA Council.

“This is an exciting time in our profession and I look forward to playing a role in shaping its future,” Ferro says.

Ferro has more than 30 years of public accounting experience, working with clients across all industries. He was president of ParenteBeard until joining Baker Tilly in 2014, when the two firms merged. As regional MP, Ferro oversees five business units in Baker Tilly’s east region. He is a member of the firm’s board of partners and national management committee, focusing on collaborative and strategic growth of Baker Tilly’s industries and specialized services.

“Jeff is an accomplished leader who will be a strong advocate for the accounting profession in this role,” says Baker Tilly Chairman and CEO Alan Whitman.

Programs to Advance Women to Leadership Roles Seen as Bolstering Talent Acquisition

U.S. firms that use advancement programs for promoting women to leadership positions overwhelmingly view them as effective tools in recruiting and retaining talent, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Mentorship is by far the most popular advancement program, with 45% of firms using it, the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey found. Sponsorship, in which influential firm leaders take a more formal role in guiding promising employees to career opportunities, professional development and promotions, is used by 12% of firms.

“There are two important takeaways here: Number 1: firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent,” says Melissa Hooley, chair of the AICPA women’s initiatives executive committee. “And Number 2: firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

The survey shows little change in the representation of women at the partnership level and other leadership positions from studies done in years past, which have typically found less than one-quarter of the partnership ranks made up of women. The percentage of women partners was found to be highest at smaller firms. The larger the firm, the greater the gender gap in equity ownership.

For more information about gender initiatives and other resources, visit aicpa.org/womenlead.

AICPA Index: Americans’ Financial Satisfaction Hits 24-Year High

Americans are experiencing their highest level of personal financial satisfaction in the 24-year history of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi). The PFSi is calculated as the personal financial pleasure index minus the personal financial pain index. With a 2.6-point increase from the prior quarter, the Q3 PFSi measured 25.9.

“By and large the pleasure index factors have been trending up for some time as we have mostly recovered from the great recession,” says Mark Astrinos, member of the AICPA personal financial satisfaction credential committee. “While we all benefit from the surge of capital markets and real estate growth, it’s prudent that our financial health safeguards remain in place. This means ensuring that you re-balance portfolios to reduce risk and maintaining adequate cash reserves for when economic times are more challenging.”

The Personal Financial Pleasure Index, at 68.1, is up 2.1 points from the previous quarter, continuing its steady increase and setting a record for the third quarter in a row. The Personal Financial Pain Index, at 42.1, saw two factors decrease from the previous quarter: a 2.9-point decrease in loan delinquencies and a 2.0-point drop in the inflation index.

The AICPA Economic Outlook Index, which captures the expectations of CPA executives in the year ahead for their companies and the U.S. economy, had a recent low point occur in Q1 2016.  Since then, there has been an uptrend (about 5% per quarter for 2016).

“As the stock market drives American’s financial satisfaction to new all-time highs, many are beginning to question whether this trend is sustainable,” says Robert Westley, member of the AICPA personal financial satisfaction credential committee. “As individuals begin to fear a pullback, it’s important to keep in mind that the stock market is largely unpredictable and any attempts to time the market often prove to be ineffective at best, and injurious at worst. An investor’s best defense against the market’s unpredictability is to have a solid financial plan that is irrespective of how the market is performing. It’s key to your financial plan to align your portfolio with your personal financial goals and their corresponding time horizons.”

Additional findings and information on the PFSi is available here.

Hansen Named as Chair of AICPA

Effective Feb. 1, 2018, Eric Hansen, COO of Springfield, Mo.-based BKD LLP (FY17 net revenue of $564.4 million), will be the next chair of the AICPA.

Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen

“The future is uncertain, and change is accelerating,” says Hansen. “But if we’re early – if we have the courage to be bold and a bias for action – we’ll be prepared.”

Hansen’s priorities for his term include:

  • Harnessing technology to create more value for clients and businesses. “Technology isn’t only about data,” Hansen says. “It’s about making connections. It’s about empowering individuals and businesses to expand their scope of possibilities.”
  • Extending the profession’s influence in a connected, global society. It is essential for today’s leaders to look beyond definitions, demographics and geographic dimensions that once constrained the scope and reach of professional accountancy.
  • Evolving professional skills, advancing learning opportunities and creating future leaders.

AICPA Honors 12 Members with Sustained Contribution Award

The AICPA announced that 12 members have been honored with the sustained contribution award. The award recognizes CPAs who have contributed measurably to the AICPA and the accounting profession through their dedication to volunteer service.

Each recipient has participated in an institute volunteer committee, task force or resource panel for 20 years or more and has served at least once as a chair of an AICPA group.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful association, but these award winners have gone above and beyond in their contributions to the Institute and the accounting profession,” says Jack Finning, a member of the AICPA awards committee.

View the full list here.

AICPA and Wall Street Blockchain Alliance Announce Collaboration

The AICPA and Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA), a nonprofit trade association promoting the comprehensive adoption of blockchain technology across global markets, announced plans to work together to define the impact of blockchain technology for the accounting profession.

As part of this collaboration, the AICPA will administer the WSBA’s working group on tax and accounting, a focal point for advocacy and education on blockchain adoption within the profession. Other existing WSBA working groups include research and innovation, legal, and technology and product. The working group model is designed to provide a forum for experts to share information, guide advocacy and technical efforts and create broader educational opportunities to address issues arising from the adoption of blockchain, distributed ledgers and smart contract technologies.

“The accounting profession is built on confirmation and verification, and that’s what blockchain is all about,” says AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon. “This technology can have a profound impact on accounting and finance going forward, and it’s important we make sure that its adoption proceeds in a way that’s in the best interest of the public and our financial markets.”

“Blockchain is one of several innovations that are reshaping the accounting profession,” says Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “Our role with the WSBA working group is to guide and speed the use of blockchain technology as it applies to the core areas of an accounting practice.”

Stickney Joins AICPA as Director of Congressional and Political Affairs

The AICPA welcomes Lakecia Foster Stickney as a director of congressional and political affairs.

Stickney will be responsible for representing the AICPA before Congress, the Trump administration and other major public policy organizations, and for implementing the advocacy initiatives of the accounting profession.

She joins the AICPA from the staff of U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., where she served as economic policy advisor. From 2013 to 2015 she was a tax and health counsel for U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif. Previously, she was financial services and tax counsel for former U.S. Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C.

“Lakecia was a principal policy advisor on a range of issues, including tax, trade and financial services, in the course of her tenure on Capitol Hill,” says executive vice president for advocacy Mark Peterson. “In particular, she has built bipartisan stakeholder coalitions, aided in the development of legislative strategy, and managed an economic policy team. Her experience will be a boon to the nation’s CPAs as we work to advance the profession’s advocacy agenda.”

AICPA Campaign Promotes CPA Firms’ Key Role in Advising Small Businesses

The AICPA launched the latest update of its national #CPApowered campaign, an initiative designed to showcase the strengths of CPA firms as trusted tax and business advisors to consumers and small businesses.

This year’s campaign features two 30-second videos with the tagline, “Don’t Worry, I’m a CPA,” both of which allude to practitioners’ expertise in business development, tax planning, risk management, cybersecurity and more. The videos are part of a national cable television and social media buy this fall. Firms can promote themselves through paid opportunities on YouTube, Facebook and local television, as well as use the two videos and other materials for free on their website and social media channels.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and no one is better suited to provide trusted, informed business advice to this sector than CPAs,” says Mark Koziel, executive vice president of firm services.

Since its launch in 2014, #CPApowered has reached more than three million people through innovative digital media and content strategies. The AICPA has created a CPA marketing toolkit for small business with promotional materials that firms can personalize with their brand. More than 130 firms and several state CPA societies have signed up to participate in the campaign this year.

Information on the videos, suggested social media postings and co-branding options for materials can be found here. Videos and content for small business owners on such topics as acquiring financing, succession planning and family office considerations can be found at cpapowered.org.

AICPA Names Braziel Vice President for State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs

Skip Braziel

Skip Braziel has joined the AICPA as vice president of state regulatory and legislative affairs.

Braziel will be responsible for building strong, collaborative relationships with internal and external stakeholders on state legislative and regulatory issues. He will serve as the AICPA’s primary voice and contact on those matters, working closely with state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and elected state legislative and executive branch officials.

“Skip brings a wealth of leadership and knowledge to the AICPA, with more than 19 years of experience building consensus and reaching solutions with legislative, regulatory and community stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels,” says executive vice president for advocacy Mark Peterson. “He will lead our state advocacy program, with an emphasis on issues that impact the CPA profession at the state level in both the legislative and regulatory arenas, representing our positions before state boards of accountancy and in other venues.”

U.S. Business Executives Cite Scarcity of Skilled Personnel as Top Concern, AICPA Survey Finds

According to AICPA, business executives maintained their generally upbeat view of prospects for the U.S. economy, and have upgraded expectations for profit and revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to the third-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles. But there is a dark cloud on the horizon: the growing scarcity of suitable job candidates.

For the first time, “availability of skilled personnel” was cited as the top challenge facing companies, up from No. 2 last quarter. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were seeing at least some increased competition in recruitment efforts, with 21% reporting a significant increase. The last time this survey question was asked (2014), only 16% said they were experiencing a significant increase in hiring competition.

“One out of five business executives say their company has lost out on top job candidates because of increased competition, and a majority say they’re having trouble finding the right candidate to begin with,” says Arleen Thomas managing director of Americas market, global offerings & CGMA exam, management accounting for AICPA. “For some companies, the scarcity of skilled workers could have an impact on productivity and growth over time.”

Despite recruiting challenges, half of business executives said their companies had the right number of employees. Nearly one-in-four (24%) said they planned to hire immediately, the same as last quarter, while another 15% said they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire. Business executives who said their companies had too many employees dropped from 8% to 7%.

Sixty-four percent of business executives said they were optimistic about the 12-month prospects for the U.S. economy, the same as last quarter. Revenue and profit expectations returned to levels from the start of the year after dipping last quarter. Business executives now expect revenue growth of 4.3% over the next 12 months, up from 3.9%. Profits are expected to grow 3.5%, up from 3.2% last quarter.