AICPA Appoints Chair of Certified in Financial Forensics Credential Committee

Jeffrey Buchakjian

Jeffrey Buchakjian

AICPA appointed Jeffrey Buchakjian chair of the certified in financial forensics (CFF) credential committee. Buchakjian is a partner and forensic accounting specialist in the financial advisory services group of New York-based EisnerAmper (FY17 net revenue of $352.6 million).

The CFF credential committee plays a role in promoting the growth of financial forensics services by raising the level of awareness of the CPA and CFF credential, as well as the CPA’s role in financial forensics. In addition, the committee works to develop and maintain qualification requirements for credential applicants, develops initiatives to recruit and retain credential holders, and serves as technical advisors to the AICPA regarding educational offerings for potential credential holders.

Buchakjian specializes in providing litigation consulting and forensic accounting services to attorneys, public and private corporations, and governmental agencies. He provides consulting and investigation services on matters involving financial fraud, commercial litigation and disputes, insurance claims and asset tracing. Buchakjian is frequently asked to conduct seminars, and continuing professional and legal education programs in the areas of forensic accounting and fraud.

“The CFF is a highly recognized and well-respected credential in the field of forensic accounting,” says Buchakjian. “I look forward to working with my fellow committee members across the country to continue to develop thought leadership and increase awareness of our growing profession.”

IPA Spotlight On … Eric Hansen, Chair, AICPA

Name: Eric Hansen

Title: Chair

Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen

Firm: AICPA

Accomplishments:

  • COO of BKD CPAs & Advisors, oversees firmwide operations and acts as liaison between BKD’s national office and its four regions.
  •  Became AICPA chair Feb. 1 and will serve in that capacity until May 2019.
  • An Eagle Scout, he extolled the virtues of preparation and anticipation in his acceptance speech following his election as chair.
  • Was part of the leadership team responsible for the launch the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (Association), which represents 650,000 members and students worldwide.

What are your top goals as chair?

The way I see it, there are three actions we must take today to be ready for tomorrow. First, we must harness technology to create more value for clients and businesses by elevating quality in existing services and taking the lead in emerging areas. This includes a focus on auditing in the future, and new and emerging attest services. Second, we must embrace our role in a hyper-connected, global society, extending our influence to protect the public interest amid increasing complexity. Creating the Association was a huge step toward a platform that helps us pursue this goal. And third, we must invest in our most important asset – our people – by evolving skills and competencies, advancing learning opportunities and cultivating future leaders.

What more should be done to advance CPAs’ understanding and implementation of AI, blockchain and data analytics?

One area of focus for the Association is integrating data analytics into the auditing process to enhance quality and maintain the relevance of this foundational CPA service. The AICPA and Rutgers Business School are partnering on a research initiative to demonstrate how this integration of data analytics can lead to auditing advancements. We also must focus on developing the higher-order competencies. To that end, we launched a new version of the Uniform CPA Exam last year that places a greater emphasis on cognitive skills such as critical thinking and analytical ability. My advice here is simple. Every member of our profession needs to take personal responsibility for the development of the skills they need to succeed in the future. Don’t wait for it to come your way.

As a former member of AICPA Task Force on the Future of Learning, what changes do you foresee in the AICPA’s educational offerings?

Through the Future of Learning initiative, we are transforming the way learning is delivered with innovative technologies that blend text, audio, graphics, video, 3-D animation and interactivity to enhance learning. Social learning, virtual group study and interactive exercises increase engagement with hands-on application. We’re also making use of new learning models, launching a new bite-sized learning series called Human Intelligence, which is focused on the skills and competencies needed for success in the future. And then there is our leadership development. The AICPA Leadership Academy was established to address succession planning and to increase diversity and inclusion in leadership. Beyond that, we are expanding access to competency-enhancing tools and resources through the Association. Our research on the future of finance will be used to update the competency framework and syllabus for CGMA.

How do you envision the scope and reach of professional accountancy expanding in an increasingly connected world?

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. I’m a CGMA, as well as a CPA, so I’m aware of the need to serve clients and the public interest with a holistic, global focus. Public accounting’s focus on auditing and taxes remains a critical part of the business world. And the value management accounting brings to the corporate finance function is equally important. Both disciplines are likely to grow in importance as our global society becomes both more immediate and more complex. Our new Association, formed with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is all about meeting the challenges of our increasingly hyper-connected world.

Final thoughts?

You and I see the rapid pace of change – in the world of accounting and all around us. What’s needed to meet the challenge such change brings is a bias for action and the courage to be bold. As my fellow Missourian, and former U.S. President Harry Truman said, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” At the AICPA, I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many skilled, courageous leaders who share that bias for action. Working together, we’ll make the CPA profession even more relevant in the future than it is today.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

AICPA Grows Not-for-Profit Expert Panel

Sibi Thomas

Sibi Thomas

Sibi Thomas, New York-based Marks Paneth (FY16 net revenue of $127.7 million) partner with the nonprofit, government and health care group, has been appointed to the not-for-profit entities expert panel by the AICPA.

As a member, Thomas will draw from his experience in conducting and overseeing audits for a wide range of not-for-profit organizations. He also gives back to the not-for-profit community with training seminars, authored articles and speaking engagements.

A Call for Definitive Taxing Structure of Cryptocurrencies

In 2014, the IRS implemented guidelines on how cryptocurrencies should be taxed, but the government did not declare it an actual currency.

Even though the industry has grown exponentially since 2014, the IRS has not issued any new regulations. This has prompted the AICPA to request that the agency “release additional, much needed, guidance on virtual currency.”

According to CNBC, Tyson Cross, a U.S.-based tax attorney, began assisting clients with declaring their digital currencies as early as 2013.

Cross suggests that crypto holders try to preempt any tax-related issues by taking a few preventative measures:

  • Establish a record-keeping process. Capital gains tax should be implemented for every crypto transaction.
  • Regularly download your transaction history. This includes keeping a separate record of these transactions as a backup.
  • Determine your gains and losses after every transaction. Virtual currencies held for less than 12 months are seen as a short-term gain, while those held for longer are seen as a long-term gain.

AICPA Announces New CPA Exam User Experience

The AICPA announced the forthcoming launch of the next generation of Uniform CPA Examination technology. These technology updates will improve the user experience and enhance the tools and functionality available to exam candidates. The changes will become effective at Prometric test centers on April 1, 2018.

The improvements to user experiences come on the heels of the AICPA’s successful launch of an updated version of the exam in April 2017. That content-focused update had helped maintain the exam’s alignment with the work of a newly licensed CPA.

“These improvements and updates to the CPA Exam software and tools will modernize the candidate’s testing experience,” says Michael Decker, AICPA vice president of examinations. “Beyond that, this is an investment in the future of the exam that will increase our ability to make changes to both the technology and content. This added flexibility will help ensure that the exam remains aligned with the work being done in the profession.”

To aid candidates as they work to familiarize themselves with the new experience, the AICPA website has tutorial help files, web-based sample tests for each exam section and a video that takes viewers through the enhanced features of this software.

The launch of the software requires additional evaluation of test question performance for the 2018 Q2, Q3 and Q4 test windows, which necessitates scores to be held until the close of each window. In 2019 Q1, the Exam will return to the traditional rolling score release. Exact score release dates are posted to the Score Release Timeline page of AICPA website.

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.