Rootworks Announces Launch of Member-Centric Online Platform Rootworks Grow

Rootworks, a member-based education organization for accounting firms, has launch an online platform for its 500 member firms called Grow.

Grow will be part of the Rootworks website and will allow firms to manage aspects of their membership and connect to the Rootworks team and other member firms.

The Grow Platform is divided into three sections: Learn, Plan and Community. Learn gives users events, online learning, one-on-one coaching and vendor information. Plan includes management tools to help firm leaders work on their firms, including the Rootworks GPA Tool. Community connects the Rootworks community members to interact and exchange ideas.

Grow also offers access to Rootworks’ marketing communications resources library and marketing education support.

“Our team worked very hard over the past few months to offer our members a radically improved online experience, and that’s exactly what we delivered this week,” says Rootworks CEO Darren Root. “We were laser focused on building a platform that fully supports firm leaders as they work on their businesses. Grow is a one-of-a-kind solution in that respect.”

4 Unexpected Ways Blockchain Will Transform Our World

Andi Simon

Andi Simon

By Andi Simon

Maybe you know all there is to know about blockchain technology.

Maybe you know nothing.

Either way, in the near future blockchain could change how you do business in numerous ways, from energy use to booking a hotel.

“Right now, if people think about blockchain at all they probably only think of its connection to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and DigiByte,” says Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist. “But the blockchain technology is really what people should be excited about.”

Blockchain was introduced in 2009 to serve as a database that could track and keep secure large volumes of transactions in the cryptocurrency world. Once data is recorded, it can’t be changed without the approval of most network participants.

“This process supposedly creates a fraud-proof system and essentially authenticates the information that’s exchanged,” Simon says.

That’s why it has potential to be used in numerous ways, she says, such as:

  • Government services and economic development. Any communities wondering how they can take advantage of blockchain in a big way could look to Zug, Switzerland, for advice. The city of 30,000 has become a leader in accepting cryptocurrency and encouraging blockchain startups to call Zug home, Simon says. Two years ago, Zug became the first place in the world to accept cryptocurrencies for some public services, and residents can get blockchain-based digital identities.
  • Energy. Solar energy and blockchain aren’t the strange bedfellows you might imagine. Simon points to Brooklyn, N.Y., where a project called Brooklyn Microgrid created a peer-to-peer energy-trading system that is built on blockchain. Essentially, neighbors purchase power generated by their neighbors’ solar panels, allowing them to bypass utilities companies. Blockchain technology validates and records the transactions.
  • Tourism. The tourism industry could be disrupted in a number of ways as blockchain begins to allow travelers to take greater control over all their travel planning. As an example, Simon says Dubai, which seeks to become an entirely blockchain city, is making moves to become a leader in blockchain tourism. Dubai Tourism recently announced a blockchain-enabled marketplace to connect potential customers directly to hotels and tourism operators.
  • Financial Services. Banks and financial institutions could become superfluous as more people begin to use blockchain technology to send digital assets securely. “From the customer’s standpoint, that could mean an end to excessive interest rates and middleman fees as people make transactions directly,” Simon says. “People might not need banks for such things as making loans or providing credit.”

“Business owners don’t need to worry about incorporating blockchain platforms right away,” she says. “But they do need to be aware of what’s happening out there so they are prepared for how technology could change their businesses in the future.”

About Andi Simon Ph.D.

Andi Simon, award-winning author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, is a corporate anthropologist and trained practitioner in Blue Ocean Strategy® (www.simonassociates.net). She is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, designed over a decade ago to help companies use the tools of anthropology to better adapt to changing times. Simon also is a public speaker and an Innovation Games® facilitator and trainer. She served as a tenured professor of anthropology and American studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and was a visiting professor teaching entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis. Simon has appeared on “Good Morning America” and has been featured in the Washington Post, Business Week, Inc., Entrepreneur, the Los Angeles Times and Forbes, and on Bloomberg Radio.

WithumSmith+Brown SOC Team Authors and Presents Inaugural AICPA SOC for Cybersecurity Certification

When the AICPA hosted its flagship System and Organization Controls (SOC) for Cybersecurity Certification course this past week, members of Princeton, N.J.-based WithumSmith+Brown’s (FY17 net revenue of $175.4 million) SOC for Cybersecurity Services Group served as lead instructors for the curriculum. This first-of-its-kind program also was authored by the professionals from the advisory, tax and audit firm. In total, seven Withum professionals also are among the first CPAs nationwide to earn the AICPA’s SOC for Cybersecurity digital badge.

A market-driven, flexible and voluntary reporting framework, SOC helps organizations communicate their cybersecurity risk management program initiatives as well as effectiveness of controls.

Withum’s certified SOC for Cybersecurity team members includes Tony Chapman, partner and SOC practice leader; Anurag Sharma, principal; Scott Mahoney, senior manager; Jim Bourke, partner, director of advisory practice; Stephanie Fitzgerald, SOC senior manager; Anupam Goradia, SOC senior manager; and Andrea Fernandez, SOC staff auditor. These certifications have earned Withum the distinction of having more AICPA-authorized SOC specialists, to perform peer reviews on SOC engagements, than any other CPA firm nationwide.

“As a leader in SOC and cybersecurity and information security services, Withum has once again distinguished itself – this time as it relates to the new cybersecurity risk management reporting framework,” says Chapman. “Our firm is among the first and has the highest concentration of fully designated SOC professionals authorized to provide peer reviews.”

AICPA has retained Withum to write, present live and record on-demand viewings of the first SOC for Cybersecurity Certificate training course for SOC professionals. Three of Withum’s professionals, Chapman, Sharma and Mahoney, served as course authors and presenters. Topics addressed in the AICPA-sponsored course offer an overview of the cyberthreat landscape and terminology, various SOC services, components of a cybersecurity risk management program, utilization of criteria to assess an entity’s controls, key steps for performing the cyber risk-management examination and factors to consider while forming the opinion and preparing the practitioner’s report.

SOC for Cybersecurity is a new entity-wide cybersecurity audit that allows organizations to report on their cybersecurity management programs to internal and external stakeholders with credibility. For clients whose cybersecurity risk management programs are mature, an independent third-party firm can perform a comprehensive examination to assess cybersecurity risk management programs.

Raich Ende Malter & Co. Launches ThinkLab for Blockchain Accounting

New York-based Raich Ende Malter & Co. LLP (FY16 net revenue of $47.1 million) announced the launch of REM ThinkLab, an effort to provide thought leadership on blockchain accounting. As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum gain ground in global commerce, an understanding of blockchain, the digital ledger technology used to record cryptocurrency transactions, is essential for the accounting profession. To aid clients and colleagues in parsing this new tech, REM ThinkLab will publish periodic whitepapers, as well as thought pieces on The REM CycleRaich Ende Malter’s tax blog.

REM ThinkLab is helmed by Arthur DaPonte and Tyler Russell, who have co-authored a blockchain whitepaper, an illustrated blog post, and a comprehensive glossary of blockchain technology terms for newcomers. They are currently developing a CPE course on the topic.

DaPonte and Russell are confident that blockchain is ultimately a source of new business for accountants. “As industries harness the power of blockchain to become more efficient and effective in their operations, CPAs and auditors will play an integral role in providing the public with the assurance that these processes will require,” says DaPonte.

“At this point, everyone has heard of blockchain and how it will revolutionize the accounting industry, but with REM ThinkLab, we are actively examining the blockchain process and its applications. As always, Raich Ende Malter is looking to the future and embracing new technology,” says Cornelius Kilbane Jr., PIC REM’s New York City office.

1st Global and eMoney Partner to Offer CPA Financial Advisors Cutting-edge Financial Planning Platform

1st Global, an independent wealth management partner to CPA firms, based in Dallas has partnered with eMoney Advisor, a leading provider of scalable wealth management technology, to offer affiliated CPA firms an industry-leading financial planning solution that allows them to efficiently track client behavior, benchmark performance against personalized goals and pinpoint opportunities for growth with firm-level analytics.

“1st Global’s new partnership with eMoney expands our integrated technology platform and is a huge value-add for our advisors,” says David Knoch, President of 1st Global. “This state-of-the-art technology will enhance the client experience and enable our affiliated CPA firms to better attract and retain their financial planning clients, as well as engage with them more deeply.”

eMoney’s industry-leading technology offers advisors a real-time, on-demand financial experience that strengthens relationships by focusing on the client’s financial goals, rather than market movement. The way advisors engage with their clients and the way clients engage with their finances has changed, and eMoney’s technology keeps advisors at the forefront of digital trends.

In addition, 1st Global’s customized version of the eMoney system has been enhanced to incorporate 1st Global’s capital market assumptions and investment models and to provide access to compliance-approved account aggregation functionality and digital document storage.

“Advisors’ jobs are more challenging than ever before, which is why we want to help them simplify their business processes so they can spend more time on what matters – understanding their clients’ goals and building relationships with them,” says Stephen Langlois, Head of Business Development at eMoney. “We’re confident that our technology will help 1st Global advisors achieve greater efficiency, scale, competitive edge and growth in their businesses, while delivering the tech-enabled experience that their clients are used to receiving in most aspects of their lives.”

Kirk Named Lead of Elliott Davis’ Cybersecurity Practice

Brian Kirk

Brian Kirk

Greenville, S.C.-based Elliott Davis (FY17 net revenue of $118.1 million) announced that Brian Kirk has been named practice lead of the firm’s growing cybersecurity division. He is based in the company’s Greenville headquarters.

“The need for solutions that mitigate the risk of cyber threats has never been greater,” says Jimmy Buddenberg, director of Elliott Davis’ risk advisory and cybersecurity practice. “Brian brings more than two decades of experience building, implementing and overseeing cyber security programs for companies in a variety of industries. He’ll use this knowledge to help clients identify vulnerabilities and create strategies to protect their enterprise.”

As the lead for Elliott Davis’ cybersecurity team, Kirk, who has more than 25 years of IT experience, the last 10 of which were in cybersecurity, will partner with organizations to develop and implement comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to safeguard their businesses, as well as their customers’ critical assets and data. He will work with clients to assess and improve their security posture through areas such as security and vulnerability assessments, IT budget and staffing reviews, and advisory services associated with technology and sourcing solutions.

“Competition aside, cyber-attacks are now one of the most formidable challenges facing today’s businesses,” says Kirk. “The impact of even a single data breach can be devastating, both to a company’s finances and its reputation. We’ll work with clients to develop tools, policies and procedures that minimize exposure and, enabling them to focus on running their business rather than worrying about a potential cyber-attack.”

Prior to joining Elliott Davis, Kirk most recently served as Chief Information Security Officer for CH2M, a Fortune 500 engineering firm that provides consulting, design, construction and operations services for corporations and federal, state and local governments. In this role, he led the establishment and growth of the company’s Information Security practice and directed all day-to-day information security operational activities for the global organization.

Maryland Association of CPAs and Business Learning Institute Launch Future-ready Podcast

The Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute (BLI) have launched a weekly podcast to make accounting and finance professionals more future-ready.

Titled “Future-Proof: A Podcast for Tomorrow’s Accounting and Finance Pros,” the show is hosted by MACPA and BLI chief communication officer Bill Sheridan and will feature interviews with forward-thinking futurists and thought leaders. They will offer updates on the latest trends to watch and, perhaps most important, answers to the question: How can this profession become future-ready?

“We’re on a mission,” Sheridan says. “For the past few years, [MACPA and BLI executive director] Tom Hood and I and the rest of the BLI’s team of future-focused thought leaders have been crossing the country, one speaking engagement at a time, in a bid to help accounting and finance professionals prepare for what’s ahead – to become future-ready. This podcast is the latest weapon in our profession’s future-ready arsenal.”

This brief trailer will tell you a little more about the podcast.

Deloitte to Collaborate with Amazon on IoT Analytics

Deloitte Consulting, affiliate of New York-based Deloitte (FY16 net revenue of $17.5 billion), is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on Internet of Things (IoT) analytics solutions focused on tracking an organization’s most important assets. These solutions can help clients mitigate supply chain complexity, costs and potential risks by using AWS technologies to analyze large amounts of asset location data.

Additionally, the solutions will utilize public application programming interfaces that can alert clients to other conditions that may impact assets as they move through the supply chain, such as weather, recall history and even sales tax jurisdictions.

“One of the biggest challenges in managing distributed assets is managing the data,” says Adam Mussomeli, principal, Deloitte Consulting. “Deloitte and AWS will now be able to help clients mitigate supply chain complexity, cost, and potential risk by enabling data collection and analysis on a worldwide scale.”

Platt’s Perspective: Diving Into The World Of Big Data

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Last month, the IPA leadership team took the opportunity to attend the four-day Gartner Data Analytics Summit in Dallas. Nearly 4,000 data engineers, data scientists, chief data officers and other dedicated analytics professionals gathered to discuss the latest trends in predictive analytics, Big Data, blockchain, business intelligence platforms and artificial intelligence.

With thousands of the smartest people in the field sharing best practices and success stories, we were overwhelmed with where the technology is going and excited about the amazing possibilities for the future.

Identifying, capturing, storing, analyzing and harvesting massive amounts of consumer data is the holy grail for most companies. The majority of attendees came from Fortune 500 companies with multi-million-dollar budgets dedicated to leveraging and customizing services and products to individual customers. (As an example, think about how Amazon or Netflix “suggest” your next purchase based on past behaviors.)

It’s not surprising that the accounting profession is far behind corporate America in taking advantage of available data and harnessing it to build the enterprise. The bigger takeaway for me is that so few firms even recognize what kinds of data they have, never mind its value and potential.

Most firms don’t have the resources to hire data analytics professionals and implement new technologies at the scale discussed at the Summit. A handful of firms can capitalize on some of these opportunities, and are making strides to do just that. But where does this leave the other firms? What should they be doing right now to get on the bandwagon?

Leaders can:

  • Acknowledge that this trend of micro-experiences [Amazon- and Netflix-type recommendations] for customers is not going away.
  • Recognize that Fortune 500 companies are targeting your clients using these data analytics efforts, which are shaping their view of how business is conducted.
  • Understand that you can access much of the same kind of customer data today – the challenge is how to harvest it.
  • Stay up to date on the latest in analytics, artificial or augmented intelligence, blockchain and other new technologies, and play out scenarios among your leadership team as to what you could do with the new technology once you have access to it. Better yet, bring in your younger leaders to take control of that discussion.
  • Embrace the idea that your knowledge of clients, their challenges and their opportunities can be used to create a lot of the unique-to-each-customer experiences that larger companies are trying to deliver. You have an advantage over companies like Amazon or Disney because you are much closer to your customers and you understand the nuances of what they are looking for. Make sure you maximize this advantage.

What was the biggest lesson garnered at the Gartner Summit? The accounting profession needs – once and for all – an ‘all-in’ mental shift. Firm activities should not be viewed as a series of transactions (“we do tax returns and audits each year”) but as part of a continuous, trusted relationship with clients. Through these connections, firms can uncover issues specific to each client and help find solutions, even if the answers lie outside the world of accounting. Then – and only then – can your firm deliver personalized services on par with what your best customers are already receiving from the Fortune 500 companies that are spending millions of dollars to serve them today.

Big 4 Cautiously Offering ICO Services

The Big 4 firms are beginning to offer services related to initial coin offerings, or ICOs, which have become a concern for regulators around the globe, Bloomberg reports.

An ICO is a funding mechanism in which a company creates a new digital currency and sells it to the public. The SEC recently stopped an ICO, calling it fraudulent, and China and South Korea have banned them altogether.

Big 4 firms are moving forward cautiously. “What we’ve been doing is advising some investors and some clients on what to do with an ICO – whether they should do one, whether they shouldn’t,” says Eric Piscini, blockchain leader for the financial services group at Deloitte Consulting. “Our stance is very – I don’t want to say risk averse, but it’s very wait-and-see for now on ICOs, because the regulatory environment is changing really fast.”

Playkey, a cloud-gaming startup, sough Deloitte’s help before holding an ICO last year. The firm spent about six months offering legal advice before Playkey’s ICO, which raised $10.5 million in December, Bloomberg reported.

At PwC, ICO work has been mainly limited to clients in Asia and Europe. KPMG started taking on ICO clients mid-2017, and EY is getting daily inquiries for ICO consulting.

“We are selectively working around the firm to help companies do ICOs, both domestically and internationally,” says Jeffrey Grabow, the U.S. venture capital lead at EY. In each offering, the firm is clearly communicating the various risks, he said. “We’ve been watching it evolve over time and are constantly figuring out what role we can and should play.”