Seizing the Future: What CPA Horizons 2025 Says about the Profession, Today and Tomorrow

Your peers divulge the industry’s top 10 trends.

Feburary 27, 2012
by AICPA Communications

What does the future have in store for your firm? What about the accounting and finance functions at your business? What roles will CPAs play in the world of tomorrow? These are the questions the CPA Horizons 2025 project sought to answer.

Through CPA Horizons 2025, a grass-roots initiative, conducted in collaboration with state societies, the AICPA gathered the insights of thousands of CPAs to examine the local and global trends that will have an effect on CPAs on a day-to-day basis and over the long term. An interactive survey, 16 in-person forums and online discussion and focus groups enabled nearly 6,000 CPAs to voice their opinions and generate more than 75,000 comments about the current state and future of the profession.

“The future success of our profession continues to be aligned to a great extent on public perceptions of CPAs’ abilities and roles,” notes Paul V. Stahlin, CPA, immediate past AICPA chair, who was deeply involved in the project. “What we have learned through the CPA Horizons 2025 process will help us maintain our relevance and value well into the future.”

Whether you’re planning for the future of your firm, your employer’s company or your own career, the CPA Horizons 2025 Report will be an invaluable resource in helping you chart a course through uncertain times.

CPA Horizons 2025 was built on the knowledge gained in the CPA Vision Project, a similar effort conducted in the late 1990s. CPA Horizons participants concluded that the core purpose for CPAs identified back in the 1990s — CPAs making sense of a changing and complex world — remains relevant now and for the future. The participants also felt that the core values and competencies identified in the CPA Vision Project are still valid, but could use some updating to reflect changing circumstances. While the CPA Vision Project also identified some core services, CPA Horizons 2025 determined that the knowledge, skills and competencies CPAs offer have become so varied and diverse that the concept of core services is no longer valid.

Ten Key Insights

CPA Horizons 2025 also used the feedback gathered from project participants to formulate 10 key insights into how the profession will conduct business, serve clients and employers, attract and retain employees and new business and remain competitive in the marketplace throughout the next 15 years. CPAs can use these insights to inform and inspire their own strategic planning efforts.

  1. Technology. This was seen as a major force for CPAs, affecting the services they offer, how they offer them and how they do business. While it allows CPAs to expand their services and the people and businesses they can serve, it may also increasingly replace traditional services.
  2. Education. Although this will remain a cornerstone of the profession, what CPAs learn and how they learn it will change. To retain their roles as trusted advisers, CPAs will have to broaden their understanding in a variety of areas, including economic, political and technology trends here and abroad.
  3. Worldwide Profession. To seize the unprecedented opportunities that globalization offers, the profession must position the U.S. CPA as the preeminent designation of the accounting and finance profession throughout the world.
  4. Pride in the Profession. Because CPAs remain among the most respected and trusted financial professionals, it is important for them to maintain the high standards and integrity that reinforce this perception. Continued advocacy on the profession’s behalf will be a key element in doing so.
  5. Demographic Shifts. The profession can expand its appeal by recognizing U.S. and global demographic shifts. This includes working to attract and retain younger people, women and minorities, while also tapping into the knowledge and experience of CPAs in or near retirement.
  6. Trusted Adviser. If they are to maintain and expand their roles as strategic advisers, CPAs must be prepared to solve complex and multifaceted business problems that will go beyond traditional services.
  7. Market Permission. As their clients or companies demand more from them, CPAs should be positioned to take on new specializations and adapt to the needs of clients, employers and businesses.
  8. Marketplace. The profession will have to adjust to rapidly changing demands for services that address developments in the marketplace, economy, businesses and regulations. An emphasis on lifelong learning will help prepare CPAs to adapt to these changes.
  9. Value Proposition. It’s important to promote CPAs as the trusted advisers who provide recognized core services but who are also agile enough to develop new solutions to complex business problems as they occur. While CPAs’ integrity, objectivity and commitment to excellence will not change, their services may.
  10. Trusted Attester. The profession must preserve its unique role as the trusted attester of financial and other information, even as the audit and attest functions evolve to meet changing needs.

A Common Purpose and Commitment

That’s just a taste of some of the many insights and ideas that CPA Horizons 2025 generated. As CPAs wrestle with new developments, the project’s findings will help them frame the best next steps. To learn more, turn to a special website that contains the project report as well as other resources. Practitioners who want help in putting the project’s results to work should check out the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section’s CPA Horizons 2025 Toolkit, which helps users conduct their own “Future Forums” using a facilitator’s guide, worksheets and other resources.

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