The Ever Changing World of Accounting


Recently, I participated in a survey, along with my younger colleagues, asking three questions regarding the future of the accounting profession. I am a dinosaur in our profession having passed the CPA exam in 1986. The first question, what is the most important issue in accounting today, was rather mundane. My response dealt with the three new standards issued recently by Financial Accounting Standards Board (revenue recognition, lease accounting, and credit losses). No brainer.

The second question asked: what would the accounting profession look like in ten years? Again, no brainer. I pointed out the limitless possibilities for accountants with the technological advances changing our profession daily.

I thought the third and last question would be a no brainer also, but was soon surprised. Who are the three most influential people in accounting today? My first thought was Wesley Bricker, Chief Accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Like the old E. F. Hutton commercials, when he speaks, everyone listens. His opinion carries a lot of weight. My second answer, I thought, would be unanimous among respondents: Russell Golden, Chairman of the FASB. After all, FASB is the standard setter responsible for all U.S generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). How could I be wrong? My last choice was Jay Clayton, Chairman of the SEC.

Of course, none of my answers were wrong since this was a survey, but I could not believe my younger colleagues would arrive at such different conclusions. These are young and talented CPAs in the first decade of their careers, with resumes including a few years working in Hong Kong. We differed only little on the first two questions. It was the last questions that pointed out the huge divide in our opinions. I tend to view the world through the eyes of U.S. GAAP with less thought to the international accounting standards. My younger colleagues, however, view our profession with a more international perspective. Their responses include Hans Hoogervorst, chair of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), an excellent choice, with FASB and IASB working together now more than ever to arrive at a consensus in accounting standards. 

It is not important for me to list all the choices of my colleagues. It is more important to recognize the changes affecting the accounting profession. These young accountants will never see an extraordinary item on their income statement, but I am seeing the day when auditors can test 100 percent of their sample.

The world of accounting is ever changing—the difference in answers I and my younger colleagues provided prove that.  I hope that all these changes increase the confidence and assurances the public have in financial statements and the internal controls in place to protect the integrity of our profession. The future is limitless.