Learning and Career Development

Transforming learning for CPAs

November 24, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation, Learning and Career Development

Friday November 20, 2015 was a big day for changing the approach to CPE in Indiana.  Maybe for the profession throughout the United States. The Indiana board of accountancy took a significant step forward as it relates to a competency based approach for license renewal.  The board approved language for a rule that provides alternatives in fulfilling the ethics requirement for license renewal.  If the proposed rule makes it all the way through the process, Indiana licensees will be able to choose one of three methods for renewal.

  • A traditional 4-hour ethics course
  • Non-compensated service in an ethics capacity as verified by the sponsoring organization
  • A competency based ethics course

Now, some might be quick to say that the competency based course is just an “alternative” to the hours.  But, that isn’t true. Take time to gain knowledge of a competency based approach and what the critical components of a competency based course are.  Maybe experience a competency based course for yourself.

Indiana Approves Ethics Rule Change for CPAs

We recognize that this is just one step in transforming the educational requirements for renewal, but we believe it is an important step in the transition.

Combining this little success with our recently released competency assessment tool, we feel that we are making some real progress. See www.cpacoe.com for more on the assessment tool.

Step by step – the power of incremental change

November 19, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation, Learning and Career Development

How do you change a continuing professional education model for CPAs that’s been in place for 40+ years? Step by step.

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, powered by the Indiana CPA Society, we know our goal might sound a wee bit crazy on on the face of it – to change the hours based model of CPE, in place in our state at least since the 1970s, to a model that also allows for competency-based learning. While we know CPAs want CPE that better serves their needs (see our study showing that response here), we also know that with the current layered regulatory model and all the various stakeholders involved, we are embarking on a possibly long journey. While we hope change will come quickly, we also are realistic in our expectations, and know that short, logical jumps in the pace of change are much more palatable to the majority of us.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at the Indiana Board of Accountancy meeting on our first competency-based online Ethics course, one of the steps along the path to changing the model. Our first step was creating competency-based online courses in the CPA core competencies (critical thinking, leadership and the like) and working with the Indiana Board of Accountancy to secure a waiver for CPE credit for those classes. Now we are proposing an actual rule change to the ethics rule for Indiana, hoping to allow for CPAs to obtain their ethics credit via a traditional four-hour course, serving in a volunteer capacity like on the INCPAS Ethics Committee, or taking a competency-based ethics course like the one we are creating.

We believe this step-by-step model of change, which allows us to get feedback from CPAs to both improve the courses and share their experiences with the Indiana Board of Accountancy, will help us create the larger change in the long run. This step-by-step process allows us to do our due diligence in compiling the research and practice models that show competency-based education works and is valued by CPAs.

This relationship with the Indiana Board of Accountancy has taken time to build, via the Indiana CPA Society, and we are very thankful for it. Tomorrow will be the next step in the journey towards a better CPE model – and we hope that as we continue down this path, we’ll see even more of you walking along with us, fighting the fight. We believe CPAs deserve better in their lifelong learning journey. Don’t you?

Have You Had Enough?

March 20, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Future of Work and Change Management, Learning and Career Development

Have You Had Enough?

Regulation of the CPA profession in the U.S. needs a transformation. Mind you now, not a change – a TRANSFORMATION. Yes – a major overhaul. We need to look at this system in a different way. We need to look at this system from a 21st century perspective. There have been ongoing attempts during the entire history of the CPA profession in the U.S. to change. To align all of the jurisdictions throughout the U.S. Progress has been made. But, the profession will never get to the goal of having a uniform system of regulation in the future as long as we wrap our collective arms around the current system.

Okay, some of you are already saying that there is no way you can support a national license for the profession. That’s fine. It isn’t being suggested here. Bear with me.

Let’s look at some fundamental components of the current system. For example, the educational requirement for the uniform CPA Exam. More than 50 years ago, recommendations were made to enhance the educational requirements for CPAs. Thirty years ago (1984) Florida became the first state to enact a 150 hour educational requirement to qualify for the exam. Over the years, states were added to the list. Then, sometime around the time as the exam became computer-based (2003), some states made amendments to allow a candidate to sit at 120 hours but not certify until 150 hours. Now we have some “pure 150 hour” states and some “120 /150 hour” states. Crazy. Employers are interested in hiring the most qualified candidates. It doesn’t matter how many hours they have and if they took the exam before, in between or after the hours were earned.

Do I need to mention a fairly wide variety of experience requirements across the U.S.? CPE requirements may even be more inconsistent. Especially in terms of things like state-specific “ethics” and A&A requirements (how many hours do you need?). And what about the various sign in /sign out requirements? One hour increments, half-hour increments and now “nano-learning.” Would it make sense to forget all of that and simply focus on a competency-based learning system for professional development?

A recent effort to achieve uniformity is focused on attestation. Yep – attestation. You may think that you know how attest is defined. As we enter 2015, we have maybe 21 states that have it “right.” At least for the time being. By the time the 50th state gets it in statute, the model will have changed – again. And yes, I do know that there are 55 jurisdictions, not just the 50 states. Besides, there IS a definition of attest – it’s in the professional standards. Let’s not forget it seems that more and more users are really not interested in that attested-to-historical financial information. They might be more interested in an integrated report. Is the profession going to try to regulate that on a state-by-state basis?

The list could go on and on. Who can be owners? What can a firm call itself? Make up your own list. Or, I’m pretty sure you can at least add to the list here.

The environment that the profession operates in drives change. It’s called the market. The market is a very strong force. CPAs will respond to the market as best as they can. Some without regard to what a particular state statute says. These aren’t bad CPAs. They want and need to remain relevant and they need to deliver value. Firm business models are changing. The value proposition of CPAs in business and industry is evolving. How work gets done is changing, and a lot of that is driven by technology and user (market) expectations. Specialization is demanded by ever increasing complexity. Oh yeah … and globalization. And I am sure that you have noticed that the velocity of all of this change is accelerating. We shouldn’t kid ourselves here, U.S. jurisdictions likely won’t be able play in that arena. It’s true. State legislators and regulators won’t be able to keep up with the rate of change.

State-based regulation has served the U.S. CPA profession well. It has served the public well. However, in today’s environment it can’t keep pace. The legislative and regulatory process is designed to be very deliberate. And rightfully so. The question then becomes what is a realistic alternative? Well, probably not a national license administered by the federal government. Again, a system that is too deliberate in a very dynamic and ever changing environment.

Self-regulation may be a practical answer. Or perhaps a reasonable alternative is market-based regulation. Call it deregulation. Call it whatever makes sense, but continuing to embrace a state-based system of professional regulation for CPAs does not serve the public well. And the current system doesn’t recognize the need for the profession to be responsive, adaptive and agile in a business environment that won’t wait for some state to get the definition of attest amended. It could be argued that a move away from the current system will become an economic necessity.

We will need to talk about it. We will need to argue about it. It likely won’t be pretty. How many “problems” and “challenges” might be eliminated? What resources could be redirected to truly value-adding activities as opposed to antiquated compliance issues? The current system will become increasingly irrelevant as we move farther into the 21st century. It has to change.

The Opportunities You Don’t Want to Miss

March 20, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Learning and Career Development

The Opportunities You Don’t Want to Miss

There are so many opportunities out there. For one person, it might be an opportunity to get some great tickets for a concert. Another person might have an opportunity to meet some potential clients at an event later in the week. And yet someone else might have the long-awaited opportunity to get a great new car.

As you think about all of the opportunities before us, particularly in the CPA profession, you will recognize that some can wait and others can’t. Some might even be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The world is so complicated and moves so fast, it is sometimes difficult to even see an opportunity let alone evaluate it. It is the very complexity we all deal with today that provides an increasing number of opportunities from both business and personal perspectives.

How is it that some people appear to get so “lucky” with opportunity? You have heard people query “why does he/she get all the breaks?” Maybe you even asked it yourself.

It‘s simple. Preparation. Yes, that’s right. A Roman philosopher from the mid-1st century AD is quoted as saying “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

So you have to ask yourself, how do I prepare myself for those opportunities? Well, I’m not sure that you can be 100% of the time. But you can – and should – try to be prepared most of the time. But how?

First, you need to be alert. You’ll never recognize opportunity if you aren’t looking for it. Opportunity will not find you. Opportunity will be lost.

Second, you need to have adequate resources. Some opportunities are going to require an investment of time and/or money. Maybe in the same way you save discretionary money on a regular basis, you should plan on reserving some discretionary time so you can get to that function where you know some good networking contacts will be. If you are always in a crisis or deadline mode, you won’t have any discretionary time.

Finally, you need to learn continuously. The more you “know,” the more opportunities you will “see.” I don’t mean to sign up for a bunch of seminars. But do seek out ways to learn. Unconventional ways are sometimes best. And not just about your profession. Learn about history (read a book, go to a museum), learn about the arts (go to the symphony or theater) and learn about people. Master the critical success skills – communication, decision making, leadership.

The more prepared you are, the more opportunities you will see, and as a result, the luckier you will become. How lucky are you?