Reflections on Changes Transforming the Accounting Industry

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Gary Anglin, Managing Partner at Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, attended the AICPA G400 event in May. The AICPA separates the country’s 100 largest CPA firms into a separate group called the Large Firm Group. The G400 represents the next 400 largest firms in the United States. This second tier of CPA firms represent the CPA firms more commonly serving America’s small and mid-sized businesses. Below are Gary’s takeaways from the event and the changes he sees coming to the accounting profession.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the AICPA G400 conference earlier this month in Chicago. The G400 is comprised of the largest 400 AICPA member firms below the Large Firm Group, which is the largest 100 firms. We are honored to be considered one of the top 500 firms in the country.

The G400 conference is always an enlightening experience. The opportunity to spend two days with other top firms and hear presentations from thought leaders in the industry is always incredible. The presentations are largely focused on the current state of the profession and expected future trends and developments. Technology has been, and remains, at the center of many of these future trends and always commands a great deal of the narrative. However, I would sum up the theme of this year’s conference in one word. Change. Technology is the driver for much of this change but there are many other factors at work.  While the future of our profession remains bright, we must be prepared to change many of the things that we do and how we do them.

Technology is advancing at a record pace. This will impact nearly every aspect of the profession. Manual tasks will become automated. How services are performed and delivered will change. The nature of services needed will change. Our clients’ businesses will all be disrupted in some way and we will have the opportunity to help mitigate that disruption. We will be challenged to continue the move from historical record keepers to serving in more consulting and advisory roles. Artificial intelligence and data analytics will give us access to more and more data that we can use to help our clients in ways we couldn’t previously imagine.

How we work will change. As the baby boomer generation moves aside and the millennial generation begins to dominate the work force, we can expect many changes in the workplace. How we work, how we communicate and the ways we collaborate with one another will all change. As we embrace technology, we will find efficiencies and develop new work habits. How we have always done things will not dictate how we do things in the future. I’m not sure that I personally see this as good or bad but merely a new norm that will soon be upon us.

Our firm will continue to invest in people. As many low-level tasks are automated, we will be challenged to move entry level staff into a position to do higher-level work much quicker than in the past. I am confident that if we as firm leaders will make the effort, our people will be up for the challenge.

Most of us are frightened of change.  One speaker suggested that instead of using the phrase “change management” we use the phrase “progress leadership”. As scary as the future may be, it is clear, that we have tremendous opportunities ahead of us. It is up to us to lead the transformation process to become the firm we want to be. I am excited to be a part of the next phase in this ever-changing business environment. I am excited to see our firm become a firm of the future. I intend to embrace the coming changes and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

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