Global Engagement and the Future of the Profession: Reflections from the AAA Annual Meeting

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Global Engagement and the Future of the Profession: Reflections from the AAA Annual Meeting

by Gary Pflugrath, Director, Public Policy & Regulation, IFAC | August 15, 2014 |

I recently attended the American Accounting Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, themed “Global Engagement & Perspectives.” Although ostensibly an academic conference, the organizers of the AAA bring together a broad range of participants and presenters, including accountants in business and in practice, from all different areas, including accountancy firms, regulators, standard setters, and, of course, academia.

It goes without saying that bringing together representatives from all parts of the profession assists in forging closer links and a more unified profession, and in promoting leadership and development within the profession. Furthermore, as academics are typically the profession’s first point of contact with tomorrow’s accountants, they have a key role to play in preparing the next generation of leaders that will be taking the helm in the next few years.

The AAA Annual Meeting is one of the most important meetings of the year for people in the world of academia, a critical part of the accountancy profession. However, the key underlying message—that to continue “to become more global means embracing varied perspectives, and having global impact and reach for our teaching, research, and service to the profession”—is relevant to all parts of the profession.

The luncheon presentations, plenary sessions, and panel discussions included a diverse group of eminently qualified leaders and experts to talk about a host of issues important to the profession. Speakers like Condoleezza Rice (former US Secretary of State), Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia), and Duane Still (CFO, Coca-Cola, North America) provided conference-goers with wonderful insights on business and leadership, and how the profession needs to (and does) embrace the global community.

Just some of the thoughts that circulated in my mind during the three days of the meeting were:

  • Challenges for corporate boards, and whether too much is being expected of directors nowadays. Are board directors being held accountable for what are management responsibilities, rather than overseeing management?;
  • The need for US business to embrace globalization and to appreciate that not all business starts, ends, and only has to do, with the US;
  • The challenges for international regulatory consistency and the lost opportunities following the global financial crisis; and
  • Information availability and accessibility, and the desire for those in the developing world and emerging economies to be engaged and involved.

Finally, there was one point that is particularly important for the future of the profession, and which arose in several different sessions: attracting the right talent to the profession and to accounting and finance roles. The types of attributes that regularly came up included people who can: challenge convention and be prepared to ask “why”; see emerging trends, the big picture as well as the details; and communicate and adapt. As Tom Hood, CEO and President of the Maryland Association of CPAs, explains in his blog, the rapidly changing and complex competitive environment that accountants operate in has pushed talent development up the profession’s agenda. How best can the profession, of which academia is a part, help prepare the next generation of accountants for the road ahead?

See also some highlights noted by Michael Izza of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

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