New AICPA Chair focuses on the profession’s leap into the future
In May 2019, Bill Reeb, CPA/CITP, CGMA, assumed the role of Chair of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). He also serves as the Vice Chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association). We asked him a few questions to help you get to know him and his vision for the future of the profession.
You can also watch the video of his AICPA inaugural address.
1. Congratulations on becoming the 106th chair of the AICPA! As you look ahead, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for the accounting profession?
The digital era has swept in a blistering pace of change that’s transforming the world around us. The change is not incremental — it’s exponential. And in these rapidly changing times, we find our greatest opportunity.
Our clients and employers need us more than ever to help them navigate increasing uncertainty and complexity. To seize the potential, we must take leaps, not steps. We must race to the horizon of possibility. Go where there has been no footpath before us to follow. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This is our moment to push past conventions — reimagining what we do and how we do it — to remain indispensable to those we serve.
2. Speaking of pushing past conventions, the path that led you here wasn’t really conventional either, was it?
My path definitely exemplifies “unconventional.” My degree from Southwest Texas State University was in marketing with a minor in computer science. The one accounting course I took as a freshman was enough to convince me that accounting wasn’t for me. Of course, I only saw accounting for what was taught in that one class — I certainly didn’t see it for what it really is. That came later.
My first job out of college was in sales. But it didn’t take long to realize my true passion was solving problems and helping organizations implement change. So, I left to start a technology consulting company. It was there that I began to see the power of CPAs. I watched my clients’ accountants not only perform accounting-related work but also advise on ways their organizations could evolve to become more successful.
It was a revelation: The CPA license gives you carte blanche to enter any service area, any job function, in any company. So, I went back to school to get the education and experience I needed to earn my CPA license. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made.
3. How has the profession changed since then?
Through my work consulting with firms and state societies and volunteering with the AICPA and the Texas Society of CPAs over the years, I’ve had a front row seat to how the profession has continued to adapt to meet changing market demands. The biggest change, and one of the most important changes we can make, is that we’ve begun to move toward becoming true trusted advisers to our clients and employers. But we can’t be content with just “moving toward.” We must make sure that we live up to that expectation every day in every service we deliver.
There’s no end to the rapid innovation and change our employers and clients are facing. They need us by their sides helping them continuously adapt and evolve in a world where disruption is the new norm.
4. Looking to the year ahead, what must the profession do to help drive continuous evolution?
I see three primary shifts we must make as a profession to maintain our success and relevancy into the future.
First, we must let go of what we think we know (a mantra in the martial arts school I attend).
As soon as we think we know something, we put up barriers to learning, usually without realizing it. By letting go of what we think we know – essentially, adopting a beginner’s mindset – we open ourselves to new ways of thinking and doing that will propel us to even greater levels of success.
Second, we must accept that our technical aptitude alone won’t be enough.
It’s true that our skill and expertise in accounting, assurance and tax currently sets us apart as a profession. But as AI, robotics and blockchain dramatically transform the world around us, our ongoing success depends on our ability to also embrace technology and improve our human skills —critical thinking, judgment, leadership and emotional intelligence. This powerful combination of technical, technological and human skills will position us for an even brighter future.
Finally, we must challenge our own ideas of what it means to be an “accountant.”
Fortunately, we’ve long shaken the public perception of the green-eyeshade accountant. Yet our profession is still fighting our own biases of what it should mean to be an accountant. These biases will limit our ability to keep pace with this fast-changing world. As we’ve done for more than a century, we must continue to evolve. We must look dramatically different ten years from now for us to have something of value to pass on to younger generations of CPAs.
We must move forward together — not in steps, but in leaps. I am humbled to be part of such an exciting evolution.
Bill and his wife, Michaelle Cameron, currently reside in Austin, Texas. He is the CEO of Succession Institute LLC, has been an active volunteer with the AICPA and member of the Texas and Colorado State CPA Societies. Bill is a senior black belt and instructor in Tao Wu Hsian Hua in Austin, enjoys playing golf and skiing, and has a passion for teaching, learning and trying to get better every day.
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