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November 8, 2022updated 16 Nov 2022 4:06pm

CPA Canada: future-proofing the profession

By Joe Pickard

CPAs must be prepared to embrace change and bring the best of their skills and counsel to an ever-shifting marketplace, writes Pamela Steer, FCPA, FCA, president and CEO of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)

When I joined CPA Canada as president and CEO in April, I was determined to visit each of our provincial and territorial partners and to gain a deeper understanding of where our profession is going.

My whistle-stop tour has reaffirmed two things for me: first, that we live in a truly amazing land, and second, that CPA Canada supports some of the most highly trusted, skilled professionals in Canada. Our members are making a difference, often moving beyond the traditional role of a CPA and, in doing so, they are helping to build a thriving profession and economy.

The foundational concepts of consistency, comparability, relevance and timeliness have served us well for many years. Although I still believe that these concepts are vital as we move forward, it is obvious to me that they too must adapt to the unprecedented pace of change facing CPAs and the wider economy.

We are seeing the creation of entirely new industries, new forms of currency and the real-life impacts of climate change. In such an environment, economic growth and competitive advantage look very different than they did in the past.

Less tangible assets in the form of innovation, data, intellectual property, brand and talent are becoming the more dominant performance drivers. We are also in an era of heightened transparency, where delivering results requires creating value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

This has global implications for our profession – the roles and responsibilities of accountants, as well as the profession’s public interest activities, must adapt. Reporting trends are moving towards more forward-looking information and expectations about the future, which are inherently more complex and speculative. So, it is natural that, in some instances, we may need to lean more on the foundational concepts of relevance and timeliness, and rely less on consistency and comparability.

Sustainability

Changing societal demands for greater disclosures on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are becoming a mainstay in corporate reporting.

Simply put, it is no longer just about the bottom line – there is an expectation to report on an organization’s impact on society and the environment.

The CPA profession in Canada is at the forefront of the global shift toward a more sustainable future. For example, CPA Canada, on behalf of the profession, helped pave the way for the creation of an International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) centre in Montreal.

Through the ISSB’s Montreal centre, there is a real opportunity to leverage the collective strength of Canadian standard setters and industry leaders to help the ISSB deliver globally accepted sustainability reporting standards. Canada’s diverse economy means that the sustainability and standard-setting experts in this country can relate to the broad range of needs across international markets. We have the knowledge and experience to make a real difference in one of the defining issues of our time.

CPAs offer a strong and desired set of competencies, and bring with them strategic, ethical and innovative mindsets that help organizations adapt and drive success. Our strengths are especially relevant in today’s ever-evolving, complex and uncertain environment. After all, accountants established the rules that have defined performance for decades, so it makes sense that we would play a leading role in redefining accounting for organisational performance in the future.

Continuous improvement

In Canada, we are in the process of implementing a new competency map for the profession that now addresses areas such as sustainability, data governance and advanced technologies for those looking to become CPAs. This updated map ensures that current and future CPAs are equipped with the skills, resilience and knowledge necessary to thrive in a changing world.

In addition, through our continuing development initiatives, CPA Canada is equipping members with the expertise and abilities needed to remain relevant to the public we serve. Of course, this cannot happen without our enduring partnership with the provincial, territorial and Bermudian CPA bodies, a partnership that nurtures the advancement of the profession, helps to educate Canadians, creates healthier communities and contributes to the building of a more resilient economy.

By working together, we must continue to demonstrate to governments and the public at large that their trust in us is well placed. In a new technology-enabled operating environment, one where sustainability is becoming increasingly important, CPAs can take a leading role.

I see a horizon of opportunity for Canadian CPAs. As the new president and CEO of CPA Canada, I am confident the Canadian CPA profession has what it takes to embrace these vast possibilities and to face the challenges before us head on.

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