06 August 2014

We're all in this together now...

After so many decades, the way is clear for Canada's three accounting bodies to merge into one! As usual, Ontario was the last to agree (there's a lot of history behind that, as I have alluded to in previous posts). The various provincial legislatures will be passing the appropriate legislation this fall, once they return after Thanksgiving this October. Quebec, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Bermuda have already done so, and British Columbia has taken the interim step of recognizing the new designation (with amalgamation of the bodies to follow). Ontario took a unique route, as I described previously.

The various squabbles that have divided us for so long remind me of what has been said about university academic politics, which are so vicious because the stakes are so small! When pressed to describe what has made each of us so distinct, most of us have had a hard time putting it into words that would be helpful to someone outside the profession. I think the best description was found in a bad joke from the 1980s:
"CGAs do great books, CMAs tell you the truth about what happened, and CAs bend it all to fit generally accepted accounting principles."
That, of course, was said in jest, but it does describe the three basic approaches that figure in accounting education: financial statement preparation, operational analysis and external reporting. All else flows from these three core components.

We still have a lot to do to educate others as to what we are truly capable of. Job descriptions that call for a professional designation with knowledge of QuickBooks (as I have seen on numerous occasions) are definitely off the mark. QuickBooks, as well as Simply Accounting, can be performed by someone with a high school course in bookkeeping, while someone with a professional designation would be called upon to review the work. However, the ability to review is subject to any public accounting licensing restrictions that may be in effect in that jurisdiction.

In a similar vein, I have also seen job positions that call for a degree and designation in order to hold a Financial Analyst role. FA positions are a great training ground while you are studying for your designation, but a severe underuse of capabilities upon graduation.

Quite frankly, those with professional designations have been trained to hold management positions within the organization. Private companies whose owners ignore that fact will be severely constraining their capabilities. Public companies are more aware, but the smaller ones still need to be given the message.

Let's see what the future holds. Bring it on.

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