Perspectives from the Profession – AICPA Chair Carla McCall’s Priorities for Her Term

Carla McCall, MP of Westborough, Mass.-based AAFCPAs, has been elected as the new chair of the AICPA and co-chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

In her acceptance speech, McCall said she would focus on three areas in her one-year term: prioritizing value and sustainable businesses, driving innovation and transformation, and powering inclusion and opportunity.

The following is an exclusive interview conducted by accounting association PrimeGlobal, of which AAFCPAs is a member. The interview delves into McCall’s inspiration for accepting the AICPA leadership role, her commitment to prioritizing diversity and inclusion within the accounting profession, and her insights into the evolving roles of technology in the industry.

As the new AICPA chair, what inspired you to accept this leadership role, and what do you hope to achieve during your tenure?

I love this profession. It’s diverse, innovative and entrusted with maintaining the public’s confidence. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of our profession and enjoy the support of a significant global network. Most importantly, I continue to have a front row seat to the transformation that is affecting how we work, and I can bring this insight back to AAFCPAs and our clients.

My leadership journey began at the state level with MassCPAs, which led to the AICPA Council and now the board of directors. It is an honor to accept the prestigious role of AICPA chair.

I am passionate about leadership, innovation and changing the image of the profession. I believe in authentic leadership and building a human-first culture, which has been a primary driver to success at my firm, AAFCPAs. I will bring this conviction to my role as AICPA chair.

I also believe CPAs and CGMAs should lead in technology adoption, improving how we work and creating interesting opportunities for young professionals. This is an exciting time to be in advisory and accounting, and I’m committed to sharing success stories about new approaches. I’m especially curious about roles firms and finance departments are creating that will help them evolve.

Lastly, I hope to broadcast accounts of exciting and innovative work being done for clients and promoting entrepreneurship within the profession. The ability to build a business inside a business is powerful and fun. These are the types of stories we need to tell to attract and retain young talent.

How do you plan to promote diversity and inclusion within the accounting profession, considering your own experiences as a woman in many leadership positions?

I am passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). My personal efforts started a dozen years ago when I founded AAFCPAs’ Women’s Opportunity Network, which created a collaborative platform to help women better achieve leadership roles in our firm. We have since expanded our efforts, and report on those with transparency in our annual impact report. We know there is no single formula for improving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging applicable to every company, industry or environment. However, we believe openly sharing our actions in the spirit of collaboration will help our community achieve their goals faster than any organization could on its own.

I also plan to serve as an ambassador supporting the AICPA’s efforts through the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

How do you see the role of technology evolving in the accounting profession, specifically, AI, and what steps should CPAs take to stay ahead in this dynamic landscape?

We are in the curve of the hockey stick with technology and automation integration. AI is changing how we work with limitless possibilities, enabling rapid summarization, understanding, generation and prediction. AAFCPAs has a group that acts as an R&D department, specifically working with new tech and developing use cases. Firms must embrace technology, specifically AI, to remain competitive.

  • Learn as much as you can by attending training, reading and discussing with peers.
  • Team with others to tackle issues. Collaboration is powerful and reduces duplication of effort, ultimately saving time and money.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. That’s part of change evolution.
  • Consider change management training.
  • Review risk and ethical concerns. Develop a written, living AI policy.

What strategies do you believe will enhance the collaboration between the AICPA and its members, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their needs are addressed?

Members can ensure their voice is heard by getting involved with their state societies and/or AICPA committees.

Overall, as we face issues in the profession, we are often polarized by our own views. If we all approached the other side with understanding, we’d achieve a better result. It is important for us to read headlines but imperative that we also complete due diligence on issues, understanding all sides and making informed decisions. I’d recommend Think Again by Adam Grant; it’s a brilliant read about using curiosity to understand another perspective, making us better thinkers.

With the increasing emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, how do you envision the AICPA supporting its members in navigating these evolving standards?

The AICPA provides ESG educational resources and materials to members. CPAs were born to own this space because we live in the assurance world. Different sized firms will likely be active in different ways. For example, to have a solid team for assurance services, you will need sustainability experts, engineers, etc. on the team. This may not be practical for all firm sizes, so some may play in the assessment and readiness phases and perhaps partner with larger firms that have the bandwidth for the assurance.

Can you share your perspective on the role of mentorship and professional development in fostering the growth of future leaders in the accounting field?

Professional development is paramount for growth. We are always learning. The beauty of our profession is that change is constant. We are never done learning. At AAFCPAs, we promote career self-reliance, meaning everyone should lead their own course. Providing learning paths and access to a robust online course curriculum is critical for success. Pair that with access to performance managers (to see where your gaps are) and executive coaches inside the firm. The opportunities are endless.

Mentorship is an important piece of the support system. Mentorship comes in many forms, both formal and informal, and it can be called by other names: coaching, sponsors, performance managers and advocates. Know the difference and look for people you admire and respect. Formal arrangements come with accountability and regular check-ins. Informal mentorship is ad hoc, usually based on a certain subject. You may grab someone you know who is good at business development and ask for dedicated time to conduct an informational interview. People who drive this process for themselves and don’t just wait to be told have greater success, and they typically progress faster toward their career goals.

How do you plan to address the ongoing challenges and opportunities presented by global economic shifts and geopolitical dynamics, particularly in the context of the AICPA’s mission?

My role as chair is to be a leader and influential voice providing relevant knowledge and advocacy that supports the global business community, CPAs and CGMAs. We are charged with protecting the evolving public interest.

In your opinion, what are the key ethical considerations that CPAs should prioritize in their practice, and how can the AICPA contribute to reinforcing ethical standards across the profession?

We must all prioritize ethical standards, beginning when team members walk through the door. The intersection of ethics and personal choice is modeled by leadership. It should be talked about regularly, not just every other year during a required course. Tone from the top is crucial. Areas that can trip up CPA firms are conflicts of interest, independence issues, and the ability for partners to retain objectivity, especially in long-term relationships. Areas that can trip up industry accountants are not keeping up with standard changes or succumbing to pressures from CEOs or boards to not follow standards in order to achieve a result that is more favorable for shareholders or other stakeholders.  I highly recommend every firm have a risk committee to hold the firm itself accountable to strict ethical behaviors.

Given your position as a managing partner, how do you plan to advocate for small and mid-sized CPA firms within the AICPA, ensuring their unique needs are represented?

The AICPA advocates for the profession as a whole, as we have numerous stakeholders – firms of all sizes, government, business and industry to name a few.  We produce many resources for small and mid-sized firms. The Private Company Practices Section (PCPS) is an executive committee dedicated to focusing on this demographic. During my tenure on the PCPS executive committee, I contributed content in this area and know the quality of information well. Specific events are organized around industries and firm size (G400).

We have also focused on supporting small to mid-size firms in transformation as we know they do not have the resources the large firms have.  The Dynamic Audit Solution (DAS) is a perfect example of this, creating a transformative audit methodology that will be available to firms of all sizes.

As the AICPA chairperson, what initiatives or changes do you anticipate implementing to further advance the profession’s relevance and impact in today’s business environment?

My focus as chairperson will be to promote the profession in a way that enhances our reputation and replaces old stereotypes. I will advocate for technology, integration and advancing the evolution of the accounting business model.

I anticipate speaking freely on the importance of strong leadership and what that looks like in a human-first culture. This, together with working to elevate the accounting industry’s contributions and promoting excitement in the profession, will help make the CPA career attractive to the youngest generation and improve the profession’s pipeline.


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