Security regains place as top technology priority for CPAs, North American survey finds

The 25th Anniversary North America Top Technology Initiatives survey results highlights the top 10 technology priorities of accounting professionals in the United States and Canada. Conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), the survey asked respondents to prioritize their 2014 technology initiatives.

NEW YORK/TORONTO, April 16, 2015 – Professional accountants in both the United States and Canada say preventing security threats is their top technology-related priority.  

Most CPAs believe they are doing a good job of meeting security challenges relating to traditional networks and servers for their firms, clients and employers, according to the 25th Anniversary North American Top Technology Initiatives Survey, jointly conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). However, concerns remain about mobile device vulnerabilities and sophisticated, persistent cyber threats.

Safeguarding information technology (IT) assets has been the top priority in the U.S. survey for eight of the past 10 years, but was displaced in the previous survey by “managing and retaining data.” With several widely publicized cyber-attacks that resulted in the loss of sensitive personal information for millions of North Americans, the category has re-emerged as the top initiative on both sides of the border.

Nearly half of U.S. survey respondents are convinced they’re taking the right steps to secure the IT environment, with 47 per cent saying they are somewhat confident to highly confident about meeting that task. Still, that’s down slightly from the previous survey.

“Information security and privacy protection are critical business issues for the smallest start-up to the largest global organization,” said Joel Lanz, CPA, CITP, and chairman of the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance section. “This survey underscores that CPAs are keenly aware they have a unique role to play in assessing and managing tech-related security risks though a business lens for clients and employers.”

This is the second joint technology survey by the two organizations. Turning to the Canadian respondents, 68 percent expressed confidence about tackling IT security—up 12 percentage points from the previous survey—although those results were collected before some of the more notorious data breaches.

“Individuals tasked with securing the IT system face a daunting challenge in today’s world full of rapid technological advances,” says Frank Colantonio, CPA, CA, CITP and a director with CPA Canada. “A security breach can trigger unpredictable costs so it is not surprising to see professional accountants wanting companies to dedicate resources aimed at protection.”

In addition to security, “ensuring privacy” was another category that climbed the rankings since 2013 for both the United States (No. 3, up one spot) and Canada (No. 4, up from No. 6). A solid majority (58 percent) of U.S. CPAs say they have a good understanding of the regulatory and compliance requirements on confidentiality of personal information, and 60 percent say they have appropriate privacy-related safeguards in place.

In Canada, meanwhile, three out of four accounting professionals are confident they have the right privacy safeguards and controls in place.

North American Top Technology Initiative Rankings

U.S. Results  

  1. Securing the IT Environment   
  2. Managing and Retaining Data   
  3. Ensuring Privacy  
  4. Managing IT Risks and Compliance   
  5. Preventing & Responding to Computer Fraud   
  6. Enabling Decision Support and Analytics   
  7. Managing System Implementation 
  8. Governing and Managing Our IT Investment  
  9. Managing Vendors and Service Providers   
  10. Leveraging Emerging Technologies  

Canadian Results

  1. Securing the IT Environment
  2. Managing and Retaining Data
  3. Managing IT Risks and Compliance
  4. Ensuring Privacy
  5. Managing System Implementation
  6. Preventing & Responding to Computer Fraud
  7. Enabling Decision Support and Analytics
  8. Governing and Managing Our IT Investment
  9. Leveraging Emerging Technologies
  10. Managing Vendors and Service Providers

A full report is available online at www.aicpa.org and at www.cpacanada.ca/toptech2014

Survey Methodology

Some 3,061 accounting professionals participated in The 25th Anniversary Top Technology initiatives Survey which was conducted electronically from Oct. 14, 2014 to Nov. 3, 2014 in the United States. Some 39 percent of U.S. respondents work in public accounting, 36 percent in business and industry, with the balance coming from the non-profit, consulting, education, government and other sectors. Most held senior positions in their firms or companies.

A total of 256 accounting professionals participated in the Canadian portion of the survey, which was conducted from Feb. 7, 2014 to March 14, 2014. Almost half (46 percent) of Canadian respondents work in business and industry, 16 percent in public accounting, 14 percent in government, with the balance in consulting, non-profit, education and other sectors. Most held senior positions in their firms or companies. The two components of the North American survey were conducted at different times because of data collection issues that led to a resurveying in the U.S. Because of the time gap, the U.S. and Canadian survey results should not be relied upon for direct comparisons.

About CPA Canada

Canada’s accounting profession is uniting under a new single designation, Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). The profession’s national body, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), represents and supports more than 190,000 members across the country. CPAs are valued for their financial and tax expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, management skills and leadership. CPA Canada has consolidated the operations of three national accounting bodies: The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada and The Society of Management Accountants of Canada. CPA Canada conducts research into current and emerging business issues and supports the setting of accounting, auditing and assurance standards for business, not-for-profit organizations and government. It also issues guidance on control and governance, publishes professional literature and develops certification and continuing education programs.

About the AICPA

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession, with more than 400,000 members in 145 countries, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, and offers specialty credentials for CPAs who concentrate on personal financial planning; forensic accounting; business valuation; and information management and technology assurance. Through a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), it has established the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation which sets a new standard for global recognition of management accounting. The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and Ewing, NJ.

For more information, contact:

 
Diana Sorace
Manager, Media Relations
CPA Canada
T: 604-694-6700
C: 604-551-4487
dsorace@cpacanada.ca
www.cpacanada.ca

Jeff May
Media Relations Manager
AICPA
T: (212) 596-6122
jmay@aicpa.org
www.aicpa.org