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CPA podcast episode 6

Episode 6: Should CPAs be the voice of ethics in the boardroom?

As the accounting industry adapts to a new digital era, CPAs face increasing complexity and change within their professions. But what’s the CPA's role from an ethical perspective?

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Laura and Brian Friedrich, principals at Friedrich and Friedrich Corp. and co-authors of the article “Ethical Leadership in an Era of Complexity and Digital Change,” weigh in on the broader responsibilities faced by accountants when engaging in big picture planning and institution-wide decision making.

On this episode of Foresight: The CPA Podcast, Laura and Brian field real-world examples as they dive into topics including automation, change management, the human aspect of transitions, AI, and skill sets that keep accountants central to the economy.

They believe that, as trained problem solvers, clients look to accountants for solutions. Laura challenges CPAs to broaden their role in conversations with company leadership while also cautioning accountants to admit when they don’t know the answer. “[There isn’t a] definitive answer in a lot of situations,” explains Laura, “we need to be much more comfortable making that statement.”


View transcript

In this episode

  • The human aspect of transition: Laura and Brian respond to the complex ethical implications of Alberta’s decision to retire coal power by 2023. (1:25)
  • An evolving profession: The duo discusses how the CPA’s role has expanded beyond financial reporting over the years. (4:20)
  • C-suite solicitations: Laura explains why CEOs are ready to think more deeply about ethical dilemmas. Brian expands on the topic, detailing how and why accountants are the right people to lead the conversation surrounding the ethical implications of company choices. (6:02)
  • The accountant will be the judge: As the industry becomes increasingly automated, accountants must expand on their contributions related to judgment, decision making, and the management of people and resources to stay relevant. (11:29)
  • Upskilling into a new era: Brian details which skills accountants should focus on developing to remain an essential member of their team as technology and AI increasingly take over the bookkeeping and reporting spaces. (14:00)
  • Robotic uprisings: Laura discusses the unique ethical implications of rising AI technology and why a human eye (and mind) is still very much needed in assessing datasets. (18:00)
  • Loom and doom: The guests caution accountants to adapt and broaden their skill sets, warning them that those unwilling to grow may become the “weavers of the 21st century” and face obsoletion. (20:06)

Key takeaways

  • Accountants should challenge leadership to explore ethical implications. As trained problem-solvers, CPAs need to be the voice at the table, challenging leadership to look at decision-making through an ethical lens. This approach allows leadership to pursue sustainable growth and assess the long-term implications of company choices.
  • Now is the time to broaden skill sets. In an era with increasing reliance on technology and AI, accountants must shift their focus from financial reporting and bookkeeping to more complex critical thinking-based tasks. Doing so is essential for CPAs to remain central to the economy.
  • Think critically about which technologies to adopt. Just because a technology exists doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be added to a company’s tech stack. Careful decision-making about how (and when) to bring in new technology must be prioritized. Remaining aware of automation bias and the limits of algorithms are important areas to monitor as companies become increasingly reliant on automation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect those of CPA Canada.

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