CPAs discuss the future of professionalism

Maintaining integrity and professionalism in a time of rapid change is an important conversation for CPAs. This video series features thoughts from leading academics and professionals recorded at a CPA Canada/University of Toronto symposium.

Against a backdrop of rapid change, CPAs are engaged in conversations about how to ensure that integrity, objectivity, and professional behaviour remain front and centre. Artificial intelligence, big data, the multi-generational workforce and international career mobility are just a few of the new realities facing CPAs and other professions.

This eight-part video series captures perspectives shared by leading academics and professionals who participated in a symposium presented by CPA Canada and the University of Toronto, in 2018.

"I don't think anyone doubts that professionalism is at the core of professional accounting," says Leonard Brooks, co-host of the event. "The profession's credibility and future depend on maintaining the trust of the public." Brooks has authored many articles and books on professionalism in accounting.He is also a professor of business ethics and accounting at the Rothman School and the Institute for Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto.

"All CPAs should be thinking about professionalism and what it means to each of us in terms of how new realities may affect our public interest mandate," adds Karen McCardle, director, CPA Canada and co-host of the event. "The diversity of thought that was presented at the symposium was outstanding. Len and I hope the people who view the video series will benefit from these insights."

In part 1, McCardle and Brooks provide an overview of the discussion topics and the experts who were assembled for the event.

Part 2 features renowned accounting historian, Stephen Zeff, Rice University. Dr. Zeff discusses the core values of professional accountants and shares his thoughts on what he sees as the decline of professionalism. Dr. Zeff's presentation, "Professionalism under Pressure: A historical perspective," raises thought-provoking considerations and challenges listeners to consider where the future intellectual leaders in the profession will come from.

Next up, three leading experts share their perspectives on how professionalism is affected by what CPA Canada categorizes as "the drivers of change": economic, environmental, technological, societal and geopolitical challenges and opportunities. Part 3 discusses professionalism and working in the public interest. The panel features Edward Waitzer of Stikeman Elliott; Sylvia Kingsmill of KPMG; and Robert Strachan, of Strachan and Associates.

Working in the public interest is also the focal point of Brooks' presentation in Part 4, "Professionalism, Trust, Leadership and Learning Frameworks for Professional Accounting." Brooks argues professionalism is currently under assault and offers suggestions on how universities could play a larger role in establishing a strong baseline of professionalism.

Part 5 is a lively session that explores the personal experience of three CPAs who developed their sense of professionalism through unique professional settings: "How We Learn" features Chad Davis of LiveCA; Blake Langill of E&Y; and Elaine Lee of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Part 6 features Sandy Hilton, CPA Canada; Chris MacDonald, Ryerson University; and Martin Martinoff, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, discussing a vision of professionalism and the importance of the courage to act.

In Part 7, Tricia O'Malley and Gordon Richardson comment on topics discussed throughout the symposium. O'Malley approaches the topic from a diverse background. Currently a corporate director, she is a former chair of the Canadian Accounting Standards Board and former member of the International Accounting Standards Board. Prior to appointments on standards boards, O'Malley was a partner with KPMG Canada. Richardson is recognized internationally as a leading scholar in academic accounting. He is an accounting professor at the University of Toronto and former editor of Contemporary Accounting Research, one of the top five academic accounting journals in the world.

Part 8 wraps up with a dialogue highlighting insights from symposium organizers McCardle and Brooks.