Accounting professional addressing participants at the first Foresight round table.

CPA Canada has officially kicked off the in-person round tables of our exciting initiative—Foresight: Reimagining the Profession—following weeks of spirited dialogue from hundreds of professionals on our digital discussion forum. (Photo by Paul Hyung Jin Park/CPA Canada)

Accounting | The Profession

Foresight: Reimagining the Profession round table discussions dive into the future of the accounting profession

Event allows stakeholders to share concerns about the future and collaborate on solutions

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CPA Canada has officially kicked off the in-person round tables of our exciting initiative—Foresight: Reimagining the Profession—following weeks of spirited dialogue from hundreds of professionals on our digital discussion forum.

On Sept. 4 and 5, CPA Canada hosted more than 40 selected stakeholders from across North America for a two-day event at our headquarters in Toronto, Ont., featuring round-table discussions on the most pressing issues facing the accounting profession. Attendees included CEOs, CFOs and senior representatives from the regulatory community, as well as representatives from CPA firms, academia and the public sector.

The participants gathered to share their experiences, concerns and ideas before rotating in and out of smaller groups to engage in scenario-building exercises. The event also featured four guest speakers presenting a variety of ideas on managing disruption, embracing technology and digitization and the impact of globalization on the accounting profession.

“You can’t plan for a future you can’t imagine,” said Oren Berkovich, president and CEO of Singularity University Canada and one of our guest speakers, summing up the overriding message of the project. And in that future, technology doesn’t have to be the enemy.

“I would love to see a future scenario where I don’t need my accountant to do the hard work of crunching numbers and collecting my invoices,” Berkovich added. “But [instead]…walking me through the financials and basically being the front person that I can interact with that will help me make sense of where we are at from an accounting perspective.”

Other guest speakers included John Seely Brown, independent co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge; Rohinton P. Medhora, president of the Centre for International Governance Innovation; and Sree Ramaswamy, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, who spoke about the potential opportunity that new technologies might present.

“Often the discussion is technology versus people, robots versus humans, and that’s not the way to look at it,” says Ramaswamy. “The more valuable way to look at it is that we all have tasks as part of our job, some of those get automated away, so which are those tasks? What’s the best way to create value with the time that’s freed up for these human workers? That means reorienting business processes and changing the outcomes for individual workers.”

Many of the talking points covered during the round tables followed up on the thoughts shared by hundreds of CPAs and business professionals who participated in our online forum leading up to the in-person meetings. 

The questions posed to participants online included: what do you see as the most significant challenges facing the profession in the next 10 years? And, what obstacles do you see that would prevent the profession from achieving this ideal state? The looming threat of technology and the need for CPAs to transition into new roles are two issues that are clearly top of mind for many in the profession. [See “What we learned from the September Foresight: Reimagining the Profession round tables” for more.]

Have your say

Participate in Foresight by joining the digital discussion and sharing your thoughts on a new series of questions related to the future of the accounting profession. Also make sure to check out our website for more details on the project, including videos of our round table speakers, digital discussion insights and other news.