Julien Smith

Julien Smith kicked off day two of The ONE National Conference with a keynote on the challenges around how organizations can differentiate themselves, find a new direction and have the wherewithal to pursue it. (Zahra Zaman)

Accounting | Events

Day 2 at The ONE National Conference: Focus on the future of the profession, from trends to innovative leadership

The second day gave CPAs insight into ways to advance and prepare as the profession undergoes change

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Evolving as a finance professional was a recurring theme on day two of The ONE National Conference, whether getting up-to-speed on trends including data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital currency or professionally evolving by becoming more responsive leaders, trusted advisers and innovators. 

Julien Smith, New York Times bestselling author and CEO of Breather, kickstarted the day with his session, The New Evolution: Wildly Uncompromising. He gave an energetic keynote on the challenges around how organizations can differentiate themselves, find a new direction and have the wherewithal to pursue it.

“The big challenge of our time right now in business is that we have to make a choice," Smith said. "It’s that we can’t have everything and so we have to make a choice…between efficiency and innovation, and that is really difficult."

“But most people can’t choose and they don’t necessarily have the culture, they don’t necessarily have the people to innovate, so all they can do is efficiency.”

Bennett Moore andGeoffrey CherBennett Moore (right) and Geoffrey Cher (Zahra Zaman)


In the session, Digital Currency: The Third Frontier of Value Allocation, speakers Bennett Moore, lead, blockchain technical resource at RSM US LLP, and Geoffrey Cher, partner at Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, gave insight into the global future of digital currency. Despite audience skepticism, Moore and Cher assured that it is here to stay with governments and financial institutions around the world hopping on board (U.K., France, Japan and Singapore, among them). Key challenges for digital currency include complexities around putting a value on the estimated 1,900 or so coins that exist (currently they are valued against hard currencies). There are also concerns around auditing and regulation.

“Within three years, hopefully, we will see a significantly different regulatory environment,” said Bennett. “Once we get clarity on those things, using blockchain is going to explode.”

Samantha Hurwitz and Marc HurwitzFlip University’s Samantha (left) and Marc Hurwitz (Zahra Zaman)


Commitment and engagement were the “it” words during Samantha and Marc Hurwitz’s session, Followership for Millennials. Honing in on a culture of communication and relationship between leaders and their employees—particularly millennials—the duo from Flip University put the audience to work identifying how they commit and engage with each other in their own organizations. Feedback varied with conflicting ideas of what commitment and engagement actually mean depending on your position, age and expectations. 

“Commitment is what you give in your leadership role and what you expect back is engagement,” explained Marc, “The challenge can be is that everybody has different things that engages them.”

He added: “What we need to do is shift our view from a leader-centric perspective of the world, [with] one eye were all you see is everything in two dimensions, to this binocular perspective, [with] both eyes open so you see the world in three dimensions, so that leadership and followership are complementary.”

Michelle Temple, CPA, corporate accounting manager at Cornerstone Credit Union in Yorkton, Sask., looks forward to sharing this approach with her colleagues. “What this [session] taught me is that, in the workplace, to make it more valuable for everyone, we have to become followers of [our leaders] and become valuable to that person,” she said. “It’s an exchange between us and the leaders.”

Michael Paterson and John ColthartMichael Paterson (left) and John Colthart (Zahra Zaman)


Coming back to the practical, two sessions—How AI Make CPAs Better and Data Analytics: Evolve or Become Extinct?—gave CPAs tips and takeaways when approaching data analytics and AI from an organizational perspective. Michael Paterson, CPA, CA, partner with PwC and John Colthart, VP of  Growth at MindBridge Ai, discussed AI from an adoption perspective. Colthart emphasized the need to fully understand the technology for it to be properly utilized. 

“Having the ability, whatever the technology is…to actually understand the details,” he said. “If you don’t understand that, then it’s probably not the right technology…that’s the biggest hesitation we are having.”

Meanwhile, calling data “the golden source,” Kevin Kolliniatis, CPA, CA, partner, audit with KPMG LLP and Sunny Chu, partner with Ernst and Young LLP, focused on how organizations can best extract and utilize the data using a five-step approach: the question, the hypotheses, the data, the insights, the actions. 

“It’s virtually an untapped resource. So many companies have data and they might not be realizing the value in it,” said session attendee, Paula George, controller at Casino Taxi Limited in Halifax. “It takes time to truly understand the value of the data, and the analysis of it all to figure out how it can best be utilized.” 

The ONE National Conference wrapped up on October 2 with a keynote address, Predictions for 2018 and beyond: the CPA version!, from Deloitte’s Duncan Stewart, tying together the conference theme, Sustainability through Adaptability, and other key takeaways from technological innovation to industry evolution. 


To stay up-to-date on other issues impacting the industry today, browse through CPA Canada’s upcoming events, from personal development courses and symposiums to networking opportunities.