Engaged and entertrained people among the audience at 2018 ONE conference

CPAs at this year’s The ONE National Conference in Halifax gleaned new insights into the future of their profession from more than 30 sessions that addressed on-trend topics like artificial intelligence, digital currency, data analytics and cybersecurity. (Zahra Zaman)

Accounting | Events

The ONE National Conference challenges professionals to break out of the status quo and prepare for a challenging future 

CPAs gathered at the annual conference to connect and share ideas on issues they face as professionals and in the industry 

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CPAs walked away from this year’s The ONE National Conference in Halifax with new insights into the future of their profession and clear takeaways on where to focus their attention as the industry evolves and adapts in an age of disruption.

Inevitabilities like artificial intelligencedigital currency, data analytics and cybersecurity were some of the pressing, on-trend topics addressed in the more than 30 sessions that took place over two days on Oct. 1 and 2. Some sessions tackled important industry-specific issues, including regulation and standards, internal audit and tax reform. Organizational and professional development advice including evolving leadership, change management and risk assessment were also topics that engaged and challenged the status quo.  

For Ian Brenner, CPA, CA, partner, interim management and executive search and performance improvement practices at Farber in Toronto, it was these sessions that were most inspiring and applicable to his role. “[My key takeaway] is the diversity of roles that I see CPAs playing beyond just finance,” he said. “CPAs are more interested in leadership, strategy. There’s been a jump from the pure technical to broader business.”

Imtiaz Haider of Kawartha Credit Union in Peterborough, Ont. agreed.

“The innovation and changes coming to the profession are mind boggling…it’s changing our processes and the change is coming fast,” he said. 

“You need to think outside the box and as accountants we are very used to doing things in a certain way. If someone challenges status quo, it’s difficult for us to grab something and move forward, so that’s the biggest thing for me.” 

Sessions on artificial intelligence and machine learning also sparked online discussion, with attendee Allison Hawkins tweeting: “Talking about how machine learning augments our abilities it doesn’t replace them. Exited [sic] to continue improving the value we give to clients!”

That message resonated with Bill Kennedy, CPA, CA, who tweeted: “I don’t feel threatened by #AI or #MachineLearning, any more than I feel threatened by a calculator. They are my tools.”

Under the theme, Sustainability through adaptability, the conference aimed to not only draw together finance professionals in a time of global uncertainty, but to inspire them to think beyond where they are today, to challenge what they do and contemplate where they are heading as CPAs, as organizations, and as a profession, overall. 

“With all the different paths that you can take, whether it’s financial or management or leadership, there is something for everybody [at The ONE],” said Kellie Skelhorn, CPA, CMA, chief operating officer and associate registrar of College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. 

“It’s so relevant. You think that your organization is the only one going through change, but it isn’t, everybody is going through it. Adaptability is the name of the conference, and it’s about how people can become more adaptable.”

Keynote addresses—including those by classical violinist and renowned speaker, Kai Kight, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Breather, Julien Smith, CFO of the Year Nathalie Bernier, and Deloitte’s Duncan Stewart—reinforced this theme.

“Great keynote from CFO of the year Nathalie Bernier from PSP,” tweeted conference attendee @CriticalMark. “Cultural challenges were what she faced but she is overcoming it by taking what was good with the culture and sharing that knowledge. Way to go!”

Drawing more than 1,000 attendees from across the country and abroad, The ONE National Conference proved to be, once again, a place for CPAs, regardless of industry, position or rank, to come together, connect and share ideas.

“[The ONE] was fantastic! To see the great sessions, speakers, and forward-thinking feel permeate this event was incredibly encouraging as we work together to transform the industry,” tweeted attendee Rachel Fisch. “I will definitely be back next year! Bien sur!”

Next year’s event will take place in Montreal on September 23 and 24, 2019. 

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