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Young business people using post-it notes in a brainstorming meeting
From Pivot Magazine

The case for a forward-looking profession

A word from Joy Thomas, president and CEO of CPA Canada

Young business people using post-it notes in a brainstorming meetingCPAs, in both public practice and corporate settings, offer a unique perspective on innovation as a response to technological, societal, geopolitical or environmental change (Shutterstock/nd3000)

What’s the difference between innovation and technology? Some days these words seem to be used interchangeably, but of course they are very different concepts. Innovation is about much more than hardware and software. Rather, it’s about bringing fresh, novel and even revolutionary concepts to life in order to transform organizations and create sustainable value.

Innovation, moreover, doesn’t necessarily mean deploying big ideas and sweeping changes. In many successful companies, innovation describes a culture of agility in which employees constantly seek out better, often incremental ways of continually improving processes and systems. With today’s ever-evolving business climate, the old adage “innovate or die” has never been more relevant. 

CPAs, in both public practice and corporate settings, offer a unique perspective on innovation as a response to technological, societal, geopolitical or environmental change. In recent years, new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain have begun to transform the accounting profession. By keeping up with the pace of change, CPAs are learning to use their skill sets to identify not just the risks but also the opportunities generated by the disruption sweeping across the world.

The imperative to innovate is also a theme of Foresight, CPA Canada’s project to reimagine the future of the profession. The process, now entering its second phase, is examining how CPAs will need to pivot to new ways of doing things, including measuring value beyond financials to capture societal expectations; harnessing the power of vast quantities of data to make decisions; establishing new models of governance and standards; and continuously equipping CPAs with both core and enabling skills. The Foresight process is inspiring the profession to innovate at every turn—to shift away from relying on hindsight and instead become permanently proactive and forward-looking.

CEO and President of CPA Canada, Joy ThomasJoy Thomas (Photograph by Matt Barnes)

A case in point: FCPA Beth Wilson, a long-time senior partner at KMPG who, in 2017, took the helm of Dentons Canada. Her appointment turned heads: never before has a CPA—or any non-lawyer, for that matter—headed a major Canadian law firm. Dentons’ decision to hire Wilson attests not only to her track record as a leader, but also to her capacity to drive the organizational innovation required to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. Nearly two years into her tenure, much has changed. The firm is now hiring lawyers who know how to code and advising clients on how to harness Big Data. “We’ll see technology experts and coders working side by side with lawyers,” Wilson told Pivot.

The public sector is also fostering innovation. About a decade ago, the town of Innisfil, Ont., was in danger of being swallowed by surrounding municipalities. Instead of implementing the usual economic development incentives—reduced property taxes, breaks on fees, etc.—the town decided to make innovation its point of differentiation, beginning with a headline-generating public transit partnership with Uber, which provides residents with subsidized rides instead of traditional bus fleets. The idea has proven to be a big hit. The people of Innisfil had to choose: innovate or die. They chose to innovate, and they’re all the better for it.

I’m also delighted to announce that in its first year of publication, Pivot was recently named Best Magazine by the inaugural National Magazine Awards: B2B, an annual program that recognizes excellence in Canadian business-to-business publishing. The magazine won a total of six gold awards—more than any other magazine—including Best Profile of a Company (our inaugural cover story, “Boy wonder,” about Wealthsimple founder Michael Katchen’s quest to disrupt the big banks); Best Profile of a Person (“The decider,” Luc Rinaldi’s feature about former OMERS Ventures CEO John Ruffolo); Best Illustration (Matthew Billington’s art for “The loyalty dilemma,” about how shoppers are trading their personal data for discounts); Best Photograph (Guillaume Simoneau’s portrait of Navdeep Bains for “The minister of everything”); and Best Art Direction (Adam Cholewa, for “The future of audit” issue). Pivot’s predecessor, CPA Magazine, also won silver in the Best How-To Article category (“Battling investment bias,” by Tamar Satov). Congratulations to all the winners.