It took Jaime Henderson Beasley, a 2005 graduate of the Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) Program at the NC State Poole College of Management, nine months to decide to leave her job at a major public accounting firm and accept a position at the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). She had entered the accounting field amidst a significant reformation of the profession and regulations related to accounting in the wake of the Enron scandal. However, this wasn’t a deterrent to her and she thoroughly enjoyed the excitement and challenge of a new problem to solve every day.
“There is never a normal day in public accounting, and I worried that I wouldn’t have that challenge in another position,” said Beasley, who works with the AICPA’s Peer Review Program. “But it’s been a great decision to work here.”
Beasley, who has worked for the AICPA since 2014, is one of many Jenkins MAC Program graduates hired at the AICPA. Carey Mitchell (’09) has been a senior manager on the portfolio development and management team since 2015. Since 2013, Paul Wapner (’07) has managed volunteer committees and task forces to learn what resources the AICPA should provide to its members to help them succeed in business valuation. Each alumnus has a direct impact on the accounting profession, ultimately safeguarding investors and increasing their confidence in public companies.
The Peer Review Program that Beasley works with sends accountants into accounting firms to review a sampling of audit engagements to ensure that accounting and audit guidance has been applied accurately on the audit engagement. This oversight process enhances the quality of audits across the board, because when standards are misapplied, Beasley can take note so that she and the AICPA’s Peer Review team can work alongside governing bodies to clarify the current standards or create new standards, if necessary.
“If guidance is not applied correctly, you may have an audit report that says everything is fine at the company when it’s not,” she said. “We want to make sure that when consumers pick up a financial report, it is what it’s supposed to be.”
Accounting is one of the few self-regulated professions. “We write our own standards,” Beasley said, “so it behooves practitioners to maintain audit quality. If audit credibility goes down, the government could step in to write guidance, which would mean different standards for different industries, and that eventually would erode audit quality and consumer confidence.”
Beasley also chairs the North Carolina Association of CPAs Student Outreach Advancement & Recruitment (SOAR) committee, a committee designed to recruit the next generation of accounting professionals.
Wapner, who also has his Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential, began his career at a local public accounting firm. At the AICPA, he enjoys managing national practice leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to create guidance and oversee the AICPA’s ABV credential for CPAs who specialize in business valuation.
Wapner’s team also oversees the hot topic of fair value measurement, which many publicly traded companies have to report in their financial statements. The Securities and Exchange Commission, along with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, have issued deficiency letters signaling problems with audited financials. In response, the AICPA has partnered other organizations, both domestically and abroad, to develop a new framework that may be adopted globally.
“The framework that we’ve developed is responding to marketplaces needs by provides clear and thorough documentation of the valuation process,” Wapner said. “Our framework doesn’t tell valuation specialists how to run the numbers. It tells them how to document their findings and what to provide to an auditor.”
Mitchell’s role is somewhat different from her colleagues’. She interacts with multiple teams to learn what members need to know, how they prefer to consume new information and how to find and access valuable resources the Association provides.
Because businesses are increasingly operating on an international scope, Mitchell extends her attention to learning styles of accountants in other countries. Earlier this year, the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), launched the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants to empower the world’s most highly-skilled accountants – CPAs and CGMA designation holders – with the knowledge, insight and foresight to meet today’s demands and tomorrow’s challenges
“So much noise is coming at people from all different angles,” she said, “and my team is trying to break through that. How do we do that efficiently without interrupting members’ lives?”
Mitchell, who has prior experience working in both large and small public accounting firms, monitors trends in the industry as they pertain to technology and new methods for acquiring industry insights, knowledge and competency.
“CPAs provide an immensely important service to society. As technology changes the contours of our profession, I want the field to maintain its relevancy. A big portion of my job is thinking about the future and where CPAs fit in. My team and I are not only thinking about what can help CPAs and CGMAs tomorrow – we’re thinking about what will benefit our members and the profession 10 to 20 years down the line.”
For Mitchell, that means learning what accountants in China need to know to succeed in their jobs, and also which avenues they prefer to maintain excellence in competency and learning. An accountant working for a global corporation does management accounting, as opposed to public accounting, and may have the CGMA designation or the CPA equivalent in his or her country.
“We want them to succeed, too,” Mitchell said. “Or if you work for PwC in France, you may be doing public accounting. How do we help you? The Association’s reach and focus is truly global.”
The future of the profession is bright and certainly holds ample excitement for accountants seeking challenging, meaningful work anywhere in the world.