This month, two fixtures of the accounting firmament — Jeff Thomson of the Institute of Management Accountants and Todd Shapiro of the Illinois CPA Society — are stepping down from their longtime roles, and later this year they’ll be joined by the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ Ralph Thomas.
All have put in decades of service, and made enormous contributions to their organizations, their constituencies and, most important, accounting as a whole. They have helped guide both public and corporate accountants through periods of tremendous change and terrifying uncertainty, while at the same time guarding the profession’s core principles, and calling out its occasional failures and the ways it needs to grow to continue to live up to those principles.
The profession has many strengths, but the imminent retirements of Todd and Jeff and Ralph highlighted for me one of the strengths that isn’t celebrated enough, and that is the way that tens of thousands of its members contribute every day to its advancement.
In big ways and small, the profession benefits from the passionate engagement of its members at all levels. Whether it’s lobbying and educating legislators; pioneering useful new service offerings; helping set new standards; serving on the advisory boards of regulators; educating high school and college students on the opportunities in accounting; or volunteering at countless charities and nonprofits, individual accountants are constantly contributing.
What’s more, those contributions are decentralized. While the American Institute of CPAs and the IMA certainly provide national leadership and major platforms for volunteering, state CPA societies and the local chapters of organizations like the National Conference of CPA Practitioners are also hotbeds of professional activity. Todd and Ralph’s societies certainly are, but so is the Maryland Association of CPAs — from one the smallest states, it is one of the most influential as an incubator of new ideas.
And new ideas are bubbling up from firms of all sizes, too. The Big Four have no monopoly on the future; smaller firms have played key roles in pioneering CAS, for instance, to say nothing of crypto and cannabis services, and then sharing the secrets of their success with their peers. For me, personally, that willingness of accountants everywhere to share the things they’ve learned with their fellow accountants is one of accounting’s greatest strengths.
It’s hard to overstate the ways that Jeff and Todd and Ralph have contributed to building the future of accounting. And at the same time, it’s worth remembering the constant, continuing contributions of thousands of other accountants at all levels who make this such a vibrant, unique profession.