The AICPA is proposing a merger with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) with the merged entity being called the AICPA.
Yes, that’s right. The new organization will be the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
Fifteen years ago we had the “cognitor” mess. That faded.
Now we have the CGMA credential which initially was available to anyone with a CPA certificate that wanted to write a check. Now it is open to anyone that wants to take a rigorous test, with no CPA credential needed. Apparently that hasn’t gone over very well, according to an article I will mention shortly.
So now we have a proposed merger of the AICPA (with CPA) with the CIMA to create the AICPA (with professional accountants in title).
An article at Going Concern is the starting point for my discussion today: Don’t Forget: Voting on the AICPA-CIMA Merger Starts on Monday.
Caleb Newquist doesn’t see much purpose here other than a power play by the AICPA (with CPA in title) leadership to increase their power by bringing in a lot of new members. He also sees AICPA (without CPA in title) as a dilution of the CPA brand.
That is my biggest concern. In addition to removing certified public accountant from the title of our new trade association there is a serious risk this would reduce the focus on the CPA world which would further reduce the brand.
Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, speaks in favor of the proposal in a comment at the Going Concern article.
If you want background from the AICPA, you can find it at the accounting horizons website.
In case you are wondering about the use of the word merger, looks to me like that is the appropriate description. Consider the second bullet point on the highlight page:
The AICPA and CIMA would integrate our strategies, management and operations to advance the entire profession — public and management accounting. Approximately 40% of AICPA members work in business and industry.
I think integration of management and operations constitutes a merger. At least that’s my thought. Might be that three sets of letters are placed on the door (AICPA, CIMA, AICPA), but based on the AICPA’s description it will be one organization.
There isn’t a lot of discussion of the proposal on the ‘net that I can see. Comments from non-official representatives tend mostly to consider this a merger. Official comments insist this is not a merger.
The Going Concern article points to two other columns which also take a dim view of the merger.
The Accounting Onion
Prof. Tom Selling at The Accounting Onion on 4/15: Before You Vote On the AICPA-CIMA Merger, Follow the Money.
Prof. Selling provides a history lesson. He explains in 1999 the AICPA faced a decision on how to address stagnant revenue – either make the Institute more relevant to practitioners or bring in non-CPA members. The result was the “Cognitor” credential designed to bring in new members, which was rejected by membership.
In 2012 the Institute created a joint venture with CIMA. As part of the agreement CIMA changed their credential from “Chartered Management Accountant” to “Chartered Global Management Accountant”, which is the CGMA which you CPAs have heard so little of in the actual work world. Article says only 10% of the AICPA membership signed up. (Buying a new credential got a rather harsh reaction in the Going Concern realm, as I recall.)
That is not a particularly good participation rate considering that all you had to do to get extra initials after your name was send in a check. That is a lot easier than going to grad school to get the letters MBA . After a few years of open enrollment, so to speak, there is now a requirement to actually take a difficult test.
Prof. Selling finds it ironic that the primary advocates for CPAs have put 17 years of effort into certificates other than the CPA.
His assessment of the merger:
For the life of me, I can’t see what value a CPA will get out of the merger. Heretofore, nothing prevented a CPA from also being a member of the CIMA; and the old-school CPA/CMAs have been sold down the river.
The professor sees a conflict of interest in that CGMA certificate holders must pay for lots of hours of CPE from the AICPA (with CPA in title) or a state society.
Article points out the motion by leadership will require a two-thirds majority of those voting (not the membership). This makes each “no” vote quite valuable.
Get out and vote!
The Spirit of Accounting
Professors Paul Miller and Paul Bahnson weighed in back on 12/30/15 at Accounting Today (free registration required): Transparency, integrity, prophecy and the AICPA merger.
Their assessment of the merger early in the article:
…the real goal is an empire that benefits a few but certainly not the vast majority of AICPA members.
They see no benefit for CPAs:
We also think that closely affiliating CPAs with others who lack that credential will cheapen their hard-earned and highly respected professional reputations.
They see no benefit for members of CIMA:
Further, we don’t see how CIMA’s members would benefit from being swallowed up by the institute.
So they see no benefit for AICPA members. No benefit to CIMA members. Reminds me of the old joke, Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
They predicted back in 2012 that setting up the CGMA was just the first step toward a merger of the two organizations.
Their writing years ago pointed out the apparent goal of Cognitor was to add attorneys and information technology specialists to the AICPA membership. The CGMA credential adds non-CPA management accountants. The proposed merger would add into membership all the current members of CIMA. That would add a reported 100,000 previously licensed CGMAs into the AICPA (without CPA) membership under control of AICPA (with CPA).
Gotta’ bad feeling about this
I have been a member of another trade association, the Christian Leadership Alliance, for many years. The organization used to be focused on board governance, management, staffing, finance, and operations of parachurch ministries. There was a robust focus on accounting, tax, and legal issues. There was a small focus on assisting staff working in churches.
Several years ago CLA merged with a fundraising organization.
Since that time the primary focus of CLA has shifted to fundraising. To see my point, merely take a look at the list of classes for the annual conference, which is running this week. You will see a fraction of the finance, accounting, and tax courses available today compared to what was offered five years ago. Fraction as in one-third or one-half. Several of the highest value recurring accounting classes are gone. You will see a multiple increase of the pure fundraising classes as in three or four times more than before.
I stopped attending the annual conference a few years ago when the number of classes I was really interested in dropped from six or eight each year to maybe zero or one or two. As an aside, the list of plenary speakers seems to be on a five or seven year rotation.
While acknowledging that I don’t get out much, I’ve heard from a variety of my colleagues that they are cutting way back on attendance. Of course, frequently scheduling the conference on tax day doesn’t make it easy for CPAs to attend. Hmm. The shift to holding the conference on tax filing date also seems to have happened in the last couple of years.
The focus of CLA shifted away from management, finance, and HR and towards fundraising after the merger.
I fear the same thing will happen with the AICPA merging or non-merging or joint-venturing into the AICPA.
Consider the ramifications carefully before you vote.
What do you think?
Feel free to share your thoughts below.
Comments welcome. Keep it professional. The cutoff for professional is unilaterally determined by me.