One framework for the ideal CPA trade association – Implications for the proposed AICPA-CIMA merger

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Professors Paul Miller and Paul Bahnson writing at Accounting Today describe their ideal professional association – and why the AICPA doesn’t measure up.

Use their framework to assess the proposed merger of the AICPA and CIMA.

My previous comments on the merger:  On that merger of the AICPA and the CIMA resulting in a new AICPA.

The professors suggest the following premises for what a trade association would look like if the goal was to advance the profession and the interest of its members. I will quote their comments:

1.Purpose.The sole purpose for our ideal association would be to help its members benefit society through enhanced professional services to their clients, employers and the public. Affiliation would carry weight because members would be differentiated from nonmembers by their willingness to meet higher professional and ethical standards,

2.CPAs only. To avoid any ambiguity about who it serves, the association’s membership would include only CPAs in good standing.

3.Leadership.The leadership would be humble, honest and trustworthy in every respect. To avoid perpetuating an inbred clique, they would be nominated and elected openly with broad participation, not selected by existing officials. All paid managers would be laser-focused on helping members improve their performance and productivity, not on building a profitable commercial operation. …

4.Attitude.The leaders’ fundamental attitude would be that members must be treated as constituents to be served, not customers to be milked for dues and other revenues. The staff’s daily reality check would be that the association is fortunate to have CPAs as members, not that CPAs are fortunate to belong to the association.

A few of the implications for a trade association with a focus outlined by the professors would be an end to ancillaries peddling things when Amazon, Costco, SelectQuote, and QuickenLoans already do a superb job at providing selection, volume discounts, insurance, and loans.

Such a trade association would not take political positions because a organization as diverse as the AICPA would have members with a wide variety of interests and opinions. The cited example was lobbying against the PCAOB proposal for auditor rotation. Such a proposal would likely hurt some members but could likely provide opportunities to others. Taking a position on that issue probably help some members and hurt others.

Check out the full article for further explanation of their framework for an effective, focused trade association.

That framework would severely argue against the proposed merger of the AICPA and CIMA. Such a merger undercuts the advancement of the CPA profession, empowers the leadership, and focuses on members as customers instead of members.

What do you think? Professional comments welcome (with the determination for what constitutes ‘professional’ determined by me).

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