As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, we share the story of one CPA, his remarkable achievements and the traits that were instilled in him growing up in a Chinese-American household. In my five years working closely ...

 

The One Personality Trait All CPAs Share and more...




The One Personality Trait All CPAs Share

Patrick Lee medalsAs Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, we share the story of one CPA, his remarkable achievements and the traits that were instilled in him growing up in a Chinese-American household. 

In my five years working closely with CPAs of diverse backgrounds, I am increasingly seeing one very consistent trait all CPAs seem to share, no matter what their background: drive. I know CPAs who have faced frustrating, even heartbreaking obstacles in pursuit of their credential. Even through the obstacles those same CPAs also strive for excellence in every aspect of their lives. 

That certainly seems to be the case with Patrick B. Lee, CPA. It’s not something he can shut off. Whether he’s teaching or running a marathon, he always seems to be devising new strategies to do things better and faster.

As someone whose instinct tells him to analyze and problem-solve, Lee, an assistant professor of accounting at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, finds that drive creeping into all areas of his life.

“I don’t mind the running, I guess,” said Lee nonchalantly. “I enjoy the mental game -- can I get it done? Being the accountant that I am, I’m thinking about my average mile time. Those calculations are running through my head the entire time.”

Lee doesn’t consider himself an athlete, yet he’s motivated to keep running. His office walls are strung with medals from Disney marathons and other events. Through running, he saw a local business opportunity, starting his own company that provides official timing for road races. Even a part-time job he landed in college -- what was supposed to be just a fun way to earn extra cash -- has translated into a 14-year stint managing high-stakes cheerleading competitions.

Lee juggles it all while growing the Southwestern accounting program, and the audience for his accounting-focused YouTube channel.

“If you really think about it, being a CPA you have to be driven, because those tests are not easy,” said Lee, who started his career as an auditor at Deloitte. “If you’re not driven to study for them, you’re not going to pass. If you’re not driven to work your 40 hours and then go home and study, you’re not going to pass. Whether or not you want to be driven, you have to be, and that drive spreads to the other things you do.”

Lee attributes much of his success to his upbringing in a Chinese-American household. His parents each emigrated from Hong Kong as children, and brought with them a culture that places high value on discipline and academic achievement, he said.

“That’s just the way we grew up,” Lee said. “You did your work first. If your homework wasn’t done, there was no watching TV.” Lee’s mother stayed home to raise him and his younger brother while his father worked late and on weekends at a warehouse job, picking up as many extra shifts as he could.

“The idea was the harder you work, the more successful you’ll be, and that’s part of the reason I’ve become so driven,” Lee said. The work ethic instilled by his parents is one facet of Lee’s richly diverse experiences.

Among all of his endeavors, Lee also finds time to work with the AICPA Diversity & Inclusion initiative, whose mission is to promote a workplace that is reflective and inclusive of the global communities in which they serve. Lee meets with students across the U.S. and encourages those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to pursue education and careers in accounting.

“Working with students is a passion of mine,” said Lee, who left Deloitte and then sold his own firm to pursue teaching. “And working with diversity and inclusion allows me to help create a better, more diverse population of accountants. Whether that’s in different ethnicities or having more females as CPAs, I think that allows the profession to grow exponentially for a diverse population that has diverse needs, all working to solve the same problems.”

We all know CPAs who demonstrate motivation and drive, like Patrick does. At the same time, we recognize that CPAs of diverse backgrounds bring different talents, skillsets and perspectives to the work environment. If you want to know more about how to tap into the benefits of a diverse workforce, and strengthen the diversity and inclusion programs at your firm, join me and my team at the AICPA ENGAGE conference, taking place in Las Vegas, NV and online June 12-15, 2017. Attendees gain access to six high-powered educational conferences and earn up to 35 CPE credits. Key sessions related to diversity and inclusion initiatives include a panel led by AICPA Chairman Kimberly Ellison-Taylor on driving innovation through inclusion, a session led by Kim Drumgo, Director- Diversity & Inclusion, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants- Public Accounting, on developing a global mindset, and a session on multicultural marketing led by Global Diversity Marketing founder and CEO, Tariq Khan. I would also recommend tuning in for a live webcast and fireside chat on disruption in financial services which I will be leading alongside Tariq Khan. Also, join me at ENGAGE for learning labs on understanding unconscious bias. 

 

Kim Drumgo, Director - Diversity and Inclusion, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

 

4 Things Advisers Should Know about Technology Today

Voice recognition in a carAs practitioners, we have a responsibility to our clients and to ourselves to stay up to date on the latest tools and techniques of our trade. Most CPAs providing advice to individuals do an admirable job of staying current on tax and financial planning techniques, but not as well staying current on technology issues facing their firm. Here are some technology-related issues practitioners should be focusing on today.

The Pace of Change in Financial Technology (FinTech)

A revolution in financial technology has taken place over the last several years. If anything, the pace of change is accelerating, with implications for all financial service professionals. Until recently late adopters of technology were not penalized for being late to the game, because most of their local competitors were also late adopters. Technology has broken down regional barriers, so today you are not only competing against other local providers, but national and perhaps international providers as well. In addition, new players have entered the marketplace. FinTech startups from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are becoming a disruptive force, raising the technology bar and putting pressure on margins. The bottom line for readers is this: If you are not reviewing and upgrading your firm’s technology at least annually, you are falling behind. If there isn’t someone at the firm specifically responsible for this, the odds are that it won’t get done.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Not Just for Gaming

I believe that 2017 could be the year for virtual and augmented reality in financial services. These technologies have many applications in our industry. To cite just a few examples, virtual reality can play a role in gauging a client’s risk tolerance. Clients are less risk averse when markets are going up, and more risk averse after a major market decline. Many advisors say that you can’t accurately gauge a client’s risk tolerance until they have experienced a bear market. Well, why wait for it to happen? With virtual reality, they can experience the pain without the potential financial loss. These technologies use state-of-the-art 3D facial imaging coupled with artificial intelligence algorithms to track and analyze the user’s emotions in real-time, enabling them to find out how they really feel about money, so they can make better money decisions. Another example is aging. When I was much younger, I could not envision aging and retiring. With virtual reality, we can help clients envision what aging and retirement might be like in the hope of modifying behaviors.

Voice Commands

Speech recognition and voice technologies have been around for years, but the accuracy and sophistication of the technology has improved substantially. The unprecedented success of Amazon’s Alexa technology, which powered the Amazon Echo, Dot, Tap and Amazon TV is ushering in a new wave of innovation in the field. It is highly likely that 2017 will be the year that voice commands and Alexa-like technologies make meaningful inroads in financial services; in fact, the revolution has already started. For example, Alexa can already provide stock quotes, set price triggers with real time notifications for US stocks, provide foreign exchange rates, provide financial news from multiple sources, obtain information about various insurance products, calculate mortgage payments and more. Capital One customers can even get transaction and balance information on their credit cards, bank balances, auto loans and home loans by simply asking Alexa. Don’t you think your clients would like similar functionality? You may have to provide it sooner than you think in order to stay competitive.

Auto Technology

I recently went car shopping and was amazed at the advances in auto technology. Major car companies are partnering with Apple, Android and others to enhance auto technology significantly. This means that, by extension, Apple, Amazon and Android mobile apps are going to become available to a large portion of the driving public. If Alexa-type functionality extend to autos, the public will soon be checking their balances and perhaps even performing financial transactions while driving to work. Do your current providers support this functionality today? Probably not, but before long some will, and if some do and yours don’t, you might be at a competitive disadvantage.

In an article this brief, we can just give a few examples of the changes that are, and will be impacting our industry very soon. The hope is that, if you are unaware or unprepared for the unprecedented changes taking place in technology as it relates to financial services, this will serve as a wake-up call and encourage your firm to get up to speed now.

Working with the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Division, I authored The CPA’s Guide to Technology in a PFP Practice, which can help practitioners navigate the vast array of technology decisions for your practice, including general office hardware and software, document management systems, CRM applications, portfolio management and accounting software, financial planning software, custodial information and cloud computing.  For more information on the recent ransomware concerns and how you can implement cybersecurity in your practice, access this podcast.  

Joel Bruckenstein is an internationally recognized expert on applied technology for financial professionals and Publisher of Technology Tools for Today (T3) — formerly Virtual Office News, now dubbed the T3 Tech Hub. He is also the producer of the annual T3 Advisor Conference, has co-authored three books and has advised financial service firms of all sizes on improving their technologies, processes and workflows for more than 20 years.

Voice recognition courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Learning from Prince’s $250 Million Mistake

Prince 2Finally, almost a year and a month to the date of his death, a judge confirmed Prince’s six siblings to be his rightful heirs – after more than 45 people came forward claiming to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives.

Last year, the legendary musician passed away, leaving behind not only a legacy of unparalleled music, but also a $250 million fortune – with no will or estate plan to be found. With the long-anticipated announcement that his siblings will inherit his fortune, we’re reminded again of the importance of planning ahead and hiring trusted experts to carry out your wishes.

Whether you have people clamoring after your money or not, it’s important to consider hiring an expert to sort through the, at times, very complicated process of estate planning. There are DIY websites and software packages that may seem attractive (and cheap!), but more often than not, you get what you pay for. More complicated life situations, such as children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, or capital gains from property appreciation, require the hands-on insight of an expert.

If you are a CPA or a lawyer, you might consider yourself the expert – but just as authors have other writers proofread their work, it’s important to have an unbiased third party look over your documents. Even U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who died in 1995, should have relied on estate planning experts to prepare his estate plan – but instead he took it upon himself, and his family paid over $450,000 in taxes because of his errors.

To be better prepared than Prince and Chief Justice Burger, seek out the assistance of an attorney or a CPA to draft a will and do estate planning, respectively. An attorney will help you navigate a will, and a CPA is best positioned to help with more complicated estate planning.

For more information on estate planning basics, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy offers the following articles and Q&A:

Still not convinced you should hire an expert to do your estate planning? Check out these other famous people who failed to properly plan

Samantha Delgado, Manager – Communications, PR & Corporate Responsibility, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

 

It’s Time to Speak the Same Language on Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity 3Recent massive ransomware attacks on organizations around the world demonstrate how disruptive—and in some cases destructive—cyberattacks can be. The “WannaCry” malware incident is just the latest alarm on the ever-urgent call for companies to immediately address and manage their cybersecurity risks. Every organization is susceptible to cyber assaults, making a clearly defined, flexible and robust risk management program essential to a business’s ongoing success.

Addressing an Increasing Market Need

With cyberattacks on the rise, organizations are not only reinforcing their ability to prevent attacks, but also taking steps to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to detect, respond to, mitigate and recover from attacks on a timely basis. Customers, investors, boards of directors and even government officials want to know more about what companies are doing to address cybersecurity.

At the AICPA, we saw the emerging market need several years ago. We recognized that there hasn’t been a consistent, common language for describing and reporting on the cybersecurity risk management programs organizations put in place. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for stakeholders to determine whether an organization’s cybersecurity risk management plan effectively addresses potential threats. We asked our Auditing Standards Board (ASB) and Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC) to work together to develop a voluntary, agile, market-driven solution.

Cybersecurity Reporting Framework Creates a Common Language

The AICPA has released a cybersecurity risk management reporting framework developed by a group of ASEC members representing a broad swath of CPA practitioners providing IT security services to clients in a wide range of businesses and industries. The framework consists of a description of the entity’s cybersecurity program prepared by management, a management’s assertion, and a CPA’s opinion. Together with two sets of related criteria, the framework provides a common language for organizations to describe their cybersecurity risk management efforts (in the description) and for CPAs to report on those efforts.

 

The framework is designed to meet the information needs of a broad range of third-party users. It provides organizations with a common language to use when evaluating and reporting on their cybersecurity efforts, and gives them a level of comfort that they’ve adequately considered best practices when designing, implementing and operating their programs. 

Because the framework is aligned with security frameworks and standards organizations frequently use internally to manage their cybersecurity risks, it offers a way for companies in all industries to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of cybersecurity controls, regardless of the security standards or frameworks they use internally. 

The Accounting Profession’s Critical Role

The accounting profession plays a vital role in the many facets of cybersecurity risk management, and our reporting framework facilitates this work in the following ways:

  • Within their organizations, management accountants can help colleagues understand the importance of the role all staff members play in helping the organization achieve its cybersecurity goals. Management accountants more directly involved with the organization’s cybersecurity efforts can promote awareness and use of the framework as a means of communicating those efforts, both internally and externally, and of evaluating the effectiveness of the organization’s controls in achieving its cybersecurity objectives. 
  • CPAs can help their clients by providing cybersecurity risk management advisory services, such as an assessment of clients’ cybersecurity readiness to prepare those considering an examination. Of course, the framework is used by CPAs with significant experience assessing IT controls in a cybersecurity examination. As in a financial statement audit, a CPA’s opinion is designed to enhance stakeholders’ confidence in the cybersecurity information prepared by company management.

Learn More

The AICPA today released the final component of the new cybersecurity risk management framework. Reporting on an Entity's Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls is the attestation guide for CPAs engaged to examine and report on their client’s cybersecurity risk management programs and controls. The guide presents a new offering to help firms protect clients, their stakeholders and the public interest.    

For more information on the AICPA’s cybersecurity risk management reporting framework, visit aicpa.org/cybersecurityriskmanagement. You’ll find the reporting framework’s free description criteria, plus a fact sheet, backgrounder, illustrative report and other valuable free resources. In addition, the site contains links to the framework’s control criteria (2017 Trust Services Criteria for Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality and Privacy).

The AICPA’s cybersecurity risk management reporting framework and related criteria are a critical tool in the arsenal against today’s biggest business threat. Here are just a handful of other existing and upcoming resources to broaden accountants’ understanding of cybersecurity risks and implement the new cybersecurity risk management reporting framework:

I hope you’ll join me and the rest of the accounting profession in contributing to more effective ways to combat and conquer cyber assaults. Visit aicpa.org/cybersecurity for more information.

You can watch a rebroadcast of a Facebook Live session on cybersecurity with Joel White, Senior Director - Internal Audit, Risk, and Compliance. 

Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, Executive Vice President - Public Practice, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Cybersecurity courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Tips for Stress-Free Summer Travel

TravelAt long last, the winter coats have been washed and relegated to the back of the closet (or they’ll sit on the laundry room floor until next October waiting to be washed—don’t worry, I don’t judge) and you’re thinking about your summer travel plans. Perhaps you’d like to spend a glorious week at the beach, or take a road trip to visit historical sites. Maybe a lake house is your thing, or you’re jetting half way around the world to stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives* before they sink. It doesn’t matter whether your vacation will be via the family SUV or a private jet, there will be some element of drudgery—finalizing itineraries, packing, renting cars, making reservations. And if you’re traveling with young kids, face it: you’re going on a trip, not a vacation. The good news is that there are ways to minimize your vacation stress from the planning stages through the duration of your trip, no matter your destination or the company you keep.

Before You Go

  • Determine your budget. This is critical. Nothing will put a damper on a vacation more quickly than realizing you’ve signed up for something you can’t afford. Obviously, a family road trip to an amusement park a few hours away is going to cost significantly less than the aforementioned overwater bungalow in the Maldives**, but there’s a lot of gray between those two types of vacations. Find one that appeals to you and fits your budget.
  • Pick a destination. Perhaps you know exactly where you’d like to go and when. But maybe you want to figure out what there is to see and do before you book.
  • If you’re a foodie, you can look up restaurants that have been featured on TV shows to help you pick a delicious destination.
  • Book a flight (if applicable).
  • Set up price alerts with your preferred airlines or a flight curating site like Kayak or Expedia. This can help you get the best deal on a flight.
  • Apps and sites like Hopper and Skyscanner can also help you determine what actually constitutes a good deal on a particular flight.
  • Use SeatGuru to pick the perfect seat for your flight. It can give you the lowdown on location on the plane, whether there are outlets, how much legroom you get, and more.
  • If travelling domestically, upon booking a reservation, you have 24 hours to cancel it. So if you find a great deal but you aren’t sure, book it anyway and cancel if need be. Or keep looking around to see if you can find an even better price.
  • Rent a car. If you’ll be renting a car for your trip, use the CostcoTravel site. It finds the best rates based on location and, if you’re a member, offers additional discounts. While you’re at it, make sure your driver’s license hasn’t expired. Several years ago, my husband and I arrived in Ireland only to discover his license was expired. I spent the entirety of our vacation unexpectedly behind the wheel.
  • Download apps.
  • Once you’ve booked a flight, download the app for that airline. Many now allow you to track your baggage once you’ve checked in and will send you real-time updates on your flight status. Others allow you to rebook through the app if there’s a problem with your original flight.
  • TripIt can help you keep all of your reservations in one place so you aren’t searching all over for your flight, hotel and restaurant reservations.
  • Check your toiletry bag. Be sure you aren’t out of key items before you go. Vacation destinations are notorious for charging a premium for items such as sunscreen, antacids, deodorant, razors and toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Got kids?
  • Rent baby gear. Depending upon your destination, you may be able to rent strollers, cribs, beach gear, high chairs, car seats and other cumbersome baby items rather than schlepping them with you.
  • Take advantage of onsite babysitting. If you have kids, find out whether your destination has a kids’ camp or offers babysitting services so you can eat dinner after 6 p.m. one night.

Whether you’re loading up the car or hopping on a plane, we hope these tips and tricks help you arrive at your destination calm, happy and ready to have fun!

*My dream vacation.

**Did I mention this is my dream vacation? Seriously. It’s a thing.

Lauren J. Sternberg, Communications Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Travel courtesy of Shutterstock.

 
 
   
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