CPAs Discuss Challenging the Status Quo to Drive Industry Change

Emily Porro
June 19, 2018

On Tuesday, 1st Global representatives had the opportunity to sit down with several CPA industry influencers to learn about the trends and forces shaping the future of the profession. The interviews were led by Jody Padar, CEO and principal of New Vision CPA Group and author of “From Success to Significance: The Radical CPA Guide.” The live broadcast was hosted by VoiceAmerica on its Facebook page and live feed.

During the course of several interviews, Jody unearthed an interesting trend: CPAs are feeling empowered to change the industry — eliciting ideas of younger generations and broadening their minds to think boldly. Whether it’s embracing new models, adapting new next-generation technologies, teaming with like-minded, passionate peers or empowering employees to think big, it’s clear that the CPA industry is evolving.

For Lyle Benson, president and founder of L.K. Benson & Company and past chairman of the AICPA PFP Division Executive Committee, innovation meant bringing his son into his business.

“As the firm evolved, we got to a point where we had to get to the next stage,” said Benson. “Chris is a huge help in moving the firm forward. He has brought new thinking to the technology we use, processes we go through with clients and offers a fresh strategic focus on what we want the future of the firm to be. Together we are redefining the firm, and redirecting,” he explained.

His son Chris Benson leads the firm’s financial planning practice and is a founding member of the Young Advisers Network.

“I love technology and seeing new solutions,” said Chris Benson. “We’ve been upgrading our portfolio management software, moving to a cloud-based version of tax software and looking at solutions to be more automated. We’re looking at AI. Five years from now, nobody is going to be putting numbers in returns. We won’t be doing the mundane tasks we had to do. We’ll be spending our time meeting with clients and bringing real value.”

Jody also met with Lindsay Stevenson, vice president of finance & tax at 1st Financial Bank and chairperson of the EDGE Experience, a networking group which aims to reinforce the talent pipeline of CPAs and a broadened professional network of young professionals.

Stevenson spoke about how being a part of EDGE and networking with like-minded, passionate peers through the group has helped propel her success.

“Young CPAs and accountants often come into the workforce with passion and enthusiasm, but there is this pressure to be a genius, Stevenson said. “They put their head down and do work. But then the light bulb comes on — there’s so much more to this. I can change the world. That’s what EDGE has done for my career. I have a core belief that I can change the world. I am going to be part of that change.”

She also discussed how she’s seen the industry change from her first EDGE event in 2009, as her peers gained in seniority and influence.

“From early on we were asked what we’d do differently,” Stevenson said. “Eventually we became the decision makers and influencers, partners, CFOs and entrepreneurs. Being involved with passionate and engaged people driven to make a difference made me recognize it’s more than just numbers.”

Padar later spoke with Sarah Elliot, a former CPA and now founder of Intend2Lead, LLC, a certified CPA coaching firm who frequently presents at ENGAGE sessions. Padar asked Elliot whether CPAs lose their passion for making bold choices the further they get into their careers.

Elliot responded, “As CPAs, over time, we forget how to dream. We tell ourselves it’s not okay or responsible. Why bother dreaming? We are very smart. We analyze. We build spreadsheets. But if we can’t see a path to where we want to go, over time we buy into a mindset of limitation. We forget how to dream and connect with our purpose.”

Stevenson reinforced the importance of continuing to dream big and why ENGAGE has been so powerful.

“When we started, we were playing it safe and only doing professional development. A couple of years ago we said, ‘Let’s be bold and do some crazy sessions,’” Stevenson said. “We did one on PTSD…and another with Sarah about the dimension of what’s possible. It was so well received. EDGE has evolved; we don’t have to play it safe anymore. We don’t have to wait for people to tell us what to learn about. Be bold, crazy, careless and fearless.”

As CPA firms look to adapt to changing consumer needs and expectations, it’s clear that those in the profession need to be ready to make bold changes that empower their people and think big.

“Are we cultivating an environment and opportunities for people to explore who they are and try what they like?” Elliot questioned. “We want everyone to fit the mold and tell them what to be or do. It stifles creativity. If we give them space to decide what they want to be involved in, it opens new opportunities for people.”


Securities offered through 1st Global Capital Corp. Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investment advisory services offered through 1st Global Advisors, Inc.

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