AICPA 2022 Spring Council Inauguration Speech
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Anoop N. Mehta, CPA, CGMA
Chair, American Institute of CPAs
May 17, 2022
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining in what has been another great Council meeting today, and it’s great to be in-person with all of you. We truly appreciate your time, energy and service.
I’m honored and humbled to accept the position as the 109th Chair of the AICPA, and Chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
The Association’s united approach is vital for representing, supporting, and protecting all of our accounting and finance colleagues across the globe. This is why I look forward to serving with the CIMA President and our Association Co-Chair, Melanie Kanaka, and with AICPA Vice Chair, Okorie Ramsey. Together, we make a great team!
I would like to start by thanking my amazing wife, Bina.
Bina, for all of your love and support over our years of marriage – I thank you from my heart. My two beautiful daughters, Anisha and Nikita, whose support and belief in their father has been an inspiration to me. I also acknowledge my two sons-in-law – truly a part of my family. And the two children who gave me my most cherished title – “grandfather” – Riyan and Anika. Mom, thank you for all of your sacrifices and encouragement. And dad, thank you. I know you are looking down with great pride.
I’m a believer in tradition, and traditionally two past chairs escort the incoming chair to the podium. I’m sure you must have noticed that I had three people escort me. It’s a special moment for the incoming chair, something Bill and Tracey were unable to experience in our last two virtual Spring Council meetings. Today, I want to recognize them for their incredible leadership, and with the help of Kimberley, give them the recognition they so well deserve.
Please join me in congratulating and thanking Bill Pirolli and Tracey Golden.
I would also like to thank Bill for his outstanding service over his entire career. I have seen him demonstrate great leadership as we continued to navigate an uncertain and constantly changing environment. I could not have had a better person to learn from. I’m honored to follow in his footsteps and continue his passion for our pipeline.
Bill, you have been a great mentor and friend. Thank you, and you know I’ll continue to lean on you and Paul Ash for your support and guidance
Of course, a huge thank you goes to Barry, the leadership team, staff and every volunteer at our global Association. Barry, I do believe you are a rock star!
I’ve watched the global Association staff – not all of whom are CPAs or CGMAs – double down during the last two years in support of our members, students and millions of small businesses. You’ve elevated us all, and I’ve never been prouder to be a part of this organization.
The past two years have shown us just how interconnected we all are. We’re truly a profession without borders and boundaries. A profession represented not only by AICPA and the Association, but by the work we do every day for our clients and employers. And the tremendous amount of time we give back to the communities where we live and work.
For more than a century, both AICPA and CIMA have united like-minded professionals. And now together, through the Association, we have a broader and a stronger platform to drive a dynamic accounting profession worldwide. We empower members and students with insight and foresight to help organizations succeed.
Like other past chairs, I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on the path that led me here today.
Accounting has always been a huge part of my life. My father was a Chartered Accountant who worked on three different continents over the course of more than 60 years. He began his career in India, worked for several years in Tanzania, and eventually came to the United States. He spent the rest of his years of service at a CPA firm in Maryland. He’s an example of how our profession can be lifechanging and how it can open doors in unexpected ways.
My father’s career truly illustrates that accounting is a global profession, connected with shared ethics and commitment to public interest. Having the ability to work across three continents shows that we’re part of a versatile and global community.
My dad had a passion for the profession. He made an impact – driving value for clients and businesses and commanding respect in the community. He was my inspiration to follow a similar path, and to make my own impact. While I credit my father for the passion in the profession, my mom, a teacher, showed me how a strong work ethic, drive and determination can make that passion into something real. I’m in awe of the energy you have; this energy powers everyone around you.
I see that dedication and passion reflected in my fellow CPAs and CGMAs.
As I reflect on these last few years and anticipate the coming disruptions we face, I see our profession steadily and enthusiastically guiding people to a brighter future.
It’s times like this when we must all offer bold leadership. We must have the courage to step forward
- to maintain our momentum
- to never relent in disruption
- to find opportunities for growth and
- to go beyond the current crisis to claim our leadership role for the future.
Specifically, I have three areas where we must focus and step forward in the coming year:
- Help others grow to reach their potential
- Diversify the pipeline of incoming new accountants and finance professionals
- And preserve the trust in the profession.
First, we must commit to helping others grow professionally and personally.
The journey to the CPA isn’t done in isolation. It depends on the support and guidance of other people. This includes those accountants who have gone before us. The employers willing to mentor, train and promote professionals. And the families and friends who understand the efforts and sacrifices.
Speaking of employers willing to support the profession, I want to thank my company, specifically, Renji Kumar, John Abrams, and Mauricio Peredo, who are all here today, for giving me the flexibility to devote my time to follow my passion for this profession.
My road to the CPA wasn’t easy. I wasn’t, as you might say, an Elijah Watt Sells Award candidate.
My first job in accounting was a college internship with one of my father’s clients. It wasn’t glamorous. I managed the office, made coffee, typed letters and various other odds and ends. I guess I did well, because by the time I graduated from the University of Maryland, I was asked to stay on.
Then I did what many new accounting grads did – I signed up for a CPA review class. I sat for the exam.
And I didn’t pass.
I had set a goal to achieve my CPA designation, but after a few more unsuccessful attempts, I gave up. I was resigned to never achieving those elusive letters.
But something changed in me several years later.
On my 30th birthday, Bina asked me if I was really satisfied with my career. It gave me a pause, because in truth, I wasn’t. This was a turning point for me. So, I gave the CPA exam one last shot.
You know the rest of the story.
Today, I exemplify that truth – that the CPA is a foundation to open doors, broaden horizons and build career journeys. It was true when I passed the exam in 1991, and it’s just as true now, if not more.
The profession must adopt a people-first approach. People should be at the center of our practices and decisions, large and small, the chief focus for where we want the profession to go.
We all know how daunting the process of becoming a CPA can feel. It can be so easy to get discouraged. It should be our responsibility to support future CPAs and CGMAs through these hurdles, so that they reach their goal. Whether we are talking to young people about their careers, hiring interns, supporting staff pursuing the CPA or mentoring and coaching talent — all these things collectively add up to make an impact. We all have a compelling story to tell, and I am sure if we share that story, it will be inspirational. Because we know, the strength of our profession depends on who is a part of it.
And that’s not all. For those of us who have been in the profession for 10, 20, or 50 years -- we cannot remain static.
We must commit to continuous growth. And foster a sense of learning – unlearning – relearning in our organizations and firms.
All of us are members of the AICPA and our global Association. This provides access to resources that can help us – as well as those in our firms and businesses – stay sharp in our areas of expertise. It also creates a global community in which we can support each other.
I’m reminded of growing up in India, living with my extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – a lot of cousins – all under one roof. (Oh, by the way, some of them are here today.) With so many of us, it was vital we work, problem-solve and minimize conflict together.
These are lessons I bring to my time as Chair.
This leads me to my second point.
We must inspire a diverse pipeline into the profession.
Driving greater diversity is a journey. This is not a one-year platform, but a constant commitment. And my goal this year is to push the needle of progress.
I will continue the efforts of many past Chairs in building our pipeline, with a major focus on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession. Okorie and Melanie – we’re a team. This will require a team effort. Future chairs need to continue making this a priority.
Our latest Trends Report tells us that forty-four percent of ethnic minorities are enrolling in accounting courses, which is encouraging. However, only fourteen percent are represented in the profession. This shows growth over the years but is nowhere close to being reflective of the vibrant and varied people who make up our communities.
We need to address biases and their implications on advancement and retention in our firms. We need a profession in which everyone can see a place for themselves. Diversity makes our profession stronger and enables us to meet the needs of the public we serve.
In addition, we’ve made good strides in providing more flexibility for women, but we can always do more. During this “Great Resignation,” women are leaving the workforce in greater numbers than men. We must offer support so women can both leave – and reenter – the workforce when they need to and not lose sight of the progress they’ve made. We must take a hard look at our culture, so women don’t feel they have to choose between career and family.
Most importantly, we must maintain accountability through establishing and measuring of DEI goals. This is all just talk if we aren’t holding ourselves accountable for change.
In the past two years, we’ve seen many firms and businesses increase their strategies to address barriers in their workplaces. We encourage organizations to keep up this momentum. However, as a profession, we have a long way to go.
It’s my duty, to do whatever I can to increase these numbers and drive broader interest in the profession. This is not just during my tenure as Chair, but this will continue until all voices are heard. Because, I have no doubt, that it’s through greater diversity – of thought, perspective, and experiences – that we can help our profession achieve even greater things.
My story is proof of that.
Coming to this country in the early 1970s wasn’t easy. The first few years were tough, but I also learned to appreciate the wonderful freedom enjoyed here – it’s something that if you don’t grow up in another country, you can’t really understand.
That freedom came with many new opportunities, one of which was becoming a CPA.
There are so many paths available to us through our profession. It’s our responsibility to show the next generation of accountants how to harness the varied opportunities that come along with this career.
I especially believe we need to focus more on high school outreach and alerting future generations about how our profession can open doors. Because, while my dad was the one who first influenced me, it was my high school accounting teacher, Mr. Miller, who played a critical role in convincing me to pursue this career path.
That’s one of the reasons our joint CPA Evolution initiative with the NASBA is so important. We are on track to launch a new CPA Exam in January 2024. If we don’t keep up with the times, we will watch our profession lose its relevance.
We’re also launching a program for apprenticeships. This gives college graduates another path to pursue the CGMA designation. Participants will be able to learn and benefit from exposure to more career development and mentoring opportunities.
I plan to visit as many high schools, colleges and yes, Bill, community colleges, as I can, so I can talk to as many students as possible. I hope to inspire the same passion that my father and my mentors inspired in me.
The dedication and hard work of our people is what keeps our profession strong. Strong enough to live up to the expectation of trust that’s required of us – which leads me to my final point.
We must preserve trust in the profession.
Trust is the cornerstone of what our profession is all about. It’s in our character, and it must be in our DNA.
There is a reason that we’re called trusted advisers. We’ve been on the forefront of economic recovery globally. We’ve earned the trust of our clients and the public. And we’ve protected small businesses and enhanced economies.
We’re each accountable to upholding our trusted adviser role. It’s our responsibility to lead by example in every firm, business and organization, at every level, in every community and country. Like the profession we serve, the AICPA must commit to upholding our role as trusted adviser to you.
I see the profession working to protect trust in everything we do.
We’ve been maintaining trust in audit while evolving with these changing times. Dynamic Audit Solution, for example, allows us to use the power of technology to transform the financial statement audit.
Businesses are more secure because CPAs and CGMAs are implementing effective cybersecurity processes and controls.
We’re driving a new normal in corporate responsibility.
The profession also leads corporate accountability to stakeholders and to social and sustainability goals through Environmental, Social and Governance reporting.
I’ve seen firsthand how relevant ESG is to the profession.
I’ve spent my entire career working with organizations that conduct research on our planet’s natural systems. We study things like climate change; severe weather; the atmosphere; the oceans; sea ice; and the land surface. I’ve seen images of our wonderful planet from space. And I can tell you, it is also an accounting matter. Because it’s accounting and finance professionals who can help businesses stay on track to achieving their sustainability goals. This is important to me!
The Association too, takes ESG very seriously. Our initiatives show the power of collaboration between public and management accountants. This is one of the places that the profession will be looked at in 10, 50, or even 100 years from now as having led trust and confidence in providing this data in a consistent manner.
It’s obvious to me that this trust in the profession is well-placed. Everything we do adds onto the trust that our forebearers built. When I think of those great men and women who came before us, one moment with my father specifically comes to mind.
Telling my father that I passed the CPA Exam was a moment worth working for.
In 1991, results still came in the mail. After opening the envelope, I drove 40 minutes to my dad’s office to tell him the good news. I remember walking up to him and extending my hand.
“Dad, shake hands with a CPA,” I said.
I could feel his hands tremble with excitement as he shook mine. That moment was as much an accomplishment for me as it was a point of pride for him.
I’m grateful for the strong foundation my father, my mom, and the rest of my family gave me. I was raised to value ethics, determination and strength. This built the basis of my career. And builds the foundation of our profession.
This foundation allows us to step forward with confidence. We can handle any challenges that come our way.
I’m asking you to step forward.
- Step forward by helping others grow professionally and personally.
- Step forward by working to encourage diversity.
- Step forward by preserving trust in our profession.
WE MUST STEP FORWARD AS ONE.
- Because together, we’re advancing the profession.
- Together, we’re delivering on our purpose and driving trust, opportunity and prosperity.
- Together, we’re changing the world.
I’m honored to be in your presence. I’m honored to serve you as Chair. Thank you.