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Executive Committee Q&A: Soft Skills Needed for the CPAs' Changing Role

Nov 13, 2019
The CPA’s role continues to evolve, which means education for the CPA is evolving. What non-technical skills do you think are important for you and your colleagues?

Jennifer Knecht, CPA
Jennifer A. Knecht, CPA
Crowe LLP

“Two skills I think important are 1) the ability to see the big picture and 2) the ability to break down complex matters into manageable pieces. Both take time, experience and perspective to develop — and both can make or break a career.”

Erland Porter, CPAErland Porter, CPA
INCPAS Chair-Elect
Thrivent Financial

“Communication will always be a skill highly valuable to CPAs and all professionals. In today’s landscape, this means understanding effective communication across a multitude of platforms and audiences. Knowing your audience and making your message accessible to them must be an ongoing learning process.”

Gregory Chester, CPA
INCPAS Vice Chair
Gregory Chester, CPA

"As technology continues to advance and further impact our profession, an individual’s digital acumen will continue to grow in importance. While no one can yet predict how

 technology will change what we do specifically, there is little doubt that a wave of change powered by technology is upon us. I do not believe everyone will need to be IT experts, but I do think upskilling digitally will be important to maintaining relevance into the future. As technology drives more and more of the routine elements of our work, problem solving and critical thinking skills will increase in the role they play in our profession. These skills will need to be developed earlier and exercised more often

Barry K. Hall, CPA, CGMA
INCPAS Past Chair
Kruggel Lawton CPAs

"The CPA’s role is evolving and will continue to evolve. CPAs will need to be less

Barry Hall, CPA, CGMA

 dependent on compliance work and become more consultative in their services. That’s not to say CPAs won’t need to be the experts in assurance and tax compliance work — they will, but there are additional skills CPAs should add to their skillset. Data analytics and data mining are rapidly growing value-added services. CPAs need to develop expertise in data management and develop their critical thinking skills to interpret the data. How CPAs can provide limited assurance on an organization’s controls around cybersecurity is another emerging trend. Additionally, as CPAs become more consultative in their services, development of face-to-face interpersonal skills — conversation versus email — will also be very important. Society in general has become very dependent on email, text and social media to communicate. CPAs (or any profession for that matter) can set themselves apart from their competitors by utilizing more ‘old school’ methods of communication such as a phone call or discussion."

Angie Zirkelbach, CPA
INCPAS Vice ChairAngie Zirkelbach, CPABlue & Co., LLC

"As the CPA role continues to evolve, nontechnical skills become even more important. Communication tops the list — the ability to explain very technical complex issues to clients is a skill in which we all must excel. A close second would be general business knowledge. In order to be the most trusted advisor, we must be able to guide our clients to the fast-paced environment we operate — not just technical accounting and tax issues. Finally, marketing, both internal and external, is critical to our long-term success."