Local and international organizations must find the best ways of remaining competitive in today’s rapidly changing world. Organizations must change to adopt and reflect new ways and best practices in their operations, failure to which they risk becoming irrelevant and unresponsive to the needs they seek to serve. Even professional bodies must change to remain competitive by continuously seeking ways that best address their respective knowledge development concerns. In the light of this claim, Canadian accounting professionals and certified management accountants held talks to examine the possibility of amalgamating the provincial and national accounting designations.
Further, the talks also culminated into discussions on the benefits and feasibility of the proposed unified designation in terms of reflecting the best practices and/or enhancing the competitiveness of the accounting professional body. This paper will discuss the main reason for establishing a new unified accounting designation, new changes in the qualification process, changes in the field of study, and lastly the implication of such changes to Canadian students and learners around the world.
Support for a Unified Designation
In the quest of gaining a competitive advantage at the global stage, there has been a growing trend towards coming together of different accounting professional bodies across the world. Therefore, it is futile for countries whose accounting professional bodies will not act accordingly to adopt the best changes that are sweeping the accounting sector across the world. In Canada, the risk of crowding of accounting bodies will impede competitiveness, a situation, which must be addressed. For this reason, Canadian accounting professional bodies have come together to develop a plan that will see the formation of a unified designation that will improve their global standing.
According to Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014), the unification plan will see the number of Canadian accounting professional bodies reduce from 40 to 14, which will be an important step towards a more globally competitive accounting sector. Such unification will see the introduction of a unified certification that will ensure that the strengths of different designations are brought together. It will also usher a new chapter into the Canadian accounting sector since the players in the sector will have a platform to speak in one voice.
According to Ryan, Lento, and Sayed (2012), the current Canadian accounting sector is crowded. This factor greatly reduces the competitiveness of accounting professionals at the international level. For instance, while it is easy for the domestic market to understand the various designations of accountants such as CA, CMA, and CGA, such designations in the global arena have to be clarified or explained. Consequently, unifying accounting certification will eliminate such inconveniences and allow Canadian accounting certifications and titles to be easily recognized and accepted in the international market.
The unification will provide a platform for all stakeholders in the industry, including the government institutions, accounting professional bodies, business players, and academic bodies and institutions to have fruitful consultations and collaborations that will be aimed at making improvements in the sector (Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 2014). This achievement will ensure that the sector can serve the needs of the local market while remaining competitive in the international market by reflecting the prevailing best practices.
Under the unification, employers and other players will recognize new designations as the old ones are phased out. In fact, this phasing out process is evident in some provinces such as Quebec where employers have begun including the new designations in their job descriptions. Such success stories indicate that the unification of Canadian accounting professional bodies is progressing well and will position the country to compete in the global arena.
It is worth noting that such changes are fueled by the need to position accounting accreditation bodies to gain global recognition and hence the ability to compete fairly in the global market. According to Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014), the ongoing unification process in Canada is not isolated. It reflects the trend across the world. For instance, appraisal and secretarial principles are increasingly becoming unified in many accounting professional bodies across the world. The unification of appraisal and secretarial principles has been fueled by the need to streamline bookkeeping occupations across different countries to tap into the growing market base for accounting bodies, thanks to the reduction of international barriers.
The possibility of expanding operations beyond the domestic markets has become necessary for such unification to ensure that different clients’ needs are well met. McMahon (2013) points out that for the Canadian accounting professional bodies to become competitive both locally and internationally, the ongoing process of amalgamation of accounting designation is very timely. It will allow the formation of strategic alliances that will provide the much-needed competitive advantage by increasing the influence of such bodies within and outside the country.
Changes in the Qualification Process and the Field of Study
The unification of the accounting professional bodies has suggested drastic modifications in the certification and designation processes in the accounting profession. Firstly, CPA will now be used to reflect expertise in all fields of the accounting profession. According to Dumon (n.d), CPA designation will be an indication of proficiency in terms of assurance, auditing, and financial management, leadership in business, risk management, strategic management, and taxation. It will be applied to all accountants, regardless of their respective memberships to professional accounting bodies.
This process will see the introduction of a new CPA certification program that will run for two years (Dumon, n.d). It will be applied across all professional bodies. The new certification program will consequently phase the old system where designations were awarded by different organizations.
Other important changes will be reflected in bookkeeping-specialized bodies where accountants in the area will include the CPA designation whilst maintaining their present designations. According to McMahon (2013), the use of CPA across all professional accounting bodies will usher a new era where the qualifications of accountants will be easily recognized across all different sectors of the economy where they work, both locally and internationally. The changes also offer leeway for accountants to enroll in their post-designation curriculum field of expertise where they can specialize in their preferred area of accountancy that is covered by the CPA certification.
Impacts of the Changes on Students
The changes that have been proposed in the amalgamation of Canadian accounting professional bodies will require drastic changes in the curriculum and the procedures of accreditation that will have a direct impact on students. According to McMahon (2013), it will be mandatory for students and graduates of CA, CGA, or CMA designations to acquire CPA designation through an accredited CPA certification organization.
Further, the students and graduates will be required to use their CPA, CMA, CGA, or CA designations together with CPA for ten years after which they will use the CPA designation alone. Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014) adds that this move does not mean the bookkeeping designations and areas of expertise will become irrelevant since the new certification process has provisions for students to pursue or engage in bookkeeping fields of expertise, regardless of their CPA qualification or pursuance on the new CPA certification program.
Impacts of the Unified Designation on the Canadian and International Accounting Industry
The successful unification of the Canadian professional accounting bodies will be a good step towards the global competitiveness of the domestic accounting sector. These changes, which will touch on regulation and efficiency, will provide advantages to the domestic accounting sector and/or increase its global competitiveness through economies of scale. Further, in a world where globalization is sweeping all sectors, the unification of the professional bodies will give them a more influencing voice in the global arena. It will improve their (professional bodies) access to preferred and globally accepted designations.
A successful amalgamation process will offer an opportunity for Canadian accounting designations to gain a competitive advantage on the global stage. Their possible global appeal will be of great significance. The success will assist the Canadian accounting designations and qualifications to gain international recognition and possibly make Canada a major player in the international accounting sector. According to Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014), adopting globally accepted best practices, common regulations, frameworks and accounting programs at the domestic level will improve trust in the accounting processes at the domestic and international stage. This move will make it easy for the sector to go beyond its local market to compete effectively on the international stage.
Currently, the presence of 40 professional accounting bodies has been a great hindrance to the efforts towards the efficiency of the sector. However, the reduction of this number from 40 to 14 professional bodies will be a good step towards more efficiency of operations and management of the sector. The process will also lead to clarity of different issues in areas, which were previously marred by confusion in the marketplace due to the high number of designations.
Further, bringing different professional bodies together will imply that resources will be pooled together to ensure that the newly amalgamated bodies can increase their efficiency and influence in the industry (McMahon, 2013). For instance, the amalgamation will ensure that the new bodies influence both the domestic and international stage, thanks to their ability to influence policies and frameworks at the domestic level to form beneficial alliances in the global arena.
Conclusion: The Status of the Unification Process
The question of whether the Canadian accounting sector is ready for the proposed changes is an important one. Despite the successes that the amalgamation process is likely to offer to the Canadian accounting sector, one who wishes to know how the implementation process is fairing. According to Ryan, Lento, and Sayed (2012), the implementation process has been successful in various provinces where it has been implemented, including New Brunswick, Quebec, and Bermuda provinces where there has been a complete implementation of the requirements of the changes.
Basing these locations as the models for the unification of various professional bodies and designations, it suffices to conclude that the process has been very successful. Other provinces in the country have positioned themselves to adopt the new changes. This observation is an indication of good progress. Consequently, with the involvement of all stakeholders, it is without a doubt that the Canadian accounting sector is on the right path towards more efficiency, influence, and global competitiveness.
Chartered Professional Accountants Canada. (2014). What Unification Means for Accounting Professionals. Web.
Dumon, M. (n.d). Finding the Right Accounting Certification. Web.
McMahon, T. (2013). Accounting Designations Get Together. Web.
Ryan, J., Lento, C., & Sayed, N. (2012). Some Unresolved Issues about the Proposed CPA Certification Program. Accounting perspectives, 11(2), 1-7.