Any professional body must undergo changes in a bid to remain competitive in terms of addressing its key knowledge development concerns. In this view, Canadian accounting professionals together with certified management accountants convened discussions with the aim of examining the possibility for uniting the provincial and national accounting designations. The leaders also examined the benefits and feasibility of such a unified designation. This paper discusses the primary reason for establishing a unified accounting designation, changes in the qualification process and the field of study, and the implication of the changes not only to the Canadian students but also to the international front.
The Primary Reason for a Unified Designation
Currently, there is a growing close knitting of various accounting communities across the world. This move suggests the possibility for increasing competition among accounting bodies at the international level. Such competition is expected to increase the risk of crowding of accounting communities in Canada. To overcome this problem, Canadian accounting bodies have developed a plan of unifying the global professional profile (McMahon, 2013). Indeed, a unified certification helps different designations to combine their strengths while also ensuring that the accounting communities in Canada have one unified voice. The plan is to reduce the number of accounting professional bodies from 40 to 14 (Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 2014).
With the evident global competition of various accounting bodies, Canada accounting institutions have sort ways of simplifying things. This move is meant to ensure that various accounting professionals across Canada are maintained under one page. Ryan, Lento, and Sayed (2012) support this assertion by claiming that through unification of designations, “instead of having to explain the difference between the CA, CMA, and CGA designations, they will be recognized as they embark on the global careers in other countries” (p.5).
Another primary reason for the unification of accounting designations is to provide a common platform for extensive collaboration and consultation of all stakeholders in the accounting profession. Such stakeholders include government agencies, accounting bodies, business players, and accounting academic communities. In fact, this primary role has already been realized in some provinces since employers have begun to refer to new designation in job descriptions. They are currently making such references in their university recruitment materials. For example, Quebec province’s official unification has already occurred. This move suggests that through the unification, Canada is on its way to securing a strong or competitive position for its accounting professionals ((McMahon, 2013).
Operating in a global economy requires the redefinition of different professional accreditation bodies. Indeed, appraisal and secretarial principles have been unified not only in Canada, but also in the global platforms. With the growing reduction of international barriers in trade, it is necessary to enhance inter-jurisdictional awareness in the bookkeeping occupation in a bid to serve companies needs effectively as specified by customers and managers.
To respond to this necessity, strategic alliances of accounting professional bodies, which culminate to the amalgamation of accounting designations, become crucial to ensure both international and national level influence of the Canadian accounting professionals. Hence, unification of accounting designations are mainly propelled by the inevitable changes in the profession to reflect the changing characteristics of accounting work whilst fostering enterprise growth both in Canada and at the international front.
Changes in the Qualification Process and the Field of Study
In the qualification process of accountants, the amalgamation process fosters the deployment of CPA as an indicator of expertise in all areas of accounting profession. The new designation indicates competence in the fields of assurance, auditing, leadership in business, taxation, strategic management, and financial management among accountants, irrespective of their preferred designation bodies (Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 2014). Unlike in the past when designations were conferred by different accounting organizations, under the amalgamated designation, CPA designation will provide new certification programs. For new graduates, the program will takes 2 years to be completed fully on a part-time basis.
All parties of bookkeeping specialized bodies will maintain the present titles. However, they will also include their CPA designation. Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014) confirms that this designation “will become the pre-eminent designation and business credential for professional accountants who work in every sector of economy” (Para.2). However, amid the changes, the new qualification structure will permit parties to have admission to their post–designation curriculum area of expertise. Therefore, although the amalgamation enhances the creation of a single platform for qualification, it does not impede specialization in any one accounting organization that is incorporated in the amalgamated program.
Impacts of the Changes on a Student
Amalgamation of the Canadian accounting professional bodies has some apparent impacts on students, both at the national and international levels. Students, especially new graduates who have already completed or are pursuing CA, CGA, or even CMA designations, will have to acquire a CPA designation through an appropriate and mandated CPA organization. A student has to use and/or indicate the CPA designation and the CA, CGA, or CMA for 10 years.
For instance, CAs (Chartered Accountants) will sign their names. The first name will be followed by last name. CPA and CA will appear at the end. Upon using their titles this way for a decade, bookkeepers will have the freedom to drop their previous titles and utilize CPA labels alone. However, students need to understand that before the development of any formal structure, certified public accountants will possess the alternative of engaging in the bookkeeping field such as monies, municipal division, premeditated administration, and forensic bookkeeping. Hence, for students who wish to specialize in their areas of interest, they have the freedom to do so even after technically undergoing the new CPA designation program.
Impacts of the Unified Designation at the Canadian and International Accounting World
At the Canadian and international accounting levels, the amalgamated designation has some impacts on regulatory processes, efficiency, and economies of scale. It will also have an impact in terms of securing the right for access to worldwide-preferred designations and/or availing a unified voice to organizations. Ensuring its alignment with popular worldwide accounting designation facilitates the protection of the long-term value that is attached to accounting designations in Canada (Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 2014).
Unification along CA, CMA, and CGA under one banner implies better competitive advantage if either the specialty or the amalgamation acquires a global appeal in the future. Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014) adds that new common qualification programs and one set of standard of practice, codes of behavior, and ethical conduct permit Canada to become more effective and efficient in its accounting practices.
This observation implies that harmonization has the effect of increasing trust and confidence levels in accounting professional practices. Adopting a common regulatory process and framework has an overall impact of fostering inter-jurisdictional mobility and expertise of all members of the Canadian accounting professional bodies.
Reduction of bodies that govern the accounting profession ensures quicker operation and a simplification of governance issues. This strategy leads to a further reduction of confusion in the accounting profession marketplace. Money that is used in the marketing of various accounting professional bodies can be deployed to support the interest of all members who are brought together under the amalgamated body in a more efficient manner.
Hence, unification has the implication of lowering the cost of maintaining and marketing different unification bodies. Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (2014) reckons, “A single voice representing as many as 170,000 Canadian members will more effectively represent members’ interests with respect to domestic policy, legislation, and regulatory issues affecting the accounting profession” (Para. 7). A larger and more cohesive voice has also the implication of increasing the ability of Canada’s participation in global accounting alliances and engagement in international designations.
Conclusion: The Status of the Unification Process
In conclusion, considering the implications and benefits of establishing an amalgamated accounting professional body at the international, national, and student level, the question that emerges is whether Canada has collectively embraced such a move. While responding to this query, it becomes important to discuss the status of the unification process.
Full implementation of the amalgamation program has already occurred in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Bermuda provinces. Saskatchewan plans to implement the amalgamation during its proclamation of the accomplishment legislation. Partial implementation of the commitment has taken place in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and the province of British Columbia. Partial implementation implies adopting the CPA designation before sanctioning the amalgamation. In other provinces, the implementation processes are based on principles. Currently, such processes have made significant advances.
Chartered Professional Accountants Canada. (2014). What Unification Means for Accounting Professionals. 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.