Categories
Marketing

CA ad campaign: Decisions Matter

Got an email last week about an update to the Decisions Matter ad campaign the CICA has been running for the designation:

The Decisions Matter ad campaign is aimed at shifting the traditional perception of the CA designation and promoting CAs as business leaders and key decision-makers in every organization. The campaign is very different from what we’ve done in the past. It is more assertive in establishing CAs as the leading business professionals and, in its originality, has been specifically designed to break through the media clutter.

I like the direction in which this strategy is taking us. For one, it is vocation agnostic, in that it doesn’t focus on CAs in public practice more than those in industry. And I like the attention that “decisions” are receiving, but I think that execution needs to be emphasized as well. Making the right decision is great, but acting on it is critical.

As a CA you have an important role to play in supporting this campaign. You can promote the CAs’ reputation as business leaders with a few simple steps:

  • Include your CA designation on business cards and other communications;
  • Ensure your professional network knows you are a CA. This includes the organizations you volunteer with;
  • When making presentations, discuss how your CA training has powered your achievements;
  • In interviews, introduce yourself as a CA; and
  • Talk about the Decisions Matter campaign with your family, friends and business contacts.

No mention of starting a blog and establishing your online brand in concert with the CA designation, but you can’t win ’em all I guess. If there’s one area that the CICA has thus far completely ignored it’s the social media space. Excuse me though, it’s time to ring the family and discuss this campaign with them, that’ll really promote our reputation!

My recommendation is to follow up the Decisions Matter campaign with something more focused on executing great ideas/decisions. Advising is valuable, deciding is important, but executing is key. What do you think of the campaign’s message and how it’s positioning CAs?

Categories
Accounting Standards

Simplified accounting rules for small business

The CICA announced late last year a draft version of a new accounting framework for small, owner-managed businesses. The framework is being developed because these types of companies don’t have complex reporting needs like public companies, non-profit organizations, or private companies with significant third party investors or creditors.

I haven’t begun working on public company clients yet, although I have a couple equivalent-to-public companies currently. I have made it known in the office that I want to work on public companies in the future, so hopefully I will be scheduled on one or two soon.

Canada is moving towards international accounting standards (IFRS) for publicly accountable enterprises. The decision has been made and the process of reconciling Canadian GAAP to IFRS is in motion. Word around the office is that IFRS is very similar to Canadian GAAP in terms of the financial statements, but much more developed (read: verbose) when it comes to note disclosure.

But back to small business, or Owner Managed Enterprises (OMEs) as the framework calls them. The framework’s Foreword offers a glimpse into the thinking behind the endeavor:

Such a system could share some of the basic requirements of GAAP financial reporting … but expressed in a basic fashion.

You aren’t going to hear me complain if we can make accounting standards more understandable and accessible. In fact, I would consider it a prime concern if we want to create a more robust, entrepreneurial economy, here and around the world in the future. Such a milieu would help developing countries pull themselves up and improve their lot the only surefire way: through the expansion of trade.

A non-GAAP solution opens up a wide range of possibilities. A tax basis of accounting, a modified cash basis of accounting, a less complex version of GAAP – all are possible.

This is really interesting. I can’t say as I think these bases would provide better information, but they would be easier in many ways. The tax basis would obviously make filing a snap, and minimizing taxes is a key concern for small business owners. As for modified cash basis, there’s not enough information here to comment. Modified how?

Concerns were about the loss of a well-known frame of reference for financial statements [due to the transition to IFRS].

IFRS is great for the global economy. You want to tap into the global markets, you gotta play by the global rules (regardless of how dubious the model for the setting of those rules happens to be at this point in time). The conclusion of the CICA stems from the above quote – keep the accounting standards we know, just cut out the complicated stuff that small businesses don’t need. In their words (again):

The existing financial reporting framework in the Handbook represents … the collective intellectual capital of the accounting profession in Canada.

That is the best reason I can think of for reusing the standards for Owner-Managed Enterprises.

The CICA sought comment from interested parties on the framework by January 31, 2008. They recently posted an update on those consultations.

Categories
Accounting Standards

Income trusts get distributable cash standard

Canada’s CAs have announced guidance for a key metric of income trusts, that of distributable cash.

The term ‘distributable cash’ generally refers to the cash that an income trust could potentially distribute to unit holders. Investors use this information when assessing the entity’s ability to fund future distributions and to help value their investments.

But the problem with the measure is that investors had no way of knowing where the cash had come from: general operating activities, or selling off productive assets and related future capacity. There was no way to compare across trusts since they all defined the term differently, or even to compare the same trust year over year. The CICA recommendations seek to remedy this:

The CICA guidance recommends that income trusts report a new measure called “Standardized Distributable Cash” to improve consistency of reporting and comparability between entities. Together with other disclosures recommended in the framework, the new measure gives the industry a common methodology for providing investors with information.

Standardized Distributable Cash is defined as cash from operations, after adjusting for capital expenditures, restrictions on distributions due to debt covenants, and minority interests.

The recommendations are not without criticism, however.

Independent investor advocate Diane Urquhart noted that the new CICA measure of distributable cash is not an addition to generally accepted accounting principles and will appear only as part of management’s discussion and analysis. […] “It’s ugly,” declared Al Rosen of forensic accountants Rosen and Associates. “When you needed this – and in a tougher form – would have been at least five years ago.”

I believe those are the biggest criticisms of it: the “standard” isn’t part of GAAP officially, but merely guidance to help trusts provide investors with higher quality information, and the recommendations are a little late in coming.

Better something than nothing, and better late than never.

Categories
Accounting Standards

Are accounting standards public enough?

CA Magazine might be freely giving away their content for the benefit of all stakeholders in the CA profession and public accounting in general, but the goodwill doesn’t extend to the CICA when it comes to Canadian accounting and auditing standards.

The CICA, through the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB), develops public accounting standards through a remarkably public process of consultation and comment, but once the standard makes it into the Handbook, it is rarely seen in public again. The Handbook is available online, if you’re a member of the Institute. That is, only if you’re a CA do you get access to the goods.

Additionally, when one Googles “CICA Handbook”, the first result is a link to “Enhanced online access to CICA Handbook”! (This the access available only to CICA members.) A link to the protected Handbook is featured prominently on the CICA homepage. “Great,” a new visitor thinks, “the Handbook is only a mouse click away!” But that click takes you again to the paywall.

I posed the question directly to the Institute, and later in the day received my response: “The CICA Handbook is only granted to members as a part of their annual dues thru their Provincial Institute. You may be able to come across a copy in print in a local Library, assuming the Library has one for public use.” Pay the dues, get access to the public standards.

The profession exists to protect the public interest, so I have to question whether access to the fruits of the profession’s labour, the standards themselves, are holding up this ideal. What do you think?

Categories
Marketing

The CA Advantage: Marketing the profession

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Canada has recently launched a new ad campaign extolling the virtues of the designation. The campaign shows CAs joining various sports teams and helping the team. The message: CAs can complement your business’ existing expertise.

Here’s the copy from one of the print ads:

Sometimes even great teams need more skill and more ability. That’s what you get with Chartered Accountants. CAs bring superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight and leadership to become an integral part of the team. Give your team an edge. The CA advantage.

Hmm. Sounds similar to how the CMA designation is promoted. Certified Management Accountant is a competing designation here in Canada. Direct from CMA Canada’s website:

CMAs are leading strategic financial management professionals who integrate accounting expertise with advanced management skills to achieve business success.

So it appears both professional bodies have identified the primary area of growth for accountants being strategic business/financial expertise services. But is there room (and enough work) for both designations? Are we destined for more merger talks in the future?