Financial Technology

Why Tech-Focused Continuing Education for CPAs is Essential

Callie Hinman
August 22, 2019

There are two principal reasons CPAs obtain continuing professional education (CPE) credits:

  1. It’s required in order to maintain the designation of CPA.
  2. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has CPA requirements for retaining active member status.

But CPE courses provide considerable value to CPAs (and their clients) well beyond a title or association membership.

CPE ensures CPAs are actively increasing their competence in the broad range of technical and non-technical abilities and knowledge required to effectively provide professional services. Continuing education for CPAs offers an opportunity to not only learn how to enhance your hard skills but also improve the way you engage with your clients.

While completing CPE in all 20 of the primary subject matter areas identified by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is vital, there is one in particular that’s more important than ever: information technology.

The accounting industry is constantly evolving as new laws and regulations are passed. Strategies once considered best practices become outdated and technological advancements completely change the way a CPA firm is run. By attending information technology CPE courses, you can stay abreast of news and trends and be confident in the way you approach day-to-day operations as well as long-term business objectives.

Here’s why you need to prioritize earning technology CPE credits this year.

Cybercrime Is on the Rise

Information technology CPE courses cover general topics pertaining to computer hardware and software, such as Windows and Mac operating system updates, and tips for taking advantage of cloud computing. But technology CPEs for CPAs also explore issues related to some of the most complex aspects of modern accounting, including business intelligence, cybersecurity, data analytics, information and data privacy, and IT risk management.

If you’ll notice, several of these topics are related to protecting assets and data by mitigating security risks. This is one of the biggest reasons tech-focused continuing education for CPAs is so crucial.

According to Accenture’s Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study, the average cost of cybercrime for an organization in the financial services industry last year was $18.5 million. In addition, it took financial services companies an average of 27 days to resolve and recover from a cyberattack in 2018.

Information technology CPE courses can teach you how to evaluate your current systems to ensure your firm is adequately protected from malicious attacks. You’ll learn how to reduce the risk of both external and insider threats, which includes employees who intentionally compromise information and those who do so accidentally.

Your Firm Needs to Embrace Automation

Information technology CPE can also help you understand emerging technologies and their potential impact on your firm.

For example, as the adoption of advanced automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning becomes more commonplace, many CPAs are concerned their roles will become obsolete. But in an analysis of more than 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations, McKinsey found that fewer than 5 percent of all occupations could be fully automated using current technology.

AI and machine learning give CPAs an opportunity to increase their efficiency by automating more basic tasks related to tax preparation and auditing. As a result, CPAs have additional time to focus on providing more high-value services to their clients, such as strategic consultation. According to a recent Wolters Kluwer report, 57 percent of small business owners want more strategic advice from CPAs.

However, without technology CPE, not only will you be unaware of how to properly leverage these technologies in your firm but you could also be under the false impression automation is the enemy, not your ally.

The Wrong Tech Investment Can Be Disastrous

Speaking of allies, when you’re vetting potential technology partners, do you know what questions to ask and answers to look for?

Depending on the software, partnering with some providers means giving them access to a considerable volume of your data. If they don’t have proper security measures in place and are victims of a cyberattack, it isn’t just their company facing a crisis; it’s also every organization their system is connected to—including yours.

But through technology CPE for CPAs, you’ll learn how to identify both red flags and green flags when evaluating new tech investments. For example, if you’re considering investing in an online payment solution, you’ll need to ask the provider about their approach to security and their PCI compliance.

Considering there are plenty of companies who offer free online CPE for CPAs, it’s hard to argue against signing up. If you aren’t sure where to start, we recommend visiting the NASBA National Registry of CPE Sponsors. You’ll be able to view your state’s CPE requirements, find NASBA-approved CPE providers, and get the ball rolling on earning technology CPE credits.