The previous and way forward for accounting

The previous and way forward for accounting
Thomson valedictory screen.jpg

As he approaches his retirement, IMA chief Jeff Thomson displays on the modifications within the career over the previous many years, and what he sees forward.


Dan Hood (00:03):

Welcome to On Air with Accounting Immediately, I am editor-in-chief Dan Hood. On this podcast, we are likely to focus extra on the general public accounting facet of the career, however it’s all the time value remembering administration and company accounting make up a serious a part of the sphere, and so they’ve been confronted with simply as a lot change and uncertainty in speedy evolution as the general public facet of issues.

Now nobody is aware of that higher than Jeff Thomson, who’s been the president CEO of the Institute of Administration Accountants since 2008, and who over his decade and a half on the dwelling has helped make the one of many quickest rising and most influential accounting membership organizations on the planet with greater than 140,000 members in 150 international locations now. He is retiring early this yr, and so we’re glad to take this chance to get his ideas on the place the career has been and the place you anticipated to go sooner or later. Jeff, thanks for becoming a member of us. 

Jeff Thomson (00:43):

Hey, Dan, thanks. It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you as all the time avid reader of Accounting Immediately and it is numerous publications however once more, pleasure and honor to be right here. Wanting ahead to the dialog. Yeah, 

Dan Hood (00:56):

We’re wanting ahead to getting, I suppose we’re drilling into your lengthy expertise. And I ought to level out I discussed you’ve got been with IMA since 2008, however you had 20 years in a profession earlier than that with at and t and in a bunch of various roles and operations and finance earlier than ending up, I believe it was the cfo, F O of a serious enterprise unit. So you bought an unlimited quantity of expertise in a bunch of various points of the career. And so from that form of perspective one of many first questions I wish to ask you is what do you see as the largest modifications you’ve got seen within the career over your profession? 

Jeff Thomson (01:24):

Oh, nice query, Dan. You make me sound actually outdated although, however that is okay. <giggle> 

Dan Hood (01:30):


Jeff Thomson (01:32):

Seasoned, attention-grabbing. IT expertise is nice, however the way you leverage that have to the subsequent new context is absolutely what enterprise and management’s all about. So I’ve to let you know, I have been actually, actually lucky to witness an unbelievable evolution of the career when it comes to relevance and affect globally. I believe there are such a lot of thrilling profession paths within L, broadly talking, finance and accounting. So what I’ve noticed from the minute I used to be named a strategic enterprise associate to an 18 billion enterprise unit at and t, and I requested, what the heck does strategic enterprise associate imply? Again within the nineties, they mentioned, nicely, don’t be concerned, you may nonetheless have the ability to name your self A C F O as a result of that is the model. However the C F O place, even again then has advanced to be this associate on the desk serving to to drive worth creation, not simply account for it fusing collectively, not simply technical accounting for reporting and statutory necessities, but additionally so as to add finance and operations at know-how and technique. And now we turn into accounting 2.0. So given the tempo of the enterprise atmosphere, we have to hold that up and perhaps think about an accounting three level, however the breadth and depth of alternatives to make a distinction for stakeholders is gigantic. We simply must do a a lot, a lot better job at telling our story. 

Dan Hood (03:07):

That is superb that they had been I suppose should not be shocked that at t was forward on the time, however I imply for them within the nineties to be on the lookout for strategic partnership from the accounting space, it was fairly, I imply, I am suppose feels prefer it was forward of a time. I imply, we all know a variety of corporations that did not actually understand this till the pandemic, 

Jeff Thomson (03:24):

Proper? Proper. Yeah, completely. And naturally, a giant firm like at and t, it was one enterprise unit of many, and so they introduced in a govt from one other firm who’s who began speaking about this strategic enterprise companions trusted enterprise advisor idea. And to many individuals it was all new. After which within the ensuing years to some extent it obtained scaled. However once more, what an unbelievable alternative. As long as a ecosystem and a world career can step as much as the obligations of those alternatives on this management by upskilling and experiential studying and alternatives. 

Dan Hood (04:06):

We will get into imply not the IMA has been its forefront of serving to with that UPS talent, however serving to direct the career in these into going into that route, attempt to usher them into that route and that set of abilities, that new position or newish position. However earlier than we dive too deeply into that, I form of return and say, I imply, would you’ve gotten imagined this form of modifications we have seen? Was that what you anticipated? And I suppose a few of that is as we, as a result of we will ask you about wanting ahead, proper? I imply the notion of may you’ve gotten predicted the modifications within the career that gypsy 

Jeff Thomson (04:36):

To some extent, as a result of I had that chance and a giant firm present process vital change in an atmosphere present process vital change, I did have maybe arguably a little bit of a bonus in, I am not going to say predicting the apparent, however at the very least predicting the pattern towards accounting two level and the accountant as an influencer targeted on futures not simply the previous. However yeah, I’m happy on the tempo that we have gone when it comes to the multitude of profession paths, as you talked about now, the onset Dan, public accounting, personal accounting industries of all sizes and form and the world is way, a lot totally different. Nonetheless, it’s a beat little bit of a race for relevance. It is a battle of velocities, the rate of change within the enterprise atmosphere relative to the rate of change in our nice career. So backside line, but to some extent, I predicted it. I did not essentially go to Vegas and place a wager, though I am undecided there’d be an entire lot of betting on this explicit alternative. However I believe it is the trail ahead that counts a month as a lot, and are we going to have the ability to cope with the rate the speed of change? You would inform I am a math main, information science kind <giggle> by a number of the infusion of my feedback there. 

Dan Hood (06:10):

Nicely, and guid know if I do know out of your background clarify up. Positive. Did you’ve gotten that background? You began form of in information evaluation again, I imply this looks like again, however it was earlier than individuals actually considered it as information evaluation the way in which we do now. 

Jeff Thomson (06:21):

Yeah, completely. And once more this spirit of being seized and skilled and never all it was completely my very first place at an and t popping out of graduate college in math and statistics was the equal of a knowledge scientist. Sure, we didn’t name it a knowledge scientist again in 1979 say that actual quick. But it surely really 

Dan Hood (06:49):

Was. I used to be avoiding years, but when you are going to throw a yr in there, I can not. 

Jeff Thomson (06:53):

However we performed the position of a knowledge scientist working with operations and technique to carry analytics to the forefront as a aggressive benefit to supply higher foresight and perception to the enterprise. And considered one of our massive pushes that I m A is we have to construct in information analytics, not bolted on when it comes to our coaching, our curriculum, our mindset, and the way we inform our story to millennials and younger professionals who suppose that accounting is whether or not nicely do not, younger professionals do not even know what a slide rule is, however <giggle> Inexperienced was a inexperienced eye shade, pocket protectors and boring. You are going to get replaced by robots anyway. Why would I wish to enter your career? And really there is a robust story to be informed there. 

Dan Hood (07:47):

Completely. Nicely, let’s discuss slightly bit about what that story is, and now you talked about the fake potential shift to accounting three level. What do you see developing for the professional career I, as you look ahead, what do you see? 

Jeff Thomson (07:59):

Nicely, I am the everlasting optimist. So I’ve to from a threat tolerance and alternative evaluation, I’ve to confess, I do gravitate extra towards the chance as a result of I see nice issues within the career and the accounting and finance ecosystem. I believe we’re proud members of iac, the Worldwide Federation of Accounts, with 180 member our bodies representing over 3 million accountants of all kinds world wide and our companions nearer to dwelling. I believe we have an ideal potential to proceed to collaborate and associate to advance the career in ways in which we maybe by no means may have imagined. Beginning with know-how and analytics persevering with with range, fairness and inclusion and in belonging and human expertise persevering with even additional as we’re on the E S G sustainability journey our potential to affect, make a distinction, make the world higher, not simply buyers higher however the world and folks higher. The alternatives are simply boundless and large. And I imagine with the trajectory the place we’re on, we now have the potential to proceed to make a distinction and be related and influential. 

Dan Hood (09:23):

Glorious. Nicely, that’s the optimistic take. It’s fairly cheap if you have a look at a bunch of different industries to say, look to the longer term. They see disruption and at disintermediation and confusion and so forth. And for accounting, there’s going to be disruption. There’s going to be change, there’s going to be a variety of vital change however the upside is large. The potential to be enormously worthwhile as to if it is your group or whether or not it is purchasers or no matter, to whoever you are serving is gigantic. It is simply significantly with the instruments as you are bringing on information, new information evaluation, synthetic intelligence are pay, all these totally different instruments are solely going to make accounts capable of be way more worthwhile, way more thrilling, way more attention-grabbing career. 

Jeff Thomson (09:59):

Completely. And I usually consult with the enterprise atmosphere now and within the foreseeable future as a vuca. The truth is, I didn’t coin the time period. VUCA all the time sounded to me like Hungarian goulash, however I do not imagine it’s. However vca, <giggle>, VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. It is the uncertainty during which all of us face. Again after I was at and t, it appeared like our largest problem was the 2 Cs prospects and their complexity and want for bundled providers and competitors has now expanded into conventional and non-traditional competitors the place when you’re in squarely inside your business vertical, it is what different verticals are you able to increase to? I imply, simply have a look at Amazon, even have a look at and t, however now we’re dealing with a world the place international well being pandemics excessive climate occasions and extra are the geopolitics, wars or potential wars provide chain disruptions, inflation impacts. These are all variables that the accountant who’s match for objective in technique and technique growth and analytics actually involves the forefront to cope with all of this uncertainty and threat, create situations that give CEOs and boards and different stakeholders choices. However once more, it is our potential to considerably improve our technical talents and our management talents that may be very nicely going to make the distinction when it comes to this race for relevance that I referred to. Proper. 

Dan Hood (11:46):

Nicely that is as a result of that is vital. I am glad the way in which you set it’s the alternatives there for these accountants who’re match for objective, who’ve the talents and have the skills to serve in these features in that capability. I wish to dive extra deeply into that, however we will take a fast break and we’re again with Jim Thompson of the ima speaking concerning the previous sooner or later and what’s forward and the alternatives for accounts and the truth that there are a variety of them for many who are prepared for ’em. And that is form of after I discuss slightly bit now you talked about the form of potential discrepancy between the rate of change and the rate of adaptation of the career. I am form of paraphrasing that, however the diploma to which accounts are making ready themselves for this potential new position, which is a gigantic thrilling attention-grabbing, worthwhile, worthwhile position in the event that they’re prepared for it. And perhaps we will begin by speaking about, as you have a look at individuals going into the career, what skillsets do you suppose they want? What do they must be do? How do they must be growing themselves to be that accountant 3.0? 

Jeff Thomson (12:48):

Nice. Nice query, Dan. That is why you are doing what you are doing and I am doing what I am doing proper. Seth <giggle>, nice query. Yeah. So once more I believe once more, within the spirit of accountant 2.0 and going in direction of 3.0, I believe to begin with, it is vital to get the desk stakes. I do not wish to indicate by specializing in all of the cool evolving stuff, whether or not it is analytics, know-how, sustainability technique, all cool sounding stuff the place we may add affect from a price creation perspective. We’ve to get the fundamentals, the desk stakes. We at first, our career should be a frontrunner, should proceed to be a frontrunner in ethics, belief, integrity, respect. And that comes about via our competence in producing, for instance monetary statements that precisely and ethically current the previous to future buyers, whether or not they be millennials working for the corporate or buyers and different stakeholders investing within the firm. 


So desk stakes are actually, actually vital. However I might be gobbling up all the analytics and know-how courseware coaching that I probably may. There’s slightly bit, whether or not you are at a younger accountant or a middle-aged accountant saying nicely, pay attention, I used to be not skilled as a statistician, a mathematician, I am not a PhD. I believe we have to change the mindset. So having taught, for instance I used to be additionally a highschool math trainer and I’ve taught on the faculty ranges and adjunct in enterprise math for one thing like 20 plus years. Enterprise statistic purposes, arithmetic to enterprise issues is eminently teachable and eminently learnable, if that is a phrase. So we will, as a result of all of us have our tales about our least favourite course in highschool and even in faculty oftentimes, unhappy to say that was a math trainer whether or not it was Mrs ok Crabtree or Mr. Miguel, you recognize, nonetheless bear in mind these names. 


However I, I have been married to a math trainer, I used to be a math trainer. I have been impressed by math lecturers. Arithmetic statistics on the utilized stage can considerably improve our career’s functionality to not simply present oversight in hindsight, however to additionally present perception and foresight on the desk. However we now have to recover from, it is like a change administration factor. We have to construct these capabilities proper into our career from the get-go. And perhaps even in highschool, however definitely in undergraduate accounting. After which associations like I M A A I C, P A A C A, we should decide to constructing in and never bolting on these important abilities to win the race for parts. 

Dan Hood (15:49):

I imply to everybody may use extra math not simply accounts, however everybody all through the tutorial 

Jeff Thomson (15:55):

System. I might agree really, 

Dan Hood (15:59):

And I am pondering of my math lecturers and apologizing in my head to them now but additionally two issues of in a short time, I wish to notice that the longer we discuss, the extra it looks as if you’ve got had eight totally different careers, tweet, math trainer and at and t and Im a you. You are doing greater than anyone else can cram into regular be a comparatively small time period, which explains the place you’re and why we’re interviewing you and you are not interviewing me. However I wish to discuss slightly bit about that when it comes to simply because there’s a variety of speak about, hey, we must be doing extra when it comes to information, extra when it comes to the essential math beneath accounting, and there are actions of foot to regulate the curricula for that. I am all the time reminded that there is a phrase that talks about you needn’t know learn how to construct the watch, you simply must know learn how to inform time. And I am questioning, do you see room for a spectrum of abilities in that space the place the essential account completely has to have a core skillset however you’ll be able to solely enhance your worth by diving deeper and deeper into it? I imply, I suppose actually, actually is there an enormous core competency that basically all accountants ought to have? 

Jeff Thomson (17:01):

Yeah, and I believe the reply, the candy spot of the spectrum, Dan, that you simply talked about is one thing that in fact we as an institute administration accountants really feel an obligation to assist outline. And so we now have developed an IMA administration accounting competency framework that describes at numerous positions totally different information, abilities and talents within the area, for instance, of know-how and analytics in a really, very excessive stage when it comes to making an attempt to string the needle or the candy spot. On one excessive, I might say that no, we do not have to show each accountant, even accountant 2.0 or 3.0 right into a PhD theoretical mathematician, statistician, information scientist, scientist or econom trician. Nonetheless the place we’re at present we’re just about on the decrease finish of the spectrum when it comes to analytics and insights. I am going to guess you would go to many, many organizations world wide and dip your self into their month-to-month outcomes assessment, and you may nonetheless see a variety of very, very primary diagnostics and analytics. 


However simply as you recognize, there’s been so many books on statistics and analytics, however considered one of them is competing on analytics, the brand new science of Profitable by Tom Davenport of Babson Faculty. And simply take into consideration that when you concentrate on the brand new science of successful. And by the way in which, this e book was written in 2007, I imagine. You recognize, take into consideration apps, you concentrate on buyer client dealing with web sites and providers and you do not take into consideration again workplace infrastructure. Issues like information the place you’ll be able to merge structured behavioral, I am sorry, structured monetary information with unstructured behavioral information to create insights that create entire new companies, entire new services and products that would finally change the world. So it is that candy spot that I believe we’re making an attempt to hit. Hear, I taught enterprise statistics, one in enterprise statistics two on the faculty stage. It’s once more, eminently teachable, and I am nonetheless undecided this can be a phrase eminently learnable. So long as we decide to the change, 

Dan Hood (19:22):

It’s now a phrase formally. It is now a phrase. When you say it twice, it turns into a phrase that’s apparently the rule. Precisely. 

Jeff Thomson (19:27):

Hell your rule, you are the boss 

Dan Hood (19:29):

<giggle>. Precisely. On this podcast, it is phrase. That is wonderful. Alright, I do wish to discuss slightly bit about Ima, I discussed the actually, I do not wish to say explosive trophy, however it’s fairly spectacular of progress over the previous 15 years. And given all that, the place do you see the institute going ahead? 

Jeff Thomson (19:46):

Nicely, I believe the institute, the affiliation will proceed to be a valued associate as we hold happening the trajectory within the career. I’ve already alluded to the truth that we as a career must do a greater job at telling our story and elevating the sport on the story itself. So I see I m A I am proud to say, I imply the numbers of the numbers look, numbers come and go however identical to in your private household life and even your online business life, mates are without end and fame and integrity are without end. So greater than the rest, and look, a’s numbers are up and down, up and down, particularly via Covid, proper? But when nothing else we have constructed a fame that I am strongly imagine shall be lengthy lasting. And as long as we do this, we’ll journey the ebbs and flows of economies and markets and proceed to make a distinction. 


The world of labor has modified, the world of labor studying has modified. The place we work has modified, clearly even when it comes to hybrid work and that type of factor. However there’s nothing like your fame, your relationships, your core values and what you stand for. So I count on to see extra of the identical from i m elevating our sport when it comes to the way forward for training and studying. There’s extra of an emphasis on gig kind studying and targeted actual time and time to market which may be very, essential. So simply as a few very fast examples I m A lately launched two new vital certificates applications in E S G and Sustainable Enterprise administration. That is one. And one other certificates program culminating at a digital badge in range, fairness, and inclusion. And who would’ve thought 10, 20, 30 years in the past, proper? Again within the day. 

Dan Hood (21:56):

Glorious. Nicely, I imply that is thrilling stuff and as you say an amazing fame, not simply over the pandemic, however I imply if you say, yeah, I had a extremely good pandemic within the sense of constructed an amazing fame for supporting its members, supporting the career, and actually serving to it get via and never simply get via, however actually succeed all through the pandemic and are available out of it hopefully as we hope, strategy what we hope is one thing like the tip of it in a greater place than ever. So nice stuff. Alright, Jeff Thompson of the I m a, thanks a lot for becoming a member of us. Thanks for sharing all of your insights and thanks in your contributions over the, I will not say an extended through the years, however over the course of your profession. Thanks for all that and for all you’ve got finished for the career. 

Jeff Thomson (22:37):

Nice. Thanks Dan, and thanks for all that you simply do for the career. And yeah, Heather been feeling slightly bit older than I began 20 or half-hour on the podcast. I’m invigorated by what I see as the way forward for the career. I’ve informed people that I am not leaving the planet, I am nonetheless going to discover a approach to stay energetic within the career, and once more, proud and honored to be a part of the podcast. 

Dan Hood (23:01):

Glorious. Nicely, thanks for becoming a member of. So we sit up for seeing what Jeff Thompson 3.0 appears to be like like. I am certain as you say, I am certain. We’ll certain. We’ll hear from you. So thanks 

Jeff Thomson (23:09):

Once more. All proper, Dan. Thanks. 

Dan Hood (23:11):

Glorious. And thanks all for listening. This episode of On the Air was produced by Accounting Immediately with audio manufacturing by Kellie Malone. Charge and Evaluate us in your favourite podcast platform and see the remainder of our content material on Thanks once more to our visitor, and thanks for listening.