Have you ever wondered what the brink of a technological revolution signifies for the profession and how your role might change in an era of constant disruption? If so, this year’s Elevate Your Mind professional development conference is for you! The conference—part of the profession’s annual Elevate celebration—is tackling a topic that is relevant to all CPAs: the future of the profession in relation to the digital age. This year boasts an exciting lineup of subject-matter experts speaking to a variety of topics, including “Blockchain and smart contracts”, “Ethical decision-making in a time of disruption”, and “Funny money and fake news”.
CPA Alberta, through the spring issue of its member publication, Dividends (D), caught up with three of this year’s speakers: Francis Fong; Shawn Kanungo CPA, CA; and Merge Gupta-Sunderji CPA, CGA, to give you an exclusive glimpse into what you can expect from this exciting and thought-provoking day of professional development.
Kicking off Elevate Your Mind is morning keynote speaker, Francis Fong, Chief Economist at CPA Canada. Francis joined CPA Canada as Chief Economist in February 2017. Previously, Francis was the Director of Economic Risk and Senior Economist at TD Economics, where he oversaw risk activities including internal and regulatory stress testing. He has also conducted numerous reports on a variety of social and economic issues including immigration, youth unemployment, income inequality, financial markets, and labour market issues.
D: As our morning keynote speaker, what highlights will you cover in your presentation?
FF: This is going to be an important year. With both provincial and federal elections on the horizon, it’s going to be critical for CPAs in Alberta to be informed about where the economy might be headed. I’ll be discussing some of the major economic trends impacting the global, US, and Canadian economies, with an eye towards some of the long-term challenges Canadians face with regards to technological change.
D: What trends will be especially relevant to CPAs in 2019?
FF: There are a number of hot-button issues that CPAs ought to be aware of. Despite Canada and the US having signed the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (the replacement for NAFTA), the risk related to trade remains ever-present, given how trade relations are evolving globally, particularly with China. Moreover, how oil prices evolve over time is always critical given the importance of the sector in Albertan life.
D: What useful lessons do you hope to impart in your Elevate Your Mind session?
FF: What I hope attendees might gain is an increase to their economic literacy. Economic forces play a more direct role in our lives than at any other point in history and understanding that—and gaining a lens through which to see the world—is going to be critical for the future success of any leader.
Shawn Kanungo is an innovation strategist who shows organizations how to disrupt before getting disrupted. He operates at the intersection of creativity, business, and technology, and has been recognized nationally and globally for his work in the innovation space. For 12 years at Deloitte, Shawn helped corporate executives to better understand and plan for the opportunities and threats associated with disruptive innovation. Now, he is General Partner of Queen & Rook Capital, where he focuses on applying exponential technologies and new business models to mature businesses.
D: According to the title of your presentation, we are on the brink of a revolution. That is intriguing. Can you expand on this idea?
S: I am a CPA, my wife is a CPA, and my father was a CPA. So the future of this profession is very important to me. This is the best time to reimagine the CPA profession. We need to be what I call “Exponential Accountants or CPAs.” An exponential CPA focuses on experimentation instead of efficiency, is interested in automation instead of manual processes, is always learning, etc.
The best organizations have embraced the power of experimentation. My presentation will dive deep into how we can experiment as CPAs without “selling the farm.”
CPAs who attend my session will learn how to help organizations thrive in a world where technology is continually disrupting the status quo.
D: In one sentence, why should people attend your session?
S: I’m going to disrupt government and accounting, and reinvent both of them, in less than 70 minutes.
D: Do you see any new disruption trends heading our way in 2019?
S: It’s not one trend. The convergence of all the emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotic process automation (RPA), and voice will drive both private- and public-sector organizations.
Merge Gupta-Sunderji is a leadership expert and a newspaper columnist with over 30 years of experience as a professional speaker, author, radio commentator, facilitator, and consultant. Merge’s workshops are designed to turn managers into leaders. Her content is compelling, delivered with enthusiasm, humour, and realism, while providing audiences practical tools to help them achieve leadership success.
D: Your session will focus on disruption and stress management. How are these related?
M: Disruption is all around us, driven by technology, and more specifically by the advent of artificial intelligence. The accounting profession is impacted just as much as any other industry, and rapid transformation can take a toll on emotional and mental health. This makes coping strategies an absolute necessity if we want to survive and thrive.
D: Why is your topic relevant to CPAs?
M: CPAs cannot (and should not) fall into the trap of thinking that our profession is not prone to disruption. Remember, that’s what people thought about taxi transportation, movie-watching, and out-of-town accommodation, until Uber, Netflix, and AirBnB came along and completely overturned these industries. CPAs need to be agile and resilient. They should be able to roll with the punches, while anticipating how things might change. This means we need to pay attention to the signals, and not let them slip past us.
For more information on Elevate Your Mind visit https://www.cpaalberta.ca/Events/Elevate/Elevate-Your-Mind
This article also appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Dividends magazine.