Episode #177: Interview with Barry Melancon

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Barry C. Melancon is the President American Institute of CPAs and CEO, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the most influential body of professional accountants in the world with 650,000 members and students.

Formed in 2017, it combines the strengths of The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), which Melancon also leads as President & CEO.

Barry joined the AICPA in 1995 when he was 37 years old, and is now the longest serving CEO in the organization’s 129 year history.

Under his tenure, the AICPA has grown to become the largest membership body of CPAs in the world and has spearheaded a number of initiatives to benefit not only the profession, but also investors, business owners, lenders and the general public.

These include audit quality centers; private company reporting standards; eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL); the computerized CPA exam; and two consumer financial literacy education programs.

Topics we discussed with Barry

Take us from a small CPA firm in Louisiana to president of the AICPA—did you aspire to be head of the AICPA?

What’s your “Why”—what motivates you, why do you do what you do?

Enron, etc., was a rough couple of years, but you and the profession persevered, and even grew stronger—is that how you assess it as well?

Actual ad from 2002. Happily the AICPA and the accounting profession have emerged stronger than ever.

Actual ad from 2002. Happily the AICPA and the accounting profession have emerged stronger than ever.

What do you think about Sarbanes-Oxley, has it helped or hurt?

What’s the one issue in the profession that keeps you up at night?

How do you see all this new technology—blockchain, AI, etc.—do you see them displacing, or complements, or substitutes, to existing CPAs?

You don’t have a dystopian view of all this technology; you sound more optimistic about it?

According to Tim Harford’s book, Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy, the language of accountancy is an oral tradition. We are getting back to that, those with excellent auditory skills will flourish.

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Wouldn’t be a VeraSage interview if we didn’t discuss timesheets. Is the AICPA looking at changing its peer review standards on timesheets for firms that are moving away from using them?

The challenges of security with the online CPA exam?

Demography is destiny. What are the demographics of the profession?

What advice would you give to a small CPA firm owner?

What one thing would you want someone like me to say to an accounting high school class?

Related Interview

Our interview with the AICPA’s Mark Koziel, Episode #75, from January 15, 2016.

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Ed Kless

Ed Kless joined Sage in July of 2003 and is currently the senior director of partner development and strategy. He develops and delivers curriculum for Sage business partners on the art and practice of small business consulting. Courses include: Sage Consulting Academy, Business Strategy and Customer Experience Workshops. Ed is the author of The Soul of Enterprise: Dialogues on Business in the Knowledge Economy, a compendium of a few of the episodes of his VoiceAmerica talk-show The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy with Ron Baker, founder of the VeraSage Institute where Ed is also a senior fellow.