LIVE: Professional Issues Updates in Columbus

August 31, 2010

Follow along on Twitter: #PIU

Thank you to all of the Professional Issues Updates attendees! We closed up the PIU with a 50/50 raffle to benefit the CPA/PAC. Congratulations to Mary Lee Elliott on being the lucky winner!

We’re off to Cincinnati this afternoon to continue the roadshow! View the full PIU schedule!


Feel like someone’s watching you? You’re right.

A third of employers monitor employees internet use (American Management Association).

Employers using myrid of ways to monitor employees:

  • Physically going undercover
  • Scrutinizing social media use
  • Monitor e-mail and IMs
  • Tapping office phones
  • Watching personal web postings


The risk inside your copiers

Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive:

  • Stores image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine
  • Digital time‐bomb packed with highly‐personal or sensitive data
  • Identity theft “pot of gold”


AICPA’s Top 10 Technology Issues

Which top ten technology considerations are driving your business or practice today?

  1. Security of data, code & communications / data security & document retention / security threats
  2. Connectivity / wireless access / high speed Internet connections / voice and data
  3. Backup solutions/ disaster recovery/ business continuity
  4. Secure electronic collaboration with clients – client portals
  5. Paperless workflow/ paperless technology/electronic workpapers
  6. Laptop security / encryption
  7. Small business software / Office 2010 / Windows 7
  8. User mobility / mobile computing / mobile devices
  9. Tax software / electronic transmittals of tax forms / modern e‐file
  10. Server virtualization and consolidation


Social Media

Forrester Research (June 15, 2010): Information Technology staff who use social media
in servicing their organizations:

  • 72% ‐ positive impact on productivity in the front office
  • 70% ‐ makes IT operations more productive
  • 61% ‐ makes the back office more productive
  • 46% ‐ positive influence on marketing
  • 72% ‐ social media helps them get answers to questions
  • 68% ‐ helps find information they need to be successful
  • 62% ‐ lets people know what kind of help is available.
  • positive impact on brand reputation (86%); innovation (80%); customer service (78%).


CPAs in an aging society:

E‐mail is making you stupid

  • The cult of multitasking would have us believe that compulsive message‐checking is the behavior of an always‐on, hyper‐productive worker.
  • It’s not a sign of a distracted employee who misguidedly believes he can do multiple tasks at one time. People may be able to chew gum & walk at the same time.

Peripheral tasks triggered twice the number of errors and jacked up levels of annoyance

Interrupted test workers: 3% to 27% more time to complete reading, counting or math problems. The harder the interrupted task, the harder to get back on track.

Microsoft study: It takes a worker 15 minutes to refocus after an interruption; 44% of interruptions employees experience from within the company.


What’s next? They aren’t even out of grade school. But already, people are trying to name the youngest up‐and‐coming generation, and trying to figure out who they might be and how they might be different from their predecessors.

Many call them Generation Z, and will never know a world without the Internet.

Who are they, really?

Emerging picture of Gen Z (for what it’s worth): they’re young ‐ roughly age 12 or younger. Determining who these youngsters are still is very much a work in progress.

This generation will take characteristics already affiliated with Gen Y to a new level: multitasking or comfort level with different races, ethnicities and cultures.


What’s the next generation in the workplace going to look like?

The next generation of clients:

Millennials & Gen Xers more comfortable with online tools that enable them to do things themselves.

  • Have access to information at their fingertips like no generation before them, they know where to find information with relative ease.
  • Potential increased regulations & tax law complexities could change things, the fact is younger generations are less likely to utilize a professional accountant.

Firms will need to develop innovative strategies that identify and take advantage of new opportunities with a drastically different client base.

This reality only makes younger generations of workers more integral to the long‐term success of a firm.

  • Understand technologies & values that shape mind set of the demographic. In short, they hold the answers to what it will take to transform & sustain a firm. Learn from them and, at the same time, teach them to build lasting.



Certain OR Uncertain?

  • Uncertain state of U.S. adoption of IFRS: could be helping a number of companies (extra time to make the adjustment.)
  • SEC recently ruled that IFRS won’t be incorporated into: U.S. financial standards until 2015 at the earliest (depending on decision next year on whether to go forward with the transition.)
  • SEC Chairman ‐ Mary Schapiro “confident” that the regulator will decide in 2011

IFRS Readiness – Key Messages

  • Familiarity with IFRS has increased since September 2009: Members also expressed a need for more advanced IFRS knowledge
    • 27% said they need increased knowledge in the next year
    • 37% said they need increased knowledge in the next 2 to 3 years
  • Companies have made some progress in moving toward adoption: Delaying implementation while waiting for SEC action
  • Members: Support adoption of IFRS, although more convergence is desired first; Believe a 2015‐2016 adoption would allow time for implementation (if SEC decides in 2011 to require IFRS)
  • About half were aware of IFRS for SMEs: In addition, 47% said they were unsure if they would consider adopting IFRS for SMEs


Private Company Financial reporting Task Force

  • 30% of private companies release no financial statements to external users
  • 15% GAAP, but depart: many view GAAP (or certain aspects) as overly complex; few view it as the ultimate solution for private company reporting
  • GAAP departures: potential to confuse financial statement readers and dilute perceived quality of GAAP

Blue Ribbon Panel provides recommendations:

  • future of standard setting ‐ private companies
  • including whether separate, standalone
  • accounting standards for private companies are needed.


OSCPA Chair Pete Margaritis talking to an OSCPA member at today's Professional Issues Updates.


CPA/PAC 50/50 Raffle

Get your tickets in for the 50/50 Ohio CPA/PAC raffle! 1/$5.00 or 3/$10.00! Visit our Governmental Affairs team at the table in the back of the room!


Financial Reporting Issues

  • Accounting Standards Executive Committee (AcSEC)
  • Compilation and Review
  • Simplicity
  • Private Company Financial Reporting
  • IFRS
  • Sustainability


Ohio Budget Crisis

CPAs routinely advise troubled businesses on how to economize & get through tough times. What are the steps that CPAs would recommend to achieve operational economies, but still keep the doors open & the state in business?

Immediate Action Steps

  • Identify cost & management efficiencies & identify & implement additional cost containment measures
  • Suspend for 1 year any Controlling Board expenditures not necessary to maintain essential state programs & services
  • Require state agencies to use modified zero-based budgeting for 2012‐2013 budget
  • Develop a plan to sunset state agencies (implement a 10‐year evaluation process for all agencies)
  • Require paperless technology



Don’t ignore anything that comes to you from the Accountancy Board of Ohio!

  • Deadlines are firm and fines are automatic
  • The last thing you want to do is get a letter from the Accountancy Board summoning you to a public hearing for failure to renew or another violation


CPA Exam

  • New format will allow development of new kinds of simulations.

Some possible future tasks include:

  • Reviewing footnote disclosures.
  • Creating a flowchart from a description.
  • Repairing a flawed flowchart.
  • Simulating a general ledger where drilldown is done and source documents are reviewed.
  • Simulating a “shoebox” scenario where a CPA has to review several different documents to determine what to do with them (for example, tax return preparation).


Tax Preparer Registration


  • extension of PTIN requirement to non‐signing employees of CPA firms;
  • appropriate title for persons receiving PTIN
  • IRS imposition of “reasonable user fees,”
  • foreign preparers

What’s Behind the PTIN Issue?

The new PTIN standard marks “the creation of a new profession” by maintaining the term “registered tax return preparers” Karen Hawkins, Director, IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) In a speech to the National Society of Accountants

Comparing preparer requirements

CPA Requirements

  • College graduate
  • 150 hours college
  • CPA requirements

IRS requirements

  • High school graduate
  • 18 years old education
  • Uniform CPA exam
  • 120 hours CPE over 3‐year period
  • IRS exam – level unknown
  • 15 hours annual tax education


Red Flag Rules

FTC delayed enforcement of “Red Flags” rule until December 31, 2010.

Financial institutions & creditors subject to the FTC’s jurisdiction, including CPA firms. Businesses that bill customers for sales or services after services have been performed, even in the normal course of a traditional billing process are
considered a “creditor.” AICPA filed a lawsuit on November 10, 2009, with the intent to provide an exemption for members in public practice


Financial Reform

The CPA profession successfully advocated on a number of issues, including:

  • protections to maintain FASB’s independence
  • inclusion of a provision to ensure permanent funding for GASB: resisted duplicative regulation by new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for CPAs’ usual and customary activities.


What’s likely going to happen in Congress in the next year?

  • Health Care Reform
  • Supreme Court
  • Tax Strategy Patents
  • Financial Reform: Financial Planning; Registration of auditors; Private Right of Action
  • Red Flag Rules
  • Comptroller General = CPA – H.R. 4410
  • Tax Issues: PTIN; S Corp


A unanimous response from the audience at the Columbus PIU thinks that OSCPA should fight a tax on services.


CPA Mobility Legislation

The ability of a licensee to gain a practice privilege outside of their home state without getting an additional license in another state where they will be serving a client

  • No fee, no notification, no escape

Recent Success:

  • Alaska ‐ 47th state to enact mobility
    June 10, signed by Alaska Governor Sean Parnell
  • New York Senate passed S6307‐B
    June 7, 2010 / 59‐3


What’s going on that’s affecting the CPA profession?

Around the country: Mobility; Firm Names; Peer Review

In Ohio: General Assembly; Board of Accountancy

In Washington D.C.: The Court; Congress;  The Regulators


CFOs said strong ethical culture has beneficial effect on business performance in terms of:

  • staff trust, loyalty & motivation
  • more reliable financial reporting
  • improved corporate culture
  • external relationships
  • investors, customers & analysts: perceived a risk to personal & corporate
  • reputations if ethics not a high enough priority


Fraud summary:

Misconduct at work is down:

  • Fewer employees witnessed misconduct on the job;
  • 56% in 2007 to 49% in 2009

Whistleblowing up:

  • More employees reported misconduct when observed
  • 63% 2009, 58% in 2007

Ethical cultures stronger:

  • Strength of ethical culture in the workplace increased
  • 53% in 2007 to 62% in 2009

Pressure to cut corners lower:

  • Perceived pressure to commit an ethics violation (cut corners, or worse) declined from 10% ‐ 8%


Is it OK to cheat on your income taxes? A USA Today poll showed the 84% of those surveyed said, “not at all.”

  • 9%: a little
  • 4%: as much as possible
  • 3%: don’t know


Occupational fraud is a global problem. Most trends in fraud schemes, perpetrator characteristics & anti‐fraud controls are similar regardless of where the fraud occurred.

Fraud reporting mechanisms critical for effective fraud prevention & detection:

  • implement hotlines to receive tips (internal & external)
  • anonymity and confidentiality; report suspicious activity
  • without fear of reprisal.

Organizations tend to over‐rely on audits.

  • External audits ‐ control mechanism most widely used by victims
  • Ranked comparatively poorly in detecting fraud & limiting losses due to fraud

Employee  education is the foundation of preventing and detecting occupational fraud.

  • Staff ‐ top fraud detection method
  • employees must be trained in what constitutes fraud and how to report questionable activity
  • organizations that have anti‐fraud training for employees and managers experience lower fraud losses

Surprise audits are effective, yet underutilized

  • Less than 30% of victim organizations conducted surprise audits; tended to have lower fraud losses & to detect frauds more quickly. Perpetrators only commit fraud if they believe they will not be caught. Threat of surprise audits increases perception that fraud will be detected; strong deterrent

Small businesses ‐ particularly vulnerable to fraud

  • Far fewer controls in place. Should focus control investments on most cost‐effective mechanisms (hotlines & setting an ethical tone) for employees, as well as those most likely to help prevent and detect the specific fraud schemes that pose the greatest risks to their businesses.

Internal controls alone ‐ insufficient to fully prevent occupational fraud

  • Internal controls will not prevent all fraud from occurring, nor will they detect most fraud once it begins.

Fraudsters exhibit behavioral warning signs of their misdeeds.

  • Red flags (living beyond one’s means / exhibiting control issues) – not likely identified by traditional controls.

Given high costs of occupational fraud, effective fraud prevention measures are critical.

  • Organizations should implement a fraud prevention checklist


The typical organization loses 5% of revenue because of fraud.

About 40% of companies polled …

  • risk for fraud & economic crime had grown in the past year due to the recession.
  • More than two‐thirds: greater risk of fraud due to increased incentives or pressures
  • 18% ‐ more opportunities to commit fraud partially due to reductions in internal finance staff.

Nearly 90% of occupational frauds involve some form of asset misappropriation.

Methods employees use to embezzle organizational assets:

Three categories:

  1. Schemes involving theft of cash receipts
  2. Schemes involving fraudulent disbursements of cash
  3. Other asset misappropriation scheme


“Most – when confronted with the global forces shaping business assume that their ability to sculpt the future is minimal.” – J. Clarke Price


Small business and technology trends:

Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing Converge: Individually, these technologies are having a major impact on small business. But the increasing convergence is amplifying their impact; fundamentally changing how business is done.

Location Technology and Services: Near ubiquity of GPS systems in smartphones and cars, consumer & business use of location aware applications will grow dramatically in 2010. Location information on businesses & consumers will become common & merge with online reviews & ratings.

Analytical Tools Lead to Data‐Driven Decisions: Sophisticated yet easy‐touse tools are allowing small businesses to move from “gut level” decision making to evidence‐based management.

Online Training Brings Professional Education to Small Business: Lowcost yet highly professional online training courses & programs provide small business with the ability to improve productivity & employee engagement. Negatively impacted by the recession, small business use of online training will accelerate in 2010.


Finance Executives Top 10 Risk Hot Spots for 2010
(From the Corporate Executive Board reported in

  1. Strategic change management
  2. Capacity: Risk of both over & understaffing; Timing capital expenditures also a challenge.
  3. Incentive plans: Compensation under extreme scrutiny
  4. Human resources : Layoffs have left many skill gaps & possible holes in compliance structures.
  5. Fraud: Widely thought to pick up in down times, can be easier to commit at companies that are short‐staffed and under pressure
  6. Innovation/R&D: companies that have cut back risk falling behind competitors
  7. Third‐party relationships: care in evaluating third parties
  8. Shared services: exploring new locations for back‐office functions; can affect companies’ control structures and processes
  9. Inflation/Deflation: currency risk ‐ open question for 2010
  10. Tax management: Recession‐scarred states looking to raise funds: new taxes & stricter enforcement of existing tax laws?


According to a PEW Research Center poll in July 2010, only 30% of those surveyed know who the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is, but 85% know what Twitter is.


What’s new in the CPA profession? The pace of accounting rule changes is beginning to wear on finance staffs.

“At any one time we’re tracking between 100 and 200 potential regulations that might impact us. It is putting a lot of pressure on the accounting and financial resources of the organization.” Terry Lillis CFO ‐ Principal Financial Group


Do you use social media? When polled at last years’ PIUs, 59% said yes, and 41% said no. “I expect the number of people using social media to trend upward,” said Clarke Price.


The Fall Professional Issues Updates is kicking off in Columbus! Peter Margaritis, CPA, MAcc, Chair of the OSCPA Board addresses the audience and discusses the importance of the CPA/PAC.


Tax preparer registration mandate puts cart before the horse

August 25, 2010

By David M. Reape, CPA, Ciuni & Panichi Inc.

cart Despite heavy opposition from OSCPA and the AICPA, the IRS is moving ahead quickly with plans for its burdensome new tax preparer registration program.

Beginning in mid -September, any individual who prepares all or substantially all of a return for compensation—even if they don’t sign the return—will be required to register with the IRS and obtain a “preparer tax identification number,” or PTIN. This means a CPA firm’s unlicensed staff accountants, and even interns, will be subject to the registration and fee requirements.

And eventually, preparers will also need to pass an exam to prove competency and obtain 15 hours of CPE each year.

So far, CPAs will be exempt from the education and testing requirements, but employees who prepare returns under the supervision of CPAs or other preparers would not be.

The plan would also extend the Circular 230 ethics rules to all paid preparers, not just CPAs.

The IRS claims the new program will greatly reduce fraud and boost accuracy and compliance across the industry, but hasn’t yet demonstrated how this will be accomplished.

That’s largely because the IRS hasn’t defined what the testing and education standards will be or what will happen if someone fails to meet competency requirements.

As a member of OSCPA’s Task Force on Standards for Tax Preparers, I am angry and concerned that the IRS is putting the cart before the horse on this mandate.

Since the new plan was first announced in January, OSCPA has sent several comment letters to the IRS and asked Ohio’s Congressional delegation for help in slowing down this rush to regulate. Several Ohio members of Congress have been very supportive of our efforts, but the IRS steamroller appears to be moving forward anyhow.

While the premise behind the new registration program is sound—curbing abuse and making all tax preparers more competent—the implementation will add a costly layer of administration for ethical and competent preparers such as CPAs and their associates.

Specifically, the IRS is requiring registration of all preparers immediately and at a cost of $64.25 per person the first year—a hefty fee for a still largely undefined program. Could the need to find new revenue sources have as much or more to do with this new fee on CPAs and others than the ability to improve compliance?

A fee-laden mandate that increases administration doesn’t translate to increased tax compliance. But it could create false expectations and confidence among taxpayers that preparers are skilled and ethical, and therefore less likely to commit fraud.

But where is the real oversight?

A better solution would be a major public education initiative that teaches taxpayers how to choose a qualified tax preparer. This might help to address some of the larger compliance and fraud issues surrounding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Refund Anticipation Loans.

Longer term, serious consideration should be given to simplifying the tax code. This would do much to ease the compliance burden for taxpayers and increase preparer accuracy.

OSCPA and the AICPA are urging the IRS to act slowly and more thoughtfully in implementing the proposed new registration system.

If you agree, please add your voice to the conversation and ask the IRS to think before it mandates.

Send your comments to the IRS by e-mail at * (Please note: The asterisk is a required character in the e-mail address.) Click here for suggested message points to include in your e-mail.

A good idea gone bad!

August 24, 2010

Return preparer program goes too far, too fast

By E. Lynn Nichols, CPA

black lamp - harmful energy - concept While I support efforts by Congress and the IRS to reign in abuses by unlicensed, unregulated tax return preparers, I believe the current program is suffering from bureaucratic overreaching.

When first announced on Jan. 4, 2010, after six months of study by IRS and Treasury officials, the program was hailed as necessary to clean up the tax preparer business. The program was to have three parts: registration, education, and enforcement. CPAs, attorneys, and enrolled agents were to be exempt from the registration and education requirements. As often happens with government programs, this one now appears to have outgrown its mission.

Publication of proposed regulations expanding the reach of Treasury Circular 230 to “all paid return preparers,” including, under the new system, any individual who prepares all or substantially all of a return for compensation – even if it’s only one return – has energized opposition to the IRS’s preparer registration program.

Some of us had experience last year with the 10,000 IRS letters to CPAs and other preparers that stated we were responsible for determining the correctness of a client’s reported income and business expenses. That was an unsupported overstatement for which the IRS later apologized, but it’s an indication of where they are trying to take the paid preparer registration program. CPAs need to resist any such attempts to make us “audit” a client’s tax information.

The IRS has contracted with an outside consulting firm to run the program because the agency was already overburdened with monitoring various tax credits and multiple tax law changes. The consultants will get $14.25 of the $64.25 registration fee for every individual who prepares returns. That definition includes individuals working in a CPA’s office who prepare, but do not sign, tax returns.

Many CPAs believe the unholy combination of a perpetually troubled federal agency and a consulting firm is unlikely to operate smoothly or to achieve its intended goal. We should demand that the IRS focus on unregulated preparers, as intended, and let CPA firms operate without another layer of registration and compliance imposed on staff accountants.

You can e-mail comments to the IRS at * (The asterisk is important!)

Perhaps opposition from CPAs, who generally run ethical tax preparation businesses, will encourage the IRS to reconsider the proposed scope of this important compliance initiative.

CPA firms working together on the same client? Can it really happen?

August 24, 2010

By Jim Keeslar, Director BCG & Company

The answer to both of these questions is yes. I know since our firm has already done or is currently doing work together with several other CPA firms. We have helped out a sole practitioner whose client needed to go from a compilation to a review and they didn’t perform reviews. We performed the review only and the sole practitioner kept the overall engagement relationship and performed the other services. We have performed ERISA plan audits for clients’ of several firms who perform investment or third party administration services for the plans and, therefore, are not independent regarding the audit. We have performed a pre-issuance review of financial statements for a local firm with a client in a specialized industry that we have experience in.

So it can happen. There just needs to be a high degree of trust between the firms. CPAs in firms are realizing that they just can’t keep up with all of the changes in today’s fast-paced accounting profession. Whether it be tax law or the accounting standards, there is something new that comes out daily. Driven by the global marketplace we now live in, topics like foreign taxes and international accounting standards seem to be very hot right now. Successful firms (or individuals within the firm) specialize in areas such as tax or audit. Most also specialize in industries such as manufacturing or construction. Some even specialize in more specific areas like ERISA audits or IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). So decisions must be made. Where do I spend my time? What training do I focus on? What resources do we invest in?

There are only so many hours in a day and only so many resources available to service our clients—so we must choose wisely. Sometimes a firm will lose the entire client relationship because they can’t handle one specific aspect of the relationship. Or perhaps a client begins to feel like they have outgrown their current firm. Maybe the firm doesn’t have enough resources to totally serve the client. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you are a sole practitioner or a smaller local firm, team up with someone at a larger local or regional firm that you trust. If you don’t know someone, ask around and begin developing a relationship. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it might just save a client relationship someday.

Are American’s doing enough to educate on financial literacy?

August 20, 2010

creditcards Representatives from major banks and credit card companies have been popping up on U.S. college campuses for years, each attempting to reel in unsuspecting, unemployed students who have no problem racking up a little debt. Sure, having credit to your name isn’t a bad thing, but the problem becomes more than just a little debt when you have tuition to pay, books to buy, food to eat and socializing to do.

But since the passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or the Credit CARD Act of 2009, college freshmen and sophomores wishing to sign-up for a shiny piece of plastic require a co-signer if they’re under the age of 21. Not only that, but the law also prevents credit card companies from participating on college campuses and at university-themed events unless a valid reason is provided. And the “swag” that comes along with signing on the dotted line? Forget it. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 outlaws the giving of gifts or any promotional items to entice students.

I never fell for the lure of these credit card companies when I was on a college campus, but I did however sign-up for my own credit card prior to my freshman year in college. I was raised with great financial values. Having worked since I was 14, I knew how to manage my money and I was paying for my own bills. I could certainly handle my own credit card, right?

It wasn’t long though, before I started using my credit card for little purchases here and there. And that low credit limit that I started out with mysteriously kept rising higher and higher. Before I knew it, I was up thousands of dollars in credit card dept and only making the minimum payments. This went on for years. And although I stopped using the credit card, the balance kept going up. Climbing interest rates can be really hard to swallow.

So here I am, nine years since opening that credit card, and just this past spring (after years of non-use and minimum payments) found myself with enough money to pay off the entire balance in one lump sum.

Does that scenario sound familiar? It’s obvious that something needs to change. According to, the average credit card debt per household is $15,788, and the Federal Reserve’s G.19 report on consumer credit cites that the total U.S. revolving debt (98% of which is made up of credit card debt) is at $826.5 billion, as of June 2010.

To prevent these statistics from rising further, Ohio’s General Assembly passed Ohio Core legislation mandating financial literacy education for students beginning high school in the 2010 academic year.

The Ohio CPA Foundation stepped up and responded with programs to help students understand the importance of being financially smart. Through the Ohio CPA Foundation, OSCPA is committed to helping elementary students and high school students through two new programs being launched this fall:

In response to requests from teachers and OSCPA members to offer a program that addresses financial literacy basics such as budgeting, saving and spending at the elementary school level, The Ohio CPA Foundation created a new classroom activity, called FETCH!™: Financial Education Teaches Children Healthy Habits™.

The High School Personal Finance Program helps students in grades 9-12. By teaming up with Junior Achievement (JA), OSCPA members have the opportunity to assist educators in meeting this educational requirement firsthand through JA’s Personal Finance Program. The Junior Achievement Personal Finance Program introduces students to the importance of making wise financial decisions. Its curriculum demonstrates the importance of planning, goal-setting, and thoughtful choices within the context of personal financial decisions.

For more Financial Literacy resources, visit OSCPA’s Financial Fitness Ohio webpage for articles on every life stage, finding a CPA, small business and financial planning resources and more.

Regulatory reform is now. What should CPAs be paying attention to?

August 19, 2010

OSCPA’s Financial Institutions Conference 20+ year run has never been as timely as it was this year. The conference, held on August 17 in Columbus, addressed the issues that are on the minds of CPAs across the state: what’s going on during these difficult times and economic recovery?

The Financial Institutions Conference put it all into perspective with a jam-packed day of strategies, insights and solutions designed to help CPAs manage the complex issues facing financial institutions.

With the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law in July, regulators are now beginning the daunting task of drafting rules, conducting studies and gathering feedback from the business community.

In Ohio, while the economic environment is getting better, members of a regulatory panel during the conference agreed, the length of this economic crisis is taking its toll on Ohio’s banks.

I caught up with OSCPA member, Rep. Peter Beck, R-Mason, a partner with Donohoo Cupp & Beck CPAs in Milford, at the conference and received his take on what CPAs in Ohio should be paying attention to:

According to a recent study by Bankrate, Ohio is the most expensive state in the Midwest to close on a home purchase, and is pegged as the 13th highest in the nation in terms of origination, title and closing costs.

“The future is unknowable. No one can predict the future,” said Natalie Schoch, PH.D, director of knowledge management and trends, Kellogg Co., who led a discussion on leading in a time of change. “There are infinite futures, and the decisions we make will determine them.”

OSCPA member and conference attendee, Jim Francis with The Milton Banking Company in Newark said that he’s been through a lot of this before, it’s a little frightening this time around but people should have seen it coming.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Everyone thinks they deserve to have a house with no down payment. Bankers and mortgage brokers should have known better. Before this all started, no one knew about derivatives, now they are all you hear about. We’ve mortgaged our children and saddled them with more debt than they can handle. It’s also too easy for people to walk away. People weren’t taught how to budget, not to buy what they couldn’t afford. People aren’t concerned about debt – they feel they have a right to have what they want.”

Related resources

OSCPA Issue Monitoring: Financial Regulatory Reform

Financial institutions urged to weigh-in on regulatory reform act

Can social media revive customer service?

August 9, 2010

customer_service “The last eighteen months have witnessed a huge shift in the way that customers seek help for their customer service queries, problems and complaints,” writes Guy Stephens on the Econsultancy blog.

OSCPA prides itself on having customer service representatives available for members. When someone calls the OSCPA office during business hours they talk with a live person on the other end of the phone. Our Member Services Center, CPAnswers, is dedicated to helping our members, and those who wish to learn more about our organization and the CPA profession. But as anybody who has interacted with OSCPA knows, the organization’s entire staff is connecting with members and other business professionals. OSCPA uses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging to reach out and join the conversation. Stephens highlights the importance of utilizing social media to redefine customer service:

“Social media by its very nature is highlighting the need for businesses to break down their departmental silos. Stakeholders from sales, marketing, customer services, brand, PR, compliance, business operations are having to come together to redefine, not their social media policies, . . . but the way they fundamentally look at their customers. Social media gives the notion of customer-centricity a chance.”

Poor customer service at many locations has only been deteriorating. Jumping through endless menus with no hope of reaching an actual person unless you choose zero, and even then the “customer service” representatives you reach are most likely outsourced, often speak minimal English and can actually do very little to really help you, is the last thing that I want to deal with when I call customer service to resolve an issue or answer a question.

When I encounter a scenario like this, it usually just ends up with me becoming more frustrated. And what happens when people become frustrated? We complain. And people these days don’t just pick up the phone and complain to their best friend. I, like most people involved in social media, take my complaints online. And I don’t complain to the companies directly. I complain to my Facebook friends and my Twitter followers.

Passive? Yes. Effective? Consider these examples and then decide for yourself.

When Jane Lee, OSCPA manager of Education & Training experienced less than stellar service when Enterprise failed to pick her up at the promised time, she sounded off on the situation on Twitter while she waited:

JaneOSCPA: Apparently when Enterprise says they’ll pick you up that means to add at least 40 minutes to your pick up time.

And as any good company who is listening to their customers, Enterprise contacted Jane to remedy the situation. And because of their quick action and good customer service response, Jane made sure that her followers knew:

JaneOSCPA: Enterprise customer service contacted me in response to my post re: late pickup & made amends! Thx @enterprisecares.

Another example occurred just recently when I attended a webinar on social media. When I registered for the (free) webinar, I expected one hour filled with information on how to “increase your social media marketing ROI for businesses and executives.” The first 20 or so minutes were very informative and I even commented on Twitter that I was attending a webinar from this company:

kvitartas: Sitting in on a webinar on social media with @smmagic.

However, it quickly turned into a hard sell for hiring them to become our social media consultants. I can understand how their services might benefit some, and I should have realized that the webinar was more of a sales pitch had I done more research, but this webinar was quickly becoming a waste of time. Here was my follow-up Twitter comment:

kvitartas: Didn’t realize this webinar from @smmagic was going to turn into an infomercial.

I’m still waiting on a response from the company.

The bottom line if you’re on social networks is to be listening, to find the conversation and join in, and above all else, respond to your customers when they reach out to you! What do you do if you’re not involved in these social networks? Join them. Lurk around and see what people are saying about your company or services, and then become involved.

An article on Social CRM versus Real Customer Service sums up the social media/customer service relationship best:

“We all know that social media and customer engagement are extremely important, but they can only be effective when working hand-in-hand with the right customer support processes. The most important thing for any customer, beyond being able to follow you on Twitter, is to be able to get answers and solutions whenever needed.”

In today’s online environment, customer service and responding to situations quickly is more important than ever. Every company, from the largest corporation to the smallest CPA firm, needs to anticipate that a customer can take a complaint online through social media. This means that when they complain, their complaint can be simultaneously heard by tens, hundreds or thousands of people in their – and their friends’ – online network. It’s a new world, and that means new tools, new challenges and new opportunities abound. Are you using social media when you complain? Are you following others who take their complaints online? Are you prepared for the challenge?

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