Accounting and auditing remain popular professions despite challenges.

The North American Regional Conference of the Baker Tilly International network of independently owned accounting and business advisory firms was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Buckhead June 9-14.

During an interview with GlobalAtlanta, Geoff Barnes, CEO and president of the organization with member firms in 120 countries, spoke of the current challenges facing the accounting and auditing professions.

The contraction of the larger accounting firms into “the Big Four” has opened opportunities for firms such as Habif, Arogeti & Wynne LLP, the Georgia member of the network, he said.

The network also provides global connections, which are increasingly mandatory, he said, as firms of all sizes grow their businesses internationally.

The conference drew 170 attendees from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

To see this portion of the interview, go here.

The Effect of Globalization on Accounting

Given increased trade and communications around the world, Mr. Barnes predicted that International Financial Reporting Standards will apply globally by the end of 10 years if not sooner.

He said that 80 percent of the network’s caseload has some sort of international dimension, underscoring the importance of their members belonging to an international organization such as Baker Tilly.

And he called mergers of stock exchanges such as the proposed merger of the New York Stock Exchange and the German exchange Deutsche Boerse AG “a natural progression” due to the impact of globalization.

He also said that the financial scandals of the recent past would make the accounting and auditing professions more important than ever.

Mr. Barnes defended the work of auditors, placing more of the blame for the current banking crisis and the collapse in 2001 of Enron Corp., which brought down the accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP, on the boards of directors.

“Were we asleep on the job? I don’t think we were,” he said adding that there still were many lessons to be learned from these situations.

To see this portion of the interview, go here.

The Growth of Accounting in China

At the time of the global financial services firm Lehman Brothers Inc.’s collapse, there was one major Chinese bank, now there are five, according to Mr. Barnes.

China’s growth is fueling the emergence of more Chinese financial firms and he predicts that soon five out of the top 10 auditing firms would be dependent on Chinese business.

He voiced his concern that there won’t be enough trained professionals to service this change, but that Baker Tilly is developing courses to help meet the demand.

Asia is an important region for Baker Tilly because of its growth, Mr. Barnes added, and it has member firms in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and elsewhere in the region.

He said that soon he is to meet with 35 managing partners from the region in Taipei, Taiwan.

To see this portion of the interview, go here.

Challenges in Latin America

Latin America also is an important growth region for Baker Tilly, but Mr. Barnes noted that the continent “is rife with crazy inflation and political instability” that prevented small- to medium-sized companies from entering until recently.

He added that the accounting profession is still evolving in many countries in the region including Colombia.

To see this portion of the interview, go here.

The Future of the Profession:

Following the collapse of Arthur Andersen, students signing up to become accountants and auditors decreased. But now one in six students in the U.S. and the U.K. are going into the profession, Mr. Barnes said.

A major challenge is going to be to keep the increasing number of female accountants and auditors from leaving the professions when they start families.

For this portion of the interview, go here.

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