Ben Wann, CMA, MBA, CPA joins our weekly news update to read his "Dear AICPA" letter on the air and discuss the latest accounting happenings, including: notable industry exits by Jennifer Warawa from Sage, Matt Rissell from TSheets, and even our own Blake Oliver from FloQast; HUGE venture capital raises by FreshBooks and ScaleFactor; further updates (and possibly closure) on the iNSYNQ ransomware saga; and finally, continuing discussion of the value and future of the CPA license, and much more!
- 01:38 – Welcome Ben Wann, CMA, CPA, and MBA to the show!
- 02:39 – Notable industry departures:
- 07:46 – Seriously, you are not a tree. Move around! How career expectations have shifted from taking root in one job for decades to seeking new opportunities on the regular
- 11:08 – VC fundraising activity:
- 21:05 – Ben reads us a story: “Dear AICPA! I Wrote Your Concession Letter” and explains why he is bullish on the CMA versus the CPA after obtaining both
- 28:44 – Speaking of designations, where have all the CPA candidates gone? | CPA.com
- 33:53 – According to a June ADP survey, 25 percent of accounting professionals surveyed said they would not recommend young accountants get a CPA license, or seek some other credential or advanced degree
- 35:50 – Ben talks about cheese, business process improvement, finance business partnering, and how new technology drives him to educate and help people navigate the constantly shifting accounting landscape
- 39:00 – Yet another way to Crunch some numbers with the help of freelancers | SmallBusiness.co.uk
- 42:23 – Something’s phishy … More updates on the iNSYNQ ransomware snafu | Krebs on Security
- 47:41 – Armanino goes full crypto – first with a range of blockchain services, and now accepting payment via all forms of cryptocurrency | Armanino, LLP
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Ben Wann: “To the esteemed finance and accounting community, after much consideration and deliberation, it is with a heavy heart and misty eyes that we are announcing that we are pulling the CGMA certification from the US market, effective immediately.”
This episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast is sponsored by BQE Core. As many of you know, I'm all about the niches and niche apps. Putting your business clients in the proper niche app is providing them with a 100-percent solution versus, at best, the 85-percent solution of a standalone accounting app. If you have clients that are architects, engineers, consultants, or lawyers, Core is the app for them to best manage their firm, increase their staff productivity, and ultimately increase their profits. You don't need to juggle between multiple apps. Core has it all in an easy-to-use, all-in-one app for project management, including time and expense tracking, budgets, forecasting, client billing, and accounting.
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Blake Oliver: Welcome to the Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver-
David Leary: And I'm David Leary-
Ben Wann: And I am Ben Wann.
Blake Oliver: Ben, thanks for joining us.
David Leary: And Ben, where are you joining us from?
Ben Wann: I am over [00:01:30] here in sunny Pennsylvania.
David Leary: Sunny Pennsylvania. Other side of the country here for us.
Blake Oliver: It's Friday afternoon for us, Friday evening for you. I'm excited to have you on the show, because you are a CMA, you are a CPA, and you are an MBA. Did I get all three of those right?
Ben Wann: Correct.
Blake Oliver: And in what order did you do those?
Ben Wann: I did the CPA first, because that's the one everyone knows. What the cool kids are doing. Did the CMA to try and elevate my level of accounting knowledge. Then, the MBA [00:02:00] to round it out.
Blake Oliver: But you list them in a particular order on LinkedIn, right?
Ben Wann: I do.
Blake Oliver: You are a big advocate for the CMA.
Ben Wann: Yes.
Blake Oliver: I'm eager to talk to you about that and also some of your thoughts about the AICPA and the CPA, since you've got both. That's gonna be really interesting to talk with you about that.
Ben Wann: Absolutely.
Blake Oliver: What else do we have on the docket today, David?
David Leary: So, money. Lots of big raises and money going to companies. That's on the docket today. More ransomware updates, as always. Departures. [00:02:30] We have a lot of departures that have happened this- well, not a lot, but notable departures this week.
Blake Oliver: Notable departures of -
David Leary: We could start there.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Let's talk about that.
David Leary: Matt Rissell is leaving Intuit at the end of the year. Matt Rissell of TSheets.
Blake Oliver: Right. So, TSheets was acquired by Intuit, and then Matt Rissell became what, a VP there?
David Leary: That's correct. It's been three years already, apparently?
Blake Oliver: Apparently, yeah. I couldn't believe it.
David Leary: That's super-fast. Then Sage had news, right? That's it.
Blake Oliver: Before [00:03:00] we go into that; I’m reading this article now. Since their acquisition by Intuit ... They were acquired for $340 million. Based in Boise, right? That Boise TSheets office became an Intuit office. It says that it's grown by 160 employees to 400 employees, the majority of whom work in the company's Eagle office.
David Leary: Yeah. That changed Boise.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: Intuit going to Boise was a significant economic impact on Boise. He changed it.
Blake Oliver: And [00:03:30] the growth of the customer base ... It seems like this acquisition really worked out, right, because their customer base went from 36,000 to 82,000 customers. Yeah, they're the largest employer in Eagle.
David Leary: Wow, congratulations, Matt. It was a good ride.
Blake Oliver: I wonder what he's gonna do next. Maybe he'll come on the podcast.
David Leary: He had the bout with cancer a few years back, so he's really ... He spends a lot of time with his family. He has his kids and his wife. Maybe ... I imagine he’ll probably take a lot of downtime. He definitely likes doing all that outdoorsy stuff in [00:04:00] Idaho, as well.
Blake Oliver: So, who else is moving on?
David Leary: I'm gonna let you say it, because I always mess up Jennifer's last name. It's bad, because I've been saying her last name for a decade, and I mess it up.
Blake Oliver: Jennifer Warawa. I think I got it right. She's leaving Sage.
David Leary: She's leaving Sage.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. That's a big deal, because she's been there for, what, 12 years?
David Leary: 11 or 12 years, I think, the article said, yep. She took a job with ... She's getting out of the accounting industry. So, she took a job- she's relocating from Atlanta to Dallas to take a job in construction.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:30] For those who don't know Jennifer, she ... What is her role there, or what has been her role at Sage?
David Leary: She is an executive vice president, I want to say, of accountants at Sage? Is that the official title?
Blake Oliver: I don't know the official title, but I know that she ran that channel program - the accountants channel program, meaning selling, through accountants, the Sage products.
David Leary: If I was to say that Matt Rissell is the face of TSheets, could I say Jennifer was the face of Sage? Me being an Intuit person, [00:05:00] if I had to say, "Who do I know at Sage?" I'm gonna say Jennifer.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I would agree with you. She was the face of Sage. At all the conferences, she gave the keynote speaking sessions. She was the representative that everyone knew.
David Leary: Was this true for Sage's small business level, all through their enterprise products, as well? Was she at the Intacct conference giving keynotes, as well, or is she just really just the true Sage-branded stuff?
Blake Oliver: She was at the Intacct conference last year, and she's been at ... She [00:05:30] used to go to Sleeter Conference, right? [cross talk]
David Leary: -she was there forever, yep.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so she kind of did the whole thing. She's leaving accounting for something completely different-
David Leary: Construction, yes.
Blake Oliver: Gonna be an exec in a construction company.
David Leary: So, the last departure … Blake, you are leaving FloQast. There was a LinkedIn post that went out today.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah. I am leaving FloQast. That's right. I'm departing at the end of this month, and I'm gonna be doing my own thing for a while. So, I'm [00:06:00] open to helping people with marketing or CAS operations - I ran a client accounting services firm - and just seeing what's next.
David Leary: So, VP of Sage? That’s available.
Blake Oliver: The timing is really remarkable. So, who knows? If you want to know why I left, I wrote a short post on LinkedIn that'll be in the show notes, so you can check that out. It’s all about ... Things change fast in a startup, right? We've gotta be agile, and our marketing focus has shifted. [00:06:30] I am not a guy who's gonna go put on a suit. I've spent, unfortunately, too much time in Southern California wearing sandals.
David Leary: So, you're not headed to the Big Four? There’s nothing … [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: No. David, I think we should make The Cloud Accounting Podcast … Look how far this show has come with just part-time effort. We could really make this thing great or, at least, not terrible.
David Leary: You might have time- we could get our Instagram account set up finally.
Blake Oliver: Yes!
David Leary: We could have some time for that.
Blake Oliver: It will be an Instagram account of me in my pajamas every day, working [00:07:00] on the podcast. I think that'd be really successful.
David Leary: Who would not subscribe?
Blake Oliver: I think actually, Ben, you had a great picture of you and ... You have a partner in your content creation efforts, and he was wearing shorts in front of the camera or something.
Ben Wann: Yeah. Everyone thought he was wearing his underwear, but they were actually just normal shorts. So, from the top up, we were all formal, with our hair done, and our jackets, but, from the bottom down, it's all party.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, exactly. That's the way to do it, right? We've all been guilty of it on Zoom meetings, and when [00:07:30] we work from home. You dress up, up top-
Ben Wann: That's right.
Blake Oliver: -where people can see you, and you're nice and cool down below. It's good.
Ben Wann: We were talking a little bit before the show about how expected transitions should be. We’ve shifted in the world, from where you go into a job, and that's what you do for five or 10 years at a piece. Now, it should be expected that you go to a job, and you should already be planning to leave that job as soon as you start it. You’ve gotta plan out what you're gonna improve, how [00:08:00] you're gonna automate, optimize. You should have an end path planned out. You shouldn't plan to park yourself. Just seeing people like yourself being able to move to different opportunities strategically, it's just really smart, and it's the trend that's really going on right now.
Blake Oliver: You actually wrote about this a while ago, and I remember reading your post about how that's ... That’s how you've thought of your career is that "I'm gonna go into a company, know what I want to achieve, and do my best to achieve that in one, two-"
Ben Wann: Exactly. [00:08:30]
Blake Oliver: Ideally in a couple of years, right? And then you move on. That's way better than staying someplace for 20 years and not really doing anything or changing anything, I guess.
Ben Wann: Yeah. Yeah. I did the podcast with Phil Yaeger, and I talked about how I see myself as an internal consultant. I'm constantly trying to learn, and get better, and be at the top of my game. There's this divide still between what we expect from normal employees and consultants. To me, that's outrageous. Why should your employees [00:09:00] not be held to the same standards?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
Ben Wann: If you can get there yourself, you can write your own ticket. I've been fortunate enough to do that, and you're doing it. I hope more people hear this, and they also wanna do that. The world's your oyster.
Blake Oliver: It’s nice, too, because I think that's reducing the stigma of shorter-term employment, right? It used to be that if you jumped around every few years, people would look at you funny, but, now, if you do it smartly, and you have a reason for it-
Ben Wann: That's right. [00:09:30]
Blake Oliver: -and you can justify these changes, then it's ... I feel like at FloQast ... I came out of an accounting firm, doing client accounting services, to go to FloQast to do product marketing, which I'd never done before, never studied product marketing. I view it as I got an MBA in marketing, and I got paid to do it. Now, I can take that skill and go do that either at a firm, or at another software company, or as a consultant.
David Leary: I don't think it has to be a jump from a company to a company. When I was at Intuit, I [00:10:00] pretty much, like every two or three years, was at a new job, right? It's about not being stuck in any role-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: -and constantly evolving and taking on new challenges. One thing you said, Ben, that was interesting is that thought process of thinking about what your exit is on day one. Blake and I did an interview, which we'll be dropping here soon, about selling your firm. That was one of the takeaways from that interview, I remember, was to have your plan for the exit … Don't think about selling your firm 25 years [00:10:30] in-
Blake Oliver: Yes.
David Leary: -when you're six months away from retiring. On day one of starting your firm, think about how you're gonna sell your firm.
Blake Oliver: We talked about significant departures. Let's talk about the fund raising. The money, right?
Ben Wann: The money.
Blake Oliver: There were two big announcements that I saw this week. It was FreshBooks raised a bunch of money from Chase, and ScaleFactor raised another bunch of money. I don't remember who that was from.
David Leary: Let's talk about FreshBooks first, because, I think there's less insanity-
Blake Oliver: Yeah. [00:11:00]
David Leary: -and discussion on that one. We might have a half hour of chatting about the ScaleFactor race, so, let's jump into the FreshBooks one.
Blake Oliver: The story about FreshBooks is that they announced an undisclosed amount of fundraising from JP Morgan Chase. But given this is JP Morgan Chase, I imagine, it's pretty substantial. They had previously raised CA$40 million in Series A 'round in 2014, and $57 million in series B in 2017. [00:11:30] Here's the thing that stuck out for me is that-
David Leary: This might be a $100 million race.
Blake Oliver: It could be. I know that Chase put a ton of ... I think they put that amount to Bill.com recently, so, I wouldn't be surprised if they were making similar-sized investments, right?
David Leary: And it was stated "most significant investment" so far, in quotes-
Blake Oliver: So, it has to be at least $57 million, right?
David Leary: $57 million and one penny.
Blake Oliver: As part of the new deal, a Chase representative will be joining FreshBooks' board of directors. FreshBooks said it will use the new funds [00:12:00] to continue to expand operations and its business reach. So, having a banker on the board is gonna be interesting at a software company like that.
For those who aren't familiar with FreshBooks, they kind of go under the radar sometimes with accountants, because they don't market to accountants, really. It's to small business owners, like owners of micro-businesses, in particular, meaning sole proprietors and all that. They're not like Xero, or Intuit going [00:12:30] after those accounting firms. They are the largest accounting software company in North America, maybe even the world, just by volume of customers.
David Leary: I think they count their customers a little differently. What I mean by that is QuickBooks, and Xero will count small business owners that are paying for the subscriptions. FreshBooks kind of ... I'm using QuickBooks. I invoice you through QuickBooks payments. You pay.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: You're a customer. Then you invoice the other guy, and [00:13:00] Ben pays me through QuickBooks - that's a customer. So, if Xero and QuickBooks counted similarly, in a way, the numbers would not ... It's just they count their numbers in kind of a different way.
Blake Oliver: Got it, but it's still millions and millions.
David Leary: Oh, yeah. This is how they get to that "We've served 20 million customers." Going by that, Intuit has served hundreds and -300, 400, 500 million, possibly, right?
Blake Oliver: Mm-hmm. It's an interesting question - how do you count those? But they're big. Whatever [00:13:30] metric you use, they're big. Let's talk about the ScaleFactor money.
David Leary: Yes. ScaleFactor took another $60 million. This, in just 2019 now, in one year, they've taken on $100 million of VC money.
Blake Oliver: Wow. That's a lotta money. Just for perspective, I think, at FloQast - I don't know the exact number - we, in six years, raised half that. So, this is a lot of money for any company, [00:14:00] software or otherwise.
David Leary: Absolutely.
Blake Oliver: What's crazy about this is that ScaleFactor is not just doing software. They are heavy professional services. They are-
David Leary: They are an accounting firm, or bookkeeping firm with engineers under roof. So, this is gonna be in that same vein of, arguably, you could say QuickBooks Live is dancing in that space. You got the Botkeepers, and Ceterus, and Pilot, and ScaleFactor, and Bench - these companies we've talked about before in the past.
Blake Oliver: The thing that blows my mind about this is that they're raising money as if they are a [00:14:30] software company, which is something where you can scale that really quickly. It makes sense that companies can be valued at many times- many times … 10, 20 times, 30 times earnings. But it's not just a software company. They are providing a service with that software and, arguably, one that's far more important than the software. Accounting firms are typically valued at anywhere from 1 to 1.25 annual revenues. This company ... [00:15:00] ScaleFactor is being valued at ... Well, we don't know ... What do we know, actually, about how big they are?
David Leary: Some of the numbers in the article … They don't have 1,000 customers yet.
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: It's very clear in the article. They say they don't have 1,000 customers, and they recently crossed 200 headcount. So, if you back out that math-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: Let's say they have 1,000. What's the number of clients per body in the office there?
Blake Oliver: They only have 30 CPAs, though, out of those 200 headcount. [00:15:30] So, they’ve got 30-
David Leary: But they're not ... Yeah, 30 CPAs, but what about bookkeepers, and people doing the work?
Blake Oliver: We don't know. How many of those 200 people are engineers building software is another-
David Leary: Even if they are. Let's just assume they're all ... It's just headcount, right. So [cross talk] 1,000 divided by-
Blake Oliver: Just 200?
David Leary: 200. So, we're-
Blake Oliver: Five.
David Leary: It's five. Five clients per employee [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: -right.
David Leary: Yeah, five clients per employee. I've talked to accountants, and bookkeepers that have ... They're pushing ... One bookkeeper's [00:16:00] handling 50 clients.
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: I think you said you had a bookkeeper, in the previous episode, that pushed almost 40 clients a month.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. That's an all-star bookkeeper. It also depends on the size of the clients. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it's five clients per employee. That would make these clients enormous.
David Leary: But they're going after that $400 a month QuickBooks Live customer.
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: It’s right on the website, their pricing.
Blake Oliver: Do we know their average price? What do you think their most popular package is?
David Leary: Let's give them the benefit- it’s $1,000. Let's say they're selling [00:16:30] payroll and some add-on things, and it's a higher-end package, and they're getting $1,000 a customer.
Blake Oliver: Okay, and let's just assume they have 1,000 customers, right? So then, that's $1 million in recurring revenue. $1 million in recurring revenue makes you worth $100 million in investment. Here's the other thing that's crazy is they said that- this is in the Crunchbase article that you shared, David. It doesn't say what their revenues are, but it said that they have 700-percent ARR growth in 2018, which is just insane, even for a software company ... [00:17:00] For an accounting services business, it’s insane.
There's actually a mention in here that the CEO admitted that it was from a very small base, because, of course, if you start small, you can have 700-percent growth. When I had my firm, I pulled this trick, too, right? It's the oldest marketing trick in the book. You start with 10 customers, and you grow to a hundred, and you’re like, "I had 10 time …1,000-percent growth." It’s [cross talk]
David Leary: Based on my knowledge of this space, of these accounting [00:17:30] firms with engineers under roof, they have the smallest number of customers and have raised the most money.
Blake Oliver: Here's the thing that's interesting, too. It says they haven't hit ... They expect to hit the 1,000-customer mark this year by adding hundreds of new customers per month. It's August right now, and if they're gonna add hundreds of customers per month to get to 1,000, then let's say it's 200 customers per month. We've got August, September, October, November ... That's 1,000 customers right there. Five [00:18:00] months.
David Leary: Which means they're also gonna have to add 20 employees a month to do that [crosstalk] based on their current ratios, which ... That's what's confusing, because the whole bet of doing this engineering-based work with the accounting firms is that you have these insanely awesome ratios.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: That is not an insanely awesome ratio. I actually really … Think about the money, right? If ScaleFactor is built on top of QuickBooks, and Xero ... It's right on the website, it's very clear. They fully disclosed, right?
Blake Oliver: They don't have their own GL. They are using ... They are leveraging in QuickBooks [cross talk] [00:18:30]
David Leary: Off the shelf. Pilot, I think, uses QuickBooks. I think there's another service that uses Xero. A lot of these guys are using off-the-shelf. Bench is the only one that, I think, is not using off-the-shelf. They're using their own GL that they've built in-house. If you have $50 million, you should just put $25 million on Intuit, $25 million on Xero, and just ride that out. That's a guaranteed victory. If you believe they're gonna win, you gotta …
Blake Oliver: None of this makes sense to me. Hey, Ben, are you still there?
Ben Wann: Yep, I'm here.
Blake Oliver: Here, David and I are amateur-analyzing this.
David Leary: He's the credentialed guy, right? He's the credentialed guy. [00:19:00]
Blake Oliver: You're the credentialed guy. You're a certified management accountant. I know that you had no idea we were gonna talk about this, but I'm just wondering does this any of this make sense to you, just looking at it right now? I don't get it.
Ben Wann: It sounds a little unusual. Knowing nothing, just hearing you guys talk, sounds like something's missing, or we're not aware of some type of information.
Blake Oliver: My guess is that you've got a bunch of VCs who are looking at ScaleFactor like it's a tech company and that they're applying those kind of metrics, and valuations to [00:19:30] it. Maybe they just don't realize ... Is it possible they just don't realize how heavy the human component is? And that it's not ... Nobody has ever scaled an accounting firm this quickly, or as quickly as you would need to, to justify that valuation.
David Leary: And it may not be them scaling internal processes yet. What they've been doing really well is Facebook ads. Half of all VC money goes to Facebook, and Google, and Amazon. If you really watch ... I [00:20:00] see it in my feeds. ScaleFactor is at the top of everything that’s small business, or QuickBooks-related that I search for on Google, I see a ScaleFactor ad. Even other accounting firms … I searched for a different accounting firm that's not even a software-based one, I get a ScaleFactor ad. Everywhere on Facebook, I get ScaleFactor … Lots of this money is going to Facebook ads, which helps you get 700-percent growth, because ... So, they're playing the startup game. There's no doubt.
Blake Oliver: You're getting that growth at very high cost, because you’re-.
David Leary: The cost per customer has gotta be the highest in all-time [00:20:30] industry. Their probably spending $20,000 a customer right now.
Blake Oliver: Well, hey, if any of our listeners have any more insight into ScaleFactor, or how this whole thing works, I would love to know. You can please tweet at me, tweet at David. Let's figure this out, because it's a mystery.
David Leary: Even ScaleFactor, yourself. I've reached to ScaleFactor via email before. I've reached out to ScaleFactor on LinkedIn in the past. I've tweeted at ScaleFactor and included this article. I would love to hear from ScaleFactor on how ... Why they're different from these other players in this space.
Blake Oliver: Let's get somebody on to talk about it, because maybe we're [00:21:00] wrong. Maybe we're just not understanding it. So, Ben …
Ben Wann: Yes.
Blake Oliver: Let's talk about why we brought you on today.
Ben Wann: All right.
Blake Oliver: I saw a LinkedIn post that you made, a LinkedIn article that you wrote this week, that I just ... I loved it. It's called "Dear AICPA! I Wrote Your Concession Letter."
Ben Wann: Correct.
Blake Oliver: You published this on the 7th. Actually, so it was two days ago, and then I was like, “We gotta get you on to talk about this,” because this is near and dear to my heart. So, I [00:21:30] was wondering if you wouldn't mind just taking a moment and just reading this for our listeners, because I think it's great.
Ben Wann: I'll give it my best shot here. I put myself in the head of the- into the mind of the AICPA.
To the esteemed finance and accounting community, after much consideration and deliberation, it is with a heavy heart, and misty eyes that we are announcing that we are pulling the CGMA certification from the US market, effective [00:22:00] immediately.
With profit on our minds and lust in our heart, we, unfortunately, had entered into a foray that was far beyond our core set of competencies. Our initial estimation of the willingness of people to first purchase a certification to artificially inflate our member count was our first downfall. We had assumed that, after reaching a critical mass of paper certificates, that thousands upon thousands of professionals in [00:22:30] the accounting and finance community would then eagerly clamor to then pay for the privilege of actually studying for and then passing our exam. In addition, we have failed to recognize that the name given to our brand-new certification was not an original idea. It was - how do you say - heavily-borrowed from.
We can now admit, looking back, that we were so hungry to emulate the success of the CMA and how they were, in [00:23:00] fact, the leading global certification that we just couldn't help ourselves. We wanted to build on their success and add our own special sauce by cramming an additional letter into the mix; a 25-percent increase in the value to our members. We want to recognize that we have also disrespected dual CPA and CMA holders by creating this confusion in the marketplace.
You have to admit, though, it was amusing to see our [00:23:30] certification pop up on real job postings for a while. We jokingly suggested adding it to the list of key job skills and education, and no one thought that we were kidding. So, well, we just kept running with it.
Finally, our biggest failure was to not recognize the innovativeness, the creativity, and the flexibility of our main competitor, the IMA, or the Institute of Management Accountants. Buttressed by a passionate network of [00:24:00] Net Promoter members and a high-performancing board of senior professionals, the organization has only become stronger, and faster over time. In recent years, we've been trounced by the IMA in every market; even the US, our home.
It is now time to recognize the foolhardiness of our decision. Each month, we have had to agonize by reading through our competitor's publication, 'Strategic Finance,' to painfully bear [00:24:30] witness to an ever-growing, and truly international list of new members and certification holders that we simply cannot compete with. We recognize that we have a rare window of opportunity now to bow out with dignity, and honor before we are completely ushered into non-existence.
Going forward, I promise you that we here at the AICPA will focus on the things that make us special - creating new rules for auditing, advocating for state-specific CPE courses, [00:25:00] and creating special interest groups to protect entrenched interests. Regretfully yours, the AICPA.
Blake Oliver: You include the disclaimer that this is a satire article that was not written by the AICPA.
Ben Wann: Correct.
Blake Oliver: And should not be ... What’s the legal disclaimer they have at the end of all their podcasts? It should not be relied upon for legal guidance or any of that. I love that. Thank you for reading that, Ben.
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Blake Oliver: David, I think you may be a little confused by this.
David Leary: Yeah. I am all for stirring the pot. I love this. I'm all ... And I love some good satire. Absolutely, 100 percent, but in actually reading this, I was smiling. I was like, "This is great. This is really, really great.” You hit a level. But, to be honest, I am a little confused. I'm not in the loop of the inside baseball of what happened, where are you coming from, why you [00:27:00] wrote this? Any of those types of questions, I'd like to understand. They copied a different certification test, and they wanted to try to rebrand it and confuse the market? Can you give me some background on this, Ben?
Ben Wann: Yes. Yes. So, a couple of years ago, can’t be more than three or four, they ... The AICPA partnered with CIMA, the UK accountant association, [inaudible], to create this new certification, the CGMA. What they did is ... Initially, all you had to do was [00:27:30] send in a check, and say you had some type of certification in an industry, and you got a brand-new certification. This cheapens and discredits kind of the whole process of the CPA and the CMA. These things take months of effort, sometimes years of studying. Being able to buy a certification to try and win the market is a terrible tactic, and everyone saw right through it.
Blake Oliver: Was this motivated by the success of the CMA, like the [00:28:00] CMA was growing, and started, and then the AICPA decided to come in and offer their own credential to compete with it? Was that how it happened?
Ben Wann: Yeah, because I guess everyone's seen these numbers with the number of CPA candidates in the pipeline. It's going down. So, the AICPA is looking abroad, trying to strengthen their product and their pockets. They noticed that CMA has really expanded to every other country, except the US, initially, and it's double-digit [00:28:30] growth, 27 percent. Now, they're back in the US, with 20 percent growth here, as well. That’s what they were chasing.
Blake Oliver: Speaking of the number of new CPA candidates, the numbers have dropped. I posted a chart that I spotted in a CPA.com white paper on LinkedIn this week that shows, from 2005 to 2010, the number of new CPA versus accounting grads was-that line was trending upward at the same rate. [00:29:00]
Ben Wann: Yep.
Blake Oliver: Then, somehow, something happened; between 2009 and 2010, all of a sudden, that dropped, and now, there's a much larger gap. The number of new accounting grads has grown.
Ben Wann: Yep.
Blake Oliver: But it looks like the new CPA candidates just continue to drop.
Ben Wann: Yeah. There are several things going on here.
Blake Oliver: Let's talk about that. What's going on?
Ben Wann: The big thing that has a lot of people annoyed is this 150-credit requirement. Before, I guess, 2010-2012, you needed 120 [00:29:30] credits. That's what everyone usually graduates college with, and you had to have two years’ experience working with a CPA firm, and that was your education. Now, they are saying everyone needs 150 credits. For many people, this is a master's degree. It might cost $20,000- $30,000 to complete. There's other paths to get around this. It's just a lot more work, and for what result? It's very unclear to people.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I was joking online that when [00:30:00] I sent my application in for my license, I found out that I was nine credits short of the 150 requirement. So, I went online to the cheapest community college that I could find that had an online program. I think was Oxnard Community College here in LA, and I registered for Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Management. I really enjoyed my Intro to Management class, given that I've already owned and sold a business. That was really, really helpful to me. That's [00:30:30] the thing that's funny about this 150-hour requirement, right, is you can take any-
Ben Wann: Correct.
Blake Oliver: I don't even understand the original logic behind it. What was the ... David, it sounds like you have something to say?
David Leary: Yeah. It feels like ... One thing, the bell went off for me a couple weeks ago. You said that ... The Cal CPAs- if you're a CPA in California, you have to join that membership.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, I think you … Well, I think you have to, right, in order to …?
David Leary: But the AICPA is 100-percent optional.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, you don't have to be a member the AICPA [00:31:00] to maintain your license, because it's state-certified.
David Leary: Okay, and then I've seen people online say, "Hey. I'm probably not gonna renew my AICPA membership." People aren't finding value in this. Some of these things, like, "Hey, we're not getting the revenue we want, let's have another certification. Let's spin up a commercial site like CPA.com," is it something … Does the CPE credit stuff kind of all fall in under that, like they're getting some kickback from the colleges by requiring more credit hours? Is it a revenue game?
Ben Wann: Yep.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. It has to be, right?
Ben Wann: With state-specific CPE, this is another issue where people are furious, right? Each state has their own rules. The state of Delaware, where I’m certified, they have their own ethics course. To get certified every two years, you have to do their course that costs money. They're gonna get a cut of that, the state society. What's different from one state to another? Nothing. So, to have these hoops you have to jump through in order to give money to a [00:32:00] state society is ... Everyone’s seeing through it, and we’re tired of it.
Blake Oliver: Just to put some numbers behind this conversation, if you look at the chart that I'm ... Obviously, our listeners can't see this chart. In 2008-2009, it looks like about two-thirds of accounting grads were going for the CPA, right? If you just divide the number of new CPA candidates by the number of accounting grads, it was about two-thirds. If you look at the latest data, which is [00:32:30] from 2017, that number has dropped to half. So, that's a huge, huge change, right?
Ben Wann: Oh, yeah.
Blake Oliver: And if it continues to go down, if fewer than half of accounting grads are going for the CPA, I'm concerned about the CPA's future. As somebody who invested the time and money to get it, I'm disappointed in that trajectory.
Ben Wann: Yeah.
David Leary: Shouldn't that be the role of the AICPA to encourage people that are graduating with accounting degrees to become CPAs? Shouldn't that be their number-one most [00:33:00] important function?
Blake Oliver: Probably, to get more members, right? Somebody on LinkedIn said that the good thing about all this is that with fewer CPAs, it creates more demand for CPAs, right?
Ben Wann: Yup.
Blake Oliver: But I don't think that actually is true, because it could backfire in that fewer CPAs mean that people aren't as familiar with it, which means that demand drops, right? In economics, if you decrease supply, you may increase [00:33:30] prices, but you also decrease demand. I've got another chart here, kind of related to this whole discussion. This appeared in the June 2019 issue of "Accounting Today," and it's a survey that ADP did. The question they asked 1,500 accounting professionals. They asked 1,500 accounting professionals the question: "Would you recommend that young accountant get their CPA license?" A full quarter of those accounting professionals either said no, or that they would recommend [00:34:00] something else.
Ben Wann: Yeah, I'm one of them. I'm dual-certified. I'm one of ... There's not that many people who can talk on both sides, kind of unbiased. People ask me-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
Ben Wann: Unless you wanna do tax or audit your whole life, I'll say, "Go bananas. Do the CPA,” but, otherwise, the CMA is so much deeper. It just prepares you for the job. A lot of people have said this, "The CPA has helped me get my job, but the CMA helps me do my job."
Blake Oliver: That, I think, ties in with what I have heard from the community, which is that fewer [00:34:30] and fewer accountants are going to school, and graduating, and thinking, "I'm gonna make partner at an accounting firm someday." That dream of making partner, people just aren't that interested in it anymore. If you aren't buying into that dream, then why would you necessarily need that CPA, if you think, "Well, I'm just gonna go into public for a few years and then leave."
Ben Wann: Yeah, it used to be it was a one-stop shop. If you were smart and you went to accounting, you had to do public accounting. You worked a [00:35:00] ton of hours. You got a lot of experience. You were better than the industry peers after two to four years. Then you see all these smart, driven people with a CPA. It’s like, "Okay. They're doing so well, because they're CPAs,” kind of, you know?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
Ben Wann: But now, there's all these alternative paths where you can be very successful without ever working in public accounting. I had never want to work in public accounting, and I haven't. I'm at the top my game, so I'm doing very well. There's so many opportunities out there. You don't have to do public [00:35:30] accounting to have a really strong career in accounting.
Blake Oliver: Let's talk a little bit about your background and what you're up to, Ben. I'd love to hear ... I know that you are working on CPE courses. You may already have some available. You're a big advocate for the CMA. Tell us a little bit about what your projects are, and what you're up to, and where people can find out about that.
Ben Wann: Talking about trends, technology is everywhere, and I don't think there's a discipline being more impacted right now than accounting by technology. What we do, how [00:36:00] we do it, where we do it is all changing. So, within 10 years, it's a complete shift. There’s a huge need for people to understand what skills they have to learn and to help people bridge that gap from where we've been to where we're going to go.
In my career, I've seen so many people who are just stuck, and they're not gonna get it. What's driving me is I want to help fill those knowledge gaps between theory and practice. Right now, there's not that many sites [00:36:30] for information to understand, "Okay. If I wanna do this, how do I actually do it?" Not "I don't want to manufacturer widgets."
That's what's kind of driven me. I'm really into the education side. In that regard, I have actually started producing courses on a site called Udemy.com last year, and now, I'm up to five courses. I have a YouTube channel. I have a website that I run with a team of people called The Numbers Guys. [00:37:00] The basis of that site is to provide the blogs, the really strong blogs that help people understand what a day in the life of an accounting professional- all these different avenues looks like, and how we get our jobs done, and what we're interested in.
I've also really focused on business process improvement, because if we're gonna go into the future, we've gotta get our houses in order. I see that to be a huge opportunity. Then there's also this shift in accountants transforming [00:37:30] from kind of like the stereotype of this boring, dull, introverted person to, now, someone who's not just reconciling accounts but working with the business to turn data into insights. There's a lot of communication. There's a lot of influencing going on. That's known as finance business partnering. My two big things right now are finance business partnering, and business process improvement.
Blake Oliver: What's your day job? Because you do this ... You're a very busy guy. You're [00:38:00] doing this on the side at night-
Ben Wann: Nights and weekends.
Blake Oliver: Weekends. What do you do during the day?
Ben Wann: Yeah, that's ... I do that, too. At my day job, I'm an operational controller for a company called Savencia. They make all sorts of cheeses. They're French-owned. We have four factories here in the US, and I run ... I'm in charge of the controlling department. I make sure that our cost accounting is strong, it's accurate, and we're getting good data out to help the [00:38:30] business know what they're doing to make good decisions. I report right into the CFO. Each day, what I love about this job is I'll go from working with the executive team to data entry clerks. I'm in the plant most of the time. It's a really boots-on-the-ground job.
Blake Oliver: Sounds delicious, too.
Ben Wann: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Hey, David, before we go, we got a little follow up on our ransomware stories over the last few weeks. You wanna touch on that?
David Leary: Yeah. Before we jump into the ransomware one, there was the one that's kind of related to the ScaleFactor one. There's a British company called Crunch. It's [00:39:00] Crunch.co.uk. Crunch essentially, has - they're really going after the self-employed market, the freelancers - bookkeeping software. They have their own in-house bookkeepers, as well. So, it's a similar play, right? It's accountants with engineers under roof. But what they announced, they are now going to offer a freelance bookkeeping network – an Uber model – just like QuickBooks Live. This is the third week in a row now some other company is now gonna offer bookkeeping as part of their software package.
Blake Oliver: It's gonna [00:39:30] be interesting reading all the reviews of these various services as they roll out. I don't know if anyone's really figured it out yet, right?
David Leary: Do you think ... This is hypothetical, and Ben, please chime in on this, sometimes you get an Uber, and that guy's got an Uber light, and a Lyft light, and he's got both phones on his dashboard, or her - whoever's the driver … They're picking some ... One ride, they pick up a Lyft person. Next ride could be an Uber person. Do you think there's gonna be bookkeepers, and accountants out there that’ll, "Hey! I'm doing this …" Because chances are H&R Block’s gonna do this with Wave. [00:40:00] I'm gonna take a Wave customer this time, a QuickBooks Live customer, a Crunch customer. Is it just gonna be really like the gig accountants, or gig bookkeepers are just gonna work with all these services at the same time?
Blake Oliver: Maybe, David, now that I'm gonna have some time on my hands, I should just sign up for all of these services and report back.
David Leary: As a small business owner, or as a bookkeeper?
Blake Oliver: As a bookkeeper. I could go be a QuickBooks Live bookkeeper. I could go be a Pilot bookkeeper. I could go be a ScaleFactor bookkeeper. Crunch bookkeeper.
David Leary: It'd be an interesting [00:40:30] experiment. I'm sure there's people that have done driving for Uber, and Lyft and wrote a blog posts about that.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, they have, and then they get banned for life, probably.
Ben Wann: Blake, that's interesting [cross talk] in there. There's actually people who I talk with, who are making a business out of kind of doing what you just talked about. Trying to get a grasp for all of the apps and resources that are out there and then translate that into, "Okay. If I have this problem, what's really the best solution?" There's a need for that.
Blake Oliver: Oh, [00:41:00] yeah, and not nearly enough people who are taking the time to build up that knowledge base. Even in specific industries, like manufacturing, knowing all the different tools available and going to different companies and modernizing their IT infrastructure from a financial accounting perspective. Really, really fascinating.
David Leary: Or just cheese manufacturers.
Blake Oliver: Just cheese. You could just specialize in cheese. I'm sure there's some very unique aspects to the manufacturing process that you have to track in your ERP, right, Ben?
Ben Wann: Correct. There is. The dairy industry. [00:41:30]
Blake Oliver: Yep, dairy. Cool.
David Leary: Let's talk ransomware again.
Blake Oliver: Ransomware, yeah! Risks …
David Leary: The rewind ... It was yesterday or the day before, iNSYNQ ...
Blake Oliver: Yesterday.
David Leary: So, the CEO of iNSYNQ ... Remember we talked about it a lot on last week's episode that he was planning on joining us for an interview and then he canceled? We talked about that last week-
Blake Oliver: Yeah, he bailed on us, and now we know who he bailed on us for.
David Leary: Then, I saw, two days later, an advertisement for him to go on the [00:42:00] Woodard, Joe Woodard's webinar. So, he was on the webinar and it was-
Blake Oliver: Remember, it wasn't a webinar, it was a town hall.
David Leary: Town hall. Okay. Yeah, it was a webinar platform, but it was a town hall for people to ask questions about the attack. He answered all the questions that came in. Some of the answers did feel a little prepared. It looks like Brian Krebs actually attended, and he has information. He really did a nice write up about it, and it looks like they [00:42:30] were in for almost 10 days, before they actually encrypted anything.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, that's kinda scary that the attackers were in there for 10 days, and iNSYNQ didn't know until they unleashed their attack. By the way, for those who aren't familiar, Brian Krebs is a security researcher who has a blog called KrebsOnSecurity.com. Your entire goal as a software company should be to never show up on KrebsOnSecurity.com [cross talk]
David Leary: -on his blog-
Ben Wann: -that’s the wall of shame …
Blake Oliver: Yeah, exactly. So, iNSYNQ, for [00:43:00] those who are not familiar with this whole saga, they were attacked in July 16th or something like that by a malware ransomware attack that shut down their QuickBooks and Sage hosting platform for two weeks.
David Leary: My understanding, as of the thing yesterday, there are still some customers who are not 100-percent up.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it's only in the 90th percentile. It's 90 percent, in terms of customers who have access, which is kinda crazy. I know, David, you're gonna go through a [00:43:30] lot of this, but the thing that really stuck out to me is that the reason they couldn't give people backups quickly ... Think about this - if your network gets shut down and infected, that's fine. It can happen, but you should have backups of these QuickBooks files that you can just provide to the customers; but they couldn't do that, apparently, because the backups were not separated from that live environment. So, they could also have been infected with ransomware. I'm not clear on whether they were, but [00:44:00] it's possible that they were, which should never happen.
David Leary: Some of this is the confusion caused by these hosting companies, right? With QuickBooks Online, or Xero, or true SaaS software, you don't have to make backups, right?
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: You can backup … There's tools like Rewind, who's- actually, I think they're sponsoring this episode, right? There's tools like Rewind that will- for data entry errors, right? If you do data entry, and you need to rewind your data, and fix something, that happens. Fundamentally, you don't have to back up your data, [00:44:30] not in the same sense you used to have to … You go to a menu, "File Backup," and you make a true backup of your data on a removable drive. You take it somewhere else - network drive, or tape drive, whatever. These hosting providers, because it's in cloud, people kind of assume they don’t have to make that backup anymore. If people were making a backup and saving it to their own local hard drive, they could’ve just installed QuickBooks to a local computer, restored the backup, and moved on, and just wash their hands off this.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: There's [00:45:00] confusion on the marketing of this, which is really, really, really ... The worst part I hate about it all is just the confusion, and then the reluctance for them to not admit that the risk is higher on Windows-hosted machines of being ransomwared than a true SaaS play.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah. Joe said something about how you're just as much at risk on a SaaS provider as a hosting provider, and that's just simply not true.
David Leary: Not for ransomware. Now, there's been breaches. There are data breaches. There's no doubt. Breaches are at all-time highs, [00:45:30] but you could argue that those are ... They're getting either its names, socials, credit card numbers. It's marketing data that these huge companies have; it’s essentially, marketing data, but they’re not … If ADP got hacked, I can still run payroll tomorrow. I'm not locked out of my business files. That's the problem with iNSYNQ. Two other interesting [cross talk] Go ahead.
Blake Oliver: I was gonna say, the lesson here, for me, is go ahead and use hosting, but make [00:46:00] sure that you are managing your own backups in addition to whatever they are saying they're doing, so that if their backups fail, you've got your own local backups.
David Leary: We went off on that last week, right? "You gotta backup. You gotta backup. You gotta backup." Two things that I thought Brian Krebs surfaced was, one, a Google ad from iNSYNQ.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
David Leary: It was pretty interesting. The Google ad says, "iNSYNQ, we're still standing." I'll read the text of the ad: "Competitors are offering empty promises about security to capitalize on the iNSYNQ attack. That [00:46:30] is not okay, but don't worry, we still are. Stick with the company who plays nice. Impacted by the attack? Call our hotline."
Blake Oliver: I know why they're doing that, because I searched iNSYNQ on Google, and I saw ads from their competitors, saying, "Hey, affected by the iNSYNQ attack? Come to us, and we'll take care of you." Actually, I just searched, and I found one from TrapTechnology.com/iNSYNQ. "Impacted by the iNSYNQ attack? No contracts. Get a free trial."
Ben Wann: Doesn’t hurt to try.
David Leary: And the other piece-
Blake Oliver: Oh, NetSuite is doing it. "Affected [00:47:00] by the iNSYNQ attack? Switched to NetSuite today."
David Leary: Switch off of hosting! Another thing he pointed out is that Alex Holden, the founder of Milwaukee-based cyber intelligence firm Hold Security, basically came out and pretty much said that if these companies can detect the infection before, they have some elbow room, because a lot of the times, these people will infect- they'll get on the network, and it'll be days before they do any encrypting of files. So, the key is to find the infection and stop it within seconds.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. [00:47:30]
David Leary: But you're right, if they've already started encrypting stuff by the time you discover it, obviously, we're seeing the repercussions of that.
Blake Oliver: Well, speaking of encryption, I got one more story before we go.
David Leary: Okay.
Blake Oliver: From my old firm, Armanino: they are now accepting cryptocurrency payments. Press release came out yesterday, David, so you'll be happy to hear; that's another accounting firm that is modernizing their payments platform.
Ben Wann: What is the angle there? Is that just marketing? I don't get it.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. It's really great marketing, and I'm really confused why not every [00:48:00] big firm is doing this. They have ... Armanino started a blockchain cryptocurrency practice.
Ben Wann: Okay.
Blake Oliver: They've been promoting it, so, why not make an announcement? "We now accept every form of cryptocurrency. You can pay us with anything you want." Because, of course, the tech press are going to pick it up, right? [cross talk]
David Leary: It's super-easy, right? It's just like getting QuickBooks merchant services. It's just you're adding a merchant service for 5,000 different wallets. [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: -all you have to do is set up Coinbase or something, and [00:48:30] it just automatically converts whatever people pay you into US dollars, right? Just a great example of some easy accounting firm-type marketing stuff you could be doing.
David Leary: I'm glad you brought that up, because it reminded me of a thought I had in the car, when I was driving earlier today, about ScaleFactor. I was like, "ScaleFactor's never once played the AI or blockchain card, and they're raising all this crazy money … They're not even playing the AI and blockchain card."
Blake Oliver: That's true. Maybe that means they have some actual automation at work [cross talk]
David Leary: -and on that note … [00:49:00]
Blake Oliver: This was really fun. Thanks, Ben, for joining us. If people wanna follow you online, I know you mentioned that stuff before, but what's the best place for them to follow you personally, and then, your website for your project?
Ben Wann: LinkedIn is the place to find me, and then The Numbers Guys is our website.
David Leary: No Twitter for you, Ben? No Twitter?
Ben Wann: I'm on Twitter. I don't know what I'm doing on Twitter.
David Leary: Oh, we’ll have to get you on. We'll get you in the loop.
Blake Oliver: That's good, because a [00:49:30] good rule of social media marketing is pick your platform and kinda own it, so you’re doing the right thing, Ben.
Ben Wann: Yep.
Blake Oliver: David, where should people find you online?
David Leary: I am on the Twitters- would be easy … It's @DavidLeary.
Blake Oliver: I'm @BlakeTOliver. You can find me on both those places.
David Leary: And, as always, please leave reviews on iTunes, but we have great news for all you not … All you iTunes, and Apple haters, like me, out there. You can finally write reviews somewhere else. There's a website called PodChaser.com. On there, [00:50:00] you can search for Cloud Accounting Podcast, or click the link in the show notes, and you can leave a review on Pod Chaser. What's nice about that is those reviews are starting to appear in other podcast players. It's one place to write a review, and in regards to the podcast player you use, it's going to populate across.
Blake Oliver: They got some sort of API connection going on. That's cool.
Ben Wann: I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I got turned on to you guys … In the last few days, I've just been listening to what you're up to. This podcast is really good. I've enjoyed it. You guys are doing really great work.
David Leary: Oh, [00:50:30] thank you.
Blake Oliver: Thanks so much, Ben. That's awesome. Really appreciate that. Now go write a review [cross talk] All right, that's it for me. Talk to you next week, David, and Ben, thanks for being on the show.
Ben Wann: All right. See you later.
David Leary: Bye, everybody.
Blake Oliver: Bye.