What do accountants do when the books are shut, and the calculators are put away at the end of tax season? Head to Las Vegas, of course!

I already had the privilege of attending one great accounting conference this spring, but AICPA and CIMA’s ENGAGE Conference truly knocked my socks off! This event brings thousands of accountants and industry experts together from around the globe for learning, networking, and career development. It focuses on the latest technologies, products, and best practices to stay competitive and understand what’s next in the world of finance.

Aside from enjoying some live music at Ole Red, “puppy therapy,” and bowling with our partners, there was much to learn. Here’s what stood out to me.

Gearing up for the future

There’s no such thing as a “slow start” in Vegas, and this proved to be true when we started with a keynote session led by Susie Wolff, former professional race car driver and current managing director of the F1 Academy.

In her exhilarating presentation, “Accelerating Excellence: Peak Performance & Leadership in the Fast Lane,” Susie shared numerous ways that life behind the wheel reflects the fast-paced landscape of the finance world and what we should keep in mind. The key takeaways:

    • At the center of all things is your team! While data is valuable, it can’t make decisions. It will always come down to a human element, and that’s your team.
    • At the core of your team is trust. Foster a “no blame” culture, and allow your team the room to learn and the grace to fail!
    • As in racing, those quickest to adapt to change will have the advantage. Learn to embrace change and future-proof your team!
    • You’re only as good as your last race. Bring your best self to the table every single day and stay humble. In high-pressure situations, have faith and know that you have done all you can and have left no stone unturned.
    • Finally, have dreams and goals, and be in the driver’s seat of your own destiny. A dream without a plan is just a wish.

It’s more important than ever to have your eyes on the prize and focus on creating manageable goals for your firm while keeping these great reminders top of mind.

Tech should be a top priority

I’ll bet you’ve heard about Generative AI (GenAI) if you’ve attended any other conferences lately. The 2024 Generative AI in Professional Services Report from the Thomson Reuters Institute found that 30% of tax and accounting firms are considering whether to use GenAI tools, while 49% have no plans to use them.

How are industry-leading firms implementing GenAI technology? Firms of all sizes have been incorporating AI and other technologies into their workflows to enhance their services, automate mundane tasks, reduce errors, and free up accountants to focus on higher-value advisory work.

Bill Reeb, chair of the American Institute of CPAs, pointedly said, “Generative AI makes up stuff, but it is going to be a potent tool when it comes to giving advice.”

In a session called “Generative AI – Risk vs. Reward: 2 Sides of the Same Coin,” speakers Angie Ng, chief data and analytics officer for technology and operations at Bank of Montreal (BMO), Amy Pawlicki, VP of assurance and advisory Innovation at AICPA & CIMA, and Nicholas Panou, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, shared that AI is ultimately a mix of both risk and reward. Organizations must be ambitious and cautious with risks, embedding governance and appropriate risk responses to GenAI and considering the evolving regulatory environment.

As your firm plans for 2025 and beyond, consider starting small: Find some simple AI tools and incorporate them into your daily functions. Don’t be afraid to give it a try and build from there!

Speaking of tech…

One of the highlights of this conference was seeing our good friend and partner, Amy Vetter, CEO of The B3 Method Institute. We had a blast co-hosting a bowling event at the famous Brooklyn Bowl with Amy and our other Best in-Class Tech Stack partners. We found out the hard way that CPAs should stick to the numbers between accounting and bowling!

Aside from being named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting (woohoo!), Amy also presented a session entitled “Creating a Tech Stack — The Art of Digital Transformation.” As mentioned, there are a lot of new technologies that firms are adopting to make their jobs more manageable, and Amy shared a variety of tools that help client advisory service (CAS) providers make the most of their time and effort. She calls this her Best in Class Tech Stack: an exclusive suite of tools that empowers accountants and helps their firm in various ways — and we’re proud to be a part of her list.

In the session, Amy mentioned that many accountants leverage Vertical IQ to quickly become a “cherished advisor” in clients’ eyes, arming them with the knowledge they need about the ins and outs of an industry. The keyword here is “cherished” — in 2024, you need to be able to offer your clients more than just the services they can get anywhere else. You need to go further and be someone they can’t afford to lose. Industry Intelligence is what gives accountants that edge — every time.

When it comes to creating a tech stack for digital transformation and becoming a cherished advisor, think about prioritizing your efforts this way: 50% of your time should be spent on the “mission-critical” stuff that is important to perfect, 30% should be spent on making the basics good enough, and 20% should be dedicated to brainstorming for the future. When we break down the most impactful way for firms to spend their time, it’s easy to understand how leveraging tools like Industry Intelligence to boost value and efficiency is critical!

After attending this conference, I definitely understand why folks return year after year. ENGAGE is the type of experience where no matter how hard you try to soak everything in, you just can’t because there’s so much learning, networking, and idea-sharing happening. As Vertical IQ increasingly focuses on the accounting space and better learns how to serve the needs of our accounting clients, it’s clear that staying competitive isn’t just about understanding accounting and finance—it’s about understanding what’s next.

I’m already eagerly awaiting next year’s show, especially since I now know the maze that is the ARIA. I hope to see you back in Las Vegas next year!

Speaking of accounting, join us for an exclusive webinar with our partner, Amy Vetter, on Tuesday, June 18, at 2 p.m. EDT! In this webinar, “Mindful Technology: Embracing Technology, Innovation, and Mindfulness to Create Lasting Human Connections,” we will discuss how technology—such as sales enablement tools, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—is not the end of real human connection—it is just the beginning!

Attending will earn you 1 CPE credit; RSVP here. Can’t make it? Register anyway, and we will share the recording with you afterward.

Industry Intelligence is a solid bet for your firm. Learn how Vertical IQ helps firms grow, retain, and win more business here.

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