CEO Compass - Winter 2021/22

by Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA | NJCPA CEO and Executive Director | December 22, 2021

New Transitions, New Beginnings

The year is drawing to a close, and between rushed trips to the mall and appearances at countless gatherings, in-person and virtual, it’s important to remember that the holidays are a perfect time to look ahead to the future and set goals for ourselves. In that spirit, we recently asked our members this question: Looking back on the last year, how have your career or business objectives changed?

The responses from more than 700 CPAs and CPA candidates were revealing but not surprising. The two most frequently mentioned words were “retirement” and “clients.” Those members who are in position to retire are leaving their firms or companies, and those still working have too much to do and not enough staff to do it with.

Respondents in public accounting and industry want to maintain a better work/life balance, showing a willingness to sacrifice career growth and leadership positions, or making job changes, to make that aspiration a reality. Firms are becoming more selective when taking on new clients and even reducing client lists and changing their pricing structures.

While some of these changes may sound alarming, many of the responses actually represent positive steps forward for the profession. The pandemic immediately bred innovation such as remote work, flexible work schedules and increased use of technology. Public members have risen to the challenge and changed their business models to advise clients regarding their businesses rather than, as one member put it, “just being a tax compliance drone.” CPAs across the profession are just spending more time with their family.

Clearly, this is a critical time of transition in the profession. As you work through your own challenges and opportunities, I want to assure you that the NJCPA will be here for you.

The coming year will be one of transition and evolution for the NJCPA. Our Board of Trustees recognizes the impacts that pandemic and demographic trends will have on the Society and membership and is taking steps to address the situation.

One area of focus is the front-end of the CPA pipeline. According to the most recent AICPA Trends Report — a comprehensive biennial report tracking the supply and demand of U.S. accounting graduates — the number of new CPA Exam candidates hit a 10-year low. And those declines were recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down. The question needs to be asked: Is the profession producing enough new CPAs to replace professionals reaching retirement age in the next five to 10 years?

The Board is focused on the NJCPA’s CPA Candidate membership category, recognizing that the greatest opportunity for bringing new candidates into the profession is to support graduates and young professionals who are still unsure about becoming a CPA. The Board will share more information about changes to the CPA Candidate category, as well as other proposed adjustments to the Society’s membership structure, this spring and summer.

In closing, I want to thank you for your membership and involvement with the NJCPA. I encourage all of you to put away the stresses of the past 12 months and enjoy this charitable, pleasant time of year. As always, please let us know your thoughts at

Have a wonderful and safe holiday, and I look forward to connecting with you in 2022! In the meantime, please enjoy our annual holiday video.

Ralph Albert Thomas

Ralph Albert Thomas

Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, is the CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Socieyt of CPAs. He is a former national and chapter president of the National Association of Black Accountants, was chair of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s State Society Relations Committee and is a member of the accounting advisory boards of Lehigh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Montclair State, Felician and Thomas Edison universities and Middlesex County College.

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