Log Out

Transcript: Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, CPA

January 23, 2020

MAUREEN: Welcome to the VSCPA Leading Forward podcast where we focus on innovation leadership and the CPA profession. I'm Maureen Dingus, and I invite thought leaders for short, casual conversations on topics and trends important to the success of the CPA profession. On this episode, I'm talking about going global with Kimberly Ellison-Taylor. Kimberly is the global accounting strategy leader at Oracle. She's the chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, as well as the chairman of the Association of international Certified Professional accountants. Now, Kimberly, you just said today's your very last day of being chairman of the Institute. That's amazing. What do you think about that?

KIMBERLY: It is absolutely. I have enjoyed every single moment and I am delighted that I'm here with you via CPA on my last day.

MAUREEN: As a CPA, it seems fitting that you were with some students yesterday, what were you doing your Virginia State?

KIMBERLY: Absolutely. So at Virginia State, I had the opportunity to visit a cost accounting, a tax class and Advanced Accounting. Doesn't that bring back memories? And it was great. The students asked a really, you know, really thoughtful questions. We talked about my leadership journey. We talked about trends, the professionals facing what they're looking for, and about technology. And so I have great confidence and our future leaders and every discussion I have with students, gives me even more confidence.

MAUREEN: So you know, you're wrapping up your time as the chairman of the Institute while moving into the chairman of the association. How do you see those as different or similar?

KIMBERLY:Well, it's very similar because the association is really an opportunity for us to bring public accounting and management accounting together. When I operated in a capacity as the chairman of the CPA, I worked on business and industry, public practice concerns, not for profit, government education, and consulting. And so it was really different because primarily, we were working in the United States, under the associations umbrella, and we launched a year ago. So we're a little more older than a year now. We have 650,000 members, and 179 countries. And so we've always had CPAs, abroad, CPAs, living and other countries. And now we'll be able to provide greater competency and learning development opportunities for them and resources. So we just think it's a win, win and win for all of us, certainly in public accounting, and definitely a management accounting.

MAUREEN: So that takes us right into talking about this global stage. And I know I've been lucky Enough to hear you talk several times during your, your stint as the chairman of the Institute and you often bring up your background coming from the inner city of Baltimore, and now you're on the global stage. Tell me about that. What's that, like?

KIMBERLY: It is a blessing. That's the only way to really describe it. To think that a student could hear someone speak about careers, and talk about the amazing possibilities in accounting, but is an eight year old. I really just focused on accountants manage the money. So that was the really important part for me, because I think if you're managing the money, you're in charge, you have a great power position inside any organization across any segment. And I think it's essential across, you know, wherever you go in your career, if you're a CPA, you always have opportunities and options. And if you're an accountant and you're working hopefully toward our see GMA which is our chartered global management accounting designation. That also gives you opportunities to really pursue greater promotional advancement in your career. And so today I am going around and speaking about that leadership journey, because I want everyone to see themselves in me. I want the next time you have the opportunity to go to a career day, or to go and visit your university that you say, Yes, I'll go because you don't know what part of your message will resonate. You don't know if because they saw you. And you tell about your challenges and your failures and your lessons learned that they will be inspired to say, Wow, if Kimberly did it, I can do it too. And so on the global stage, it really does give me an opportunity to bring all the different facets of my backgrounds together. I've worked as a CPA and public practice a CPA in go Government and now a CPA in business and industry. And so it also tells me that our skill set is very transferable, that our ability to assess and analyze, to have professional skepticism to have integrity and objectivity and create ethics are needed and necessary across every segment that anyone might work in. And so I hear that same theme resonating, not just in the United States, but in countries all around the world.

MAUREEN: Right. So kind of on that note, you've you've traveled extensively and travel all over the world. And you know, just wonder, when we travel and get out of our bubble, we sometimes experience a bit of culture shock or we just see things in a different light. And you know, what kind of nuances Have you started to see that are maybe different in the business world when you when you've been on your travels.

KIMBERLY: I would say it's more similar than it is different because businesses want To be agile, to be innovative to service their constituents and clients and organizations they serve in a more meaningful way. They want competitive mindshare, double digit growth, they want to be efficient and effective. And so whether you're in South Africa, where I had the opportunity to go and speak, or you are in New Delhi, where I also had the opportunity to speak, or if you're in London, where I have met several times with our colleagues, they're all pretty much asking for similar things. Now, how they do it and the resources they use might be different and certainly their backgrounds. But I think what companies and what I would say the members of the general public are expecting are very similar,

MAUREEN: Right so sometimes we hear from our members who you know, we would maybe consider on you know, Main Street America are saying I you know, I don't I don't have any global clients. I don't need to worry about international issues. What would you say to though,

KIMBERLY: I would say think about it this way, your stock portfolios, we just take it at the first the baseline level is impacted by what happens abroad. When Brexit happened when Greece had its issues. Certainly, we saw a dip in our own stock markets and our capital markets in general. And so we are definitely impacted by what happens in other countries. If there's civil unrest. We're definitely impacted. Then think about your people, your human capital, your greatest resource inside your organization. When people come to work for you, they're not coming having not traveled anywhere. I didn't get a passport until I was 27. Our students today are traveling abroad at 16. They're going on class trips that are out of the country, can you imagine? And so just think about what it means when you have employees who now are broader and you're thinking They're international focus. And they are very, they have very broad thoughts about company involvement with and having a purpose or mission or having insight into what's going on beyond just where you live. And then I would also say, think about your partners and your supply chain, you are getting resources, and your partner network is broader than just in the United States. And so we have to pay attention. And we have to be aware that technology crosses oceans, not just borders. And so the people that we're competing with won't just be down the street and around the corner, the next town over, they could be totally on another continent, competing with you for goods and services, depending on the type of work that you do. So I think we have to take that into account. And we just have to anticipate change and manage change and not be threatened by the amazing opportunities that change could present and that technical also presents as well.

MAUREEN: Thinking about the global accounting profession, I think that it's very compelling the the global economy makes sense. We hear all about that. But the global accounting profession, what are some opportunities or barriers that you see in that evolution?

KIMBERLY: So when you think about the world of finance, we want to make sure that it's elevated and there are resources that are available to our finance professionals in management accounting, we want our CFOs and, you know, people who are working in finances, controllers and other analysts type positions, that they have influence, and they can aspire they can motivate they can tell a story along with the numbers. Yes, the numbers will speak for themselves. But when you're in a board meeting, or you're speaking to investors or you're speaking to analysts, they want to know your insights. What does it mean? Can you be predictive? Do you have an awareness harness of what the bottom line impact could be for the organization. Are you anticipating what disruption may lie just over the next horizon? So when we talk about global accounting, we want all of our members across every geography to recognize that they're essential. And giving them the tools and resources and ensuring that they have the people technical leadership, and business skills necessary and needed by organizations not only helps promote and protect the public interest, but it also provides greater opportunities for our members and we want to power prosperity, opportunity and trust.

MAUREEN: When we go forth with that, obviously, there will need to be some regulatory thoughts on how we need to work differently internationally. What are some hot topics that CPAs might see coming down the road as it relates to international the globalization of the profession.

KIMBERLY: It's interesting because and they may be generationally, too, because for those of us who are Gen X and baby boomers, we are fearful of in some instances exposing how much data we have on the internet and being in the cloud. Our younger colleagues are not afraid. They expect that technology does provide opportunities, and they're willing to safeguard against any risk. And so data privacy is definitely a varying standard from a regulatory and compliance perspective. And country by country. If you are operating, let's say in using the cloud, it may be that the data is unable to leave that country has to be there at rest and in motion, which means that you have to think differently about the providers and supply chain that you use to service your clients. There are also rules and regulations. I think Being around who does the audit how long they do the audit? And what types of independence things that they are able to do. So when we're thinking about opportunity, there could be some laws and regulations that, quite frankly, don't allow you to do those two things together, you might have to think about how you organize your business. And if you're thinking about moving into a new portfolio services, you would really do well to get someone who understands that country, I would not Google it. Sure, I would get someone who was well versed in how people expect to be serviced and what kind of things they would expect from their accountant. So we've seen ethical issues that have played out in other industries that could also impact us. So we have a global advocacy team that is going to work very diligently with the jurisdictions and geographies to one make sure that we're not running afoul of any, you know, state regulations or Country regulations. But at the same time where we think it adds undue burden and complexity to how they operate, we want to make sure that we are reflecting easier ways to do business to the country and informing them of things they may not have considered. And I think we're in the best position to do that. Yeah. So there's still a lot of work ahead to make, make this easy to operate throughout the world. So just first, it's the state of mind, the will, and then there's the work behind it, but it's so rewarding. So if you think about one size fits one. So you you couldn't necessarily take a model that you're using here in Richmond, and say, we're wholesale gonna take that model and go to London and do the exact same thing. You do have to be savvy, but could you maximize and leverage the baseline of what you're already doing? Absolutely. You just need to make sure that you understand the requirements of opera in an environment that's not capitalistic, because we have a capitalistic economy, we fully expect that people are going to do well and be successful. Whereas there are different notions of what successful in doing well is in other countries and certainly in other continents. And then of course, you'd want to be safe. And so ensuring that if there's civil unrest, you are protecting your investment, you're protecting your people. But all in all, I would say there's still more opportunities than there are threats. And we should evaluate each one on a case by case basis, and make sure that we are promoting the interest of the public and our members in a great fashion.

MAUREEN: While I know that the profession is very lucky to have the Institute and the association doing that hard work on behalf of all its members. So thank you on that to two final questions that just want to run by you the first one, it could be about the global economy or anything else. What do you think CPAs need to have their, their eyes and ears open on about for the next year.

KIMBERLY: The two things that are spoken about in my Chairman year technology and next generation leadership. So technology, I think we have to disrupt ourselves. disruption is the new normal. And so if we're thinking that will retire before it hits our door, that's not necessarily wise. Because if you're in a firm, you want to maybe depending on the size of your firm, sell your firm so that you can retire. And certainly it impacts your retirement and your payout. So it hits your wallet pretty cleanly if you don't start building your Ark when the sun is shining. And I've said that in so many places, the time to build the ark isn't when it's raining. We have to prepare ahead of time. And because by the time we know that we should have done it and would already be too late. And that's what I appreciate about working with the esta to any association. Because we're anticipating change. We're looking over the horizon. When other people see dust, we see opportunity in the distance we don't see all we're safe. We think that there are a number of industries that have been disrupted. And if they can be disrupted, then we can be disrupted, who are we to think that we wouldn't be impacted as well. And so if we could get our members to really analyze their own practice areas, and the segment that they're in and say, What can I do to ensure that I'm future proofing my brand as a CPA, a CGM a and future proofing the work that I do to support protect the public and also for my own livelihood. And I think that working together with state societies, we will be able to get the word out that it's time to start building the ark and from a next generation leadership perspective. These are our future leaders. And I've said to them you are our next senior vice presidents are next CFOs next CEOs of next managing partners, the next state society president, the next, you know, state society executive, you are the next Dean and presidents of universities, any and everything you want to do everything as possible. And so cultivating and motivating talent that knows fully that they have options is daunting. So many of us grew up in an era where if someone said do it, we did it. Well, we didn't know what we didn't know. Well, thanks to technology and social media, our young people are fully aware that they have an array of options. So that means that where we might not have had to do as much convincing, we're having to really think about how the profession will be more vibrant and relevant in the future? And how can we ensure that it's actually somewhere young people would want to work. And so that's different than what we've had to really, I think, think about before. Were in some partner or firm environments, where if the person was ready, they said, we'll let you know when you're ready. And now with our millennial and z colleagues, they want to know what your intentions are. They want to know, when am I getting promoted? And I think it makes us rethink our whole human capital and how we resource and how we manage and lead inside organizations. And I think that's the best part. Yeah,

MAUREEN: I've heard some leaders start to talk about their talent being their most important client their most important they need to serve them before they can serve anyone else or

KIMBERLY: We are a people based business. And yes, I know we are in the age of machines. But there are some things that Machines can't do, they can't sit and have coffee. And when you really look across the table, if someone is say, half of my financial livelihood in your hands can I trust that you're going to make the right prudent decisions, when machine isn't going to be that warm and fuzzy that when you have all the facts and you're sitting there looking at the data, it the from a machines perspective, it is what it is, is black and white. But that person sitting there may make the difference between you going with that firm or a different organization. And I think there's so many different opportunities for us from a technology age and machines perspective. But I think machines cannot replace us. There will just be different things that we do in the future. And that's what I'm excited about.

MAUREEN: Kimberly, you're so inspiring and motivating. And every time I'm in a room and I see you speak I can just see the smiles and the faces light up. But what I want to know is what inspires you and what motivates you,

KIMBERLY: I think is faith. And I really think it's it's really the understanding that to whom much is given, much is required. And I think that for many people, they don't have the same knowledge. And I think when you know better, you do better. And so to the extent that we can share how amazing the profession is, we absolutely should, to the extent that I had the opportunity to speak with young people, although youngest relative, I am the youngest chair to rather the youngest Chairman. I was 46, the youngest Chairman we've had, and certainly the first person of color, and Maryland is delighted, and I am to be the first one Maryland. And so those different constituencies and backgrounds that I represent, give me a voice that I think is different and unique. And it also challenges us to think about stereotypes. We might have had So think about barriers and challenges that may have been in front of us and think about it a different way. Certainly, if I came from a very humble background and inner city, Baltimore, that everyone realizing that while she can do it, I can do it too. And so that inspires me making a difference. And not just being blessed, but to be a blessing. And because I believe in servant leadership, that's why I've enjoyed it. And I just personally don't think when people said, Kimberly, you serve 15 months, you know, that's different than previous chairs, how were you able to do it? And are you tired? Now? This is amazing. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm going to enjoy it all the way up until 1159. Even if I'm asleep, I'm going to be enjoying it. Because I think it is an amazing opportunity and I didn't want to squander an opportunity. And I didn't want to reflect the seriousness And how really a big deal it is that I am in this role. A lot of people helped me get here. And I just spent, I think my year saying thank you, thank you. Those are the most important words I think I could ever say, because someone took a chance. Because let's let's face it, it hasn't been done. I mean, I'm the fifth woman, they're still trying to figure out if this was going to work, the first person of color, how many people who would never say because it wouldn't be politically correct to say, wondered what this year would be like. And I had a lot of people who were praying and who are encouraging, and who let me know whatever you need, we will make sure you have it. And that is priceless. Knowing that many people were really working together to help me and they've been approachable and relatable. And hopefully I've been the same and if I've inspired people to realize and especially women that they can do it without Family and yes, it does take some time and it will sleep on the bucket list because there's no time to sleep. That that's what I want to be, you know, thought of warmly with great thoughts. And when I'm out to pasture, they'll call me in a couple of times.

MAUREEN: It really is great to have met you. So that's what I would say, well, you you have been a blessing and you will continue to make an impact on the profession. And I just feel lucky to have spent any amount of time with you. Thank you. Thank you so much for today and for the podcast.

KIMBERLY: Society of CPAs. I love you guys.

MAUREEN: We love you back.

MAUREEN:  All right, well, thanks for listening. I'm Maureen dingus and I hope you will join us next time