Accounting | The Profession

To be future-ready, the profession needs to be tech savvy, expert says

The new “Way Forward” Competency Map will include updated competencies to prepare the next generation of accountants for a digitized world

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Young businesswoman and businessman using a laptop during a meeting in a modern officeTo thrive in a digital world, CPAs will need to use strong analytical skills to enhance AI-completed data sets (Getty Images/LaylaBird)

The world is changing rapidly. And the Canadian accounting profession is developing the new CPA “Way Forward” Competency Map (CM2.0) to ensure accountants are transforming to meet the needs of the future. 

“Things around us are changing so we’re changing. That’s the key thing,” says FCPA Irene Wiecek, professor of accounting and director of the Master of Management and Professional Accounting Program at the Institute for Management and Innovation, University of Toronto and member of the Competency Map Task Force (CMTF). “And, they’re not just incremental changes, they are fundamental changes that represent a paradigm shift.”

After a nearly two-year process of roundtables, surveys, artificial intelligence social media listening and consulting, the CMTF released the draft of CM2.0 on July 5. The finalized CM2.0 is set to be released in January 2022 after an open comment period from July through to September 30, 2021.


Foresight: Reimagining the profession, CPA Canada’s ambitious initiative to ready the profession for the future, and the CMTF identified several themes affecting the profession, which formed the basis for developing the new competencies. These include: the profession’s current systems designed to meet the needs of the industrial age and exponential shifts in technology, globalization, business models, geopolitics and societal values and norms. 

Armed with a future-ready approach from these learnings, the profession’s new focus is forward-thinking as opposed to historical, says FCPA Tim Jackson, CMTF chair and CEO of Shad Canada, Canada’s premier summer enrichment program for high school students focused on STEAM and entrepreneurship. 

“The type of data that CPAs are being asked to deal with is changing,” he says. “And so this map is broken down into what we’re referring to as sub-foundational, foundational competencies and specific competencies. This is the basis on which you then add professional competencies and human skills and values.”


Linking competencies and human skills has been a key driver when developing this Map. The CMTF, together with stakeholders, evaluated the value-add CPAs can bring to a variety of important topics in any boardroom they walk into, Jackson says. 

“We will expect a newly minted CPA to have some understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion, we will expect them to have some understanding of Indigeneity, we will expect them to have some understanding of environmental, social and governance issues.” 

Having this foundational knowledge will inform and build awareness in CPAs and this will lead to better decision making, says CPA Rebecca Villmann, director, reporting initiatives and research, Financial Reporting & Assurance Standards Canada and staff support to the CMTF. While the previous Map was prescriptive, the new one is principles-based, with more flexibility and adaptability, which also makes it easier to update. Jackson says this approach allows post-secondary institutions greater flexibility in their teaching and encourages schools to differentiate themselves from each other by leveraging community and local issues to stand out. 

Ultimately, the end goal is: “What should the CPA of the future know? What skills do we need to have to be able to add value not just in the corporate boardroom, but the non-profit boardroom, too?” says Jackson. 

It is this holistic approach to the new Map that will enable incoming Canadian accountants to transform and meet the needs of the future.


Pointing to the last year alone, Wiecek highlights how quickly technology became symbiotic in accountants’ daily lives as the profession moved to cloud computing and on-screen meetings to meet the pandemic’s sudden demands. 

“It’s this dramatic shift to the digital environment that is accelerating change. Companies and accountants are being forced to think about things in a digital way—to rethink business processes and business models, to rethink how to do an audit, rethink how to do a tax return. It’s a total rethink,” says Wiecek of the profession’s trajectory and reason behind the new Map, which has technology at its heart. 

“The new Competency Map is taking the fundamentals of a CPA—the skills we have—and using them differently because times are changing,” says Villmann. “To be future ready, the profession needs to be tech savvy.”

A survey conducted by Leger for the profession showed a strong desire from CPAs to focus on the need for creativity and innovation. Nine in 10 of those surveyed said that important topics for CPAs to function effectively include data governance, value creation, systems thinking and big data. 

Modernized competencies, combined with what Wiecek calls a “data explosion” have propelled the profession forward, causing it to adapt—and quickly. Because artificial intelligence and other technologies can now compile large amounts of data in dramatically shortened time periods, she says accountants have an opportunity to bring rigour and trust to a new type of data analysis working hand in hand with technology and data scientists. 

“You need to use your critical eye, be skeptical, and find something that’s odd there, find a pattern that doesn’t make sense,” says Wiecek. “Can you trust the technology? You also need to figure out whether you have the right data from the right sources, what that huge amount of data is telling you and what insight you can provide to shape the next steps.” 


The profession encourages feedback on the new “Way Forward” Competency Map during the open consultation period from July until September 2021. 

Also, stay up-to-date on the learnings emerging from CPA Canada’s strategic initiative to reshape the accounting profession. Check out Foresight: Reimagining the profession

And learn how to succeed in the new reality by signing up for The ONE virtual conference. There will be a panel discussion on upskilling and the accounting profession, CPAs and the digital transformation and much more.