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The FICPA and DBPR: Better together and better than ever

Three leaders, from two organizations, with one goal

Florida Institute of CPAs (FICPA) President & CEO Shelly Weir, FICPA Chair Kristin Bivona and Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Julie Brown are coming together to advance the cause of CPAs in Florida.

There’s been a strong relationship between the FICPA and DBPR for decades – and with all three women ascending to their current posts in 2021, there’s an excitement about what’s possible in the years ahead.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with Secretary Brown,” Weir said. “Right away, from our early conversations, I was filled with optimism about how our organizations can come together in the best interests of Florida CPAs. There’s an energy we all bring to the table.”

Whether it’s in compliance, communication, or collegiate outreach, the FICPA and DBPR see the value in combining resources to strengthen the profession today and in the future.

“The FICPA’s willingness to act as a resource and provide expertise, perspective and historical knowledge is extremely valuable to the agency,” said Brown. “From my first day at DBPR, the FICPA has provided necessary insight on various technical issues related to the industry. They also serve as a valuable partner in communicating with the profession.”

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Left to right: Julie Brown, Kristin Bivona and Shelly Weir (Two Stories Media) 

During the past several months, the FICPA and the nine-member Florida Board of Accountancy have worked together to inform licensees of the Department’s recent email renewal process, COVID’s impact on CPA exam scores, and upcoming deadlines and extensions for continuing professional education (CPE) requirements. The two are teaming up to identify strategies to improve the compliance process for CPAs, ensuring they meet CPE requirements for biennial license renewal.

“DBPR is a forward-thinking agency, particularly with Secretary Brown at the helm,” Bivona said. “The genuine chemistry and cohesion between FICPA and DBPR give us the chance to work together on initiatives benefiting everyone. We believe we can deliver positive outcomes for individual CPAs and firms large and small.”

Of course, a CPA license is about more than credit hours and ethics courses. It’s about what those things represent – a sense of trust, expertise and esteem. Since joining the FICPA this past spring, Weir has sought to promote the value of the profession and the license.

“Think of all we’ve been through in the last year,” she said. “The Paycheck Protection Program, the Employee Retention Credit, the CARES Act, extended deadlines, updating guidance – everything was changing in such a dramatic and rapid way. In times of crisis, you want a steady hand. Clients need to know they’re with someone they can trust.

“Alongside DBPR, we have an opportunity to emphasize the value of licensure for accountants, employers and clients. The CPA designation isn’t just three letters at the end of your name. It’s evidence of what you bring to the table through education, examinations and experience.”

But the biggest opportunity lies in the years and even decades ahead, as Weir, Bivona and Brown focus on the future of the profession. With the support of its donors, the FICPA Scholarship Foundation (see our annual report) continues to support the next generation of Florida CPAs. This year, the foundation distributed more than $185,000 to its Class of 2021, comprising 73 future CPAs from throughout the state.

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Left to right: Julie Brown, Shelly Weir, and Kristin Bivona (Two Stories Media)

“As much as we’re focused on the here and now, we have to be just as committed to the future,” Bivona said. “When we talk about strengthening the pipeline, it isn’t abstract. We’re talking about making real impacts in students’ lives.

“Yes, there’s a messaging component, where we need to pull them in: ‘This is why you should you become a CPA.’ But in many cases that isn’t enough. We need to be there to facilitate. Once we explain why, we need to follow with how. ‘This is why you should be a CPA, and here’s how we’re going to make it happen.’”

In 1998, the advocacy efforts of the FICPA resulted in a minority scholarship program funded by a portion of CPA license fees: DBPR’s Clay Ford Scholarship. The program provides funding to minority accounting students completing their fifth-year courses and preparing to sit for the CPA exam. More than 400 scholarships have been awarded since its inception, helping advance diversity in the profession.

It’s all part of a combined effort to expand and elevate, bolstering the profession by supporting future generations.

“DBPR’s mission to license efficiently and regulate fairly contributes to Florida’s reputation as a great place to do business. This environment helps excite young people about joining the business community, and I believe we can cultivate it with individuals during their formative years,” Brown said.

“In working with the FICPA, DBPR’s Division of Certified Public Accounting is striving to build on this reputation and improve its processes to encourage the next generation to explore this rewarding career path.

“I look forward to supporting various initiatives, in partnership with the FICPA, to foster outreach and encourage the development of young professionals.”

(Cover image by Two Stories Media)

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