How to best tackle technology and the talent pipeline

March 29, 2024

Tom Hood, CPA/CITP, CGMA, executive vice president–Business Growth and Engagement at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, has his finger on the pulse of the profession. He's traveled all over, talking to everyone from corporate CFOs to newly minted accountants and accounting apprentices, and he's sharing some of the insights gained from those discussions on this episode of the JofA podcast.

Hood, who has been in his current role for three years after a long stint as CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, takes time to reflect on his move to the "global stage," to explain the issues that most concern finance leaders, and to detail an early apprenticeship success story.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Hood's reflection on three years in an AICPA & CIMA executive role.
  • The "pre-Internet" computer technology Hood's company used when he was a CFO.
  • One example of how the power of peers has built the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group.
  • Why the story one bank's apprentice provides hope in addressing the accounting talent pipeline drought.
  • The top-of-mind issues for finance leaders for this year and into 2025.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at


Neil Amato: Welcome back to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is your host, Neil Amato. I'm joined for this episode by a repeat guest, a name our listeners should know. He is Tom Hood, executive vice president of business engagement and growth at AICPA & CIMA. Tom was part of a December episode just after the Future of Finance Summit in Orlando. We're going to touch on that event, the themes from it, and also a few other things that have been on Tom's radar over the past few months and also looking ahead.

So, Tom, first, welcome back to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. Thanks for being here.

Tom Hood: Neil, it's awesome to be back here with you, so I'm looking forward to it.

Amato: Great. First I want you to reflect some. It's been three years since you joined AICPA & CIMA from the Maryland Association of CPAs. How would you reflect on the time you've spent in that role?

Hood: I would reflect on two things. It's been a lot of fun. I think when Barry Melancon recruited me, he talked about putting me on a global stage, and I think I've stepped onto that global stage. That's been eye-opening and quite rewarding, knowing all the resources. Basically, I live why we came together as the AICPA & CIMA. I was an early adopter on when we got into the CGMA from the Maryland Association of CPAs. It's great to be up here now, really trying to elevate it and accelerate it in the Americas market. I would say that that's probably the biggest part, fun and rewarding.

Amato: Again, as we said, before joining us, many of our listeners know, you were the CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs. But this is one thing I'm not certain many people know, is that you have been a CFO as well.

Hood: Correct. I joined the Maryland Association of CPAs, having been a CFO for probably about 10 or so years prior to that, in a highway construction company in Maryland. I was volunteering at the MACPA for years. I was a past chair and then when the executive director retired, our company had been acquired, and I put my name in the hat during the national search and got lucky and got selected.

Amato: There you go. Tell me some about emerging technology. That's going to be one of the themes we talk about today. But when you were a finance chief, what was the emerging technology of that era?

Hood: It was a dial-up modem attached to CompuServ. It was like pre-Internet, if you can believe that. Neil, I don't know that many of our listeners can identify with that. In addition, it was on-prem computers. We were running an IBM System/38. This is before even networking happened. The PCs weren't really invented at that point.

I went through that whole era of the PC coming online, then networking of PCs, and then you had VisiCalc, Excel, Lotus 1-2-3. That's when the world really began to accelerate, in my opinion.

Amato: That was acceleration then, we maybe didn't know it. We didn't know that it would continue at the pace it's been and even faster, and we'll talk some more about that acceleration in this conversation. But you've had a little bit of time now since the third Future of Finance Summit, December, Orlando. From that event and then from meeting others in the new year, what would you say are the points of emphasis for finance leaders as we look ahead to the rest of this year and into 2025 and beyond.

Hood: I use the phrase quite often that if I can see farther, it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants. A bunch of those giants are our Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group, a big group of large corporate CFOs, that put together the summit, and we meet every other month with this group, now ever since I joined, over the last three years.

At the summit, we poll the group on what the top issues are, and then we check with them periodically when we have other meetings or conferences, we poll them on those [issues] and see if we're on track or if there's differences.

They moved around this year a bit. No. 1, digital transformation, No. 2, AI and Gen AI. That was the surprise – came out of nowhere and shot right up there.

A need for new skills, No. 3. Finding and retaining talent, the artist that used to be No. 1, is now No. 4. Maintaining culture in a hybrid environment, not a big surprise, but that one stayed important. Then innovation and growth was No. 6. What's shocking is digital transformation moved up. I didn't think it could because it was always on there in the top five. But I think that's a byproduct of the acceleration caused by ChatGPT and Gen AI.

The finance chiefs are saying that they are continuing to drive continued digital transformation, and that's driving the need for new skills. The interesting part of this, Neil, is that this is true from the largest corporations to nonprofits, to NGOs, and to middle market. As we like to say, everyone's walking the same journey. It might be a little bit of a different size and scope, but they're all walking this journey of continued digital transformation, which includes finance transformation.

Amato: To hit on that group a little bit more. I mentioned the in-person meeting in December. You mentioned that there are regular check-ins, I guess virtually and then maybe also at ENGAGE in June, you get some of the group together, maybe some other events. But tell me why you think what that group of large corporates thinks is important to the rest of the world, the rest of our membership that isn't always in a big company.

Hood: It's interesting that when we started reaching out to them, literally the first month I was here at the AICPA & CIMA, we noticed that they all had the same issues. What surprised me, though, is that they didn't have all the answers. Even in those massive corporations.

I'll never forget, one of our members who is a CIMA-qualified CFO, was the CFO of a little company called Walmart. He's now the CEO of Sam's Club, believe it or not, showing the movement of a CFO in today's environment. But what he told us is he said, "Tom, I know what all my competitors are doing, I know what the core is, I've got lots of resources. But I really don't know what – I'd love to know what other CFOs are dealing with. I'd love to know" – another member, James Miln [previously] at Yelp, I know you've had him on the show plenty of times. Because he's like, "As Walmart, I'd love to know what Yelp is thinking about, or IBM." That CFO is part of our group, or some of these other companies. I think that's the key.

We're now in a period where they're not only interested in learning from each other and what we have to say, but they're interested in leaving a legacy to the profession about what the future of finance holds for all of us. Together, we're all scouts running around the edges in our own companies, and then they come together every other month and compare notes. That makes us all that much smarter, and that's what I think they all value. That's what they tell us they value is that interaction and, basically, giving back to our profession.

Amato: You mentioned the global stage earlier. I know you've traveled outside the U.S. borders for meetings, conferences, etc. I want you to apply a global lens to this question. How do you think finance leaders and organizations in general are handling that integration of the game-changing technology that they talk about?

Hood: I think actually very well, and I would say just like I said, what I find fascinating is the correlation of these mega companies, finance teams in some of the largest companies we have in the world, all the way down to the middle market. It's also true globally. We're seeing that same trend in companies and our members all around the world. Earlier this year, we were in Munich, Germany, and we got together with our German colleagues over there, hosted by the Eastern Europe team.

Then we were in India most recently for CIMA Council, and so we got to hear what the Indian members in that area are facing. We're all to a degree facing that same bucket of issues. They might be slightly different priorities in a given region, but I'm seeing the finance leaders for the most part are leading the adoption of these technologies, and often they're leading the strategy inside their businesses, which is exactly what our research was saying, and it's what we've all aspired to be for literally 20 years, this idea of being a strategic business partner. I think we're playing that role.

And so it really goes from we've shifted from the hindsight, getting the books closed and right, to the windshield, which is what's next? I think no matter where I've been, seeing that our counterparts – CFOs, accounting professionals, and all those different roles – are in fact, looking forward to make sense of what's coming at us. I think that's the common glue that holds all of us together. Sharing stories means we're all on the front edges scouting what's coming next and trying to make sense of it.

Amato: Yeah, now, technology is obviously front of mind. You mentioned that. Then the upskilling part of it also tied to technology. But I want to also ask about the talent pipeline. That is something that was mentioned and it is a big deal in the profession right now.

You are prolific when it comes to posting on social media. One of the topics you've shared recently was one of our podcast episodes with someone I guess you could say is a new member of the accounting talent pipeline. His name is Darryl Bonner, and he works at Liberty Bank. What do you think Darryl Bonner's story, A, tells you about the finance business partner apprenticeship program and B, maybe the future of the talent accounting pool?

Hood: First of all, it says a lot, Neil. By the way, you were there at our summit, and Darryl became an instant rockstar. It's fascinating to follow this story, though. Paul Young, the CFO at Liberty, was on our Future of Finance group. It was at one of the in-person meetings we had two years ago when we announced this registered apprenticeship idea and what we were doing with the U.S. Department of Labor to kind of make it reality.

Paul Young raised his hand and goes, "Just sign me up. I'm on board with this." Because the idea is we wanted to widen the funnel for the pipeline, because in the United States market, CPAs were the primary entry point into that pipeline. Under the CGMA, it opened up this new opportunity, which we were already doing in the UK with an apprenticeship program. Obviously, Europe is ahead of us in those areas, the idea of a professional apprenticeship. So, bringing that to the U.S. market and Darryl is like the poster child for that idea.

He's a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, right down the road here in Annapolis where I live. He did his tour of duty with the Naval Academy and was trying to figure out what's next. The military didn't offer him what he thought was a thriving career going forward. He started looking around, and he lived up in Connecticut, where Liberty Bank is.

He saw an advertisement for this idea of an apprenticeship in finance. When he understood that he didn't have to go and get a whole different degree, he could take his current Naval Academy degree – which is certainly pretty impressive, no matter what – but he could supplement it with learning on the job through this apprenticeship program and come out with a Chartered Global Management Accountant designation and a certified finance business partner by the U.S. Department of Labor. That's what attracted him.

He's going to be able to learn on the job, not go into debt. All of that would work, and so that was like the magic formula. By the way, he's a minority. That's the idea of this pipeline is to offer opportunity to different groups of people that might not always have that opportunity to come in through the traditional way that we come in, which is usually a four-year or a fifth-year degree coming through the CPA channel.

Amato: I know he is just one apprentice in this newly launched program, still pretty new. And it's probably too simple to say, "Hey, we can come up with solutions to better populate the accounting pool" just based on that one story. But it does provide some inspiration and some hope for this issue.

Hood: Indeed, and one of the things our Future of Finance group said when we first convened them was they would do anything to get access to underprivileged, underserved communities for talent pipeline. This was one of their desires that – again, it's back to standing on those shoulders – they asked for it, and we're trying to deliver it.

Will it solve the whole problem, Neil? No, it won't. But it will open up the aperture of what is possible inside our profession. We all know that diversity equals a much better community for all of us.

Amato: Indeed it does, Tom. Thank you for that. Tell me, what else? I mean, I know that's a really broad question, but what else is on your mind that you think is on the minds of finance professionals as we record here in late February 2024?

Hood: Well, I think the big ones that are on their mind is right on those top issues. Digital transformation, Gen AI, and skills. We are excited about working. We're working with Gartner right now on a bunch of things. They've been part of our summit and are helping us, giving us the latest on what they're seeing. What we're trying to do is then share those stories about how our group is actually leading Gen AI inside their companies.

This is not just in finance, but inside the company. I think getting those stories out is what we're trying to do is basically share the stories of good finance transformation, finance leadership in this new strategic partner position and really start to make that happen and stick, so that our perception as a finance profession is that we are in fact strategic finance business partners with a real good strategic foresight windshield view of the business, helping businesses navigate all this crazy, fast-moving turbulence.

Amato: Tom, we look forward to our next conversation with you. Appreciate your time today. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Hood: Thank you for having me. This has been fun.

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