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How accountants can get CPD without spending a small fortune

Like most professionals, Chartered Professional Accountants are required to do ongoing professional development. According to the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPA Ontario), Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a required component of membership and is intended to ensure that as a CPA, you are well prepared to navigate through disruptive changes in business.

What is CPD?

CPD is all about learning, which allows you to:

·       Enhance your abilities as a CPA and strategic business partner.

·       Contribute to the acquisition of new knowledge.

·       Build familiarity with issues relevant to your role and field of practice.

·       Maintain and improve the skills the public expects from you as a CPA.

The accounting profession is somewhat unique in its diversity of roles. Members may work in accounting firms, industry, academia and the non-profit sector. In order for CPD to “count” it must:

·       Be relevant to your professional responsibilities as a CPA.

·       Be quantifiable, meaning that it must be specifically identifiable and be able to be expressed in terms of a specific time requirement.

·       Contain significant intellectual or practical content.

·       If you’re applying for or renewing a Public Accounting License (PAL), it must be in activities directly related to the competencies needed to engage in the practice of public accounting.

CPD requirements

CPD requirements may differ from province to province, but in Ontario, you must complete 120 hours of CPD over a three-year (triennial) timeframe. (Please check with your own provincial governing body.) Only 20 hours minimum are required per year, to allow members flexibility to design a CPD plan that fits their lives. For example, you may choose to complete 40 hours per year, or you may do fewer hours in one year and additional hours the next.

At least half of your required annual and triennial period hours must be “verifiable”. That means you must have documentation to support your PD hours. How can you meet these requirements without spending a small fortune?

Affordable sources of CPD

Participation in a course, webinar, conference or seminar all count as verifiable CPD. Proof of payment (e.g. a paid invoice), a certificate of completion or confirmation of participation are all acceptable forms of supporting documentation.

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the pivot to virtual conferences and training, which are both more accessible and more affordable. People can participate from the comfort of their own homes, without the additional cost of travel, hotel and food. “I know people used to come from far distances to attend my live full-day sessions,” says Arun Mathur, FCPA, FCA, Director & Lead Instructor at UltimQuest, a provider of live and on-demand courses.

“One gentleman told me he left home at 4:30 am to take public transit into the city so he could be there at 8:30 am. Now, all you need is a good internet connection and a quiet place to sit. I’ve even had people participate in my online courses with their children in their laps! We are all juggling multiple responsibilities during these unprecedented times and we have to find effective and convenient ways to engage with each other,” he explains. With an on-demand course, members get the benefit of listening to the material at their own speed, in their own time, and as many times as they’d like.

For those who like to learn on-the-go, another convenient and affordable option is lumiQ, a podcast app where engaging conversations with business leaders count as verifiable CPD. Whether you just need a few top-up hours or a lot more, you can find an affordable plan that meets your needs (they also have plans for teams.) Past episodes have included The Changing Economics of Music and From Rural China to CFO of Wealthsimple.

CPA Ontario has been providing members with one-hour complimentary PD sessions via livestream. A Conversation with Simon Sinek in December 2020 was very popular, and recent sessions were on ESG and the New Social Contract for Business and Sustainability Reporting.

Other sources of verifiable PD that don’t cost money (only time) include: 

·       Instruction/speaking – teaching a course or participating as a speaker at a conference.

·       Committees – participating on a board or technical committee e.g. audit committee

·       Research/publication – conducting research, including writing or publishing technical articles, papers, books or academic works.

Please consult this guide to determine exactly which hours qualify. 

New ethics requirement

For the three-year period ending December 31, 2021, and for each triennial period going forward, the 120 hours of CPD must include four verifiable hours of professional ethics. Professional ethics is the study of the values that guide the choices and behaviours of professionals.

Mathur believes that CPAs struggle with applying business ethics concepts to actual day to day situations that are very complex and sensitive. “We have our professional training and Code of Conduct to fall back on, but in reality, navigating situations in which ethics are involved can be very challenging. We try to present very practical, “how-to” information using case studies and real life examples. I want to demonstrate to our members that it is worthwhile to develop, strengthen and utilize our ethical compasses in these complex situations in the workplace,” he says.

A Chartered Professional Accountant by training, Robin Taub began her career at KPMG, transitioned into real estate, and then landed in the complex world of derivatives marketing at Citibank Canada. Today, she’s a professional speaker and the author of The Wisest Investment, Teaching Your Kids to Be Responsible, Independent and Money-Smart for Life. Robin lives in Toronto, where she and her husband have raised two (mostly) money-smart young adults. For fun, she loves to snowboard, cycle and (pre-COVID) go to concerts. She even got backstage once and met Bruce Springsteen. Ask her how – she loves talking about it! 

Robin Taub is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.
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