‘If I Only Had a CFF’
But Why Give CPAs Something They Already Have?

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JULY 2008 - In the film The Wizard of Oz, the Lion was seeking courage, the Scarecrow was seeking a brain, and the Tin Man was seeking a heart. In all three cases, they thought they lacked something essential. However, each of them inherently had these qualities from the very beginning— they just didn’t believe it. Recognizing that they needed external validation of what they possessed, the Wizard rewarded them with outward symbols: a diploma, a medal, and a testimonial.

The same search for validation can be said to be behind a new accounting credential. On May 19, the AICPA’s Council announced a new CPA specialty credential in forensic accounting, the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF). According to its supporters, the credential confirms the CPA’s role as the premier provider of forensic accounting services. But do CPAs need a specialized credential in order to provide these services, or are the necessary experience and expertise already inherent in a CPA’s skill set?

A Respected Credential

By definition, a CPA is an accounting professional who has satisfied the education, experience, and examination requirements of his or her jurisdiction necessary to be certified as a public accountant. This education gives the CPA a credential that attests to, among other things, a knowledge base in financial statements, accounting, auditing, and fraud.

The CPA is one of the most respected credentials a person can earn. Presiding judges recognize the expertise the CPA credential represents. CPAs are trained, first in their preparatory education and later in their work experience, to use analytical techniques and audit procedures that will help them recognize the red flags of a potential fraud.

Expected to launch early next fall, the CFF credential is designed to combine forensic accounting expertise with the CPA’s core knowledge base. The new designation is intended to provide additional credibility to CPA professionals who are called to testify as experts in court. But do CPAs need another outward symbol to establish their credibility?

One consequence of the CFF is the expansion of AICPA-developed continuing education courses related to forensic accounting. But if such courses are in demand and need be created for the new credential, why not make them available to all CPAs? The purpose of continuing professional education is to increase the professional competency of all practitioners, whatever their specialty. These new courses would best serve the entire profession, not just a small fraction. There is no need to rebrand a service already offered by CPAs; efforts should be focused on supporting the already trusted and respected CPA credential.

Any specialized credential runs the risk of convincing the public that CPAs without it are unqualified to do what many are already successfully doing. In fact, the majority of NYSSCPA members practice in small to medium-sized firms and already provide many of the services represented by the CFF. But if the public doesn’t know that, this new credential may prevent some CPAs from continuing to do work they are qualified to do.

It is not the number of letters that follow a professional’s name, but the quality of an individual’s work that is important. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion demonstrated the qualities they desperately searched for throughout The Wizard of Oz. They did not require a credential to validate their abilities—they already had what they thought they lacked. Perhaps the same is true for CPAs.

Louis Grumet
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA




















The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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