AICPA Certificates Wall of Fame: Jim Bourke


Managing Director of Advisory Services, WithumSmith & Brown
Red Bank, NJ
SOC for Cybersecurity Certificate


An early start to a competitive advantage

The SOC for Cybersecurity Certificate will be the go-to certificate for our profession, for any CPAs involved in cybersecurity consulting.

Personally, I love the work and opportunity of consulting. And from a firm perspective, we wanted to be leaders in the marketplace, which is why I encouraged six of my other professionals in the firm to also get in early on the SOC for Cybersecurity Certificate.

If you’re not thinking about security and privacy, you should be

Every single finance professional needs to be concerned first and foremost with security and privacy. If you're holding on to private confidential data, be concerned about the security controls around that data.

Just think about cloud migration – your company, your clients. As companies migrate to the cloud, you have to be concerned around security and privacy of data.

That’s the issue that’s keeping me up at night, and I know CFOs and partners are feeling that same concern.

Embracing the change mindset

When I started as an accounting intern 30-plus years ago, I did everything. Tax returns. Financial statements. Technology.

Today, I know that I can't do everything. I have to focus. And that has been my biggest professional challenge -- really deciding what to do, what to focus on.

I know that if I focus on one specific area, I'll be a better professional. And quite frankly I'll probably be recognized as a thought leader in that specific space more than anything else.

That's one of the reasons why I decided to focus on technology and really differentiate myself from all the other peers and professionals in this space.  

It's hard to change. It's hard to get away from what you've been doing your entire career, but focus on one area and really take it to the next level.

With assistance from AICPA certificates

So how exactly can a professional can take their career to the next level? How can you get that differentiation in the profession?

My view is that there is a very simple answer. The AICPA’s certificate programs are offered in very narrow verticals, so you can match your interest to your goals. That's an easy way to differentiate yourself.

Here’s a scenario: You’re competing against lots of firms for business. What makes your firm stand out?

It doesn't have anything with firm size. It's what you are bringing to the table.

When you have an AICPA certificate in the same vertical as your client, that's a clear differentiator. Talk about the certificate. Bring it up. Own that knowledge space. It gives rise to questions from the client. They’ll want to know more about it and about you, the service you can offer.

Where the profession is headed

You may have heard Cathy Engelbert, Deloitte’s CEO, talk about this subject. Cathy’s view is that our profession is going to change quicker in the next five to six years than it has changed in the last 30 years.

I think a good chunk of our profession is in disbelief about that comment. I'm a big believer.

What's causing that change is technology. So if we want to remain relevant as a profession and continue our revenue streams, I believe that tax and audit will change.

How do you get ready for that change? Ask yourself, where is technology headed? What other verticals or revenue streams in your practice can be driven by technology?

Answer that, and that's how you remain relevant into the future.

Something you can do right now is educating your staff on all the hot topics around technology today. AI. Big data. Blockchain. Although you may not be touching them today, in the very short term they will change our profession forever.