Top Continuing Professional Development Topics for Accountants

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So, you are good with numbers, possess an analytical mind, and have a knack for managing money.

On top of that, you have earned the right qualifications to excel in the accounting profession.

It’s fair to say you are on your way to becoming the best in your field of work – but not quite yet.

Remember what they say about learning as a lifelong process? Yes, professions are like that, and accounting is no exception.

For this reason, continuing professional development (CPD) is vital for your career growth.

CPD ensures you remain competent and up-to-date with the recent standards of your profession.  It also enhances your existing knowledge and skills and opens your mind to new learning possibilities and skillsets.

More importantly, CPD serves as a tool that hones you for your next career step.

With so many available courses, how do you decide which CPD to take?

It’s a given that you choose a course pertinent to your career, applicable to your workplace, and refreshes your knowledge about the ins-and-outs of your profession.

But one consideration you should look into is that the CPD training must be relevant to today’s evolving technology and the policies that come with the advancement.

With that said, here are four CPD topics every accountant should know:

GDPR and Data Protection

The General Data Protection Regulation is the foundation of many data privacy laws across Europe. As a short overview, GDPR regulates the collection and processing of personal information of citizens in the European Union.

However, even if an organization is outside the EU, as long as it attracts residents from the bloc, it is subject to GDPR rules.

What does GDPR have to do with accountants and why is training on the regulations significant?

As an accountant, you manage an immense amount of data concerning clients and your fellow employees. Storing, processing, and relaying sensitive information and confidential documents are indispensable to your role.

With the GDPR’s stringent data protection rules, you must learn innovative ways to effectively safeguard any information you handle. You need to understand how to mitigate data breaches by familiarizing yourself with encryption and authentication practices and systems that allow electronic signatures and approvals.

This is something an effective business coach can be useful for. You need to understand how to mitigate data breaches by familiarizing yourself with encryption and authentication practices and
systems that allow electronic signatures and approvals.

Under the GDPR’s provision on data access, clients have the right to request any information about them that your company is keeping.

You should be able to tell the client what personal data about them you have, how the data was gathered, where it is stored, to whom it was shared, and for what purpose.

Anti-Money Laundering Awareness

At a glance, money laundering appears straightforward: Deposit illegally obtained cash into a legitimate financial institution, hide the illegal origin of the money through layers of transactions, wait until it emerges clean, then spend the wealth free of suspicion.

Of course, the process is more complicated than that, but you get the picture.

It is difficult to tell the exact amount lost to money laundering each year. However, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates between $800 to $2 trillion are laundered around the world annually.

Imagine how much money goes to finance drug cartels, support terrorist groups, or pay for the lavish lifestyles of criminals.

Accountants play a crucial role in the successful implementation of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. Your job exposes you to the design, maintenance, and operation of your company’s financial affairs, and in certain cases, those of other clients.

Because of this, you are among the top professionals most likely to detect and hinder money-laundering activities.

In many countries, accountants are legally required to report any suspicious transactions, including low-value deals that appear shady.

The tricky part is, launderers are employing increasingly sophisticated schemes and the crime is getting harder to spot.

A specific AML training course will help enhance your skills in identifying signs of money laundering, ultimately allowing you to contribute to the fight against crime.

Cyber Security

In July 2019, the US credit reporting agency Equifax agreed to pay a settlement of $425 million (potentially rising to $700 million) for failing to secure its network.  The error led to a data breach that compromised 147.9 million individuals.

It turns out, the settlement amount is just the tip of the iceberg as the company has spent $1.4 billion to improve its security since the incident.

What does a cyberattack have to do with you as an accountant, aside from it involving a lot of money?

The truth is, cybersecurity is not merely a technological issue. Many companies become vulnerable to data infringement because of employees’ complacency, lack of training, or blatant disregard for security protocols.

Your job gives you access to valuable data in the system, from payroll and profits to invoices and expenditures to taxation and cash flow.  It makes you a favorite target of cyber thieves.

But you don’t need to be an expert to protect your company and clients from a possible data breach.  You do need to understand how hackers use social engineering, malware, and phishing to steal information.

Plus, knowing how to set up safer and longer passwords goes a long way in cybersecurity.

Card Payment Awareness

How long has it been since cash was the primary mode of payment? Nowadays, you rarely see shoppers waving cash, especially among younger consumers.

It doesn’t help that online shopping has become the preferred option of many, making the future of cash payment unclear.

As different electronic payment methods are becoming more widespread, the world is heading towards a cashless society.

This should make your job easier, right? The result is quite the opposite.

For instance, credit card payments come with additional responsibilities, such as recording the transaction into the company’s accounting system.  And this sort of bookkeeping is not as easy as listing down figures.

Credit card sales involve merchant fees that require accountants to take extra steps when making journal entries.  Take note that payments to your company don’t come directly from the customers but their credit card institutions.

It means you would not receive payment from the credit card company until later, and you are responsible for paying any merchant fees in the meantime.

This is important not only for official accountants but anyone who works in payroll and will put you above the rest of the candidates with expert payroll recruitment agencies when looking for jobs.

More importantly, you need to ensure that when you process, store, or transmit credit card information, you should do so in a safe and secure environment.

As a front-liner in the financial sector, you should keep up-to-date with the changing processes and protocols in the credit card industry.

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Accounting Path community writers are passionate financial & businesses thought leaders eager to share their experience & ideas. Please note, community articles may contain links to products or services which we do not formally endorse and/or for which we may receive compensation.