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Chartered Professional Accountants Canada

5 Tips on Voluntary Mergers from the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA)

During undergrad, I took a few film theory and criticism courses to balance out my business curriculum. In my Introduction to Film Course, the professor said that once you study film you will never look at one the same way because you know how it was made. This is true of any profession; you see things differently because of your knowledge and experience. 

This insight comes into play when I am reading business articles. I can’t help underline the actions that enable or hinder change. For example, I read an article in The Globe and Mail this week about the merger of the three major accounting bodies – Chartered Accountants (CAs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) and Certified General Accountants (CGAs) – into a unified Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPAs) association.

The merger makes sense. Traditional differences among these designations and the work that is done by its members are less pronounced than in the past and the benefits of a single accounting body – a larger organization and stronger voice on accounting practices, better career opportunities and cost savings, etc. – are many.

Conversely, there have been concerns from some members including the loss of current designations, terms of membership and having a minority say on how the new organization will be run (CAs represent 46 percent of the combined 185,000 membership). 

In 2012, after a year of negotiations, the national CGA organization withdrew from talks, but rejoined them last year after provincial GCA organizations started their separate negotiations to join the other groups. This week, final approvals were completed.

Here are the actions I underlined that helped enable the merger:

  • Creating a future identity that is different, better and more compelling – An ad campaign was created and launched to build awareness of the new CPA designation and create a “strong and positive impression of the organization.
  • Differentiating a past failed merger – In 2004, the CA and CMA organizations attempted to merge. Differences between the past and current merger have been clearly stated to avoid the “we tried this before and failed” objection.
    • Retaining what members value from their current organizations – Existing members will use the new CPA designation followed by their current designation (e.g., CPA, CA). In 10 years, members will have the option to drop their current designation.
    • Securing and communicating a quick win – A new educational process has been created incorporating the best features of the three current systems, demonstrating benefit from the merger and demonstrating contributions from the separate bodies.
    • Acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to be done – Expectations are being managed that there will be a long transition process and not everything is defined. This avoids the “You said we were one organization, but what about this difference” objection.

    “The professionals are turning pro” is the new CPA organization’s tag line. How they manage change is one way they are living it.


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