Why is the CEO of CPA Australia interviewing celebs?

Small Businesses are increasingly struggling to understand what being a CPA means and with TV campaigns like this one I don’t blame them.

Why is Alex Malley FCPA interviewing ex-olympians and heavily promoting it in his capacity as CEO of CPA Australia? Why does this constitute CPD to us as CPA members?

There are 10,000+ CPA members in the LinkedIn group I am in, am I the only one asking this? Here as some of my thoughts;

CEO of CPA Australia Alex Malley hosts ‘the Bottom line’ on Channel 9


Firstly, does anyone understand the current marketing focus of CPA Australia and how what Alex Malley is doing helps promote CPA members as leaders of tomorrow by conspicuously avoiding any mention of the C word? (i.e Compliance)

How many of us became CPAs with the sole motivation of becoming a CEO of a multinational? How many actually are? How many are small business owners?

The wider public already struggle with what constitutes a good accountant or why the CPA designation should automatically indicate this as a self evident fact about the person they are talking to that holds it. Why isn’t this a focus?

As accountants, are we forgetting our roots and shooting ourselves in the foot with the current emphasis towards leadership to the exclusion of other more compliance oriented attributes a CPA holds for mid tier management and financial accounting for small businesses choosing to go it alone at their own peril?

I can see CPA has a TV series (which is great), but how the show’s content is designed to help promote CPA to the masses is not so clear to me.

Consider it like this;

  • The CEO of CPA Australia is hosting a TV series called the Bottom Line:
    • The show is clearly badged as being associated with the CPA designation.
    • It has nothing to do with Accounting, finance or advisory work that CPA embodies so why it is called ‘The Bottom Line’ I do not know.
    • None of the high profile people interviewed promote themselves as accountants nor are they members of CPA or do CPA feature highly in their stories as far as I am aware?
    • It is available to the public to view on Channel 9 so people could be forgiven for thinking this showcases what CPAs are about. Is it?
    • The format resembles ‘This is your life’ last aired in 2011 with Eddy McGuire or
    • ‘Enough Rope‘ hosted last in 2008 by Andrew Denton (there is even a vague resemblance, take a look for yourself) which lead on to his Elders series in 2009.
    • What is a prospective client of a CPA supposed to deduce from this?
    • Now consider there has already been two TV series of this as well as a web series?!?
    • CPA Australia’s member group discussion are constantly filled with posts raising concerns with promotion of CPA credentials to the public. Does this answer these concerns?
  • How does this activity effectively communicate the value of the CPA brand to the general public?

How relevant to ordinary members of CPA is the highly personal experiences of one of only very few people in the world that can lay claim to be Australian Gold medal winning dual Olympians in track and field! 

The compliance burden on small business is still a burden. Are people in public practice too busy to notice that this is what our CEO is doing on our behalf? Wouldn’t be great if we could point to concrete examples of how our membership body is tackling this on our behalf?

However interesting the life stories of these guests may be, they have minimal relevance to my business or the people I service as clients. Besides they all pretty much know the story. Though running a small business can be a personal olympics of sorts I suppose though it is a very long bow to draw.

What has this got to do with getting tax returns, management accounts and business systems working? Does this explain why I have to spend so much time explaining why CPA is a good credential to hold  for building financial reporting systems when talking to the general public? I was kind of of hoping this would be done by CPA Australia.

The Australian Newspaper did a great article in April 2013 on Alex Malley which outlined how when he started in 2009 he basically laid down the law to the staff to ‘be passionate’ about the direction or he will gladly ’empower’ their departure. I am not on board, but I am passionate and more than open to have the strategy explained to me so I can be on board.

If the accounting principles of CPA Australia are being subordinated to a focus on personal development and life coaching then I want to know why as my business model is likely all wrong.

If we are recruiting students on the basis that the singular pinnacle objective of being a CPA is becoming a CEO in a large company (a role held by only a few) with an implied promise that this is for all then we are surely going to under-deliver.

Another link of interest about our CEO’s website called the ‘NakedCEO’ where he is single handedly bringing the CEO back into the classroom on the basis of it being ‘raw’ and ‘real’. This site is open 24/7 and he responds to it with personal video clips.

Here young ‘budding’ accountants interview a CEO and after that react very positively as to its benefits after the event. If anyone reading this has done it then please comment, as I would love to hear what you think. For me, introducing someone with little to no experience to someone with loads of it would be more surprising if there was nothing learned rather than something. There is a massive gap between being a CEO and starting out in Accounting. 

I must admit I am impressed by the use of Social Media by Alex Malley on the NakedCEO. It checks all the boxes. It is authentic and while I can see how it improves his profile or the large businesses whose CEO are also on the videos, I am not sure how this helps leverage the CPA brand for members.

I am sure there are better mentors than me out there but one key factor to mentoring is it takes time as do our studies required as pre-requisite to do the CPA program. This is why the mentor program goes for 3 years and rising the through the ranks to CEO is no different.
Why introduce budding accountants to CEOs of large companies as a first point of contact? 
Powerful stuff to someone new and sure to bolster enrolments in the CPA program but how realistic is this to what these same graduates are likely doing in their first job and for some years thereafter? 

How does this help sell our services and image to small businesses? I thought CPA used to be the ‘champion of small business’.

How many of all graduates of the CPA program wind up CEOs of multinationals anyway? Is this what we all aspire to? I know I don’t.

I am all for the ‘world is your oyster’ and I agree there ARE a vast array of opportunities available after choosing CPA but but being CEO is just one of them. What are the others? Can we market these too?

I suggest these same students stop by the accounts department where the bulk of the other CPAs they will likely work with are and ask them about their experiences…. Now that would be ‘real’….

On second thoughts, maybe not because then your video winds up looking like the office so lets go back to talking to celebrities… you get my point.

I am saying CPAs do a wide range of great things in the market for their clients and we need to share this news with the public. In my view this message is simply not getting delivered. This TV series would be a great platform but how is the biggest challenge.

Skipping the conversation from starting out to CEO is perhaps part of the reason why all the graduates coming out these days expect to be promoted to management within a few months of joining? Go figure.

There is more to being a CPA than a title like CEO.

In CPA Australia’s case the CEO is Alex Malley and the need to get answers directly from him is fast approaching. People are confused and only he can set them straight. As the face of this TV campaign and CEO he is the obvious choice too.

The CEO or Chief Executive Officer is essentially the head honcho of the business. The buck stops with them and the ultimate decision maker on strategy and policy. He is an employee of the body and arguably answerable to the members so respectfully, I would like to ask some questions. I wonder if I am alone.

People that run their own business have all the responsibilities for strategy and policy direction of a CEO and perhaps even more but we do not appear to be championing their cause with the same vigour. Why?

Perhaps this is why Small to Medium Businesses are no longer identifying CPAs as being integral to their activities. Also could explain why our CPA credentials are inexplicably deemed insufficient in the eyes of the Tax Practitioners Board and other bodies like ASIC. Software providers and newly created professional bodies are increasingly entering the space of accounting which we as CPAs used to dominate. We need to help the Public understand the significantly greater value proposition we offer them.

I can see how someone with no experience in accounting would be impressed by dealing directly with executives in their offices in high rise buildings but for me having worked for a long time and held leadership roles, this impresses me not so much.
Explaining what it means to be a CPA is a message we definitely need to spread but I am not convinced our main audience is new students to CPA to bolster enrolments but rather the people that purchase or services.

I am also not sure we reach the public in a meaningful way by interviewing icons of Australia with no causal link to what CPA Australia or CPAs do. I would love to hear more about how our CEO is lobbying this on our behalf. I am sure he is. Just cannot find it on the internet because all of the links to NakedCEO and The Bottom Line TV series that come up as the top searches when I type in his name.

To quote Alex Malley from one of his videos: “Mistakes make you stronger and they make you smarter”

Is having our media profile so devoid of our accounting heritage evidence of such a mistake?

If not, why not? how can we better align ourselves with the global strategy of CPA Australia, oh by the way, what is the domestic strategy of CPA Australia? That would be a big help to me right now.

Not everybody aspires to being a teacher or business coach. Being the CEO of a multinational is occupied by only a few. As members we need CPA to maintain a commercially respected presence in the market place and it is here that we look to CPA Australia to cover the marketing cost of this function for us funded in part by our membership fees.

Further, the dubious enticement of gaining CPD hours by watching these celebrities surprises me.

Watch these celebrities cover the same ground they have been interviewed on many times before holds little work utility for most Small Businesses at the coal face. I’ll pass watching if that is ok and forgo the CPD ‘gimme’. I already do plenty of things that I apply in my work as it is because the regulations applying to small businesses are so extensive. You have to keep up to date.

Besides, I cannot market this show to my clients, existing or prospective. It has been done lots of time before and it is not breaking new ground.

By far, the bulk of the discussion threads on the CPA Australia Members group on LinkedIn are about raising the public perception of CPA, I am not sure how we are achieving this at CPA right now but I am more than willing to be convinced otherwise. I know we have great people working at CPA (I have spoken to them personally) so I have every confidence it is happening. Just would like to know how.

I can see clearly that Alex Malley is very highly regarded and extremely active on social media. He has chosen to personally front this TV series and hence why I am posting this blog to the CPA Australia Members group in the hope that he will read it consider it and reply with a response so we can all see.

The horse may have bolted on the issue of whether I become and accountant, that ship sailed years ago but I would still like to interview a CEO.

My choice is Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia, so I can get some answers on the items I have raised above.

Now this post is largely written with the audience of my fellow CPA members in mind but all are welcome to provide their input.

From what I have read and heard about Alex Malley I am impressed by him so I know he will not view this post as anything other than a perfect opportunity for him to showcase the good work that CPA is doing, explain the plan and alleviate the very many posts airing confusion on issues I have alluded to above. Happy to clarify any of the comments above too should it be needed by anyone.

For those averse to posting public comments online, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn to share your views privately as sign this article resonates with you. For all others, I welcome any and all productive discussion you are willing to offer.

The author, Will Camphin FCPA, is principal of W A Camphin & Co, an experienced accounting professional, having held senior roles in some of the largest companies in Australia and now specialising in Small to Medium enterprises in Systems, Planning and Analysis.

4 thoughts on “Why is the CEO of CPA Australia interviewing celebs?”

    1. Hi David, thanks for your feedback. I see this as an issue of clear communication of the value of the current globalisation strategy and International vs Domestic membership. While I wrote this blog in 2013, it is surprising how relevant the themes appear to have remained even now. This was evidenced by this article being quoted twice in the Financial Review in this week just gone…


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