“A natural leader …”
“… tremendous executive presence …”
“… a prime example of professionalism and discipline …”
These are ways firm leaders describe BKD Chief Operating Officer Eric Hansen, and it’s because of these characteristics—along with his impressive career accomplishments—that Eric was chosen as the next chair of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
“Never in our 94-year history has a member of BKD been honored with the title of chair,” says BKD CEO Ted Dickman. “Having Eric in this influential post enhances our reputation and gives us better optics on the expansive spectrum of issues affecting the accounting industry.”
Most every major industry has a member organization to help oversee important ethical and procedural standards for members. For the accounting industry, that’s the AICPA.
As the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession—more than 650,000 members and students throughout 179 countries—the AICPA not only sets different standards for the profession, but also develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination and helps set standards for global recognition of management accounting.
“The AICPA is a first-class organization that’s been such a great advocate and resource for CPAs at BKD and throughout our profession,” Eric says. “Playing an active role in the AICPA’s efforts has always been important to me, and I’m honored that my colleagues have provided me with the opportunity to chair the board.”
Hard Work & Scout’s Honor
Eric attributes his hardworking reputation to his upbringing. “I was raised on a small family farm, where chores started before the sun came up. I grew up knowing you had to work hard to get ahead in life. From an early age, I understood the value of discipline and accountability.”
Apart from life at home, Eric says his next biggest childhood influence was being a Boy Scout and earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Scouting showed him that a trusted leader could have a positive influence on others.
The values of hard work and dependable leadership are still important to him, and it shows in his work as both a CPA and BKD’s COO.
“Eric will be a great BKD representative as the AICPA chair,” says BKD North Region Managing Partner Barry Davis. “Having known and worked with Eric for more than 30 years, he never gives less than 100 percent on everything he tackles."
Eric acknowledges it would be tougher to effectively balance work and family without his family’s support. He and his wife, Jana, decided to keep family a priority early in his career.
That commitment is clear to those around him. “While Eric is obviously committed to the success of BKD, I’ve been even more impressed with how committed he is to family,” says Dallas Partner Tom Watson. “Eric definitely lights up when he talks about the success and career paths of his children.”
Eric gives credit to past BKD mentors for showing him how to successfully balance work and life. “Now-retired partners Jim Sneed, Chuck Wells, Phil Brummel, Larry Fogel and Brenda Smith all demonstrated how to come to work, be the best they could be, go home and spend time with family. Their examples helped me develop my own work-life balance, and I’m incredibly grateful to them all.”
Roles & Goals as Chair
Being the AICPA chair means Eric will oversee the organization’s governance and be the “voice” of its members.
“I’ll be working closely with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to make sure our organizations are in sync over the requirements we make of our CPAs. I’ll also frequently attend state society meetings where I can share the goals, vision and direction of the AICPA with our members,” he says.
This—on top of his existing COO duties—means he’ll be a busy man.
“While my schedule will look a little different this year, we’ve already presented a plan to BKD’s board that addresses any conflicts and gives some younger leaders in the firm the opportunity to gain some experience at the same time,” Eric says. “The board is incredibly supportive of the plan, and we all believe this will be a good experience for me and for the firm.”
As the AICPA chair, Eric has set some big goals. First, he wants to find ways to use technology instead of being blindsided by it. “In the future, we’ll still be auditors, but we can’t know what that will exactly look like. We need to be open to change and find ways to innovate.”
He also is committed to fulfilling the vision constructed after the AICPA joined forces with The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in 2017. Together, they form the Association of International CPAs—the leading international body of accountants. Eric will be responsible for ensuring the merger’s goals are carried out.
Lastly, Eric is committed to staying true to the AICPA’s “core,” which is to support member needs and address issues important to members. “I represent our members, so their concerns and needs are paramount. I want to make sure they know they’re valued and heard.”
Eric has already served one year as vice chair. His inauguration is in October, and he’ll serve a year as board chair. After that, he’ll serve as the AICPA past chair before concluding his rotation in May 2020.
As chair, Eric will be intimately involved with some of the most dramatic changes in accounting history.
He hopes to start immediately addressing the opportunities new technology offers and discerning which help and which don’t. “It’s hard to convey the effects of technology on the world in general, and the same can be said for the accounting industry. We have to start wisely preparing ourselves for the changes that are inevitably coming instead of being resistant to them.”
While some might pale at what lies ahead, those who know Eric well aren’t concerned.
“Eric and BKD both do a great job of supporting the profession,” says Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “Leaders from firms of all sizes, as well as business and industry members, have endorsed Eric and expressed great respect for his ability to lead the board at a pivotal time in the accounting world.”