It’s dues renewal season and I’m dumping my ABV (Accredited in Business Valuation) credential at the end of the month. I thought a lot about this and whether it will impact my clients. For those interested in why, let’s take a little walk down memory lane. But first, what is the ABV?
What’s the ABV?
The ABV is the AICPA’s business valuation credential. Even though I’d already obtained one business valuation credential in 2008 (the CVA from NACVA), I was attracted by my belief in the AICPA brand and because it was the only business valuation credential that required you to be a CPA. I passed the ABV exam in 2011 and with my valuation experience and CPA, I was now an ABV. The content and resources were above average, and I maintained my credential through career changes. Then, everything changed.
AICPA Dumps CPA
In May 2018, the AICPA opened the ABV to non-CPAs for the first time. It angered a lot of existing ABVs including myself. The focus on dropping the CPA alone misses the point, however. The anger was driven by what many of us felt was a quick, back-room, pre-determined vote without member input. An open letter to the AICPA written by several heavy hitters in the business valuation profession followed in June 2018. When pressed for details in July, the AICPA appeared to change its timeline again…and again. When that didn’t get their attention, prominent speakers pulled out of the AICPA’s forensic and valuation services conference in November. Even though the trust between many ABVs and the AICPA was shattered, the AICPA didn’t budge. The most comprehensive article I’ve found was written by Miles Mason, Sr. JD, CPA which you can read here. While Mr. Mason is a CPA, he’s a practicing family law attorney. I found his analysis to be particularly credible since he really didn’t have a dog in this fight. The ABV controversy even made The Wall Street Journal here. If I was so mad, why did I hold on to my ABV?
I wrestled with this heavily in 2018 and 2019. I couldn’t shake how unethically the pillar of the CPA brand behaved. If now wasn’t the time to vote with my feet and put my money where my mouth was, when was it? There was one issue I couldn’t shake. I was afraid losing resources would put my clients and practice at risk. I also clung to the possibility the AICPA might come to its senses and reverse course, particularly after the backlash. So, what happened?
From Backlash to Backslide
If I could see the future, my concerns were unfounded. Practice aids, email newsletters, conferences, and overall practical guidance for the private business valuation clients I serve has slowed from waterfall to trickle. I suspect the best content creators stopped contributing after the CPA fiasco. Or, the AICPA’s vision for the ABV is now substantially different from where it began. In any case, the value I’m getting from the resources is nearly zero. Many of the emails go directly in the trash. While ABV membership numbers did not influence my decision, it’s worth noting the AICPA would not provide recent figures to a nationally recognized business valuation practice leader. Unconfirmed estimates show little growth and a likelihood the ABV brand is permanently damaged. My mindset about the ABV has changed, however.
My Thinking Today
As I get older, I find my anger often dissipates more quickly into sadness. The ABV is no exception. Anger, properly channeled, can motivate us toward action. However, it can also make clarity next to impossible. While I maintain the AICPA behaved unethically, I’m only one of 431,000 members of the AICPA. The concerns of the leadership and many of the members often conflict with mine. That’s not a function of the AICPA’s disdain for me but, rather, simple mathematics. The cynical assessment, “they did it for the money” may be true, but we all make decisions based on economics.
I look back on the time I spent studying for the ABV exam fondly. My daughter had just been born and I remember holding her between practice questions and research. When I left town to take the ABV exam, it wasn’t just another test. For the first time taking a test, I was a father leaving her overnight. Interestingly, the test site was in Peoria, Illinois – the same city where I passed the CPA exam 12 years earlier. So, I give up the ABV with some sentimental sadness. I won’t talk others into dropping the ABV. That’s a personal and professional decision. For me, it’s time to dump it because I no longer see the value.
Sign up for this blog here if you want tools to increase the value of your business or want a refreshing view on business valuation from a recovering CPA. I’m Josh Horn, CPA, CVA of Horn Valuation. I value businesses for owner exits with a focus on HVAC and trade contractors. I also assist litigation and divorce attorneys as a business valuation consulting or testifying expert. My clients are business owners and attorneys. If you’d like more information, email me at email@example.com, or call me at 217-649-8794.
I’m a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and credentialed in business valuation (CVA). I’ve been a tax and business consultant in a top 100 CPA firm and a controller in a large international company. I’ve also valued and advised small family-owned and multimillion-dollar companies. You can connect with me here on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
“Once-in-a-lifetime events demand an expert.”
Josh Horn, CPA and Certified Valuation Analyst