Youth is served: Krom, NJCPA president at 35, braces for accounting’s coming changes

Around the age of 20, Sarah Krom joined the state’s largest organization for the profession she was in college to become — a Certified Public Accountant. At the time, it was a way of getting a leg up in her career.

Little did she know she’d later lead that organization.

As of this month, the 35-year-old — who has also worked her way up to managing partner at Boonton’s SKC and Co., CPAs LLC —  is the president of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants.

The organization announced the appointment Monday, applauding the former recipient of the organization’s “30 most influential CPAs under 30” recognition for being the youngest person to ever earn the top spot.

Krom, who has served in various other leadership roles at the NJCPA over the years, will serve for the organization’s 2018-2019 term beside Ralph Thomas, CEO and executive director.

ROI-NJ spoke with Krom about her first week in the position, in which she has more than 15,000 professional accountants — and aspiring ones, like she once was — under her watch.

ROI-NJ: You previously chaired the NJCPA’s Young CPAs Council, now called the Emerging Leaders Council, so what’s your perspective on the oft-cited challenge of preparing young leaders to take the wheel from baby boomers at accounting firms?

Sarah Krom: There are certainly lots of baby boomers in our profession right now. I think there’s a statistic out there that says, in the next 10 years, that around 70 percent of them will retire out of the CPA profession. So, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for the younger generation to have an explosive impact on our profession. And, as part of my presidency, what I hope to facilitate is some of the bridging of the gap between the generations so that we can bring the millennials, the Gen-Zs and all the different generations that exist together with those baby boomers. There’s a tremendous amount of value and wisdom that can be learned across those generational lines. It’s also the case that, if they want a fruitful retirement, baby boomers will need a solid succession plan and to share some of that wisdom with the younger generation, so we can jump into their shoes and lead the profession.

ROI: Do you think being a millennial yourself affords you something of a different mindset than your peers at the NJCPA?

SK: For me personally, I don’t believe too much in the defined generations thing. I think each person is going to be committed to a certain work ethic and belief system that doesn’t always match generational lines. But it is an exciting time in the profession, with all the obstacles and changes that are in our midst. There’s a lot of opportunities for us to come together tighter as a profession and work with our state society organizations to do that. Technology is changing faster than anyone can keep up with, so we’re not going to be able to survive as standalone individuals; we have to be part of a support system. Regardless of your generation, I think that’s what is most important today.

ROI: In both 2012 and 2016, you were recognized as a “Woman of Note” by the organization you’re now the president of. Do you think there’s still work to be done on improving diversity in the accounting industry, such as bringing more women and minorities into top spots at firms?

SK: I think there’s work to be done in any area. As technology has made things easier with telecommuting and work-from-home situations, firms are being much more proactive in their flexibility of schedules to accommodate what different members of their team may need. We can always do better to promote internally, growing teams from the inside into leadership and partnership roles. There has been a lot of movement toward that, but there’s always room for improvement. I do think that, in spite of race, gender or anything else, whatever you bring to the table in terms of the value you provide to your organization is going to dictate your path.

ROI: What’s going to be one of your main priorities as you come into this role?

SK: One of the things that’s unique about New Jersey when it comes to CPAs is that we have an unusually large population of sole practitioners. I think, as an organization, we really need to listen to those members, those smaller firms, because they have very different and unique needs from the larger, regional firms. Resources, time and leveraging important internal operational functions are really challenging for smaller firms. As an association, we really need to be able to provide resources to them, because it does account for a significant amount of our organization’s constituency. 

ROI: What are some of the biggest issues faced by the organization and its members?

SK: From a legislative standpoint, we’ve put a lot of focus on the federal tax reform that came out last year. That was a curveball in the profession, one that hadn’t been seen in the past 30 years. I don’t necessarily know that regulators and legislators are moving as quickly with that change as the profession needs and demands to best serve our clients. We need to rally around each other now as a profession in order to support our clients in the way we’re used to serving them, without necessarily having clarifications on the regulations or any particular detail on the legislation from the federal side.

Certainly, New Jersey is a fascinating landscape with the new governor, which throws some state and local issues to us that we haven’t dealt with before the change in office. Again, it’s about rallying around our members. We have a large presence in Trenton because of some of the legislation that’s on the table; we want to evaluate the impact for our members, as well as how we can help them not only in the functioning of their firm, but also disseminating the latest information to their clients so that they can best consult them.