Cryptocurrency, blockchain impacting profession

Written on Aug 01, 2019

By Abigail Draper, OSCPA communication & engagement manager

It’s important for CPAs to stay up-to-date on cryptocurrency and blockchain because these issues are evolving quickly and impacting the profession, as well as the way business is being conducted, an expert said.

Stein_Smith“All of us have to stay on top of it to, one, keep ourselves in the loop and two, make sure we have a seat at the table as these roles and jobs change to make sure we aren't left behind,” said Sean Stein Smith, DBA, CPA, assistant professor at Lehman College in New York.

We hear the words “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” frequently, but CPAs need to understand them completely enough to know how they could affect their careers.

One example is in the auditing process, as blockchain can allow for continuous auditing.

“Having access to that information as it happens and as it's being approved and validated by other members of that network is really going to change almost every aspect of the audit,” Smith said.

One of the misconceptions about blockchain is that it is unhackable.

“Anytime there's software, hardware and people, there's always a risk of an error — a coding error, an access error or somebody being unhappy and building a backdoor into the platform,” he said.

There are also misconceptions about cryptocurrency, particularly the thought that each cryptoasset is the same.

“Each currency is different,” Smith said. “There are ones used for payment processing and there are other ones out there built to be private and very hard to trace.”

Bitcoin may be the most well-known cryptocurrency and it is built to be part of a “public wallet.” It is also difficult to trace, Smith said, but public wallets have a public address. This means everyone can see each person’s balance without their names and information, but it is possible to track down who owns each public wallet.

It is difficult to say how this technology will evolve over time, he said, because of the changes that have already happened so quickly. But that pace of change will continue.

“The benefits and the opportunities of blockchain and cryptocurrencies are too large for it not to become more mainstream going forward.”

Smith has been absorbing everything he can about blockchain and cryptocurrency since its inception in October of 2008. He is teaching at OSU’s Fisher College of Business and serves on the Advisory Board of the Wallstreet Blockchain Alliance.

You can hear more from Smith about cryptocurrency and blockchain on Aug. 22 at OSCPA’s Accounting Technology Conference, and on Aug. 28 at our Financial Institutions Conference.

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