- Russell Bell, partner of Balanced Chartered Accountants in New Zealand embraces opportunities for continuing professional development
- He says staying ahead of trends is essential to supporting changing client needs
- In a rapidly evolving commercial environment, CPD can help chartered accountants remain on top of key issues
In a time-poor world, the need to meet continuing professional development (CPD) requirements can be challenging. But Russell Bell, partner of New Zealand firm Balanced Chartered Accountants, takes a pragmatic approach: “For me continued education is crucial, particularly in this time of disruption. It's absolutely crucial that you upskill yourself.”
Bell says technical skills shouldn’t be the sole focus of CPD. “One of the things I find really good about the continuing professional development that Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand is offering is that it's moving into non-technical training.
“One of the best training opportunities I've had in the past year was a seminar on new businesses and what they are facing trading in an online world.”
Bell admits he actively seeks opportunities to learn. “Ongoing professional development is really important in terms of staying ahead of trends and developments, so I can actually be relevant to my clients.”
He is a firm believer that chartered accountants should look beyond just notching up their mandatory 20 hours each year and embrace the nature of learning as a lifelong commitment. “The training that I really like with CA ANZ is self-directed learning. For example, downloading broadcasts is something you can do in your own time.”
Bell believes that considerable insights can be gained from self-directed learning. He notes, “I'm doing a tremendous amount of reading about disruption, technology and artificial intelligence and its impact not just on my business but also on our clients.”
Moving with the times
According to Bell, the challenges for the profession centre on change and technical disruption: “I often hear the question ‘Are you ready?’, and it’s really important that we, as a profession, get ready, be ready, and then move with change as it comes.”
Bell regularly delivers presentations on strategic planning. He says these focus on what's coming, coupled with examples of businesses that have failed to deal effectively with change – Kodak being a noteworthy example.
“Everyone cites Kodak,” says Bell. “But what doesn't get cited is that Kodak is still around – they’ve just developed in other areas.” For chartered accountants in Australia, Bell points to the example of Hills, which for decades manufactured clothes pegs and clothes lines, but which has, more recently, has repositioned itself with a shift in focus from manufacturing to technology and communications.
This sort of transform can also hold scope for chartered accountants. “What we're doing here is to say we have a team of CAs. Yes, the compliance work is there – and it will possibly never go away,” he notes. However, Bell also says that for millennials and people who are tech savvy, a new way of thinking and operating doesn't always fit into old compliance models. “We as a profession need to move with that,” observes Bell.