- Congress attracts 5500 delegates from more than 115 countries
- Accountability was a key theme
- Accountants are well placed to respond to challenges
Accountability emerged as a common thread across the four days of the World Congress of Accountants 2018 held in Sydney in November.
The congress returned to Australia for the first time in 46 years and the event attracted 5500 delegates from more than 115 countries.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon emphasised that the word 'accountant' derived from the word 'accountability' and EY Fellow for Trust and Ethics Clare Payne noted that with the current lack of trust in the world, individual accountability was becoming paramount.
You can read more of her thoughts in the December edition of Acuity magazine.
Economic historian Professor Niall Ferguson started the congress by delivering a keynote speech that noted not much had been learned from history and that international economic policies had not changed enough to stave off another global financial crisis.
A panel called "The truth about truth telling" discussed how accountants must sometimes make hard choices and become whistleblowers to maintain a company's integrity. Another panel – "Assurance of the future – building credibility and trust" – offered tools for developing trust with clients and colleagues.
In emphasising the ethics theme, the final keynote speeches on day two of the congress covered two major financial scandals – the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and massive fraud at Olympus – and their obvious effect on trust.
Diana Henriques, an investigative reporter and author who exposed Madoff's crimes, encouraged major financial firms to be always wary of their workers, no matter how trustworthy they appeared.
"The biggest risk for companies is those who know it the best."
Trust and legitimacy
Ethics and trust were also under the microscope at when Michael Izza joined FCA Ming Long, Dr Simon Longstaff AO FCPA FRSN, and Stavros Thomadakis to discuss how to build trust and legitimacy.
Janelle Hopkins FCA, Finance and Group Chief Financial Officer at Australia Post discussed the problems of transforming a business.
Brendan Hargreaves FCA and Kate Boorer CA explained how data and digits could make stakeholders say "yes" and Kristin Stubbins FCA and Ashley Carle CA discussed how technological change presented huge opportunities and significant challenges for audit.
David Allen, Thomson Reuters Sales Director, Asia and emerging markets, noted that Australian companies would spend more than A$40 billion a year combined on tax compliance reporting, but that technology could elevate tax accounting processes and solve many of the issues weighing accountants down.
A panel discussion revealed that RMIT had launched a 'serious game' called Bogart Technologies to bring to life the new IESBA Code of Ethics. Accountants can use the game to earn three CPD hours.
Richard Puffe, Senior Project Manager, Tax & Accounting, Thomson Reuters, noted that the way the world does business had changed fundamentally and that companies quick to deliver on connectedness would reap the benefits.
Another panel revealed that the Corporate Reporting Dialogue would launch a 'better alignment project' to bring together non-financial reporting frameworks. It will start on November 20 and run for two years.
A trio of global finance leaders told their audience that accountants had a significant role to play in transforming economies and societies and a later panel added that finance teams should be encouraged to experiment and fail.
Valuations were discussed by Simon Dalgarno, the Managing Director of Leadenhall Corporate Advisory Pty Ltd, and Rajeev Shah, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of RBSA Advisors, who said technology stock valuations had become 'crazy'. They emphasised that key fundamentals provided a guide to sound valuations.
A panel of Asian experts discussed the significant opportunities arising in China and ASEAN countries. They said accountants needed a clear strategy and value proposition to succeed. A trio of successful young accountants finished by saying the profession can change the world. Accountants should dare to question notions of value and measurements.
Embracing the evolving role of finance professionals and the future generation was the Generation Next program run by Olwyn Connolly, Leader of Engagement and Innovation at Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand. The program aims to open the perspective of accountants starting their careers.
"We thought long and hard how to best give them content that we hope would really make a difference with how they look at professional accountants and where their careers can go," Connolly said.
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