By Neil Stevenson, executive director of Brand, ACCA
On Monday we hosted our annual Global Symposium of forum members. This one day event brings together the chairs of all the Global Forums from around the world.
Launched in September 2011, the Global Forums are strategically important to ACCA. They bring together leading employers, members and other subject matter experts from 33 countries to help shape and inform our policy; they provide a unique international perspective drawn from best practice from around the world; and they help ACCA to increase reputation and influence with employers, policy makers, regulators and standard setters.
The Global Forums offer ACCA several opportunities.
- By bringing together groups of experts from around the world – from the public and private sectors, public practice and academia – they can ensure that ACCA makes a difference through our contribution to policy development and technical thinking.
- The Forums help us to enrich the input we get from our research and from expert opinion.
- They enable us to further the thinking and discussion on current and future issues in the accountancy and finance professions.
The challenge for the profession will be the need to prove its value – to prove its public value. ACCA has been a strong champion of public value. It means acting in the public interest, promoting ethical businesses and growing the economy. This is at the heart of everything we do as a professional body and I know this is an ethos shared by our Global Forum members and wider ACCA membership.
It is our job to continue to be a voice which not only stands for excellence, but also challenges convention in the interests of developing a strong and more relevant global profession, which puts public value first.
I would like to highlight some of the successes of the global forums to give everyone here a sense of the impact they are making. Many of the forums contributed to our global virtual conference, Accounting for the Future, last year, which achieved over 15,000 delegates.
The success of the ACCA-IMA Accountants for Business Global Forum, which acts as a think tank to consider how finance leaders are responding to the issues they face, has also been considerable. The range of issues discussed by the Forum is significant, reflecting the breadth of challenges facing CFOs and the finance functions they lead. In October 2012, the Forum published its first paper The Changing Role of the CFO. The paper used insights from a number of CFO roundtables held in New York, Zurich, Shanghai and Moscow. The report identifies a number of key areas such as growing regulation, the impact of technology, the focus on talent and capability, and growing interest in the need for commercial insight as shaping the CFO role.
Another area where global forums have played a significant role is in the critical debate around audit. Members of the Global Forum for Audit and Assurance gave expert views on the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board’s proposals to improve the auditor’s report.
Their views were used extensively in ACCA’s formal written response to the IAASB’s related Invitation to Comment on ways to improve the audit report. This was a significant consultation! We are also pleased to see that former ACCA President Brendan Murtagh now sits on the IAASB.
Elsewhere, the Global Forum for the Public Sector hosted ACCA’s fourth International Public Sector Conference in December of 2012. The event – ‘Rebalancing the economy – boosting growth’ – included high-profile speakers such as: Brian Quinn from the World Bank, Mario Marcel from the OECD and Richard Hughes from the IMF. In January, the forum published the policy paper Setting high professional standards for public services around the world. The paper addresses a number of key areas ranging from what ACCA thinks on public financial management to financial reporting standards for public services and has attracted a great deal of media interest.
I was also delighted to see the Global Forum for Corporate Reporting represented at ACCA’s International Assembly, when chair Lorraine Holleway presented alongside Hans Hoogervorst, chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board.
Our work on SMEs has also been at the centre of global debate. The Global Forum for SMEs published a paper called Access to Finance for SMEs: A Global Agenda. This urges governments to take greater policy action to help SMEs access finance. It was issued in time for a meeting of the G20. The work of the forum also feeds into the European debate through FEE and other bodies. This global forum is also gaining considerable media coverage for its activities, with its work on access to finance and the role of accountants receiving more than 100 pieces of press coverage in the past few months!
ACCA has been at the forefront of the sustainability debate for many years, and the Global Forum for Sustainability has been leading the charge in the past year. It has conducted research which asked Is Natural Capital a Material Issue? I am pleased to see we continue to collaborate with many organisations in this area, including KPMG and Fauna and Flora International.
In autumn 2012, the Accountancy Futures Academy published the report 100 Drivers of Change for the Global Accountancy Profession which identified 100 emerging drivers for change that directly or indirectly impact business and the accountancy profession. The report has also attracted significant interest from professional bodies and business around the world. And it has been used as a source for the development of our own future strategy.
This is just a snapshot of the work undertaken by the Forums. Through their activities I believe ACCA can lead the way by demonstrating we are at the helm of understanding key issues affecting not only the accountancy profession, but governments, policy makers, the drivers of business and financial behaviour as well as employers and the wider global economy.