In life, it is useful to develop contrarian thinking, to zig when others zag. It is human nature to focus on those who are ahead. We tend to think the opportunities are in developed countries, when there are in fact vast untapped opportunities for the profession in emerging economies. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s World Economic Outlook, Myanmar was the world's fastest growing economy in 2016. And Vietnam is projected to be one of the fastest growing economies in ASEAN in 2017.
It is in these emerging economies that there is great need for accounting and business talent. That's the reason why we are working on collaboration opportunities with the accountancy bodies of emerging countries. We signed an MoU with the LCPAA in January 2016, and we are working on similar arrangements for Myanmar and Cambodia.
These are among our initiatives to deliver greater value to you, as we continue into the second year of the third transformation phase of our Strategic Roadmap 2020, "Strategic Plan 2016-2018: Intensifying Global Prominence", taking another significant step towards our vision to become a globally recognised professional accountancy body.
I am pleased to bring you an overview of the key initiatives and activities that took place over the year.
Strengthened Our Standing in Singapore and Beyond
As the business landscape continues to evolve amid the backdrop of globalisation, we have been intensifying our efforts to become a globally recognised professional accountancy body. In 2016, we continued to strengthen our positioning within and beyond Singapore, through collaborations with local and international counterparts.
Within the ASEAN region, we played a pivotal role in the ASEAN Federation of Accountants (AFA) to advance the role of accountancy in the AEC. The AFA Accounting Standards Group (AASG), which ISCA chairs, identified that promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is important as they are the major driving force of economy. However, it will be an onerous task for micro entities of developing ASEAN countries to fully adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) given that these countries do not have the critical mass of qualified accountants who possess the necessary knowledge of accrual accounting, which is the bedrock of IFRS. Hence, ISCA developed the Micro Accounting Model (MAM), an intuitive framework which contains significant simplifications to a number of areas, including accounting for financial instruments. This will help small businesses in developing countries transit to accrual accounting and eventually adopt international accounting standards. This initiative generated keen interest among the developing ASEAN countries.
Our MoU with LCPAA is an example of our increased efforts to develop the accountancy profession in ASEAN and heighten our presence in the region. It paves the way for both parties to explore opportunities for co-developing Laos' accountancy profession through capability-building programmes.
As chartered accountants, we have a wealth of professional skills, knowledge and expertise that are vital to fostering business growth in developing economies. Hence, I encourage you to sign up as a trainer for the Train the Trainers Programme, and thereafter make a difference to the profession and the economy in Laos by volunteering your expertise.
In addition — under the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement Framework on Accountancy Services (MRAA) — a full/associate member of ISCA who is a national of an ASEAN member state will soon be able to apply to be an ASEAN Chartered Professional Accountant (ACPA) through ISCA.
All ACPAs are legally allowed to provide accountancy services (except audit and other domestically regulated services) in other ASEAN markets. We have completed Singapore's assessment statement, based on a list of criteria, to assess all ACPA applications. Once the assessment statement is approved, applications for ACPA registrations will be open. The MRAA will expand market access to the rest of ASEAN, presenting new opportunities to our members.
Further enhancing our presence on a global scale, we collaborated with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to organise "Our Future Together", an event that brings together professionals from diverse fields and accountancy undergraduates to discuss the future of accountancy. A report capturing the key insights and perspectives arising from the event was produced, covering issues ranging from new business models arising from disruptive technologies to how the role of accountants will change in the future. This was subsequently shared with the Committee on the Future Economy.
For the third consecutive year, I represented ISCA to share our experience at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development - International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (UNCTAD-ISAR)'s 33rd session and was elected as Chair for a one-year term. At the Professional Accountancy Organisation (PAO) Regional Forum organised by the Centre of Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR) and the World Bank Group, on behalf of ISCA, I shared how we addressed the challenges we faced over the years in building a sustainable professional accountancy organisation.
Overall, these initiatives have significantly elevated the profile of ISCA members at international platforms and opened up opportunities for them in high-growth regions.
Meeting Your Needs in an Ever-Changing World
At ISCA, we keep a finger on the pulse of latest developments in the profession to ensure we are in tune and in sync with our members' needs. We always keep members updated with the latest accounting standards through different avenues such as courses, journals, forums and seminars. These include the new FRS: 116 Leases standard, and the introduction of Sustainability Reporting for listed companies by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on a comply or explain basis.
The profession works in the public interest and lives by a strong code of ethics. To help members navigate complex real-life situations, we developed the ISCA Ethics Case Files, which references real-life cases of members who failed to uphold ethical standards. These serve as a reminder for members who may find themselves in similar situations. In September 2016, we introduced the ISCA Animated Ethics Series, a series of animated videos featuring scenarios of accountants in ethical dilemmas. Members can watch these videos to find out how the characters handle the situations ethically.
We also launched the new ISCA Audit Manual for Standalone Entities. This publication serves as a guide to help audit professionals understand and apply the Singapore Standards on Auditing. A soft copy of the manual has been made available to members on a complimentary basis. In the same year, we collaborated with the Singapore CFO Institute (SCFOI) to roll out the inaugural ISCA-SCFOI Mentoring Programme, offering those who aspire to be Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) an avenue to learn and gain advice from experienced mentors.
In view of the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment, we noticed that there is an emerging need for accountants to acquire diverse skill sets to add value to businesses and readily adapt to the increasingly complex business environment. In 2016, we offered qualified ISCA members an accelerated pathway to Certified Internal Auditor® (CIA®) designation via the ISCA-CIA Challenge Exam. We also launched the new affiliate membership class designed for non-graduates who aspire to become accountants. In addition, we signed an MoU with the Singapore Human Resource Institute to collaborate on broadening the skill sets of accounting and HR professionals.
With every industry being disrupted by technology in its own way, it is important to anticipate the impending changes and prepare the profession accordingly with new capabilities and new skills. It is important for the profession to continually "learn, unlearn and relearn", to quote futurist Alvin Toffler. In anticipation of the changes brought forth by disruption, we will be refreshing our offerings for Continuing Professional Education (CPE), and introducing more sophisticated learning methods such as blended learning that integrates e-learning into traditional classroom sessions, and new certification programmes in various areas. At present, we have introduced the Certificate in SME Accounting: Fundamental Skills & Judgement in Applying FRSs, and the Advanced Certificate in Business Analytics and Reporting (BAR). We will also be rolling out certifications in risk management in 2017.
Giving Back to the Community
Education ensures the continuity of the accountancy talent pipeline, and part of ISCA's commitment to developing the profession is reaching out to and providing learning opportunities for the less privileged.
In November 2015, we set up the ISCA Cares charity to build a compassionate and caring accountancy community that actively contributes to the society. One of its key schemes is the ISCA Cares Education Programme, which aims to provide needy Singapore youths access to quality education in accountancy. Through this initiative, we were privileged to support 15 beneficiaries with our first batch of bursaries, at a total of S$55,000 within the first 10 months of its launch.
We managed to achieve all these not with our own effort but by working in tune and in sync with our members and stakeholders. With your continued support and participation, we will continue to deliver greater value by further enhancing professional recognition of the ISCA membership, not just in Singapore, but also in the region and beyond.
As more progress is made toward regional integration within the AEC, more career and business opportunities will arise in ASEAN.
I encourage you to look beyond Singapore and explore opportunities that are relevant to your skill sets, as you continue to grow your professional standing and acquire new skills and knowledge with us.
It has been a privilege to serve you once again as ISCA’s President since my re-election in 2016. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow council members who have served passionately, as well as the management team and staff for their commitment, dedication and good work. As a membership-based institute, ISCA exists to serve our members. Without you, ISCA would not have existed. I would, therefore, like to thank you for your continued support.
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