The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming economies around the world at an exponential pace. How should we, as a profession, evolve in a world of rapid change?
To address this, the Institute has been working to prepare our members for the future economy, including establishing more avenues to connect them to opportunities worldwide and providing more opportunities for enhancing their skill sets, as well as resources for members to understand and utilise technology.
REACHING GREATER HEIGHTS
ISCA is currently in the third phase of the Institute’s Strategic Roadmap – Intensifying Global Prominence. As such, 2017 has been a fruitful year of expansion and widened horizons for ISCA. It has been satisfying because we have made important progress in further establishing our global and regional branding, which will, in turn, benefit our members.
In the past year, we signed RMAs with three founding members of Chartered Accountants Worldwide – ICAEW, ICAS and CAI.
The RMAs enable ISCA members who have attained the Singapore CA Qualification to become members of these globally recognised accountancy bodies without having to fulfill additional professional or educational requirements. With the RMAs, members are offered greater career mobility and professional recognition in an increasingly globalised business environment.
We also attained full membership to Chartered Accountants Worldwide – a global body of leading chartered accountancy bodies around the world.
ISCA’s admission as a full member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide is an important milestone for the Institute. We are the first accountancy body in Asia to be accorded full membership status, which is recognition of our high standards of professionalism and ethics.
We also inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Myanmar Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) to co-develop the accountancy profession in Myanmar through capability-building programmes. Myanmar and Singapore can also look forward to more new business opportunities as efforts have been made to help practitioners from both sides to interact and build professional networks.
On a recent trip to Myanmar organised by ISCA, practitioners from nine local firms joined the delegation. We are pleasantly surprised to learn that three of them have established links with the SMPs in Myanmar. We hope that this development will grow, and similar tie-ups can be made with the SMPs in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
As part of the capability-building programmes, ISCA will also conduct training on the “ISCA Audit Manual for Standalone Entities” and Micro Accounting Model.
The ISCA-developed accounting model for micro entities operating in ASEAN is a simplified financial framework for small companies. Suitable for use in countries where the accounting profession is not well established, the Model keeps within the financial reporting parameters of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and full International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and provides a uniform and credible structure for the accounting of small companies. Standard-setters and national professional accounting bodies can use the Model as a starting point towards eventually adopting international accounting standards. The Model is a useful tool in helping to raise the overall standards of the profession in emerging and developing countries, thereby contributing towards stronger investor confidence. When ISCA presented this Model at this year’s United Nations Conference on Trade and Development - International Standards on Accounting and Reporting (UNCTAD-ISAR) session, it was very well-received.
Such initiatives have significantly enhanced the value of the ISCA membership and elevated our visibility on an international level, providing greater career portability for our members and opening up more opportunities for them in high-growth regions.
From September 2015 to October 2017, ISCA chaired the ACPACC. As ACPACC chair, ISCA was responsible for ensuring the successful implementation of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Accountancy Services (MRAA), signed by all ASEAN Trade Ministers in 2014 to liberalise trade in services among ASEAN countries, and promote the acceptance of the ASEAN CPA title in the region. Those with the ASEAN CPA title can provide non-regulated accountancy services in ASEAN without having to go through extensive re-training and re-qualification procedures. This provides more opportunities for accounting professionals and firms in ASEAN markets, and facilitates trade in services in the region. As at end February 2018, 218 ISCA members have been conferred the ASEAN CPA title.
RISING WITH THE TIMES
The evolution of technology and business models in Singapore, regionally and globally, means that accountants now have a greater ambit in terms of work opportunities, but this similarly means we need to adapt and transform with the times to remain relevant.
There are growth opportunities for the profession in this fast-changing landscape. For example, there is a world of possibilities for using blockchain technology beyond crypto currencies, for instance in areas such as foreign exchange dealings and keeping of trustees. It is only the beginning, and those who can seize the opportunities will certainly have an edge over the rest.
In today’s technology-driven era, new knowledge and skills, such as enterprise risk management, business analytics, cyber security and forensic accounting, are in demand. To ensure that skill sets of our members continue to remain relevant to the changing needs of the workplace, ISCA has been developing specialisation pathways to enable our members to enter such high-growth practice areas.
In 2017, we announced the launch of the ISCA FFA qualification, the first such qualification offered by a professional body in Southeast Asia. The Institute has also collaborated with the Singapore University of Social Sciences to launch the Business Analytics certification programme, which will equip professional accountants with the relevant data analytics skills, in the first quarter of 2018.
Project financing knowledge is another area that is in great demand in the region as ASEAN countries look to develop their infrastructure. As this new avenue with high growth potential is being opened, ISCA is looking into developing a specialisation pathway in this area.
In addition to specialisation pathways, Continuing Professional Education (CPE) continues to be one of the core focus areas for the Institute. It is important that we develop courses that help our members keep pace with changes. To further enhance the relevance and value of our CPE programmes, we have revised our CPE offerings and set up a new CPE Committee in 2017. The Committee will provide strategic guidance on the development of CPE programmes that are aligned with SkillsFuture’s Skills Framework of Accountancy. It will also identify emerging training needs and translate them into CPE programmes.
SUPPORTING ISCA’S DIVERSE MEMBERSHIP
While we aim to empower our members to achieve their professional aspirations, we recognise that our members hail from diverse backgrounds and strive to meet their varied needs. Besides expanding the range of CPE courses, ISCA will also be rolling out seminars targeted at different membership segments in 2018. For public accountants, more effort will be poured into encouraging the use of technology as an enabler to transform practice firms. We are also encouraging SMPs to leverage consolidation and collaboration strategies for sustainable growth. For professional accountants in business, being able to be a strategic partner to business requires skill sets such as financial analysis, communication, and harnessing financial insights to influence business decisions. To that end, the Institute will provide avenues for these professionals to develop their skill sets in business partnering.
To engage young professionals who are aged 35 and below, the Institute provides platforms for young accountants to expand their professional network, as well as learn and share with their peers from other industries to broaden their perspectives and expand their knowledge. There will be a symposium targeted at young professionals to keep them informed of trends and developments shaping the future economy. We will also continue to have career pathway talks for young accounting professionals to hear from experienced professionals in diverse fields.
Additionally, the Institute is launching the ISCA SMP Learning Roadmap in 2018. A similar learning roadmap for accountants in SMEs will be developed in the future. These learning roadmaps will support Singapore’s move towards a skills-based economy and enable our members to take charge of their career development by laying out the recommended skills at each level and the available learning opportunities.
GUIDING YOUR JOURNEY
ISCA is also supporting companies as they adopt Sustainability Reporting (SR) to comply with Singapore Exchange (SGX) rules that listed companies adopt SR from the financial year ended 31 December 2017. Apart from promoting discussions on SR and helping early-stage SR adopters to kick-start their journey, ISCA launched the SR Implementation Roadmap in September 2017. As the concept of SR may be new to many, we developed the roadmap to help accounting professionals in organisations formulate and execute their plans to achieve a smooth implementation of SR. To promote high-quality assurance SR services, the Institute will also be working with subject matter experts to develop a SR assurance framework. This will establish a level playing field for SR assurance services.
Additionally, ISCA is developing a guidance to create awareness on the role of auditors in cybersecurity, and how cyber threats can impact financial reporting and audit procedures.
With these resources, we aim to ensure members are updated on latest developments in the profession, and are equipped with the knowledge and skills that enable you to add value to businesses.
Achieving success is not just about doing more, but also deciding to discontinue activities that do not or no longer contribute to our goals. I had mentioned in the last Annual General Meeting about the plan to divest our education arm, SAA Global Education (SAA-GE). We have since completed the sale of SAA-GE. In the same vein, we have also sold our stake in Elite Building, a six-storey property which once housed SAA-GE and the Institute’s corporate premises. The divestments enable ISCA to better focus our efforts in developing the accountancy profession where we continue to meet your interests and needs. This will include directing our activities in preparing our members to be future-ready.
Like all professions, we must prepare ourselves for a changing future. There has been much discussion over how technology disruption might impact the accountancy profession. I would like to highlight that whatever changes are on the horizon in terms of work, technologies, skills and so forth, the true value proposition for accountants is trust and the ability to analyse and discern. I hope that while we continue to acquire new knowledge and venture beyond Singapore, we will also continue to build on our virtues – competence, resilience and integrity.
My term as President ends in April 2018. I would like to thank you for your unwavering support all these years. It has been an honour serving you alongside my fellow council members, as well as the ISCA management team and staff. Together, we have achieved much through their dedication and hard work, and to them, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and thanks. With a strong management team in the cockpit, together with the astute leadership of the Council, I am confident the Institute will soar to even greater heights.
With your continued support, we look forward to making greater progress towards our vision of becoming a globally recognised professional accountancy body, bringing value to our members, the profession and the wider community.
Dr Gerard Ee