From CPE courses, seminars and conferences to publications and guidance materials, ISCA provides a range of initiatives to support different segments of the membership. We continually add to our CPE offerings, with new courses in emerging skills and knowledge areas. We also keep the profession updated on topical issues such as combating anti-money laundering and terrorism financing as well as latest developments in ethics. Publications such as the IS Chartered Accountant Journal provide readers with skills that enhances their knowledge and know-how.
ISCA is the voice of the profession in the application of existing and new accounting standards and accounting standards in emerging issues. This is achieved through the provision of technical support to members and stakeholders; issuance of technical guidance to promote and enhance quality, consistency and best practices’ outreach efforts to members and contribution towards the global accounting standard-setting process.
New CPE courses in emerging skills and knowledge areas, such as cryptocurrency, Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and cybersecurity were introduced in 2018 to meet the specific learning needs of our members. Additionally, the Institute continued to roll out courses on entrepreneurial skills, communication, presentation and business writing during the year.
At the same time, to meet demand for remote and on-demand learning, we expanded our library of online courses by partnering with an external e-learning course provider. The courses included bite-size programmes in areas like business partnering, strategic business planning and change management. New e-learning courses that focus on fraud investigation and transfer pricing were also developed in line with the Report of the Working Group on Legal & Accounting Services (April 2017). These are high-value niche specialisations that accountants can venture into.
To support nationwide efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, the Institute jointly developed a training programme with ACRA and the Chartered Secretaries Institute of Singapore (CSIS) for corporate service providers (CSP). The training programme helps to meet a Registered Filing Agent (RFA)’s needs in anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT). The training is also part of ACRA’s ongoing efforts to raise the professional standards of the CSP sector and to strengthen resilience against money laundering and terrorist financing.
ISCA’s Ethics Seminar, titled “Ethics Developments – Knowing Where to Draw the Line” explored how ethics is continually evolving, so that professional accountants may continue to act in the public interest.
Mr Kwok Wui San, immediate-past Chairman of ISCA Ethics Committee highlighted during his presentation on anti-money laundering that EP 200 requires professional accountants in public practice to have the necessary internal policies, procedures and controls.
The Chairman of ISCA Ethics Committee, Mr Tan Seng Choon provided participants with an indepth diagnosis on the revised Long Association provisions, highlighting the issues, key changes and why the need for change.
The participants also gained interesting and useful insights from Mr Hamidul Haq, Partner from Rajah and Tann LLP, who presented an overview of the corruption landscape and anticorruption laws in Singapore.
During her presentation on IESBA Updates, Ms Caroline Lee, Board Member, International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) brought to the audience’s attention IESBA’s restructured international ethics code, which includes enhancements to areas such as safeguards, professional judgement, professional scepticism and inducements.
In addition, ISCA once again organised the Budget Update Seminar for our members to learn about the proposed Budget 2018 measure and how it would affect them and their businesses. Held on 15 March, over 800 members attended the sell-out event that covered the highlights of the Budget, Singapore’s economic outlook against the backdrop of current economic factors like China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the aspiration to build a smart and inclusive nation.
The Working Group on Legal and Accounting Services, set up under the Committee on the Future Economy, made the recommendation for accountants to look beyond conventional accounting services and build future specialisations such as risk management. In this vein, the publication Risk Culture: How to Get It Right, co-authored with CIMA, EY and knowledge partner Aberdeen Standard Investments, was released in May.
The report sought to help members and the business community understand how good risk culture can facilitate business growth and achieve good governance. By providing them with issues and case studies to consider, the report aimed to help businesses make risk-responsive decisions in today’s dynamic business environment. The report was based on insights gathered from a series of interviews with business leaders of Singapore-based companies and a roundtable discussion with business leaders and investors, to gather perspectives on the practical takeaways.
The seminar “Embedding Intangible Assets Management in Your Strategy” on 3 October was organised in partnership with RSM Singapore to keep our members abreast of emerging issues relating to intellectual property. The audience learned the importance of strategic intangible asset management in maximising a company’s value and how unlocking the value of intangible assets can enable the company to gain a competitive advantage in today’s knowledge-based economy.
In August, ISCA unveiled the interactive Read & Reap Game, which replaced the First Look Quiz in the IS Chartered Accountant Journal. It encourages journal readers to read articles on-the-go on its mobile app. Readers are rewarded for answering questions on the articles in the latest issue. Read & Reap clinched two international awards: Winner, Website category at the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards 2018, which recognises achievements through communication strategy and creative execution; and the Platinum Award in the 2018 Hermes Creative Awards, an international competition for creative professionals in concept, writing and design of works in traditional and emerging media.
International Financial Reporting Standards are principles-based and often require the use of judgement in the application of accounting principles. ISCA provides the Technical Enquiry Service for its members, to assist them with their technical enquiries. The Technical Enquiry Service is supported by a team of technical staff, who will provide a written response to members’ queries. Where warranted, ISCA technical staff would speak to the member to discuss the issues further.
Being close to the ground, we see the issues faced by the accountancy profession. Where a matter is pervasive to the accounting profession, ISCA issues communiques to promulgate our views and guide the Singapore accountancy profession.
One example of such communiques is the series of five Tech Bites on the principles to consider when performing the solely payments of principal and interest on the principal amount outstanding test under SFRS(I) 9 Financial Instruments. These Tech Bites resulted from the deliberations by ISCA’s SFRS(I) 9 Financial Instruments Working Group that is formed under ISCA’s Financial Reporting Committee (FRC). This working group, chaired by Mr Chen Voon Hoe, is a platform for the financial services industry to discuss issues, challenges and resolutions.
Other pervasive accounting issues that relate to complex accounting areas were deliberated by ISCA’s FRC Core Sub-Committee chaired by Mr Reinhard Klemmer. This sub-committee is the technical accounting arm of ISCA’s FRC and comprises various technical accounting subject matter experts from the accounting firms. The deliberations resulted in the issuance of four Tech Bites in the following areas:
With the growth of digital companies and their increasing market capitalisation, much of the value of digital companies lies in volatile intangibles, which under existing accounting standards, would fail to be capitalised as assets on the financial statements. This balance sheet dilemma was discussed at the panel discussion during the ASC-ISCA Financial Reporting Technical Forum (Technical Forum) that was jointly organised by ISCA and the Singapore Accounting Standards Council (ASC) on 23 November 2018. The panel discussion was moderated by Mr Reinhard Klemmer (Chairman of ISCA’s FRC) and featured panelists – Mr. Hans Hoogervorst (Chair, International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)), Mr. Marcus Lam (Council Member, ASC) and Mr. Samba Natarajan (CEO, Singtel Group Digital Life).
During the Technical Forum, various representatives from the IASB also addressed key implementation questions relating to specific aspects of the revenue and leases standards raised by stakeholders in Singapore.
ISCA, together with the ASC, hosted the 10th Annual Asian-Oceanian Standard- Setters Group (AOSSG) meeting on 21-22 November 2018. The AOSSG meeting was attended by delegates from 20 national accounting standard-setters in the Asian-Oceanian region as well as key representatives from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and IFRS Foundation.
During the AOSSG meeting, there were discussions on challenges faced by countries in the Asian-Oceanian region when implementing IFRS and how international standard-setting could potentially address these challenges. Mr. Reinhard Klemmer (Chairman of ISCA’s FRC) also presented on three topics – lessons learnt from Singapore’s IFRS convergence journey; Singapore-specific challenges in applying IFRS 9 Financial Instruments and IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers; and performance reporting and the digital era.
After the AOSSG meeting, ISCA and ASC hosted the AOSSG delegates to a fintech experience by OCBC at The Open Vault (TOV). Delegates were given insights into fintech developments in the Singapore banking sector and visited artificial intelligence and fintech demo booths in TOV. The fintech experience offer the delegates valuable takeaways into the future of the financial sector that may provide inputs to future accounting standard-setting work arising from fintech developments.
ISCA and ASC also jointly organised the ASC-ISCA Financial Reporting Roundtable for CFOs and Users (Roundtable) on 23 November 2018. The Roundtable was attended by representatives from the IASB, preparers of financial statements, analysts as well as representatives from the accounting firms. One key topic discussed was the future of financial reporting and how financial statements could better communicate value of companies to the users.
We continued our collaboration with ACRA on the Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme in 2018 to enhance the quality of corporate financial reporting in Singapore by reviewing selected financial statements to ensure compliance with the prescribed accounting standards.
ISCA made some conforming amendments to EP 200 Implementation Guidance 1, which arose from the amendments to EP 200: Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism – Requirements and Guidelines for Professional Accountants in Singapore in 2017. This guidance comprised frequently asked questions to help professional accountants and professional firms implement the requirements in EP 200.
We issued EP 100 Implementation Guidance (IG) 2 on 14 March to provide clarification on the definition, identification and determination of key audit partners (KAPs), including terms such as “key decisions or judgment” and indicators to identify significant subsidiaries and divisions. The second section of EP 100 IG 2 included FAQs on certain illustrative scenarios to provide broad guidance when assessing if a partner is a KAP.
ISCA made amendments to the Long Association provisions in EP 100, which deal with familiarity and self-interest threats created when a firm uses the same senior personnel on an audit or assurance engagement over a long period of time. This arose from the final proposed amendments to the Long Association provisions issued by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) as part of its Long Association Project.
In June, we added new FAQs to the publication Enhanced Auditor Reporting – Implementation of New and Revised Standards. This was first published in November 2017 after a focus group discussion with our members, who detailed their experiences in the implementation of the auditor reporting standards as well as the practical challenges they faced. The new FAQs provided guidance on new practical implementation issues and where there were differences in the interpretation of the auditor reporting standards.
New FAQs were also published for the Auditor’s Report on Financial Statements Prepared in Accordance with Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (International) [SFRS(I)s], issued by the ASC. The SFRS (I) is Singapore’s equivalent of the International Financial Reporting Standards issued by IASB.
The Practitioner’s Package facilitates professional development in public accounting firms and provides technical support through ISCA’s quality assurance initiatives. The Practitioner’s Package comprises four components: CPE bundle, a 15% discount on CPE courses, Quality Assurance (QA) Diagnostic, and Technical Call Helpdesk. The Package can also be customised with optional add-ons to suit the needs of practitioners. The QA Diagnostic session is a oneoff high-level assessment aimed at helping public accounting firms identify gaps in their firm-level processes which may be affecting their audit quality. The Technical Call Helpdesk offers an alternative avenue to practitioners where they can seek technical clarifications over the phone on financial reporting, auditing and ethical matters.
Additionally, we have expanded the scope of our customised technical training to include EP 200, ISCA Audit Manual for Standalone Entities and other audit-related topics. ISCA’s Illustrative Financial Statements (IFS), crafted for a Singapore-incorporated private limited company whose financial statements are prepared in accordance with Financial Reporting Standards in Singapore (FRS), was also updated. The latest 2018 edition featured additional illustrations on investment properties, investment in joint venture, investment securities, pledged deposits and finance leases. It also included sample new disclosures required under FRS 109 Financial Instruments and FRS 115 Revenue from Contracts with Customers.
In terms of ongoing initiatives to enhance audit quality, our Quality Assurance Review Programme helps SMPs improve the quality of their audit engagements and firm practices by reviewing their signed-off audit engagement files and/or firm-level quality control systems which need to comply with the Singapore Standard on Quality Control (SSQC) 1, EP 200 and SSAs. The programme also suggests recommendations to public accountants on areas to improve.
The 7th SMP Dialogue, “The Know- Hows of SMP Consolidation”, which took place on 23 January 2018, provided practical advice for practitioners who were keen to explore mergers with or the acquisition of other firms, as well as insights into common valuation methods and market benchmarks.
Practice Leadership Workshop
We also organised a practice leadership workshop in April – “Building a Blueprint to Develop Sustainable Business Advisory Services” – to help members who were keen to grow their firms and expand into business advisory services. The two-day workshop provided guidance and toolkits for SMP practitioners, and participants had the opportunity to apply tools to deliver a business advisory engagement for a prospective client, based on real client data.
Audit Quality Seminar
The Audit Quality Seminar, held on 23 October, gave over 350 audit professionals valuable insights into ACRA’s 2018 Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP). ACRA touched on the audit deficiencies raised in its 2018 PMP report and how auditors could avoid the same pitfalls and improve the quality of audit work.
At the same time, ISCA launched the new Audit Manual for Group Entities, an illustrative guidance to assist audit professionals in carrying out group audits and apply SSA 600: Special Considerations – Audits of Group Financial Statements (Including the Work of Component Auditors).
Tech Lab Series
We have also continued the Tech Lab series (previously known as Technical Clinics), which provides a platform for public accountants to share and discuss technical issues in a focus group setting moderated by an experienced facilitator. There were six Tech Lab sessions in 2018, covering topics such as planning an effective and efficient audit, overcoming common pitfalls in the audit of inventories and trade receivables, challenges in auditing accounting estimates and how to overcome them, key auditing issues arising from the adoption of FRS 115, and accounting for and auditing cryptocurrencies.
The first of a series of CFO networking sessions for the year was organised in April, supported by BDO and United Overseas Bank. The first addressed strategic resourcing in the ever-changing business environment, while the latter provided a five-year outlook of the Singapore economy in relation to the 2018 Singapore Budget and highlighted the challenges the country would face in light of a rapidly ageing population.
Our Breakfast Talks series, which saw our members networking over breakfast and learning more about topical issues from subject matter experts, continued to be well-attended, with more than 80 members per session. Subjects explored ranged from technical issues like cybersecurity risk considerations in a financial statements audit, to business issues such as the challenges of modern financial reporting, as well as cryptocurrencies and the implementation of analytics.
The inaugural ISCA–Law Society Singapore networking evening in October allowed women in accountancy and law firms to mingle and explore business opportunities, reflecting the growing impetus for the legal and accounting professions to work closely together to enhance the competitiveness of the professional services sector.
We also jointly organised the third Singapore Stewardship Principles (SSP) Networking Series with the SSP Steering Committee on 23 March, to facilitate conversations on the importance of stewardship within the wider business and investment ecosystem, including investors and investee companies.
In May, ISCA embarked on the search for an outstanding Chartered Accountant to represent ISCA and Chartered Accountants Worldwide at the One Young World Summit 2018. The annual summit brings together young talent from global and national companies, non-governmental organisations, universities and other forward-thinking organisations worldwide. The eventual winner who represented ISCA was Jamie Ting, Business Planning and Governance Leader from Procter & Gamble Singapore. Jamie showed an impressive ability to connect with the judges through her clear articulation of thoughts and opinions. She joined over 1,800 other young leaders at the One Young World summit in the Netherlands in October to debate, formulate, connect and share innovative solutions for pressing issues facing the world today.
The inaugural ISCA Young Professionals Symposium was held on 6 August with the theme “Today’s Millennials, Tomorrow’s Leaders”. The conference aimed to pave the way for millennials in this transformative age and empower them with the knowledge and skills to boost their careers and be future-ready. Discussions included the evolving job market and the skills necessary to stay competitive, design thinking, as well as the latest FRS update, finance business partnering and sustainability. The Symposium concluded on a jubilant note, with the presentation of awards to the winner and finalists of the ISCA One Young World Competition 2018.
The past year also saw the establishment of the Young Finance Leaders Network, which comprises CFOs and Heads of Finance of large organisations/multinational corporations and partners from the Big 4 and selected mid-tier firms. This platform allows high achievers below the age of 45 to strengthen and expand their professional network, learn and share with their peers from different industries, and discuss trends and challenges. The Young Finance Leaders Network has held activities such as a digital leadership seminar and a get-together session. More activities, including roundtable discussions, networking events, lunchtime talks and company tours, are in the pipeline.
Organised by ISCA, and supported by ACRA, the Singapore Accountancy Awards are a mark of excellence for businesses and individuals, while promoting good practices and strengthening the branding of the profession. Singapore Accountancy Awards 2018 featured two new categories – Special Recognition Award and Project Excellence Awards. Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary for Finance, was the Guest of Honour at the awards ceremony in September.
The Singapore Accountancy Awards 2018 comprised three main award categories, the “Business Excellence Awards”, the newly added “Project Excellence Awards” and the “Individual Excellence Awards”. The Special Recognition Award was given to senior ISCA members who had continued to make significant contributions to the accountancy sector beyond retirement.
The Project Excellence Awards category recognised innovative finance teams for their ability to transform with the times. Comprising the Best Finance Transformation Project Awards for Private and Public Sectors, the Project Excellence Awards aimed to recognise finance teams which had leveraged innovation and technology to improve operational effectiveness and business performance.
The Business Excellence Awards sought to honour practices which were leaders in innovation, talent management, diversity, client service, and corporate social responsibility. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, these attributes are important for firms to sustain and grow their practice. The awards were open to all accounting practices registered in Singapore. In 2018, the Business Excellence Awards were expanded to four categories, the Best Practice Award, Growth Award, Innovation Award, and the People & Talent Award.
Young finance professionals who displayed exemplary efforts towards their personal development were recognised in the Rising Star Awards. The awards were open to accounting professionals aged 35 and below and employed in a Singapore company.
ISCA conferred honorary lifetime memberships to three government officials in 2018. They are Mr Benny Lim, Chairman of National Parks Board; Mr David Chew, Director of Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force and Mr Wong Hong Kuan, Deputy Secretary (Development) of the Ministry of National Development.
The honorary membership is a privilege accorded on an exceptional basis to distinguished individuals who are non-ISCA members. It is conferred to individuals who have made significant contributions to the accountancy sector and wider business community. Honorary Members are elected by the ISCA Council from among those who have rendered service to the profession and business community and who are not members of ISCA.
Finally, to encourage our members to continually uphold high standards in the course of their work, we honoured outstanding listed companies and individuals who displayed exemplary corporate governance practices at the Singapore Corporate Awards on 18 July. Jointly organised with the Singapore Institute of Directors and The Business Times, the black-tie gala dinner lived up to its reputation as the “Oscars of the Singapore business world”. ISCA was the award organiser for the Best Chief Financial Officer award and Best Annual Report award, given to three individuals and 14 listed companies respectively.