By the time you read this Annual Report, the first quarter of 2020 would have passed. There is something about the start of a brand-new decade that connotes fresh beginnings and the start of a new journey. But before one starts on any endeavour, having clarity of vision is key. If you have a clear end in mind, you will have a clearer picture of how to get there.
The theme of this annual report is “Visionary Excellence”, which highlights how our vision of being a world-class organisation continually inspires us to strive towards excellence in all we do. Our vision to be world-class is underpinned by these four elements: inclusiveness, innovation, infrastructure and impact. Over the past year, we have continued to progress along these lines.
To be world-class, we must first get the fundamentals right. And, this relates to the core of what we do and why we do things. The Institute is here to serve our members, and member-centricity lies at the heart of all our initiatives. For us to make firm progress towards our vision in an evolving business landscape, we must also be bold, steadfast and resolute in implementing our plans. With these in mind, we have refreshed our vision, which will take effect from 2021:
To be a world-class accountancy body of trusted professionals, contributing towards an innovative and sustainable economy.
Our renewed vision is supported by our refreshed mission statements, represented by the acronym R.I.S.E.
R.I.S.E. stands for:
Over the course of 2019, we have launched new initiatives as well as work on our ongoing initiatives that support our members and the profession. Let me highlight some of the new initiatives we rolled out last year.
Last year, I have had the privilege of speaking with many members, students and employers. What is clear from the conversations we have had is that we are living in a time of unprecedented change for the accountancy profession, and the pace of digitalisation will only accelerate in the years to come. As such, we need to be adaptable to ride the wave of uncertainty, and one way to be adaptable is to be multi-skilled.
ISCA supports our members in this aspect by providing pathways for them to acquire specialised skills that are in demand. One of these specialisation pathways is the Infrastructure & Project Finance Qualification (ISCA IPFQ), which we developed in collaboration with EY Singapore. We launched the ISCA IPFQ at the ISCA Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Conference, which kicked off our signature Singapore Accountancy and Audit Convention series, in July 2019. Asia’s infrastructure sector is set to boom over the next decade. The introduction of the ISCA IPFQ is in line with the government’s efforts to harness Singapore’s infrastructure development ecosystem in support of Asia’s infrastructure growth. With the qualification, we aim to support the sector’s training needs for skilled talent by providing a pathway for our members who are accountancy professionals to specialise in this growing field.
What is expected of accountancy professionals has also evolved. Accountancy professionals are now looked upon as business partners to provide business insights to improve decision-making and explain the story behind numbers.
To equip accountancy professionals with relevant skills for Industry 4.0, we launched the Professional Business Accountant (PBA) programme, which leads to the ISCA PBA designation. Aligned to the ISCA Professional Accountants in Business Framework, besides technical excellence and ethics, the programme also covers topics in areas like future finance, business acumen and leadership.
ISCA issued several new and revised auditing and assurance standards in 2019. They included the revised AGS 9 Opinion on Receipts, Expenditure, Investment of Moneys and the Acquisition and Disposal of Assets by Statutory Boards, AGS 1 Sample Independent Auditor’s Reports, SAP 2 (Revised), Auditors and Public Offering Documents, and SSA 540 (Revised), Auditing Accounting Estimates and Related Disclosures.
Apart from issuing new standards for the Singapore market, the Institute also contributed towards the global standard-setting process. The Institute organised focus groups to gather feedback on the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board’s (IAASB) proposals regarding quality control in accountancy firms and helping audit professionals apply the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs). Feedback and suggestions from the focus group participants were provided to IAASB. In October 2019, the Accounting Standards Council (ASC) and ISCA co-organised a stakeholder outreach session with International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) member Mr Darrel Scott. The session was attended by representatives from accounting firms as well as Singapore’s banking and insurance industry.
In November 2019, the Institute issued the Financial Reporting Codification Framework. By establishing formal categories, degrees of authority and due process for the issuance of any technical contents by ISCA, the Framework establishes credence to ISCA technical contents, promulgate the Institute’s view and promote and enhance quality, consistency and best practices to uphold technical excellence.
The Institute also issued guidance on FRG 1 “Real Property Valuation for Financial Reporting – Best practices when engaging valuers: Considerations for Scope of Work (SOW) and Valuation Report (VR)”. The guidance provides the reporting entity, valuer and auditor with a better understanding of the real estate valuation process and the requirements of the relevant accounting standards.
At ISCA, we recognise that the accountancy profession is in a prime position to seize the opportunities in this rapidly changing business landscape. Together with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC), we launched the Accountancy Industry Digital Plan to help SMPs embark on their digital transformation journey and adopt technology for greater productivity and competitiveness. The plan focuses on three strategies: enhancing digital skills and knowledge; promoting the adoption of technology; and developing accounting technology and innovations.
To prepare SMPs for a digital future, ISCA also collaborated with Singapore Polytechnic to offer a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) course for employees of SMPs. Upon completion of the course, participating firms would have implemented at least one RPA function in their organisation. We expect over 100 SMPs to benefit from this programme over the next few years.
We have also established the Virtual SMP Centre – an online platform to serve the needs of SMPs as they embark on their digitalisation journey. SMPs can use the online self-assessment toolkit to determine their stage of digital readiness, identify digital solutions and training programmes, and source for available funding schemes.
While we upskill and reskill the professional competencies of accountancy professionals, there is also a need for ISCA to foster the talent pipeline. With this in mind, we have introduced the Youth Associate (ISCA) membership. This enables accountancy undergraduates from local universities to learn about the various career pathways in the accountancy profession by engaging with industry professionals through events organised by ISCA. The membership also builds brand awareness and preference for ISCA among the younger demographic segment. With the Youth Associate (ISCA) membership, we also aim to encourage more students, especially the brightest among them, to remain in the profession after graduation. The Youth Associates would also be in a better position to persuade their younger friends to be part of ISCA and the profession after graduation. Response has been positive, and there are already more than 800 students who have signed up as ISCA Youth Associates in 2019.
Last year, the Institute launched the ISCA Digital Badges, along with the Chartered Accountants Worldwide Network Member Logo. These two initiatives provide new ways to raise the visibility of our members’ credentials in an increasingly online world. Unlike paper certificates, Digital Badges enable members to share their professional achievements with just a few clicks on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook as well as on their email signature, digital resume and business cards. Besides the ISCA Digital Badges, the Chartered Accountants Worldwide Network Member Logo shows that members who are Chartered Accountants are part of a wider global network of leading professional accountancy institutes, lending credence to our members and the Institute they belong to.
ISCA continues to expand our network and influence in our pursuit of becoming a globally recognised professional accountancy body. At the same time, we are working to open more doors for our members in the global marketplace. As ISCA elevates its brand internationally, the stature and employability of ISCA members will correspondingly be enhanced across international markets. Being part of a globally recognised brand heightens our members’ employability globally, bringing them greater career portability, market access and professional recognition.
Last year, we carried out capacity-building projects in the region, such as providing training on ISCA’s Audit Manual for Standalone Entities (AMSE) in Vietnam, and ISCA’s Audit Manual for Group Entities in Myanmar. Together with the Singapore University of Social Sciences, ISCA provided training in areas such as principles of accounting, professional ethics, and Singapore’s fiscal policy for the Laos Ministry of Public Works and Transport. The Institute also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnam Association of Certified Public Accountants for the translation, publication and distribution of ISCA’s AMSE in Vietnam.
In November 2019, the Institute hosted the ASEAN Federation of Accountants (AFA) Council Meeting in Singapore. In conjunction with the meeting, ISCA’s Financial Reporting Committee (ISCA FRC) and AFA held the ISCA FRCAFA Financial Reporting & Business Conference, which brought together about 180 delegates across ASEAN to discuss updates on financial reporting, such as IFRS 9 Financial Instruments and IFRS 16 Leases.
On the international front, Council member Professor Chan Yoke Kai was appointed to the International Federation of Accountant’s (IFAC) International Panel on Accountancy Education (IPAE). The panel provides more avenues for ISCA to serve the public interest, contribute to professional accounting education as well as expand ISCA’s network with countries beyond ASEAN. This, in turn, reinforces ISCA’s position as a leading professional accountancy body on the global stage.
We are living in a time of unprecedented change. One area that has changed significantly is the tax landscape, with the increased complexity in tax developments. Back in 2010, ISCA, in partnership with the Tax Academy, set up a subsidiary, the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIATP), to support ISCA members specialising in tax. Today, there is a need to widen SIATP’s ambit beyond serving accountancy-trained tax professionals to include a wider audience. To facilitate its next stage of development, SIATP will operate as an independent entity by the second quarter of 2020, while continuing to work closely with ISCA to support tax professionals in Singapore. ISCA will not receive any consideration for the withdrawal. The net assets of SIATP as at 31 December 2019 amounted to $1.5 million. The results of SIATP from 1 January 2020 up to point of withdrawal from ISCA are not expected to have a significant financial effect.
At ISCA, we will continue to deliver value to our members via our varied initiatives, to enable them to realise their professional aspirations. For the Institute to continue to equip our members to be “future-fit”, we will continue to do more for our members and the profession so that we can be a world-class accountancy body of trusted professionals, contributing towards an innovative and sustainable economy.
I look forward to your continued support, as you always have. ISCA’s achievements today would not have been possible without members like you, walking hand in hand with us, as we strive to transform ISCA’s vision into reality.
On this note, I thank my fellow Council members and the team at ISCA for working with me to pave the way for our members and the profession to step confidently into the age of Industry 4.0. I look forward to working with them in the year ahead to support the development of the profession. As always, I welcome your continued support and feedback.
Kon Yin Tong