20 Oct 2017
Nine exemplary young Chartered Accountants from around the world travelled to Bogota Colombia from 4 – 7 October, to participate in the global One Young World Summit , where around 8,000 young leaders from 196 countries address the challenges facing the world.
Chartered Accountants Worldwide annually sponsors a group of young Chartered Accountants, aged between 18 and 35, from across its member bodies to take part in the youth leadership summit, where they demonstrated how the analytical and problem solving skills of a Chartered Accountant can contribute to improving the world we live in.
ISCA, being a member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, held a competition to select among our members, a young leader to represent us at the One Young World Summit.
Here are the highlights of ISCA's delegate, Ashiq Chu and the other delegates' experiences during the One Young World 2017.
Inspired to drive change
Muhammad Ashiq Chu (Singapore)
For Muhammad Ashiq Chu, an Assistant Manager in PwC Singapore’s General Assurance team, participation in the One Young World summit served as an inspiration to do more to drive positive change.
An overarching theme at the summit, he says, was that the world will experience ongoing disruption and change. “What that means to me as a Chartered Accountant is that we must be nimble and have more foresight in how we deal with things. Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to be bogged down by past financial data or try to make sense of some financial forecast which is put together by people in the business side of things. However, I believe that the accounting industry needs to become the disruptors in the industry, as we try to make use of new technologies to challenge some of the status quo and to allow us to be the thought leaders in business.”
Chu says One Young World highlighted the fact that the private sector can contribute to taking action and making a difference around the world.
“The impression that only activists, humanitarians or entrepreneurs can make a difference was largely dispelled at the summit, as I saw many delegates within the private sector engaging in many meaningful and impactful projects all around the world,” he says.
“In fact, many corporate leaders from multinational corporations were also counsellors and speakers, who shared how they were willing to engage and support social innovation initiatives that can make a difference. I have been very fortunate that PwC Singapore has always been a strong proponent for social activities, including giving me opportunities to contribute to the community on several occasions. From the summit, I have now a renewed vigour to embark on more projects, in particular by using the skills sets that I have as a Chartered Accountant, to make a difference in my community and beyond.”
He believes the accounting profession remains challenged in showing itself to be relevant in a fast-moving and ever-changing business environment: “As Chartered Accountants, we need to be able to keep up with this pace, and show our relevance by being able to offer quick insights, make better judgements but also continue to maintain that responsibility to the shareholders and stakeholders who expect us to make decisions that are beneficial to them.”
However, he believes the accounting function remains one of the central functions in any business. “Being central to many decision making activities in business, we are best placed to consistently remind others of the UN SDGs. As accountants, we are also the best partners in measuring an entity's performance in meeting the SDGs. Metrics and performance indicators can help keep any entity on track towards the SDGs and we are best placed to provide analysis on this.”
“Chartered Accountants play an important role in being the custodians of business. With the knowledge and experience that we have in corporate governance issues, legal and regulatory matters and by being responsible in ensuring that the entity we work for is at the forefront of these matters will give shareholders and stakeholders more trust in the business,” he notes. “We must be brave to speak up against actions that go against the core values of the accounting profession - integrity, professionalism and excellence. We need to show the larger community that we are strong defenders of this values and this will build trust in the profession and the role that we play in businesses.”
An ‘energising mindset shift’
Harry Flett (New Zealand)
University of Otago student Harry Flett, now in his third year of a BCom majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting, says the One Young World Summit was well worth the 40 hours’ travel time.
“It was an incredible experience that has helped me frame the way in which I approach my work,” says Flett.
He notes that a theme emerging during the summit was social business and the intertwining of profitability and social good. “This will impact on the way I will approach my work in the future. While I have never considered myself an entrepreneur, or intended to be one, One Young World highlighted the importance of bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to the workplace, and emphasised the ability to both succeed in a corporate position and make an impact in the world around you. The two aren’t mutually exclusive – profitability and social impact can work hand in hand; a notion that has altered how I view my work.”
Flett says a challenge facing any profession is the ability to find a true purpose, and to allow profitability and social impact to meet. “Every organisation has the right to make a profit, but also has the opportunity to make a difference. A lot of people view those qualities as two separate functions: you can either work for a charity or NGO that aims to create some sort of social impact, or you can work for a business whose main goal is to create wealth. That simply isn’t true, and it is a real challenge for organisations to find their true purpose while engaging in profitable, wealth-building operations.”
With this new insight, Flett says he believes the accounting profession can particularly help organisation identify its purpose, which should align with and aim to solve one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals. “The role of accountants is expanding from simply communicating, auditing, and consulting the financial aspects of a firm. The accounting profession can aid in communicating and developing a firm’s social impact, which can in fact strengthen a firm’s profitability,” he says.
“The summit has also given me an opportunity to re-assess the way I work, especially with others, and has made me aware that I may not be as diverse and inclusive as I had originally thought,” says Flett.
A highlight of the event was the constant, evolving discussion between the Chartered Accountants Worldwide delegation concerning the issues that were raised at the event, he says. “As we progressed through One Young World, you could see our mindsets shift, and while the issues were tough to swallow, I really enjoyed the conversations that allowed us to flesh out the ideas present. They were also a great bunch of people, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.”
On a personal level, Flett says One Young World has given him a fresh perspective on the world. “It has opened my mind to how insignificant some of the issues I face are, while at the same time helped me identify other personal areas of weakness that I need to focus on. One Young World has given me a breath of fresh air, and I feel energised and ready to engage in becoming a better person,” he says.
‘Invigorated and empowered’
Sinead Fox-Hamilton (Ireland)
For Sinead Fox-Hamilton, a consultant with finance recruitment firm McKinty Associates and winner of the ‘Young Chartered Star’ 2017 competition, the One Young World Summit proved an invigorating and perspective-changing event.
“I found the whole experience to be extremely rewarding,” she says. “The entire Summit was an amazing experience from start to finish. The spectacle of an opening ceremony in Bolivar Square; and hearing from world-renowned speakers, including Kofi Annan, Professor Muhammad Yunus, President Juan Manuel Santos, Sir Bob Geldof, Cher and Tinie Tempah, was a real privilege.
Having the chance to meet and network with other young people from all across the globe was brilliant, and meeting my fellow Chartered Accountants Worldwide delegates was a great opportunity.”
Fox-Hamilton says she returned home with a renewed perspective. “The subject matter often delved into deeper broader social topics, which I found to be very thought-provoking. The Summit has certainly broadened my outlook and opened my eyes to looking at things from a more global viewpoint. We were encouraged to believe we could make the impossible possible and that people with passion can truly change the world so I am feeling energised from all the positive motivation and keen to do my bit by way of contribution!
She reports: “There was a vein running through many of the presentations and discussions being that we can all be leaders today, and that by small changes can collectively amount to a lot.”
For her, a key takeaway message was the need to ‘transform inspiration to action’.
“There was real encouragement for us all to make strides to making a positive impact. I have a renewed sense of purpose in that I have to take ownership for putting the skills and expertise I have to full use and ensure I am contributing to society.”
Fox-Hamilton says the accounting profession is well-placed to help make the difference the world needs.
“It is now becoming more recognised that Chartered Accountants are more than mere number crunchers – we are astute business professionals trained to add value. We are commercially minded and able to trouble shoot, problem solve and make effective decisions.”
“The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a broad and ambitious change agenda for the international community. The accounting profession has a role to play in contributing to the achievement of same – within our own framework we are already making strides with regards to action around goals related to quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption and production and climate action.
Beyond this there is also potential for Chartered Accountants to use the profession’s influence to help change the way the wider business community embraces and deals with the SDGs. Also there is scope for the measurement of the goals to perhaps fall under the remit of the Accountant role, thus we could be central figures in driving forward change within organisations. We are savvy and mindful of the importance of ensuring we make our economy more sustainable for the good of all, and so we are well placed to make a meaningful contribution to the fulfilment of the goals. By using our skills and expertise, coupled with our reputation and influence, we can help ensure our societies are prosperous for all,” she says.
Major impact and ‘orbital’ perspective
Dara Latinwo (England)
Dara Latinwo, an ICAEW student training at Deloitte in London, studied at the University of Oxford and has an Honors in Economics & Management. She reports that that One Young World had a significant impact on her, both personally and on a professional level.
“It was a perspective-changing experience for me. The exhilarating exposure to so many different cultures, backgrounds and life stories burst boundaries in my mind and sparked a renewed readiness to explore the world around me with a heart and eyes that are wide open,” she says.
Latinwo brought her new passion for meaningful action back to the office. “My senior team leaders, who continue to be impressed by the fact that I was granted such an opportunity by my professional body, the ICAEW, are now more aware of the areas which I am deeply passionate about and how far I am willing to go to translate this passion into meaningful action. As a result, I find that I am already being offered opportunities to work on projects that intersect with my existing interests as my department seeks to harness the energy and enthusiasm that I bring when fully and passionately engaged by my work.”
In particular, Latinwo was struck by a presentation in which astronaut Ron Garan shared an image of Earth rise. She says: “By looking at life from this 'orbital perspective', I strongly believe it becomes much harder for each one of us to shrug our shoulders at the degradation of the environment or turn a blind eye to the imposed indignities suffered by the most socially and economically vulnerable in society. Subsequently, I want to have this orbital perspective at the core of all I do to ensure that I eschew unhealthy competitive inclinations in favour of committed collaboration on a global scale.”
With this fresh, broader perspective, Latinwo now believes the accounting profession play a vital role in translating the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development into a ‘visionary new reality’.
She says: “From the many conversations I had with other attendees at this conference, my sense is that the biggest challenge facing the accounting profession is maintaining and enhancing its relevance in an increasingly automated world, especially as most people still associate the profession with ‘bean counting’. But given our arguably unique strengths in measuring and reporting on results to different audiences, the accounting profession can go beyond this and set the metrics and criteria by which ‘success’ is defined to ensure that development achievements announced on paper are matched by advances seen in socio-economic outcomes in reality.”
She believes that by rethinking and redesigning the paradigm within which the largest corporations view themselves, the accounting profession could usher in an age where big business becomes an engaged and responsible element of the economic engine.
“If our profession could create the frameworks to meaningfully incentivise companies to view and accept their societal role and responsibilities in a radically different way, I feel that this could generate a new culture of trust and respect that would yield far-reaching and transformative benefits for all, rather than a fortunate few.”
“Given that the constituent professional bodies in Chartered Accountants Worldwide have members on some of the most illustrious company boards around the globe, our profession could exert considerable positive influence and be at the vanguard of revolutionising the very essence of what it means to do business,” she says.
Learning to think outside the box
Jozo Frankovic (Australia)
Describing the One Young World summit as a ‘life-changing experience’, Jozo Frankovic, a 5th year Bachelor of Commerce student and Strategic Projects Coordinator at the University of Wollongong, says the event has prompted him to reflect on his own professional objectives and values.
“It can be easy to get accustomed to the convenience and comfort of routine. What One Young World has showed me is the importance and value of thinking outside the box and finding opportunities to make an impact and ‘doing well by doing good’. The summit reinforced the principled foundation upon which I seek to build a career of impact and service to the global community,” he says.
One Young World also highlighted the need for urgent action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals are goals for us all – as citizens, communities, businesses and governments. As such, we all have a role to play in engaging with the goals and aligning our focus and action towards doing our part in achieving these goals. The accounting profession has an integral role to play by acting as the nexus between business and communities and encouraging greater public confidence through upholding transparency and accountability. The accounting professional also has a key role to play in making the SDGs achievable by advising business and communities on the targets underpinning the SDGs, and through this way making sure that we can measure what matters,” he says.
The summit underlined the fact that the world is at a pivotal point in time and there is no time to delay in taking action on key issues such as climate change, global conflict and poverty, says Frankovic. “The summit highlighted to me that business has a key role to play in supporting a well-functioning economy and a thriving society. The accounting profession can help reshape business and foster a culture of trust through its education and professional development of its members, and through the communication of the positive impact made by the profession and business in operationalising the UN SDGs and moving towards a better world for us all.”
“The One Young World summit has inspired me to dream big about the world that I want to live in and the world that I want future generations to live in. This vision will not come true on our current trajectory – that is why we need to step up as young leaders and start leading the change today,” he says. “This will require a paradigm shift and will require the profession to be creative-thinkers, problem-solvers and partners of community and business to ensure that we can measure what matters and achieve the goals and objectives that fulfil the vision of our world.”
Key highlights for Frankovic included listening to the wise reflections of Kofi Annan, 7th UN Secretary General, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, on the journey towards peace and reconciliation in a post-conflict world. He says: “Other highlights included hearing UK musician Tinie Tempah reflect of harnessing your strengths and energy in your youth, and NASA astronaut Ron Garan reflecting on the two-dimensional factional view of the world that many of our leaders adopt in comparison to the interconnected three-dimensional wonder of the one world that we are unified by – our one young world.”
On a personal level, Frankovic says the One Young World Summit was a unique, life-changing experience that has prompted a tangible shift in his perspective on global issues and local action. “In short, this experience has lit the fuse within me to put my energy towards making an impact in my local communities.”
New resolve to address corruption, inclusion
Faraimose Kutadzaushe (South Africa)
Investec investment specialist and entrepreneur Faraimose (Mose) Kutadzaushe, winner of the SAICA Top 35-under-35 accountant award in 2016, says he left the One Young World summit with fresh resolve to address inclusion of disabled individuals in the workplace, and to work toward achieving the United Nations’ global goals for sustainable development.
He says: “I have always been big on applying my skills towards making an impact in my society through employment creation – largely catalysed by forming and managing profitable enterprises. My view had been broadly focused on all members of society. However, while attending one of the sessions I realised that there is a more focused group people that has continually been left behind when it comes to economic participation.
Close to no large corporation pays concerted (central) attention to ensuring that the disabled members of our society are given preference in filling job positions. They are instead relegated to the back of the queue as we (the able bodied) make assumptions that they are unable to cope with the rigors of tough working environments.
I have always had an itch to one day do something about this and OYW provided the impetus for me to consider immediate action. I will immediately start making sure that I seek disabled individuals to make sure they are given preferential treatment, or equal consideration at the very least.”
Kutadzaushe says One Young World was an ‘eye-opening experience’ that exposed him to a plethora of issues that he ordinarily would not have been directly exposed to. In light of the focus on the UN SDGs at the summit, he reflects that there appears to be no credible framework for measuring society’s success or failure in achieving the SDGs.
“Development of a central, unified code of calibration of success in implementing the SDGs will be very important in determining the true impact being made by organisations. The accounting profession is uniquely qualified to develop an accounting framework that can bring convergence in the way that institutions from different parts of the world account for impact being made on the different SDGs,” he says.
“In addition to the development of an overall accounting and measurement framework for the various SDGs, the accounting profession could also choose a couple of goals and urge all its members to make a concerted effort to make sure they are working hard to address the identified goal. Some goals I would recommend include:
• #8: Decent work and economic growth
• #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
• #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”
Kutadzaushe says maintenance and restoration of the image of the accounting profession is the biggest challenge facing the profession currently. “As ‘reputation’ remains the most valuable asset that belongs to the accounting profession, we should ensure that we preserve every ounce of it.”
One way to achieve this, he says, is for the accounting profession to help to tackle corruption by providing platforms for communication and engagement across private and public sectors on ways to reduce corruption and increase transparency on various issues. “This is an important conversation that will be important to ‘own’. The profession can also continue to encourage members to be the torchbearers of ethics and good governance, while also giving recognition to members of society who have been ideal examples of good ethics and governance.”
New leadership motivation
Jonny Jacobs (Scotland)
Jacobs reports that the Summit refreshed his focus on the impact the emergence of new technologies will have on the jobs of tomorrow. “As finance leaders of today, how do we train the younger generations for jobs that don’t yet exist in the Accountancy profession? The question is, are we training them in the right areas? The Summit challenged our current approaches to education. While technical knowledge is important, it is behaviours, broader skills and training in technology that may also be needed. Teaching people how to respond to change, become better learners and build emotional intelligence are becoming just as important,” he says.
“Additionally, it’s not just what we are being taught, but how. We saw evidence that the classroom should change for the modern environment. The best development arises from learning from mistakes, experiences, or asking challenging questions – none of which is traditional. We will consider how we can further incorporate these approaches in professional training.”
Jacobs says the One Young World Summit motivates across multiple levels: “To be intensely immersed in this environment for days, participating in wide ranging discussions, is such a powerful experience. It is an emotional roller coaster ride, one moment you are listening to renowned speakers such as Nobel Peace Prize winners and Presidents, and the next hearing victims of some of the most heinous crimes tell their story. To be part of One Young World leaves you with a much wider world perspective and a huge motivation to improve our world.”
Jacobs cites comments by Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus, who said ‘This is the most powerful generation with the emergence of transformational tech….and as young people we should focus on being the job creators’. “With this remark in the opening ceremony, it was clear there would be a heavy focus on the role of technology and entrepreneurialism, the power of youth, and combining this into an unstoppable action for positive change.”
The accounting profession has a key role to play in supporting moves to drive positive change, he says: “The accounting profession seeks truth and is built on trust. In times when trust is being challenged across the world, the profession can play a key role in working with organisations to assess the progress and report in a fair way.
Accountants across the world provide a robust ethical consciousness that can further the aims of these important goals.
Accounting and finance professionals operate at the heart of organisation and are incredibly well placed to contribute to the wider agenda. I’m a great believer in operating outside the space of the traditional finance role and making a positive contribution across the business, including shaping strategy and culture. We are trusted professionals that can cast a positive shadow across the business for others to follow and set organisational policies.”
A ‘comfort zone-shifting event’
Sibusiso Molimi (South Africa)
UNISA student, motivational speaker and author Sibiso Molimi reports that the One Young World Summit will leave a lasting impression on him, for which he will be forever grateful.
“On a personal level, [I realised] there are social issues which have not affected me personally but have affected the majority of my community. More often than not, I have turned a blind eye on them. One Young World challenged to be more proactive and engaged in social issues even though they may not affect me directly.”
One Young World tackled numerous serious global issues, seeking to inspire young leaders to change the future. For Molimi, the highlight of the conference was a panel discussion in which Colombia residents gave talks on peace in their country.
“Many of the speakers had been kidnapped, held hostage and lost loved family members – right in front of their eyes. They said ‘enough is enough’ with the war in Colombia. I was inspired by the courage that many of them displayed to forgive the oppressor. I was inspired by the courage and boldness they showed to fight for peace in Colombia and to continue fighting until the war was won. These young people were willing to die for their community so that there could be peace in their country. They epitomised what Martin Luther King said – ‘If you are not willing to die for anything, you will fall for anything’. I will never forget that panel discussion!”
On a professional level, Molimi says he was challenged to look more into technology and how he could use it to showcase and sell the products and services that he offers.
“I was also challenged to be open minded and to study other industries such as manufacturing and agriculture.”
“The presentation that had the most impact on the way I will approach work in future was by a young social entrepreneur who made a decision to assist the community of Somalia after they had lost everything as a result of the drought. His approach was brilliant. He didn’t just go into the community to give them food but went into the community to equip and empower them with skills so that they didn’t have to rely on him in the long run. He used what everyone had in the community – a cellphone – to help the community rebuild their communities as well as share with the world what was really happening there.”
This made him realise that his own community work has not been sustainable, says Molimi. “I have given the communities fish but I haven’t taught them how to fish. I have been challenged to take a more sustainable approach and to help the community not to depend solely on handouts.”
As a guest of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, which aims for its delegates to ‘fly the flag’ for young Chartered Accountants by demonstrating how the skills of a Chartered Accountant can contribute to improving the world, Molimi reflects that the accounting profession can contribute to a better future, starting with integrity and building a culture of trust.
“The profession can foster a culture of trust by making a firm decision not to compromise its ethical values, regardless of how much money is being offered. The neglect of values will lead to the profession minimising its public participation and a decrease trust from clients, communities and partners,” he says.
Inspiring young leaders to take action
Alutuli Alutuli (Zambia)
Alutuli Alutuli, a Senior Associate, Audit at KPMG in St. Louis (USA), where he was seconded from KPMG in Zambia, reports that One Young World left him with the realisation that young leaders have to take action for a better world.
“The Summit gave me an opportunity to engage with and hear from other professionals across a wide spectrum on how they are driving change on issues ranging from corruption, humanitarian aid, environment and education, LGBT, diversity and inclusion, and peace and reconciliation.
I have been very fortunate in that KPMG has always been a strong proponent for social activities, but from the One Young World Summit, I now have a renewed vigour to embark on an education project in my community with my fellow Zambian delegates, leveraging from my profession and the business world around me to make a difference,” he says.
Alutuli says there were a number of themes and presentations at the Summit that had a profound impact on him; including sessions focusing on diversity and inclusion and those on peace and reconciliation.
He reflects: “The best leaders at all levels foster a truly human environment, where people are encouraged to be their truest and best selves, both professionally and personally, because diversity is what makes winning organisations stronger and more innovative.”
“Based on my interactions with other young leaders, I saw a broad recognition that there is change going on in how the young generation and social entrepreneurs see business operations. One of these issues relates to trust between the business and society itself, which seems not to be improving. Arguably, this is a challenge facing all businesses – from small startups to multinationals. For me, this is clearly driven by divisions and inequalities within our society and it’s vital that all businesses play their part in helping to bridge this gap,” he says. “I see our role as accountants to be one of clearly communicating the value of what companies do, how they do it and why it is important to all stakeholders.”
The accounting profession is in a unique position to ensure that the right frameworks exists for boards to consistently measure, manage and communicate the value they create across stakeholder groups over the long term, and relate this value to investors and other stakeholders in a compelling way, says Alutuli.
This positions the profession to support the realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he says.
Alutuli believes the accounting profession can contribute to achieving the 2030 UN sustainable goals in a number of ways such as:
• On responsible consumption and production goal, through relevant professional and business skills, accountants provide decision-useful insight and analysis to decision makers, high-quality corporate reporting, and credibility through audit and assurance services.
• On climate action goal, deploying their skills to climate change adaptation and mitigation, accountants can help make significant progress. Accountants can, for example, establish appropriate targets and goals for emissions management and abatement, supported by objective data and insights, to help organisations thrive over the long term.
• On peace, justice and strong institutions goal, the profession upholds the highest ethical, governance, and professional standards and as such can positively influence organisations in public and private sectors through their own behaviour and actions in the various roles that they perform.
• On the industry, innovation and infrastructure goals, accountants can facilitate investment in infrastructure and confidence in financing by providing key services in financial and corporate reporting/analysis, due diligence, business advice, and anti-corruption/money laundering activities.
Read here for more information on Chartered Accountants Worldwide and our involvement in One Young World.
Click on the album below for more photos from Team CAW during the One Young World Summit!
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