1. On behalf of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, I would like to wish you a very good morning and warmly welcome you to the Singapore Accountancy Convention 2014’s ISCA Ethics Forum, which marks the commencement of the Convention.
2. Ethics forms the foundation of professional conduct in our sector and we have over the years developed our “Code of Ethics” to define what it means to be ethical. Even so, mastering this aspect of our profession remains challenging as ethics is rather “amorphous” in nature, going beyond guidelines and structures to relate to the intrinsic personal ethical values held by each and every accountant.
3. Furthermore, given the changing business landscape and on-going economic uncertainty, accountants may often find themselves in situations where they have to choose between fulfilling economic interests and ethical considerations. They may also be presented with opportunities where they may be tempted to take advantage of other parties for personal gain despite knowing that it is ethically unsound to do so.
4. Classic examples of ethics gone awry are the well-publicised cases of Enron, World Com and Satyam, where creative accounting was utilised to achieve dishonest ends. These events proved detrimental to the public trust placed in our profession as many questioned whether the accountants and auditors involved had fulfilled their fiduciary responsibilities.
5. Therein lies one of the recurring issues faced by our profession when it comes to ethics. What it means to carry out our jobs with honesty, integrity, objectivity, due care and confidentiality will vary across individuals. Additionally, this is made more challenging in our ever changing business landscape, where the role of accountants is continually evolving, creating different ethical pressures and dilemmas that accountants have to navigate daily.
6. As a profession that serves the public interest, accountants are in an unique position of trust where stakeholders like employers, clients and the public rely on our professional judgement to make decisions. The abuse of this trust by a few bad hats will impact the standing of our profession as a whole. As James Sylph once said, “Public trust matters. There are millions of accountants in the world and the actions of a handful can tarnish the credibility and reputation of others”.
7. Given that ethics is inextricably intertwined with our reputation and is a cornerstone of our profession, it is apt that this year’s Singapore Accountancy Convention has dedicated a forum to discuss the developments on the horizon and contribute to raising the bar on ethical standards to strengthen public confidence.
8. Developments of note include the recently issued Consultation Paper on the “IESBA Proposed Strategy and Work Plan 2014-2018. To help us make sense of these developments and more, we have the honour of having Mr James Sylph, who had recently retired as the Executive Director for Professional Standards & External Relations at the International Federation of Accountants. James will share insights on key global developments in ethics, what we can expect in the near future and what is IESBA’s position on certain hot topics.
9. Closer to home, we also have the pleasure of having with us, Mr Kwok Wui San, Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Interim Chair of IESBA . He will shed light on the changes in requirements on the ethics front and their impact on the local accountancy sector. He will also share the vision of the ISCA Ethics Committee, and its plans to catalyse the Singapore accountancy profession to adapt to these changes.
10. While understanding the global ethics landscape is important, delving into the current topics at hand and sharing insights based on personal perspectives is just as essential. In the second half of today’s forum, our speakers will expound on these issues.
11. Firstly, we are happy to have Mrs Ruth Picker, the Asia Pacific Risk Management Leader of Ernst & Young Australia, who will explore the topic of auditor independence and share how developments, aimed at enhancing auditor independence, will impact professional accountants in public practice.
12. In addition, we have the pleasure of inviting Mrs Chng Sok Hui, Chief Financial Officer of DBS Group. Mrs Chng will talk about the pressures faced by professional accountants in business and also share some insights on how organisations can strengthen their core values in mitigating the commercial stresses faced by accountants.
13. Lastly, the ISCA Ethics Forum will round off with a panel discussion among our speakers on the challenges faced by professional accountants when upholding ethical behaviour and the support needed to better handle the challenges ahead.
14. In closing, I would like to sincerely thank all sponsors, partners and participants for your generous support in making the Singapore Accountancy Convention 2014 possible.
15. I wish you a fruitful and meaningful day ahead and hope to see you again tomorrow at the ISCA Accounting Conference and the Singapore Accountancy Awards Dinner.