2017 - April
Welcome Address by ISCA President Gerard Ee at the “Our Future Together: Future of Professional Learning and Entrepreneurship” Event on 4 April 2017 at Marina Bay Sands at 9am
04 Apr 2017 Category: Speeches
Guest of Honour Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law
Dr Hilary Lindsay, President of ICAEW
Professor Mark Allison, Executive Director of Education of ICAS
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for attending today’s event.
We are living in an age of rapid technological change. As pointed out in the report by the Committee on the Future Economy, entire industries can be taken over by new technologies, even as new opportunities are created. No industry or profession can afford to remain complacent in the face of technology disruption.
The question is then “How can the profession be ready for an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world?” To help answer this, ISCA and ICAEW have again collaborated on the “Our Future Together” series to encourage thought leadership on the future of the accountancy profession.
Today, we will be sharing findings from our report “Industry Perspectives: Future of Professional Learning and Entrepreneurship”, as well as having a panel discussion on this topic. The report draws on interviews from thought leaders in the profession, perspectives from employers, young professionals and educators, as well as students from the local universities and polytechnics. Through this report, we aim to shape the discussion on how education, training and professional learning should be redefined to develop future-ready accountants.
The theme of the report is very much in line with strategies recommended by the Committee on the Future Economy, whose vision is for our people to have deep skills and be inspired to learn throughout their lives, and for our businesses to be innovative and nimble. We are honoured to have Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah share her perspectives about the future of professional learning in a dialogue session later.
We also have the privilege of hearing from Dr Lindsay, who will be giving a presentation on “Lifelong Learning – Past, Present and Future”, and Prof Allison, who will be sharing about “The Skill Set of the Future”, two very pertinent topics on preparing the profession for the future economy.
Dr Seow Poh Sun from Singapore Management University will be sharing the results of our research report in detail shortly. But let me give a sneak preview. One of the findings in the report is that professional accountants are the best assets that CEOs can have, because they know the financial position of the company and the emerging trends that will affect the business. In fact, ISCA members are making an impact in diverse roles, with some occupying C-Suite positions, including CEOs, CFOs and COOs, and others heading up their own business as entrepreneurs.
Accountancy is a dynamic profession. Accountants must continually upgrade and update their skills, especially in this era of rapid changes. As the report had pointed out, the path towards becoming a future-ready accountant lies in lifelong learning, acquiring multi-disciplinary skill sets and knowledge, and developing an enterprising mindset. As the national accountancy body, ISCA is supporting our members’ growth and development, to ensure they are equipped for the future economy.
Enhancing Members’ Global Career Mobility
Another way we are making our members future-ready is by enhancing the stature of the Institute and our members globally. By enhancing the international visibility of ISCA and the Chartered Accountant of Singapore designation, we aim to open doors for our members to explore international career opportunities.
This is in line with our vision to be a globally recognised body, and supports the Committee for Future Economy’s internationalisation strategy. In the current business landscape where organisations are increasingly internationalised, having credentials that are recognised in Singapore and other financial and business centres will put Singapore chartered accountants in good stead to achieve their career aspirations, wherever they are.
I am pleased to announce that in a short while, ISCA will be signing Reciprocal Membership Agreements (or in short, RMAs) with ICAEW and ICAS, two of the most prestigious and well-recognised accountancy bodies globally. What this means is, without having to fulfill additional professional or educational requirements, eligible ISCA members can apply to attain ICAEW’s Associate Chartered Accountant designation and ICAS’ Chartered Accountant designation. To be eligible, the ISCA member must be a Chartered Accountant of Singapore, and have completed the Singapore CA Qualification. Similarly, members of ICAEW and ICAS can apply to become a full member of ISCA and be conferred the CA (Singapore) designation, which is recognised as a mark of professional excellence and a pre-requisite for being a public accountant in Singapore.
The RMAs with ICAEW and ICAS also represent a significant endorsement of ISCA’s professional and ethical standards. This will further enhance the international standing of the Institute and our members.
Apart from the RMAs, we will also be signing Memorandums of Understanding with ICAEW and ICAS, which sets out a framework for future collaboration on members’ activities, respectively. These include granting our members mutual access to each institute’s events and continuous professional education (CPE) courses.
Our collaboration with ICAEW and ICAS demonstrates our shared commitment towards supporting and advancing the interests of the accountancy profession. Together with ICAEW and ICAS, ISCA is part of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, a family of 11 Chartered Accountancy bodies connecting and representing the interests of over 1.6 million members and students globally. Together, we support, develop and promote the vital role that Chartered Accountants play throughout the global economy. Today’s discussion on the Future of Professional Learning and Entrepreneurship is also supported by Chartered Accountants Worldwide. Through the Chartered Accountants Worldwide network, we will be encouraging the conversation which will take place here today to be continued around the world on twitter and other social media platforms.
Making Profession Future-Ready through Continuous Professional Education
To quote futurist Alvin Toffler, it is important for the profession to “learn, unlearn and relearn”. As highlighted in the report, accountants of the future must go beyond acquiring technical skills to develop multi-disciplinary skills, as problems are now more complex and require diverse perspectives and methods to solve them. Given that businesses are increasingly using technology, the report highlighted the importance of accountants in having a certain level of IT competency to remain relevant to today’s businesses. One important IT skill that accountants should be equipped with is basic understanding of coding. This will help them ascertain the feasibility of the software that they have in mind and what can or cannot be done in a programme or application. This is in addition to leveraging technology to raise their productivity. Other skills and knowledge considered important for future accountants include applied economics, critical thinking, negotiation and persuasion skills. The ability of an accountant to continue to deploy these skills, amidst a fast changing environment, through their interpersonal skills and enterprising approach, is the key to sustaining the accountancy profession.
Every individual must take ownership of their future. One must enjoy the learning experience and view it as self-fulfilling, instead of an imposition, amidst the many demands in our lives. Learning can come in many forms. We can learn through self-reflection. Through mentoring, we learn from more experienced persons. We can also learn from our peers, for example, through cross-departmental collaboration. Last, the organisation can help us in our learning through job rotation.
ISCA recognises this and continues to explore different ways to support the profession’s development in terms of their skills, capabilities and qualifications. We continue to expand and update our extensive range of course and training programmes. Last year, we launched two new certification programmes in SME accounting and advanced business analytics and reporting. This year, we will be working on a certificate in risk management, a skill set that has been identified as pertinent for the future economy.
The push for technology adoption and innovation, particularly cloud-based practice management solutions, is already an important part of ISCA’s agenda. Amid rising interest in emerging technologies such as fintech and blockchain, as well as emerging issues such as cyber-security, ISCA will continue to keep accounting professionals updated about the latest and upcoming developments, to help them stay ahead of the curve.
Education is a lifelong journey that begins from young. To prepare students for the new economy, the Singapore government has made systemic changes to the education system. It is not about building another polytechnic or university, as infrastructure can only do so much. Rather, it is by changing the way we do things, by uncovering students’ talents and helping them develop to the fullest, that can make the greatest impact. This shift beyond academic achievement can be seen with recent changes made to the Direct School Admissions scheme and tweaks to aptitude-based admissions. These are meaningful steps towards changing the way education should work for our children so that they grow up fully prepared for the changes in the economy.
As the business environment becomes increasingly complex, it is vital that we ensure our accountancy education continues to stay relevant to sustain the future manpower needs of the sector. To succeed in this challenging landscape, our students, who are tomorrow’s accountants and finance professionals, must develop a rigorous understanding of the key emerging drivers of change and prepare for a range of possible future scenarios.
ISCA recognises the importance of building and broadening the talent pipeline. Under our charity arm ISCA Cares, we established the ISCA Cares Education Programme to provide support for future generations of aspiring accountants. The programme brings the local accountancy community together to help deserving youths with challenging financial backgrounds gain access to an accountancy education. Under the programme, donations will go towards subsidising their tuition fees and basic living expenses. This support will play a key role in helping to change the lives of these young people and give them the opportunity to succeed. Many of these students, who worked part-time to pay their school and living expenses, can now devote more time and energy to their accountancy studies.
Education does not stop after one leaves school. Only by engaging in lifelong learning can today’s professionals continue to keep their skills relevant. I hope that the sharing today will spark further discussion and engender deeper insights about learning and being prepared for the future economy.