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Take-aways from the IFAC Virtual Summit

Members of the IASeminars team were able to attend the IFAC Virtual Summit this year. We took a number of things away from the summit, but our main conclusion is that we are headed in the right direction with the green finance courses that we have started running this year.  We’re keen to add more so, after you’ve read our summary, please let us know if there are any courses that you would like to see.

IFAC Virtual Summit summary

The IFAC Virtual Summit ran from 16th-19th November and the theme was “The Anticipatory Accountant - Global Trends Transforming Learning & Development”. Too much was covered in the week to give all of the detail here, so the following is what we consider to be the headlines. In some cases, the message was not completely new but it’s always worth noting when things are continuing to go in a certain direction.

  • The Anticipatory Accountant. Anticipation is a new competency that everyone needs to have. During the pandemic change has accelerated markedly but based on known trends. We can be agile and respond to these changes, but it is better to be anticipatory and get ahead of them.
  • Technology is advancing rapidly and will impact the role of the accountant. A lot of the computational work of producing accounts is already being taken care of and with the increased prevalence of technologies like BlockChain, the production of financial statements will take less and less time over the coming years. So, does that mean you will be out of a job? Not at all; there will be so many other areas where you can add value.
  • Trust. This word came up a lot during the week. The accountant is seen as a trusted advisor by many and that’s something the companies and other organisations will continue to depend on. The role of the accountant will become less about the production of financial reports but interpreting the reports and advising others. For any accounting firm, trust will be a big part of what they are selling and the better trained your team is, the more likely they are to be trusted.
  • The climate emergency. It’s fair to say that the session that generated the most discussion and enthusiasm was the one around sustainability and the role that accountants have to play. What was interesting to hear is that the pandemic has not put climate change on the back burner but, if anything, has significantly moved the climate change agenda on. The pandemic has really highlighted why Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) is so important.
  • Reporting is evolving. The pressure for organisations to report on their impact on the environment and society is growing all the time. There was generally consensus that you cannot separate this reporting out from financial reporting and accountants will have a role in helping to quantify and report against, for example, sustainability development goals. The well-established accountancy skills of measuring, recording and reporting and auditing skills providing assurance on the data can now be applied to non-financial goals, such as environmental, sustainable and societal goals, as well as financial goals. There was some concern that this was yet another thing accountants had to know but the reality is that this will become a specialism, much like Tax. You will need to know about it, but you will likely bring in someone else to advise. Or maybe this is an area where you would like to become a specialist. It’s clear to us that training is going to play a crucial role here and we are keen to get involved.
  • Moving from profit to value creation. Something that will help with environmental and social issues is the move from the profit model to the value creation model. The shareholder shouldn’t be seen as the #1 stakeholder any more but a company’s impact on society should be looked at. It needs to be recognised where, for example, a company is adding value to and removing value from society. Again, accountants have an important role to play here as that value needs to be measured and reported in a way that is consistent and comparable with other companies. Could we see the Chief Finance Officer being replaced by the Chief Value Officer?

What courses would you like to see introduced?

It’s clear that while the role of the accountant is evolving then the requirements for training and CPD are going to change with it. We are already starting to address some of those requirements with the introduction of our Green PFM course, but where else could we be focussing? Sustainability Reporting, technologies like BlockChain, more green finance courses? How do you see your training needs evolving? We’d love to hear from you.

Further information

Find our more about our Green Public Financial Management here.

Peter Douglas

Peter Douglas is IASeminars Product Director

About the Author

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