The global economic situation, which continues to dominate the business environment, has underlined one issue - that the role of the finance professional has never been more vital to business survival and success. It has become clear that accountants who have the benefit of a sound professional education are central to the development and ongoing success of all economies, which is why we believe our key theme Accountants for Business has relevance for our profession and all those who rely on expert judgement and advice.
Over the course of my term as president, I have had a unique opportunity to see how ACCA members have been working with businesses to help them navigate through these challenging economic conditions.
We have been working to support our membership at this critical time. This has included undertaking regular monitoring of the impact of the global economic conditions on members and their businesses. ACCA has made significant contributions to the public debate on matters of world importance, such as the agenda of the G20 nations; COP15 and climate change; the value of audit; financial regulation; tax; public financing and access to finance. We have also placed the issues facing smaller businesses at the heart of our work, for example through an influential report undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Council has looked in detail not only at the impact of the current conditions on our membership, but also at the implications for ACCA as an organisation, to ensure that we have been able to continue to operate through our global infrastructure and to manage the increased risks to our operations which have resulted from economic conditions. These include currency fluctuations and the social and political environment in some countries.
I am pleased to report to members that we continue to perform well in terms of member growth and financial performance, both of which are vital to fulfill Council's desire to see sustainable growth in the membership and an increase in ACCA's wider reputation and influence, consistent with our 2015 strategic objective to be the leading global professional accountancy body.
Following approval from members at the last AGM, we have moved ACCA's accounting reference date to March. This is helping us to manage our operations more effectively given the large numbers of registrations and subscriptions we have to process at the end of December. As a result of this change, we have moved the date of our AGM from May to September.
To enhance transparency in our reporting, we are publishing for the first time a standalone Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. This forms an important part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and provides an opportunity for ACCA to put on record its own operational performance in corporate social responsibility, alongside its long-standing and world-leading programme promoting the role of accountants in this arena.
Enhancing service delivery and the global network
Turning to our own operational record, Council has been pleased to see the enhancements made in the services which ACCA provides to its customers, particularly to our 140,000 members, where a strategic priority is to enhance employability and career opportunities and to provide a level of service of which we can all be confident and proud. The percentage of members and students who have noticed the improvements in our customer service support is evidence that we are making a real difference.
Over the past year, ACCA has continued to develop strong global partnerships. ACCA believes in the importance of partnerships which strengthen the profession and bring value to accountants locally and internationally and we are proud of the 77 global accountancy partnerships we have now developed. With some new offices opened, we now have 83 offices and centres around the world. We are also working closely with leading employers to enhance opportunities to our members for development.
As a result of all of these activities, we have strengthened ACCA's reputation as a global body with employers around the world - a significant benefit to all our members.
Ensuring ACCA is fit for the future
Looking to the future, we continue to plan carefully in the light of uncertainty surrounding the global economy. Council welcomes plans for the continued transformation of ACCA's organisation and service delivery to enable it to offer a high standard of service and an efficient and effective infrastructure. We will continue to offer support and valued services to our members wherever they are based, with increasing online delivery to maximise the opportunities of new technology. We will be working to strengthen our strategic relationships with employers and to strengthen our brand for the benefit of members around the world.
In conclusion, I thank the ACCA Council for its support, working in a difficult environment, and express my gratitude to the ACCA team - employees and committees around the world - for their hard work on behalf of ACCA and the wider profession.
Above all, I thank all of our members for their loyalty and support - it is through our members that we are able to continue to enhance our reputation and influence around the world and contribute to a stronger global economy.