Comments from ACCA
The consultation document outlines a welcome practical approach to increasing awareness of the important roles of professional accountants in business, and sets the groundwork for a productive debate on the role of accountants in supporting their organisations effectively. Our specific comments in relation to the questions specified are as follows:
Question 1: Does the paper fairly and usefully represent the diverse roles and domain of professional accountants in business? Please suggest ideas on how we can enhance the paper to become a useful tool in (a) creating awareness of the important roles professional accountants play in creating, enabling, preserving and reporting value for organisations and stakeholders, and (b) identifying how IFAC could assist its member bodies and associates in enhancing the competence of their members.
ACCA's global research and insights programme, Accountants for Business, has been proactively promoting the role of the professional accountants across all sectors and sizes of organisation as a source of value creation for businesses, since its inception in 2009. As part of our public interest remit, and in recognition of the large number of our members working in the sector, ACCA widely supports any activities which promote the specific role of professional accountants in business, and their contribution to organisation success. Our most recent paper, The value creation model for business: 2010 and beyond, focuses on the role of professional accountants in supporting business to create and sustain value and was produced specifically to support IFAC's leadership in this field.
We believe this paper is a useful summary of the diverse roles and domain of the professional accountant in business, providing a helpful frame for further discussion and activities.
ACCA fully endorses the concept of a common model for understanding how professional accountants in business drive sustainable organisation success, encompassing the public and non-profit sectors. Though contextual factors and other differences in the role professional accountants perform within particular organisations, industries and sectors do exist, it is our view that these are not significant; there is considerable commonality between roles and there is merit and value in the development of a common framework for the role of professional accountants in business as the basis for debate.
(a) In helping create awareness of the role professional accountant's play, we would raise the following additional items:
- Intended Audience - clarification on the intended audience for this publication would be useful as this provides the necessary content frame; is this document primarily a tool for raising awareness on this subject for member organisations, or for wider positioning with employers of professional accountants, governments and other influential parties directly?
- Case Studies -if the purpose of this document is for wider positioning with employers of professional accountants and other parties outside IFAC member bodies, it would be useful for the model to be supported by real examples and case studies, making explicit the role of professional accountants in organisations and showing how they create value. ACCA was pleased to see the publication of The Crucial Roles of Professional Accountants in Business in mid-sized enterprises, and believes these examples could be used to further validate the model.
- Quantification - the paper could give some consideration to how organisations measure the contribution professional accountants make. A number of practices are already established to measure the cost / turnover contribution of finance functions.
- SME Growth -we welcome that the paper acknowledges the role of professional accountants in different sizes of organisation. With many ACCA members working in or directly for the SME sector, this is an important global sector for ACCA. In connection with this, perhaps more prominence should be given to the impact of changing business models and future trends through greater fragmentation and diversification of value chains, reflected through the growth of SME in the global economy, as recently reported by ACCA. These macro developments are likely to have a significant impact on the role of professional accountants in business, as in the future we expect an even greater proportion of professional accountants to be employed by SME organisations, especially in emerging economies.
- Role coverage - generally we feel the paper presents a comprehensive view on the role of professional accountants at more senior levels in helping organisations drive sustainable success. We believe some considerations might be merited on the role of more junior accountants in supporting the value process and as a means of guiding these finance leaders of the future on their development as a professional accountant in business
- Business lifecycle - consideration of the role of professional accountants at different parts of the business lifecycle may also be of merit such as in venture capitalism, business start-ups, and their role in insolvency processes.
(b) Identifying how IFAC could assist its member bodies and associates in enhancing the competence of their members.
- A co-ordinated member body approach to developing a global competence framework for professional accountants in business would be welcomed; this would give member bodies a common platform on which to base interventions and solutions to develop competence and assist all professional accountants in business, irrespective of professional qualifications, in career mobility and career planning.
Question 2: What additional tools could IFAC develop to assist its member bodies and associates to promote and communicate the roles of professional accountants in business to various audiences, including employers, governments and regulators?
ACCA would welcome the development of a common suite of resources available to member bodies which could be used to promote the role of professional accountants in business. ACCA would support a consultative approach across member bodies to developing these. We would also support greater clarity and practicality in considering the role of professional accountants in helping drive value creation and sustainable business. Common collateral could include key messages in this area, supporting facts and figures, employer case studies, individual profiles of accountants in business, CEO perspectives and so on.
Question 3: Do you agree with the drivers of sustainable organisations that lead to long-term sustainable value creation, as identified in Part 2 and described in Appendix 2? If not, what alternatives would you suggest?
ACCA broadly agrees with the drivers of sustainable organisations as identified in Part 2 of the report. We also offer the following additional comments:
- Ethics and Professionalism - it may be beneficial to further highlight the relevance and importance of ethical behaviour and professionalism and the role of professional accountants in contributing to sustainable business success. We note that ethics is identified within the "effective leadership and strategy" driver. However, more prominence could usefully be given to the principles and benefits of the professional accountant developing and promoting an ethical culture through their professionalism, across other drivers, or indeed pulling this out as a separate driver in itself. Ethics and Professionalism is a cornerstone of ACCA's ongoing public interest agenda (and one that it shares with IFAC), and we see this as a critical component and responsibility of professional accountants in the value creation and sustainable business agenda.
- Strategy Execution - in reviewing this particular driver we have questioned whether in fact as this driver is more "operations" focused and the extent to which it is consistent with the other drivers identified. We would like to suggest that it could perhaps be more effectively subsumed within the Effective leadership and Strategy driver.
Question 4: Would IFAC member bodies and associates find it useful for an international competency framework to be developed, covering the roles of professional accountants defined in this paper.
ACCA would find this development useful if there was a common, cross member body approach taken. As identified previously, ACCA believes that the development of a common generic competency framework for professional accountants in business is possible, and would be useful and provide an appropriate frame for employers across markets and sectors in developing interventions to support competency development.
Question 5: How would a company framework be best structured? Could the competences be usefully structured using the eight drivers of sustainable organisations, and would it be practicable to use the description of the key expectations placed upon professional accountants in business in Part 4?
ACCA believes the drivers identified could be usefully structured as a basis for the competency framework, subject to the comments offered in the previous answer. We believe translating these generic drivers into the role areas that professional accountants perform would be the first step in creating the global competence framework. As noted previously, we believe there is sufficient common ground to be able to develop a competence framework relevant to professional accountants in all types of business, regardless of the specific industry sectors in which they are employed.
We very much welcome IFAC's focus on the needs of PAIBs, as a significant constituency within our membership and, of course, the global profession. Despite the diversity of entities within which PAIBs work, we believe starting from the point of view of commonality, especially in relation to value creation, is very valuable.