The report Towards greater convergence gauges the value that investors and CFOs see in IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and other global standards. The findings provide compelling evidence for policy makers and regulators that global convergence would be beneficial on a number of fronts - not just for IFRS, but also for audit and other areas such as corporate governance and non-financial reporting.
The survey of 163 CFOs and investors across the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle-East, published to co-incide with the 28th session of UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) in Geneva, also finds evidence that access to capital for companies has increased and its costs have been reduced by IFRS adoption.
Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, says: 'The growing support amongst CFOs and investors for global standards must be considered carefully by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as it considers its decision about whether the US should adopt IFRS; we believe a positive answer from the SEC would give a tremendous boost to the cause of financial reporting and more importantly the world economy.'
The research reveals that respondents’ increasing familiarity with global standards in financial reporting continues to break down resistance to their implementation. More than 40 per cent of respondents said that IFRS has improved access to capital, while around a quarter say adoption has lowered capital costs.
ACCA warns that the benefits of IFRS in terms of allowing investors to make accurate cross-border comparisons of companies will only be maximised if 'carve outs’ of standards by governments and other national add-ons to rules and regulations are kept to an absolute minimum.
Helen Brand comments: 'It is essential that national policymakers resist as far as possible the temptation to include issues which may be important in their countries but which, when aggregated, will threaten the integrity of the international regime. Global standards need to be just that – global.'
The research’s other findings show:
- The effect of the financial crisis has improved the perception of global standards among investors and issuers, with over half (52 per cent) saying they view global standards such as IFRSs more positively in the wake of economic crisis than in the last few years.
- 60 per cent of respondents see international standards as facilitators of more consistent regulation.
- Investors favour global auditing standards more than CFOs – 27 per cent of CFOs see some benefit from these, compared with nearly twice as many – 49 per cent who see little or no benefit.
- Amongst Investors, 44 per cent are positive on this, compared with 30 per cent who do not.
- Rising demands from investors and customers for greater disclosure is fuelling an appetite for global standards in non-financial reporting. Far more CFOs (37 per cent) believe standards will improve non-financial reports, such as those on corporate social responsibility and environmental risk, than the nine per cent who think otherwise.
- Executives believe that global standards or benchmarks in corporate governance would encourage more long term thinking with 70 per cent of both CFOs and investors believing that standards for corporate governance would encourage more long term thinking in the boardroom.
- There is also a clear recognition of the potential benefits of Integrated Reporting, with more than two thirds of those surveyed saying there is much to be gained – both in terms of better decision-making (39 per cent) and a more accurate picture of overall performance (28 per cent) from the presentation of financial, governance and sustainability information in an integrated format.
Helen Brand concludes: 'While ACCA has long supported global standards - we were the first major body to qualify accountants in IFRS – we also believe in evidence-based policy, which is why we commissioned this independent research. I am pleased to see that key stakeholders in the financial reporting process such as investors and CFOs are increasingly showing support for global accounting standards.'