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The business environment is changing ever more quickly and the technical demands made of accountants in business, practice and the public sector are increasing all the time. But despite the pace of change, the big issues discussed at the symposium - accountability and trust - remain fundamental to what professional accountants do. ACCA and its global forums will continue to promote the case for the public value that accountants can create for individuals, businesses and public sector bodies
—John Davies, head of technical , ACCA

'Accountability and trust remain fundamental to what professional accountants do'

Corporate governance, business standards and trust were key future concerns identified by ACCA’s (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) global forums at their third symposium held in London recently.

ACCA’s 10 global forums gathered to discuss the most pressing challenges facing accountants, to articulate a vision for the future for the profession, and to debate thinking about the forum’s forthcoming direction.

The symposium’s discussions are presented in a new report called A changing world, which also reviews recent activity by the 10 global forums.

At a panel discussion about corporate governance and accountability, Adrian Berendt, executive director of independent clearing house LCH Clearnet and chair of ACCA’s global forum for governance, risk and performance, reflected on the steady increase of guidance and regulation in the area of corporate governance. Commenting about governance guides and codes, Mr Berendt said: 'We want to encourage the right kind of behaviours rather than writing complex rules.'

A fellow panellist, Peter Bonisch, managing director of risk adviser Paradigm Risk, argued that more attention must be paid to the issue of risk when trying to understand the link between governance and performance. 

Mr Bonisch said: 'The banking crisis has had an extended impact on other sectors, but that does not mean that there is uniformly a crisis of corporate governance. If there is a generalised problem, it is that concerns about governance are preventing companies from taking on risk and managing it properly.'

Speaking about governance from the public sector perspective, Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector at ACCA, said that when it comes to corporate governance, accountability is one of the key issues, saying: 'The public sector is developing in all sorts of ways in terms of new partnership models, shared services and the increasing provision of public services by the private sector. And all this blurs the accountability lines.'

The symposium concluded with a session on accountancy and the trust agenda, with a presentation from Laurence Evans, president of Edelman Berland, which publishes an annual trust barometer, now in its 13th year. He said at the meeting that addressing the issue of trust is vitally important to the value that accountants bring to society.

John Davies, head of technical at ACCA, concluded: 'The business environment is changing ever more quickly and the technical demands made of accountants in business, practice and the public sector are increasing all the time. But despite the pace of change, the big issues discussed at the symposium - accountability and trust - remain fundamental to what professional accountants do. ACCA and its global forums will continue to promote the case for the public value that accountants can create for individuals, businesses and public sector bodies.'