This article was first published in the March 2018 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

The eyes of the accountancy profession around the world will be turning towards Sydney, Australia, this November, when more than 6,000 finance and business leaders from 130 countries will come together for the four-yearly World Congress of Accountants (WCOA).

Effectively the Olympics Games of the accountancy world, WCOA is the premier accounting conference for the global business and finance community. For four days in Sydney, professional accountants will grapple with the global challenges of change and disruption, and how to turn them into opportunities.

WCOA takes place every four years and is an initiative of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). One of this year’s co-hosts is ACCA’s strategic alliance partner Chartered Accountants ANZ (CA ANZ); the other is CPA Australia. WCOA 2018 is the first time since 1972 that the conference has returned to Sydney.

‘I’ve heard people call WCOA the Olympics of accountants,’ says Rick Ellis, chief executive of CA ANZ. ‘I guess that’s because it is held every four years and brings together the best business and finance minds from around the world.

‘To give you an idea of the calibre of speaker and insight afforded to delegates, Pope Francis spoke at the last WCOA in Rome in 2014 about the positive impact that our profession can make on society.’

One to remember

In true Olympian style, the organisers are hoping the event will turn out to be the ‘most prestigious, memorable, and professionally powerful experience of a lifetime’. 

A record number of delegates are expected to attend the event, which will be held 5-8 November 2018. Topics up for debate include blockchain, big data, sustainability, artificial intelligence and the future of work. 

Recognising the importance and scale of the event, ACCA is a gold-level sponsor and will use the opportunity to showcase its key research, working alongside CA ANZ.

Helen Brand, ACCA chief executive, says: ‘The accounting profession is evolving to meet the needs of a rapidly changing business and economic landscape, and this important event will enable the profession to come together to debate the future and demonstrate the leadership that will be required in the years ahead. 

‘I’m sure that the 2018 Congress will inspire delegates and create discussions that will help us all deal with the demands placed on the profession.’

Global themes

This year’s event is entitled Global Challenges/Global Leaders, with the programme centring around building prosperity and acting in the public interest – ‘broad themes that strike right at the heart of the profession and how it operates on the global stage’, says Brand.

The Congress programme will explore issues including: 

  • protecting the public interest and building prosperity
  • addressing the leadership challenge
  • embracing disruptive technologies and innovation
  • enhancing ethics and integrity
  • exploring sustainable solutions to business, social enterprises and economies.

The first WCOA was held in St Louis, US, in 1904 – as were that year’s Olympic Games. WCOA 2018 will feature more than 150 speakers, described by the organising committee as ‘inspirational business leaders, unconventional disruptors and cutting-edge innovators’. On day one, the Congress will host 50 organisations showcasing the latest technology and innovations from all around the world.

The Congress will be hosted by the International Convention Centre on the Sydney Harbour waterfront. Social events will include a reception at the Maritime Museum and a cruise around the harbour, with views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

As IFAC president Rachel Grimes says: ‘WCOA will provide access to the latest in thinking and forecasting of the future trends for our profession, as well as allowing participants to showcase their own expertise with their international peers. With the event taking place in Australia, delegates will go beyond the confines of the professional world and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Australian customs and culture.’