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ACCA chief discusses future of accounting in Asia

Update: December, 05/2013 - 09:20
The ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), a body with a membership of 162,000 finance professionals around the world, offers business-relevant qualifications to people in the accounting industry. The ACCA organised a two-day ASEAN Learning Conference that ends today in HCM City. The event is titled ‘Supporting Growth: Nurturing talents for an Integrated Nation'.

Viet Nam News spoke with Alan Hatfield, Director – Learning, the ACCA.

What did you discuss at the conference and what are the lessons drawn from it?

Alan Hatfield

We discussed effective ways of putting higher education to work, the roles of higher education institutions and employers in developing talents as well as the regulators' perspective of a strong talent ecosystem that supports a sustainable business environment. This is because today's business environment is changing more rapidly than ever and corporations must create a different workplace culture and align their talents and business strategies to remain competitive.

The impending rise of the ASEAN Community, which aims to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development brings with it opportunities and challenges. This conference is designed to provide a platform to discuss and consider education trends and needs, human capital development, which is fundamental to developing a steady stream of talent supply, and the role of finance professionals to support economic growth.

The interactive sessions with the trainers drew questions, suggestions, and ideas from the participants, and we understood what challenges higher education providers in different markets are facing and how they overcome such challenges.

The facilitators also gave their thoughts and analyses of these situations and provided many valuable insights that were very relevant to our markets and also focused on better methods of teaching and how we could best enhance the study courses.

What is your assessment of the current status of professional human resources and their development in ASEAN member countries, especially Viet Nam?

The accounting and auditing industry in Viet Nam has developed rapidly since its establishment during the 1990s. However, with only 2,000 qualified accountants and 200 auditing firms, the supply of human resources for this industry remains limited compared to the huge demand of Viet Nam's fast growing economy. We expect the growth to accelerate as the independent auditing law came into effect in 2012, setting up a sound legal framework to improve the management of independent accounting firms and enhance transparency for enterprises and the economy.

What are the challenges around the dynamics that drive human-resources needs and the changing aspects of doing business?

Staff development in any organisation is important as it helps with staff motivation, talent recruitment and retention, and reduces the risk of departments or teams working in isolation. Talent management is all about career development but for it to work, global talent management practices must be adopted locally and made to work. The challenge lies in not only the development of effective corporate governance and financial management but also ensuring that employers understand the rigour of the processes. In a fast changing environment, the job is never complete. While the challenges may vary, the solutions will be similar irrespective of whether the economy is emerging or has arrived.

A key theme for the future has been the need for the effectiveness of talent management practices across the finance function - from shared services to the retained finance function. Recent findings from an ACCA report called "Talent management in a shared services world: 2012 survey" shows that talent management is inconsistent. The report surveyed 1,200 organisations, with one third representing companies with more than US$3 billion in annual revenues. The research reveals 72 per cent of respondents say they do not implement talent management programmes across the entire function, or admit that they are not aware of such programmes existing. We believe the findings were startling and show a need for change.

A few key challenges faced by employers include managing the overall workload to ensure work flows evenly throughout the year to make best use of resources and minimise the risks that arise from working under unreasonable time pressure. The allocation of staff to assignments based on their ability and experience and taking account of their training needs is also something that needs to be carefully managed.

As a major global association of chartered certified accountants, how do you see the development of accounting and accountants in Viet Nam? What can you do to support the country, and what is your advice to it?

As stated previously, the supply of human resources for this industry is now meeting only a fraction of the demand from the market. Because of its increasing prominence in the economy, finance and accounting are considered "hot" professions, hence the rise in the number of finance professionals in the market. We view this as a healthy and necessary development for the economy as this will boost the competitiveness and increase the general level of competency of human resources.

We believe, given appropriate training, Vietnamese finance professionals can attain expertise and professionalism on a par with that of their international counterparts. However, to date only a small number of professional accountants have gained internationally recognised certifications.

Realising this need, ACCA has been actively contributing to increasing the number of qualified accounting professionals through rigorous training courses and organising high-quality examinations, awarding international certificates and a number of qualifications related to the practice of accounting, auditing, finance and management to Vietnamese professionals. We have also contributed to enhancing the transparency of the local industry by providing inputs and feedback to policy makers. We will continue to hold events and training courses for Vietnamese finance professionals. Following our agreement of co-operation on joint examination scheme with the Ministry of Finance, we will roll out support for members in training, updating professional knowledge, assisting members in maintaining high standards of professionalism, ethics, and qualification, and sponsor training of ministry officials as a way to develop a new generation of policy makers well equipped with an understanding of international standards and practices. — VNS

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