World Congress of Accountants

In my role as an accounting firm coach, mentor and consultant I consider it important to attend selected industry events to keep up to date with what’s going on. That way I can share things of interest with my clients. Let me share some thoughts from the World Congress of Accountants held in Sydney in November.

The important contribution of accounting to the stability of global financial systems

One of the themes of the congress was the critical role accountants play globally in the stability of financial systems. This comes from people being able to trust numbers prepared by or audited by accountants. Without this trust there would be chaos. I think this is a good reminder that as accountants you make a difference. It can be in many small and large ways.

An example of the trust clients have in their accountants

Andrew Conway, the CEO of the Institute of Public Accountants talked about a study that the IPA had initiated and which found that 95% of small business owners interviewed said that engaging with their accountants reduced stress and or anxiety. He spoke of the prevalence of mental health issues amongst small business owners and the fact that in some cases the accountant is the only person a small business owner feels they can speak candidly with. Accountants are not health professionals but it may be you may need to refer a client to a health professional for additional support. Something to be mindful of.

Prince Charles loves accounting!

I was quite surprised to see Prince Charles on the big screen at the opening session. His interest in accounting is mostly in how it helps sustainability. He has a real passion in that area and exhorted us all to take seriously the ways in which accounting can help support sustainability.

Bernard Salt on countries to watch

There were 700 Nigerian accountants at the congress. Yes 700! Bernard Salt took the opportunity to point out that Nigeria currently has a population of 190 million and will grow to 400 million. It will be a global powerhouse and present many opportunities to those in a position to take advantage of them. He also flagged the rise and rise of India, as opposed to China, with the latter facing some challenges post its long term one child policy. His theme was about being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of opportunities on a large scale.

Niall Fergusson on what we haven’t learnt post the GFC

Economic historian Niall Fergusson walked us through the causes of the GFC. He listed 7 main causes and then reviewed what had changed in respect of each since. Scarily he concluded that not a lot had changed in respect of 6 of them! He stopped short of predicting another GFC but did wonder out loud if we really did learn much post the GFC.

The role of technology

Not surprisingly there were a number of sessions on technology as it applies to accounting. It’s old news now but another strong message was get digital or get out. A timely reminder for the laggards!

You can learn from others

I met an Australian accountant who had spoken with an accounting firm owner from Lesotho in Africa. It’s a country that many Australians will not have heard of. But this accounting frim owner was using all the latest cloud based tools including Xero and it sounded like he was more advanced than many Australian firms. I met some Brazilian accountants who told me about the role government plays there in some ways that are very different to what we see here. If I understood correctly when a business invoices a customer in Brazil it effectively goes via a giant government system that is capturing all business invoicing. Wow!

The Tesla Chairman is an Australian Accountant!

Many of you may be aware that the Chairman of Tesla is Robyn Denholm, an Australian trained accountant. A few tips from her for success were:

  • Continuous learning is critical
  • Resilience is important – bounce back
  • Have a mindset for change
  • An entrepreneurial mindset accepts there will be some failures
  • Measure people by outputs not inputs
  • Diversity of thought drives innovation
  • Look for faster, leaner ways of working