Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, at Speech for ACCA's Gala Dinner at The Regent Singapore, 5 November 2004, 8.15 PM08 Nov 2004
Mr John Brace, ACCA President
Ms Helen Hee, ACCA Singapore Branch President
Members of the ACCA Local Executive Council
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to be here today at the ACCA Centenary Gala Dinner.
The ACCA's Achievements
2. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has much to celebrate about. Since its establishment in the United Kingdom 100 years ago, ACCA has played a key role in the development of the accountancy profession globally. Today, ACCA is the largest international accountancy body with more than 320,000 students and members in 160 countries.
3. In Singapore, the origins of ACCA go back almost 70 years. I would like to commend in particular ACCA's role in promoting the accountancy profession over these years. ACCA has enabled many non-graduate Singaporeans to become professional accountants. It has provided opportunities for school-leavers, graduates and mature candidates, regardless of their backgrounds, as long as they had the ability and determination. Many of these graduates have gone on to pursue successful professional careers in both the private and public sectors.
4. Today, ACCA provides a range of accounting qualifications, from technician to professional accountant. ACCA's success has exemplified the importance of continual education and upgrading in this rapidly changing world.
Challenges Facing the Accountancy Profession and ACCA
Accountants and Corporate Governance
5. The accountancy profession faces many challenges. Worldcom, Enron and Parmalat have unfortunately shaken the public's trust in the profession. The accounting profession must rebuild its credibility and regain the trust of the markets and investors.
6. This means that accountants can no longer see themselves as mere finance managers and providers of historical financial information. Stakeholders are demanding that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and other senior executives who are accountants serve as 'the conscience of the corporation'. This is a tall order but with their technical expertise and oversight of business operations, accountants are well-placed to play this role.
ACCA's role in promoting high accounting standards
7. Good corporate governance provides a strong foundation for businesses to prosper. High standards of accounting are a key pillar of good corporate governance. The role that ACCA plays in supporting international accounting standards is thus vital.
8. In Singapore, ACCA has worked closely with the national accountancy body, ICPAS (Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore), and made significant contributions in upholding and enhancing accountancy standards. I look forward to ACCA's continued active involvement in this area.
Inputs for Business Strategy
9. Another challenge for accountants and finance officers is in understanding the business implications of financial decisions and actions. Today, finance officers are expected to contribute more towards setting the direction and the running of businesses. Financial insights into strategic and operational decision-making are critical in gaining competitive advantage and focusing on value creation for stakeholders. Many Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are now demanding more perspectives and inputs from their CFOs and finance officers. Finance is integral to business strategy.
10. Accountants face other challenges in this ever-changing market environment. I will just mention two. One is keeping pace with technological innovation. Accountants not only have to continually learn how to use new technology, but also understand how changing technology, such as Internet-enabled information sharing and enhanced data mining, impacts on businesses and their work.
11. Secondly, the hunger of investors and creditors for timely, frequent and yet accurate disclosure of financial information will pose a challenge. Accountants have to learn how to meet these demands without compromising standards.
The Need for Continuous Professional Development
12. Faced with these new challenges and responsibilities, accountants will have to not only upgrade their core skills but also acquire new skills in areas which they may not be familiar with.
13. ACCA, true to its mission in providing quality professional opportunities through education, will also have to adapt and play a pivotal role in the continuous professional development of accountants. I am happy to hear that ACCA has recently introduced a range of new qualifications aimed at enhancing the skills of future financial managers and accountants. These include the MBA programme with Oxford Brookes University and the Diploma in Corporate Governance.
14. Let me conclude by congratulating ACCA on its centenary as it embarks on an exciting new journey over the next century. I am confident that ACCA will continue to be successful in helping to build a new generation of accountants to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.