The Accountant – Issue 2 of 2021 (MIA Publication)
Recently I had a number of meetings with representatives of the small and medium sized practitioners (SMP) community within our membership base. All our members, but particularly SMPs, have been subjected to an increased level of compliance work, enhanced level of interaction with regulators and quite a lot of bureaucracy which continues to be introduced.
To be fair, I think this has impacted the entire profession, irrespective of size and other factors. Whilst a part of this additional burden is attributable to changes within our profession, and hence unavoidable, some of the burden has been imposed on our profession in view of national and other market wide issues.
We need to work together, as a profession, to improve the situation and to ensure that our profession is treated fairly and with due respect. We should not be treated as though our market’s reputation is solely impacted by events surrounding our profession, as many factors (most of which are unrelated to our profession) have contributed to the status quo.
The Institute will continue leading the profession throughout this period with decisiveness and strength. We will continue to voice our views on all relevant issues and we want every single member to feel his or her agenda and difficulties are being addressed by the Institute. In voicing our views, we start off from a very strong base as our opinion is considered as strong and reliable.
However, I cannot but continue to refer to the fact that times have changed, market and regulatory expectations are completely different, and the market’s standing has also changed. As a profession we need to continue to mature and improve. I urge every single member to embrace this necessity to improve notwithstanding the frustration the profession is experiencing and despite the factors mentioned above.
The best centre forward ever in the history of football (he’s Dutch), who used to play in the greatest football club, used to predicate that he knew he had to be stronger than everything to become successful – stronger than injuries, competition, jealousy, referees, prejudice, sometimes coaches…. As a profession we have to be stronger than regulation and bureaucracy and rise above difficulties attributable to these matters. This is why we are the best profession around.
Regulatory and compliance fatigue is a matter which the Institute will continue to address in the coming weeks. We have already made several recommendations to the authorities and we will continue to do so incessantly. But we do need the members’ support not solely with identification of problems; we need you to help us propose specific workable solutions in a constructive manner. I once again encourage all members to contribute and to participate within the Committee structure of the Institute.
I also encourage members to put their names forward for Council membership to make a difference within our sector. The best way to contribute to the Institute’s agenda, encompassing individual or sectorial concerns, from within the Institute is by forming part of the Council and participate in devising strategy and policy. I have found this extremely rewarding as a professional.
SMPs are a very important part of our membership base; but there again every single member is important to me and to the Institute’s Council. We have strived tremendously over the years to ensure that the Institute is not considered solely the home of members emanating from larger firms and is not viewed as interested only in defending members hailing from larger firms. In the past eight years that I have been involved with the management of the Institute, we have always considered and given prominence to the viewpoint of all members in respect of all issues addressed by the Institute. In eight years, there wasn’t one policy choice or decision where we favoured one member’s interests as opposed to another member’s objectives. To us it is truly one membership base of professional accountants.
Some might feel that the Institute is not managing to convince the authorities on certain matters in respect of compliance and bureaucracy. I disagree. And violently so. But I do concede to the fact that there are always ways to enhance our actions in convincing authorities to implement or not implement particular changes. And we are in constant search of manners in which to enhance our approach. However, there is a national reality and market conditions which cannot be ignored and hence the regulatory response to such conditions is not always negotiable – whether we like it or not.
At the time of writing this address, as a country we are still awaiting the FATF verdict. By the time you will read this address, you might be aware of the outcome. Whatever the outcome is, our sector and the marketplace will be subject to continued pressure to enhance and innovate in a sustainable and compliant manner. Our response will no doubt be influenced by the outcome, but the development of the long term strategy for our sector will in any case require significant effort and investment in the coming months in the face of all international challenges and pressure.
Changing tack... We continue to work hard on all fronts to make a difference within our professional community. I would like to focus on two initiatives this time round.
We are embarking on a communications campaign to enhance the attractiveness and appeal of our profession with the underlying objective of attracting a larger number of students to our profession.
We need to work on enhancing the number of students choosing Accountancy throughout secondary school studies and focusing on retention of a sufficient number of students for post secondary tuition. We need to promote the different facets of the profession, the interesting profile of accountancy professionals and the success related to our profession in general. We need to attract the best students whilst simultaneously increasing the number of students within accountancy related fields.
Our profession needs to get to a situation where in a number of years’ time, the number of accountants qualifying within a specific year is a multiple of the level currently experienced. However, this also needs to be achieved in conjunction with raising the quality bar of newly qualified accountants, which is a challenge in itself. We need to work closely with accountancy teachers, guidance teachers, parents and above all students in this respect.
We also need to ensure that the needs of the profession over the foreseeable future, in respect of skills set and disciplines, are catered for as our profession continues to evolve fast and the nature of services provided develops. Hence, we need to ensure diverse students with different aptitudes and interests are drawn to the profession, focusing on areas such as fintech, data science and forensic. This will ultimately entail revisions to the curriculum covered within secondary schools and post-secondary levels, including University courses together with material attributable to other qualification routes. Our profession will be strong in the coming years only if we manage to strengthen the number and quality of freshly qualified accountants; if we manage to strengthen the ranks and breadth of our professional community.
We continue to engage with the authorities to enhance Malta’s attractiveness to expatriate individuals seeking employment within the accountancy profession. One of these initiatives focuses on ensuring that the Visa and work permit processes are streamlined as much as possible to ensure that expats that decide to relocate to Malta, particularly within our profession, find it easier to do so. We are also seeking to identify, together with firms and other practitioners, territories and corridors which could be targeted by our profession to attract qualified accountants therefrom, with the objective of recommending and facilitating effective Visa and work permit processes.
The Institute’s activities in the past few weeks have culminated in the Extraordinary General Meeting held with the approval of the proposed revisions to the Statute. Apart from continuing to enhance the levels of governance applied at the Institute, these revisions reflect the impact of lessons learned from our disciplinary proceedings instituted recently. I would like to thank the members who were present at the meeting for approving these changes. I do urge our members to attend and participate at general meetings, to contribute by making suggestions and to demonstrate your rights by voting. Unfortunately, the day after the EGM a member requested some amendments to particular articles within the statute, which articles were the subject matter of the EGM. Participation at general meetings is fundamental to get approval for requested changes within the appropriate forum.
We are heading towards summer and since it has been an intense period for our profession in the last few months, I hope that we will all manage to have well deserved breaks or holidays. If there is one thing that I have learnt over the years, with age, is that holidays are extremely important for professionals like ourselves to recharge our mental and physical batteries. I hope you will enjoy summer and hopefully some of our Institute’s activities that are meant to be organised over the coming weeks.