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The accountant - Spring 2020

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  • 18 May 2020 12:00 | Anonymous
    In my previous address, I had highlighted the eventful and challenging times which were being faced by our profession in view of our country’s perceived reputation in international circles and the potential impact of the MONEYVAL assessment on business in general.  In the meantime, these challenges have unfortunately become even more amplified with the outbreak of COVID-19.  However, our profession is unique and resilient; we will overcome this.

    During the past weeks, the Institute has worked proactively, relentlessly and in a determined manner, to address pandemic-associated risks. Our aim was to provide members with timely and relevant support.  We recommended that all members stay focused and take all necessary health precautions, but also appealed to all practices to focus on business continuity.
    Most of our members quickly adapted to alternative working practices and resorted to technology to communicate effectively.  We have demonstrated how capable the profession is of adapting and learning to overcome a challenge.
    The Institute has also taken steps to reorganise itself, with the least possible disruption to members. The offices remain closed and staff are working remotely, while scheduled crowd gathering events and conferences have been cancelled or postponed.
    All initiatives undertaken during this period continue being driven by the five pillars at the core of the MIA's strategy. 
    The MIA as a home to all qualified professional accountants
    The Institute continuously kept in touch with its members and provided daily development updates, as well as direct support. A survey was conducted to evaluate the impact of the outbreak on our profession and this will be repeated over time to continue monitoring the impacts.
    Unfortunately, feedback indicates that several members are already experiencing operational or financial difficulties. This feedback was used to shape the Institute’s representations and recommendations to Government and other relevant stakeholders. Our aim is to work relentlessly to understand members’ concerns, and we will not rest our case until specific measures are implemented to address profession-specific circumstances and difficulties.  
    Fostering collegiality and comradeship among accountants and striving to make the Institute's voice heard, loud and clear
    Businesses and public institutions now require the professional advice of accountants, auditors, and financial consultants more than ever, as economic pressures and uncertainty pile up. The Institute’s unique role is that of acting as a facilitating intermediary between the profession and regulators, stakeholders.  Through effective interaction we have influenced outcomes, supporting members and stakeholders throughout this period.
    In fact, the Institute has been working closely with stakeholders including the MFSA, the FIAU, the Malta Gaming Authority and the Malta Business Registry to reassess obligations, such as reporting deadlines and submission timeframes, that affect multiple sectors of regulated entities.  We have been instrumental in communicating concerns to regulators and stakeholders, proposing alternative arrangements, assisting in the decision-making process and communicating to you in a clear and timely manner all developments in this respect.
    The Institute also held intensive talks with the Commissioner for Revenue (CfR) to discuss deadlines for submissions and settlements for direct and indirect tax matters, that are due in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the CfR sought the Institute’s advice on the proposed mechanism for COVID related fiscal measures announced by Government. MIA delivered detailed technical feedback on COVID related measures and also proposed a series of other important fiscal measures in this context.  We have effected a number of submissions in this respect and our proposals have been communicated to members of the Cabinet.  We have shared the substance of our submissions with you in our member communication initiatives. The Institute has utilised the experience and knowledge of its tax committees’ members in its recommendations to Government and relevant authorities.  
    We had intensive discussions with members of the Cabinet to ensure, in a clear and unequivocal manner, that those professional accountants in practice whose livelihood has been adversely impacted can make his/her case to Malta Enterprise and apply for relief under the COVID-19 wage supplement mechanism, notwithstanding the contents of Annex A and Annex B.  With respect to the CfR’s notification in relation to COVID-19: Fiscal Assistance – Postponement of Payment of Certain Taxes, we have been assured, once again in a clear and unequivocal manner, that the postponement of taxes will be extended to those professional accountants in practice who can genuinely demonstrate that they are experiencing difficulties in effecting payments.  We have communicated this stance to you as members; we have encouraged you to apply for such measures and to keep MIA informed of developments in this respect. Please do keep us updated so that we can continue making representations on your behalf.  As you are aware, we have organised member information sharing events with the CfR and Malta Enterprise on these measures.  In our discussions with members of the Cabinet we have continued to present other proposed measures which are being considered; such proposals have been communicated to you as outlined previously.
    The MIA also launched a round of talks with the Malta Bankers’ Association as well as commercial banks to address liquidity issues raised by members. With the launch of the COVID-19 guarantee scheme, the Institute also involved the Malta Development Bank, in an open information session for members regarding the details of this scheme.
    The Institute actively participated in several fora with employers and associations to promote a common front to shared difficulties.  Since the pandemic has hit many professions directly, the Institute worked with the Kamra tal-Periti, the Chamber of Advocates, the Kunsill Notarili ta’ Malta and the Dental Association of Malta to safeguard the interests of more than 10,000 professionals and related employees. Through this forum, a set of effective solid recommendations, to specifically support professional sectors, were presented to Government.  We have shared a summary of these proposals through our member communications. As highlighted above, the Institute was assured that professional accountants in practice, like other professions, whose revenue had been adversely impacted, had a case to qualify for all available pandemic related assistance packages.  
    As a member of prominent international professional bodies such as Accountancy Europe, the Institute is constantly monitoring developments in other countries, to better prepare members for the consequences of the current situation.
    The MIA is doing its utmost to react positively to these circumstances and to influence stakeholders. Discussions held to date with stakeholders were deemed as constructive and proposals presented were positively received and considered. The Institute, on the strength of its 3,500 member base, is an important voice on matters during this challenging period. Collegiality and comradeship among accountants are more prominent than ever. Several professionals have contributed their time and provided input at different levels, to ensure that the Institute’s objectives are achieved, and the profession’s voice is heard.
    Elevating quality and raising standards within our profession
    The outbreak will have serious repercussions on the 2020 business financial results, impacting financial reporting and auditing, which activities characterise our profession. The MIA’s technical team, with the support of the technical committees, immediately started work on compiling detailed COVID-19 related guidance, to help members address financial reporting and audit reporting issues appropriately and consistently.
    As previously indicated, we are working on the proposed amendments to the Accountancy Profession Act, to create a comprehensive and fair definition of what constitutes professional accountancy.  This will ensure that certain services, which require the skills of a professional accountant, will only be carried out by an adequately qualified and trained professional and that only professional accountants will be able to call themselves as such.  This initiative will contribute towards elevating professional standards and address the risk of non-suitably qualified persons bringing the profession into disrepute, curbing the rampant use of the term ‘accountant’.
    The Institute is working to complete the sector specific implementing procedures, which need to be finalised by June in line with MONEYVAL related deadlines.  We are interacting with the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) and the Accountancy Board on this project. 
    Enhancing the education and qualification process
    MIA CPE and Information dissemination sessions
    Continuing Professional Education (CPE) for members is now being provided through a digital platform. Several free online information sessions are also being offered to members to clarify any questions and uncertainties with the relevant authorities on announced measures.  During these challenging times we will strive to enhance our information sharing sessions at no cost to our members – we have already organised sessions with important stakeholders.  Our priority is to continuously support members and ensure they are kept up to date. Frequently asked questions are being compiled and revised, in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, for quick access by members.
    CPE accreditation process
    In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Institute proposed the revision of the existing Accreditation Rules with the aim of extending their applicability to live webinars. These rules were approved by the Accountancy Board and have come into effect to assist service providers offering CPE using online platforms, during the COVID-19 period.
    MIA-ACCA Joint Scheme
    The Institute also kept regular contact with ACCA and local ACCA Approved Learning Providers, to keep students updated with the most recent developments, in relation to COVID-19 related concerns, primarily related to exam postponements.
    Wrapping it up, I would like to once again reiterate my ongoing message during the past days - as a profession, we are resilient, strong and proud; together, we will overcome this challenge.  Do not allow this challenge to make you feel isolated or helpless; reach out to the Institute to work as one front and one profession.  We are here to help and support on all matters.
    Allow to close this address on a particular note.  Since my previous address, the Institute lost one of its members (and what a member) – Mario Mallia.  Mario was a very important member of the Institute to us; as a professional accountant he had a successful career and he was an example for our profession.  He combined integrity, technical knowledge, pragmatism, experience, a humble approach and calmness in a unique manner – a quiet gentleman but with firm views.  Above all, he was a great lunch companion and a wonderful friend.  When COVID allows this, I will go for lunch at your favourite restaurant and drink your favourite red wine in your honour.  Great man who lived a great life.  His family, friends and colleagues are extremely lucky to have had Mario in their lives.  We’ll meet again Sur!

  • 18 May 2020 11:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Business as Usual?  –  Spring 2020 (MIA Publication)
    In the past decades, technology promised to free us from our workplace and empower us to work anywhere. However, this never materialised since companies were reluctant to loosen their hold on employees. However, the rise of the pandemic gave employers no choice. It immediately became a matter of survival and companies who did not adapt were risking closure. 
    Luckily for us, we live in a technologically advanced world where migrating our job online is rather easy. The first and obvious requirement is a good internet connection since this will serve as the gateway for all our digital services. This requirement is not a problem in western countries when one considers that on average, there's an 85% broadband penetration in their households. The second fundamental requirement is a digital device such as a laptop or a tablet capable of connecting with the Internet. 
    Once these two requirements are satisfied, it is now time to shift towards the necessary applications. Most of these apps are free and accessible through a browser, so they tend to be hardware independent. All one has to do is go to their website and use the app. The following is a list of applications which one needs to get started.
    • An online calendar is essential to schedule and organise meetings. It is accessible from any device located anywhere. 
    • Quick chats with work colleagues or customers can happen via email or through the various messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Slack and countless others.
    • For longer meetings, one would require a video conferencing app such as Skype or Zoom. Most of them are free and allow for multiple people to meet in one virtual room. 
    • To execute complex projects, applications like Trello help people manage tasks by subdividing them into subtasks and assigning them to different team members. Deadlines assigned to specific tasks will keep people in check. 
    • Working with people across different locations and timezones can be tricky. Because of that, tools like G Suite by Google and Office 365 by Microsoft help team members collaborate on various documents simultaneously. These suites include support for the most popular productivity apps such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint or variants of them (which are 100% compatible). They also provide users with cloud storage, thus ensuring that the files are saved safely in a remote location. 
    • Finally, since access to the office computer might still be required while at home, the Chrome Remote Desktop helps users access their machine securely from any device. 
    With all of these applications in place, one is ready to start working in no time. After a few trial sessions, one begins to realise that in the end, remote working is not much different from working in an office. One can still organise 1:1 meetings, group meetings, work on shared documents or ask for advice. However, remote working also brings with it some of the following pitfalls;
    • Office hours take an entirely new meaning. One can work at any time of the day and night since the office is now only one meter away. It is crucial to set up time bounds which would avoid overworking and eventually burnout. 
    • Many people feel uncomfortable during a video conference because it tends to dilute interaction cues between people. People usually look at someone's eyes when they speak, but this does not happen in a video conference because they are looking at the camera. Others tend to gesticulate too, but this is several reduced in a video call. So sometimes, a video call is awkward for people, and in that case, people should have the option to switch off their camera if it makes them uncomfortable. 
    • Being in an office also brings with it accidental-communication whereby people get to know additional details about a project informally. This form of communication happens typically in the corridors or during break time. While many organisation try to discourage it in favour of more structured communication channels, the truth is that it still happens and helps employees understand better different viewpoints. Of course, this does not occur while working from home and in this case, the company should promote a transparent agenda where everything about a specific project gets shared amongst all the team members in organised chats. 
    • Waking up for work, rolling out of bed and finding oneself in the home office is not healthy. A morning ritual is essential to maintain some sense of normality (especially when remote working is an imposition rather than a choice). Of course, everyone has his ideal template of the perfect morning routine and maintaining it is essential to stay motivated. 
    • Finally, let's not forget that the home is the epicentre of all distractions. Fluffy-cat might be jumping all over the keyboard for attention, the kids start yelling from the other room, the brain ponders about the ending of that fabulous Netflix series, and the pantry calls you to take a snack every 5 minutes. So many things to waste your time on! Unfortunately, distractions are a reality in every setting; we have to accept them, learn to live with them and set boundaries where possible. 
    But even though working from home has its challenges, it can also offer various benefits; 
    • Commuting becomes inexistent, thus saving people travelling time, traffic-related frustration and car expenses. Just think what one can do with an extra hour every day and with hundreds of euros saved!
    • Each person can reduce his carbon footprint by at least 2.3 metric tons of CO2 every year.
    • Being at home also means that one is in total control of his diet. Unhealthy choices because of peer pressure become a thing of the past—no more excuses to eat fast food because there isn't a microwave in the kitchenette!
    • Companies design their offices according to their brand guidelines while prioritising functionality and interactivity. But the home office is different; it reflects the employee's individualistic style. Whether the person is a Feng Shui freak, who prefers to work in arctic temperatures but surrounded by tropical plants or an underground dungeon master locked in a dark room is entirely up to the individual. These choices make the home office a fun space which helps employees increase their productivity. 
    • Finally, remote working does not have to be from home. If there are no health restrictions, employees can comfortably work from coffee shops, co-working spaces or even in nature. If one wants to take it further, he can also work from one or several foreign countries. These people are typically referred to as digital nomads because they use technologies to earn a living while conducting a nomadic lifestyle. 
    This article tried to paint an honest picture of remote working. The system is far from perfect, but it does offer various advantages, and it is good enough to fulfil the needs of modern workplaces. One thing is for sure, when the health emergency recedes, we cannot return to our old habits, but we have to invest further and improve remote work practices. We will never know when the next pandemic will hit us, and it might be sooner than we think. When it does, we have to be ready. From now on, remote working should not be a secret weapon which we unveil when the need arises but rather an extension of our current work practices.  It should be second nature for us to work from home. Only then can we keep on working without disruption when the next pandemic hits us. 

    Prof Alexiei Dingli is a Professor of AI at the University of Malta and has been conducting research and working in the field of AI for more than two decades, assisting different companies to implement AI solutions. He formed part of the Malta.AI task-force, set up by the Maltese government, aimed at making Malta one of the top AI countries in the world.

  • 18 May 2020 10:30 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Business as Usual?  –  Spring 2020 (MIA Publication)
    Up until a few months ago, businesses were easing intothe idea of disruption as a concept which threatened conventional operations. Fast forward a few weeks, the world has woken up to one of the world’s largest disruptions caused by the unexpected powerful pandemic, COVID-19. Businesses are being forced to rethink their strategies and keep up with this intense current development that will potentially transform the face of industry for the forthcoming months ahead. But what adjustments do business managers have to make considering all this?
    Taking a reactive approach would be recipe for disaster. Most businesses are indeed seeking to understand their team’s ability to manage these real-time challenges in the wake of such crisis and ensure they become equipped with the necessary skills. Yet the reality is, that in order to get ahead of this disruption, business managers need to learn to be instinctive rather than reactive.
    The next question becomes, how do you cultivate a proactive instinct? It has become salient to focus on growing the team’s empowerment and widen their ability to foresee risks and discover opportunities to the best of their capabilities. This can be done by putting some initiatives to best practice, whereby the whole organisation is able to establish processes which enable Business Continuity Management (BCM).
    If tomorrow the business had to face a force majeure event, what can we do today to maintain modus operandi and still deliver successful results? Techopedia, 2012 defines Business Continuity Management as “the management of core conceptual resources that address future threats to a business and help business leaders handle the impacts of these threats.” As a starting point, businesses need to establish a baseline, which enables them to identify where they lie on the preparedness scale. ‘Are we highly prepared? Somewhat prepared? Or relatively unprepared?’
    This will gauge what the level of extremity with which the BCM is put into action. If enough resources are in place, some companies may choose to participate in business continuity standards practices and obtain professional certifications such as ISO 22301, to benchmark themselves against competitors. Other businesses can do this by participating in focus groups and conventions with other organisations to discuss a range of possible crises situations. This approach to planning however mostly tends to focus on past events, as one can ‘safely’ learn from the experience.
    When the storm is out of sight, to what extent can business focus on the risk?
    It becomes rather vague to shift too much energy into the ‘unknown’. Unfortunately, this is precisely the challenge most of us are facing now following the outbreak of COVID-19. Facing this sudden war has brought most businesses to their knees trying to cope with testing and reworking their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) every day that passes. With multiple situations demanding urgent attention, even well drawn up needs to remain in flow and mindsets need to change as we are in uncertain times. With most teams working remotely from home, businesses cannot afford to pick things up again when ‘back in office’ and wait till this is all over. This is only possible with the right Enterprise Management Systems (EMS) in place to create a ‘business as usual’ environment and as much as possible maintain the routine.
    Information is power, and this applies for every decision maker out there. When ploughing through crisis, it becomes intensely important to know how much the business is receiving, and how much it is paying at any point in time, in other words, managing its cash flow. A financial plan needs to be drawn up for a longer period than usual which can prove to be a good time to cut most of the avoidable costs. Moreover, it is critical to maintain communication with customers, who are paying off their debts. Letting them know that your business is on top of things in this unprecedented time avoids confusion and disappointment.
    Last but not least, one thing that ensures business continuity is how well any company can take care of their workforce. This is where empowerment comes in. Guidance needs to be in place which allows everyone to cope with the business
    BCPs are suddenly in a state of hardship. The reality of this story is that the ‘unknown’ is already way ahead of the story, and nobody knows how long this will last! Businesses need to focus their efforts in 3 major facets:
    One thing that may need strengthening is Business Agility and time management. A resilient organisation is one that manages to operate at full speed in the face of adversity. Risk is unavoidable but one thing we can do is to dampen the impact when things go south. The cost of not being resilient can be severe and possibly fatal therefore it needs to be designed into every single business process, including the IT disaster recovery plans. This echoes what was mentioned earlier, the striving need for cultivating proactive instinct. How close are we to the next big disruption? How can the available resources be redirected in the specified time before the crisis strikes? For how long can the company survive in the worst-case scenario? These are all questions which evolve in a proactive culture, and they are not only questions to be addressed by top management but rather need to be present in every function, process and person within an organisation.
    Decisions need to be actioned quickly and in real time and this can only be done if the right technology is in place. Communication is key and needs to be multifaceted for the work to continue as CEOs need to remain in touch with investors and lenders, other competing businesses and most of all, their management team. Information challenges and everyone needs to work more closely, now more than ever. Working from home can be a struggle to some employees, therefore some flexibility needs to be allowed, keeping an eye on possible declining productivity. It does become overwhelming to leverage and manage everyone remotely and it particularly becomes hard to manage time, but the safety and well-being of employees is a major driving force of any future business.
    There is no one solution to all this and there is only a finite number of things one can do to weather the storm, sometimes you just have to embrace it. Going forward, we need to be prepared and cannot let ‘what if?’ become ‘now what!’ Fundamentally, the current crisis poses an opportunity for businesses, and the whole world to become more united than ever before.

    Annabel Bonavia, an accountant by profession who currently holds the position of Finance Manager at Attard & Co Industrial Group, managing a team of accountants in various industries within the group. She is also a teaching assistant at the University of Malta lecturing in Management Accounting.

  • 18 May 2020 10:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Business as Usual?  –  Spring 2020 (MIA Publication)
    We all know we are living in a period of unprecedented crisis. However, leaders play an extremely important role during a crisis. In such difficult times, people look upon such leaders to lead from the front, show confidence and steadiness and take complete charge of the situation. Having said so it is useful to focus on one of the trends that has recently influenced leadership across the globe. Nearly 30% of Millennials hold managerial-level roles. Surveys from a variety of sources show that millennial managers value learning and growth experiences more than previous generations.
    So, as we see that good leaders are extremely important in times of crises and that the chance of having a young leadership is on the increase, is it not logical to then ask the question - Are good young leaders born or made?
    This is a question that many scholars, psychologists, and everyday people have asked before our time, and will even after we are gone. Some have argued that great leaders are born. Still others have argued that great leaders are made. So, which is it, traits or skills that makes someone a great leader?
    In 1955 Robert Katz wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called “Skills of an Effective Administrator” (Northouse, 2016, p. 43). Within this article Katz described three skill sets of an administrator. The skills were technical, human, and conceptual. Technical skills are the knowledge about specific type of work, human skills is how to work with people, and conceptual skills are the ability to work with ideas and concepts. The argument is people can learn these skills.
    There are various other studies that found that the individuals’ perceptions of leadership were associated to traits. Let us take the known well case of John F. Kennedy. John F. Kennedy, one of the greatest leaders of the modern era. People found him to be charismatic, intelligent, masculine, and self-confident. Were these traits the reason he was a great leader?
    John F. Kennedy was a poor student when he was younger. It was not until he was an upperclassman at Harvard, that he got serious about his studies and that “he began to realise his potential”. He later joined the U.S. Navy and commanded a patrol torpedo boat. On August 2, 1943 during an act from the Japanese, an injured Kennedy led survivors to safety until help could arrive.
    John learned the skill technical, human, and conceptual skills in every step of his education right up through and into the Navy. Do you believe that Kennedy would have been the man he was without the educational background, and the experience in the Navy?
    Some may say yes and others would say no. During his youth, Kennedy was more interested in sports and women. It was not until he took his studies seriously that Kennedy start to become the man he was going to be.
    “Skills are what leaders can accomplish, whereas traits are who leaders are” (Northouse, 2016, p. 44). We can see that is true with Kennedy. There is no denying that he was charismatic, intelligent, and self-confident. These were his traits, the person who he was. He learned to work with people, and with ideas. John developed the skill that great leaders need.
    If leadership can be defined as the sum of what we know, what we do and how we are, it is clear that leaders cannot be solely ‘born’. We are not born knowing everything about leadership or about how to enact leadership. That said, in the way we are with other people (our being), we may be seen to be ‘leadership material’ from a young age. Is this because we are born that way? Or does the latest research about the learning power of the brain at very early ages suggest otherwise?
    Professor David Rusch, part of a team researching leadership development at the University of Illinois (2014) suggests leadership development is based on three traits – readiness, willingness and ability – and can be described as: ‘A three-legged stool, students first become ready to learn about being a leader; then they become willing to learn the skills necessary to practice leadership; and finally they’re able to lead because they have the skills and the motivation to do it. You can’t really move on to the other legs of the stool until you’ve achieved a certain amount of this readiness.’
    So, are great leaders made or are they born? All the research seems to indicate it is a little of both. We can see that people love young persons for who they are, for her or his traits. It is however not until they start to learn skills to go along with those traits that a real young leader starts to be born. If a person has the skills but no leadership traits, could they be a leader? If they have the traits but no skills, could they be a leader? It is possible, but to be a great leader, you need both skills and traits. Here are some critical findings.
    • Who becomes a leader? As the most widely cited meta-analysis in this area shows, people who are more adjusted, sociable, ambitious, and curious are much more likely to become leaders.
    • How early can we predict potential? most of the commonly used indicators to gauge leadership potential — educational achievement, emotional intelligence, ambition, and IQ — can be predicted from a very early age.
    • Does gender matter? Less than we think. Some studies have shown that women are slightly more effective as leaders on the job, but this may be because the standards for appointing women to leadership positions are higher than those for appointing men.
    • Why do leaders derail? It is not the absence of bright side qualities, but rather their coexistence with dark side tendencies, that makes leaders derail. Indeed, as Sepp Blatter, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Bernie Madoff demonstrate, technical brilliance often coexists with self-destructive and other destructive traits.
    So, what is the final takeaway with regards young leaders? We need to be alert at identifying the traits that make a good young leader, but these have to be matched by skills. Let’s focus on this as good young leaders is definitely a resource we need in these times of crisis.

    Silvan holds a degree in Banking & Finance from the University of Malta and an MBA from the University of Reading, specialising in Corporate Finance and Business Leadership. Silvan has been involved in many sectors of the economy holding various managerial and Director roles. Silvan is presently working as a Director for Advisory Services at EMCS.

  • 18 May 2020 09:30 | Anonymous
    The Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) is here and has been disrupting the world of work for some time. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Survey 2018 predicts that 75 million jobs will potentially be displaced by a change in the division of labour between humans and machines and some 133 million new roles created. Is it an exaggerated figure? No prediction can be 100% accurate but it seems reasonable to assume that some jobs will be affected by automation. We already know, for example, that some routine tasks in low-skilled jobs are being automated.
    According to the Gartner Hype Cycle (2019), there is a tsunami of technologies out there waiting to be adopted. To mention just a few, think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, drone technology, nanotechnology and the Internet of Things.
    Are we prepared for continuous disruption stemming from technology?
    AI enables computers to learn from experience and carry out tasks previously carried out by humans more efficiently by processing large amounts of data and recognising patterns. It is already being used in some business functions. For example, the marketing department may be using AI to analyse customer data to design sales offers based on customers’ preferences while HR may be using AI to recruit and screen candidates.
    Where does this looming technology disruption (or innovation, depending the way you look at it) leave the workforce? Given the fast-changing scenario, the shelf life of technical skills will become shorter and shorter. In order to stay relevant, we will need to keep up-to-date to ensure our skills do not pass their sell-by-date in areas relevant to the Accounting profession such as financial reporting, business and financial management, professional reputation and ethics, for example.
    For professional accountants, keeping up to date to extend their warrant and professional memberships is a given part of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) and critical to ensure that professionals in the accounting sector are up to speed with latest developments in their profession.
    But is this enough? Corona is enough to show us how fast we have to adapt – we are suddenly remote working, leading and managing teams virtually, relying on video conferencing for collaboration and meetings, amongst other tasks. Have you ever considered, for example, how AI may impact your current job? Which tasks may be automated? The truth is that we will all need to employ lifelong learning strategies and to be continuously updating our capabilities to create value for our employers in future.
    Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, has studied learners for over 30 years. She found that individuals’ mindset about learning will have a considerable impact on how much they learn. Mindset is very much about how people view their own intelligence and abilities to learn. Learners with a growth mindset (as opposed to having a fixed mindset) are characteristically not afraid of failure or criticism, believe that true potential is unknown and embrace challenges as an opportunity for personal growth. Given that job security can no longer be assumed, and the fact that a job for life is unlikely since we are living longer, investing in our personal development and growth is critical. The more we upskill and reskill, the more valuable we are in the eyes of our current and future employers, and the more prepared we are for future twists in our career progression.
    With these insights, it’s worth reflecting on whether we should continue developing expertise in only one area or whether we should move outside our comfort zone, broaden our horizons and expand our areas of expertise. Trends in organisational design point to having more team-based working, where we can expect to contribute our different skills dependent on project exigencies (as you can find in professional services firms, for example), which makes the case for diversifying skillsets.
    According to the report 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report: The Skills of the Future by Udemy, which offers a large selection of online courses, the most sought-after technology skills in 2020 are AI, data science skills, web development, cloud computing , quantum computing, the internet of things and other IT certifications. Udemy quote the fastest-growing skills in financial services in 2020 as being IT skills like AWS cloud and networking as well as customer relationship management tools such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics while learners working for companies offering business services such as management consulting, marketing and advertising firms are focusing on IT skills such as cybersecurity and networking as well as Agile Scrum and customer relationship management tools like Salesforce.
    In parallel, apart from technical skills, with the rise of technology the human element will become important. We will need to draw more on soft skills, often referred to as ‘human’, ‘core’ or ‘21st century’ skills like creativity, EmotionaI Intelligence, flexibility, adaptability, and critical thinking.
    If the organisation you work for isn’t taking the lead with proper strategic workforce planning, start thinking of your own skills mapping. This is basically a visual representation of the role you foresee yourself filling in the future and what the technical and non-technical skills for this role will be. Then you can compare the desired ‘future’ skills to your existing skill base and identify skill gaps.
    When you have determined your skills gap as benchmarked by your future career direction, it is important to align your learning to the areas of improvement you have identified. There are plenty of learning opportunities available and once you acquire the knowledge, try to find opportunities to apply the learning.
    Once you have identified the content, decide on the format that suits your learning preferences best: face-to-face or online courses, listening to podcasts, watching videos or You Tube clips and reading articles or blogs. Technology facilitates learning to occur in the flow of work (nothing stops you from looking up and learning as you are at work), allows for a more personalised learning pathway and can be self-paced. The rise in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) offer a multitude of courses that are extremely well presented and offer the opportunity of obtaining certification for a minimal fee. Additionally, there are online learning communities on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In if collaborative learning is more for you.
    To sum up, identify any gaps in your skills that are likely to prevent you from achieving future career goals, stay focused, be curious and just keep learning.

    Rachel Falzon is an HR Consultant and founder of ReWired. She is passionate about developing people and building stronger organisations.

  • 18 May 2020 09:00 | Anonymous
    There are a number of changes made and this article will mainly focus on just a few which may be more of interest to the accountancy profession. The definition of occasional transaction is now also including the ‘two new entries’.
    These are:
    (i) the provision, by real estate agents, of intermediation services in relation to the letting of immovable property where the monthly rent amounts to ten thousand euro (€10,000) or more and
    (ii) the storage, by free ports, of works of art the value of which is equal to or exceeds ten thousand euro (€10,000).
    However, the main interest for the accountant is the change in the description of occasional transaction regarding tax. Under the old regime occasional transactions included ‘the provision of tax advice’. In terms of the new regulations, this has now been changed to ‘the provision of material aid, assistance or advice on tax matters.’ My assessment is that there is a need of a wide debate in order to define what is ‘material aid’ and what constitute ‘assistance or advice on tax matters.’
    Another change in the regulations, is that when on boarding a Malta registered company as a client, the Subject Person is now obliged that the due diligence documentation should also include proof that the beneficial owners are included in the beneficial owners register. This should not create any issues as details from the MBR are easily available at a fee of five Euro.
    The biggest challenge is however that the new regulations are also extending this requirement to those jurisdictions where the beneficial owners register is publicly available. In other words, this means that if the client being onboarded is a company registered in say Hungary, then there is the obligation to get proof that the beneficial ownership information has been duly registered with the Hungarian authority. This may create quite a challenge as there may be language issues.
    The same applies if the client is a trust or a similar legal arrangement. Again, for a trust incorporated in Malta, the process is quite smooth as such information would be available to the MLRO upon request, provided that such request is supported by acceptable evidence why such information is being asked. Once again for foreign trusts, it may not be that simple. On the other hand, the regulations are only asking for ‘proof’. Does this mean that a declaration by the foreign trustees, confirming the names of the beneficiaries and also accompanied by a declaration that they have submitted the names of the beneficiaries to be included in the register of the trust beneficiaries, be considered as being sufficient proof?
    Regulation 11 of the PMLFTR is now also listing additional obligations when there is a business relationship or an occasional transaction dealing with a non reputable jurisdiction. Subject Persons should seriously take note of this amendment (paragraph 10 of the regulation), as the new requirements are very onerous.
    One of the amendments of the PMLA is that the name and shame regime has been increased to Euro 50,000. This means that whereas before the FIAU was obliged by law to name any subject person who has been fined (administrative penalty) over Euro 10,000, this threshold has now increased to Euro 50,000. The FIAU will publish all fines but will only name those over Euro 50,000. In 2019 there was only one administrative penalty published for Euro 40,000. Does this mean that now we will expect more?

    Victor is a co-founder and director of Inscope Limited, an AML-CFT software development company.

  • 18 May 2020 08:00 | Anonymous
    Shannon Muscat completed her degree in Master’s in Accounting from the University of Malta and Chantelle Ellul is performing her Masters in Business Administration at the University of Chester.
    My dissertation titled ‘Perceptions of the Unqualified Statutory Audit Report in Malta: A Study’ investigated the perceptions of three Maltese stakeholder groups: external auditors, financial advisers and bank lending officers, pertaining to the Communication and Information Aspects of the revised ISA 700 Unqualified Audit Report. The findings indicate that the most important section in the Unqualified Audit Report is the auditor’s opinion; it helps users determine the reliance that they can place on an entity’s financial statements. However, users proved sceptical on the clarity of the Unqualified Audit Report’s message and technical jargon. The Audit Report should be a valuable source of information which assists users in their interpretation of complex financial statements. Furthermore, auditors should seek to improve the way they communicate an audit’s conclusions to an entity’s stakeholders, bearing in mind the restrictions they may face from auditing standards.
    ‘An evaluation of the internal audit quality assurance (IAQA) of the internal audit function of the Maltese iGaming companies’ - My thesis is about the quality assurance of an internal audit function of Maltese iGaming companies. An evaluation has been drawn between the internal audit function of iGaming companies and the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. I am still in the phase of collecting my survey responses, however from the responses received to date, it looks promising that Maltese iGaming companies are in conformity with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. This is because the majority of Maltese iGaming companies outsource and entrust their internal audit function to Maltese audit firms who are professionals within the sector. 
    Over the past summer I have started working as an auditor with an audit firm and I am currently striving to absorb as much knowledge as I can. My first year working in the field has been very rewarding and the learning experiences are infinite. I am very eager to continue this path and learn as much as I possibly can on the field for the next couple of years and see what happens then!
    I am a qualified accountant and an internal auditor by profession (for the past seven years) specialising in good corporate governance in the gaming industry. My study will help me in better understanding; the conformity and quality assurance that Maltese iGaming companies have, in analysing findings, issuing recommendations and identifying gaps and possibly closing them. The study may assist investors in making the right decision in choosing the country where they are to establish their business. Upon completing my thesis, I look forward to continuing excelling within this industry and to focusing on strategic management. In fact, my next aspiration is to take a PhD in Strategic Management with the University of New Castle.

  • 18 May 2020 08:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Business as Usual?  –  Spring 2020 (MIA Publication)
    I am… an Aquarius, Generation Y, who gets bored easily and always up for new adventures. Somewhat resistant to change but I try to always face a challenge with a smile. 
    My role at MIA is…titled as ‘Technical Officer’ which I am still discovering to this day - since joining MIA starting in November last year.
    This role requires me to be involved in various aspects of the Institute including; helping members on technical queries, coordinate and challenge committee members appointed on the MIA Audit & Assurance, Ethics, Financial Services and Gaming Committees - to ensure that these follow the objectives for the year as well as be responsive to feedback required from us as an accountancy body, give my input during conferences such as public speaking; collating of questions & also some marketing as to ensure that the event happening is shared on our social media platforms. Last but not least, I am in charge of the coordination of this journal, starting from the theme, chasing authors and advertisers as well as ensuring that the issue published is in line with the MIA strategy. Hence, never a dull moment!
    I am motivated… some days more than other, including the times when I appreciate how rewarding it is to tackle a technical query which I have never encountered before and also when an event or a project which we have been working on is concluded and members, (mostly my friends ), give a positive feedback on the latest initiatives.
    To me the Accounting profession …is literally my life; it started from sitting nervously for my O-level exam in accounting after studying the subject privately for one year, continued with two exciting years at St Aloysius college, studying ACCA - which one could say was my University life and as from the age of 20 I have been working in and spend most of my hours focused on the challenges and perks of the profession.
    My life motto…”You only live once” -  better said than done but whenever I feel overstressed I try to remind myself that we only have one life to live so we should live it the way we like.
    In my free time…I love dancing salsa and bachata (which I have been lacking lately) and love travelling; I would usually know the days when public holidays are allocated for the year by heart, as I tend to plan my travel around such, due to my passion of planning and experiencing different cultures.
    I contribute to MIA’s mission…as a result of my daily responsibilities and by consistently listening to what our members have to say as to ensure engagement of the member base more than ever.

  • 17 May 2020 16:00 | Anonymous
    In today’s world, everything is geared to make life as energy-efficient as possible. We do not have to walk up the stairs because there is usually a lift to carry us, and we do not have to wash the car ourselves because most of us take it to a car wash to get it cleaned. As tempting as these choices may seem at the time, many of us run the risk of falling victim to this “easy-way-out” mentality that is deceptively not “easy” at all in the long run. Cardiovascular diseases, chronic stress, high blood pressure, feelings of anxiety, and other obesity-related problems are all part and parcel of the rat race of modern living. This is an issue that should hit very close to home, as per NSO statistics issued, Malta has a very high rate of overweight people 61.8% when compared to Europe’s 51.2%.
    Keeping this in mind, I would argue that we business professionals stand to benefit more from incorporating regular fitness goals into our lives than other individuals, as our subsequent career choices make us more vulnerable to giving in to an unhealthy lifestyle laden with health issues.
    This is mostly due to the sedentary nature of our profession and is further exasperated by the mental stressors often found in the workplace setting.
    However, it does not mean that we have to starve ourselves or spend long hours at the gym. For some, living a healthy lifestyle may mean increasing weekly exercise, while for others, improving nutrition, work-life balance, or sleep habits may be their priority.
    A healthy lifestyle is part of a lifelong journey and not a quick fix.
    It needn’t be an intimidating and time-consuming overhaul of one’s life; simply a set of conscious decisions working towards a more balanced, happier, and ultimately healthier you.
    When we think about our diet, we probably do so in terms of the calories found in foods we like to eat. However, what’s essential for our health are the nutrients contained in those foods. A balanced diet requires adequate water intake as well as the consumption of food in varying amounts from five nutrient groups – carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
    With our busy working routines, we often tend to veer towards easily accessible food options and purchase our lunches from the nearest outlet, or worse, starve ourselves during the day and then indulge in a heavy dinner. It is of utmost importance to start our day with a healthy breakfast as it ends the fasting period we experience during sleep and decreases our appetite throughout the day. Consuming a healthy dose of carbohydrates in the morning contributes to healthy brain functioning, leading to better memory, and lower stress. Breakfast should be taken within the first hour from when we wake up, followed by a snack/meal every three hours.
    Healthy eating alone is not the solution to sustaining comprehensive, long-term health. It is important that we also engage in regular physical activity as our body will benefit from:
    • strengthened muscles
    • improved cardiovascular health
    • increased bone density
    • decreased risk of lifestyle diseases
    • reduced risk of injury from a sedentary/inactive lifestyle
    • more confidence and greater zest for life
    Getting in shape may appear to be hard work and time-consuming, but it does not need to be. Even within the office environment, there are a plethora of choices that present themselves to us daily. We can start improving our physical activity by taking the stairs instead of the lift or simply walking around the office while reading a document. Taking advantage of these little pockets of activity throughout the week does truly make a difference in the long run, as what may seem like a set of micro-tasks that require minimal effort can not only steadily work towards your health goals, but can effectively influence your attitude towards activity in general.
    Choose 2 exercises from each muscle group and repeat for 1 minute each.


    • Bicep Extensions
    • Raised Arm Holds
    • Standing Shoulder Taps
    • Arm Scissors


    • Lunges
    • Calf Raises
    • Squats
    • Wall Sit


    • Standing Marches
    • Cross Body Punches
    • Front Kicks
    • Side Bends
    Maintaining a healthy balance between one’s social life and work life is very important. This can be the most challenging balance to achieve, because it doesn’t just involve managing  our own needs, but also how our needs integrate with those of others. We push ourselves at such a cracking pace these days that feeling stressed can almost become the normal way to feel. While experiencing occasional moments of pressure can be quite useful because it helps to keep us on the ball, prolonged exposure to stress, as well as ignoring the physical symptoms associated with it, is not healthy at all. When stress becomes all-consuming; leading to exhaustion, cynicism, and hatred towards our job, then we would have reached a level of burnout that is hard to recover physically and mentally from. Setting individual fitness goals for yourself is an effective way to prevent such burnout by offering your body a brief moment to vent out the tension that would have steadily been building up throughout the week, and also by offering yourself a short moment of peace away from the stressors of office life.
    It is challenging for us professionals to switch off from the workplace with today’s improved technology of smartphones and emails on the go. However, we need to recognise the value of leisure and relaxation for our mental and physical health, and general well-being. We should organise leisure activities that give us satisfaction and enjoyment to ensure a good balance between work and non-work life activities. Our working life is a marathon, not a sprint, and thus we need to pace ourselves and look after our health and well-being in order to sustain our capacity to work well in jobs that are often demanding on our time and energy.
    A commonly overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep gives our brain the chance to process everything we’ve learnt or experienced during our day, as well as prepares us for the following day. It helps us stay focused, make decisions and regulates our mood. Lack of sleep can be both a cause and an effect of excess stress. Without sufficient sleep, our mental and physical processes steadily deteriorate. Sleeping extra hours may significantly improve our daytime alertness and mental abilities. Sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle and can be improved through exercise and healthy eating. As little as 10 minutes of added aerobic exercise during the day will help you fall asleep better at night.

    Audrey Vella - Certified Public Accountant, Qualified Personal Trainer & Founder of Fitness Farm. She is also a member of the MIA Gaming Committee.

  • 17 May 2020 15:00 | Anonymous
    Granting credit is an investment in customers and like any form of investment, it is not free and sometimes turns to be ‘expensive’. The firm must calculate the costs involved and opportunity cost while developing effective internal procedures to manage credit efficiently, effectively and above all profitably.
    Competition is aggressive and businesses invest heavily in the sales process to attract customers.
    All employees, including those involved in credit, should strive for profitable sales, but they should also be aware that customers go through four steps before they commit to buy.
    These four steps can be summarised using the acronym AIDA.
    If a request for credit is rejected, all the efforts, investment and resources employed to get to the point where customer wants to buy, are lost. Thereafter, losing customers today may also mean losing future business and hits the reputation for the firm. For credit to be granted and extended, the company must incur the additional costs of acquiring profitable sales. A customer request for credit represents a sale in progress and the credit practitioner should find a way of saying ‘Yes’ to profitable sales.
    When credit is requested, the supplier raises a Credit Application Form which guides the credit decision.
    Completed in full by the customer, the form carries the basic details of the applicant, references and conditions of the credit sale.
    Requesting a signed Credit Application Form, specifying trading terms and conditions is not bureaucratic, intrusive or officious in any way, and it helps to build a long-term customer relationship whilst caring for profitability. Both the seller and the buyer benefit from a clear business agreement - it prevents future disputes and promotes a sound business relationship.
    Customer Information Required

    Firms have different objectives and levels of risk-taking. However, the right customer information allows practitioners to determine the terms that maximise profitable sales and manage risk associated with the particular credit. To determine the credit terms, the product value at time of sale should also be established.
    If profit margins are low, more cautious credit terms should should be established. If the profit margins are high, the expiry date of the product is short, the turning inventory is slow, and the capacity for offering the product is high, then the credit terms can be relaxed. This also applies to services. Services in high demand have a higher ‘product value’ and services in low demand have a lower ‘product value’.
    The credit function should determine its specific information requirements to analyse the credit worthiness of the potential customer.
    There are many external sources of information, but information provided by the sales team is recommended. The sales team is constantly out in the market. They know the customers well, very often on a personal basis, and meet other sales people too, sharing market intelligence.
    Sales people sense the market and can help credit practitioners identify the most profitable customers.
    Crucially, the sales team provides early warning signs that help the firm be proactive and monitor existing customers closely.
    This requires synergy between the sales team and credit practitioners.
    Terms and Conditions of Credit Sales
    Written credit sales terms and conditions are important as they specify the obligations and responsibilities that the seller and the buyer have towards each other, signed and agreed, from the onset. Written credit terms and conditions safeguard against disputes and disagreements. Disputes harm the relationship and reputation of the business and lead to legal proceedings, requiring time, effort and money.
    Terms and conditions are therefore an important element in credit sales and should include the payment period; interest and charges in case of late payments; discounts for early payments; and retention of title. Bank guarantees, personal guarantees and other liabilities may also be considered when the credit involves substantial amounts of money or when the credit practitioner thinks it is best to better manage the risk.
    More importantly, terms should be communicated and discussed with the signatories of the firm (or trader) and upon agreement, signed by both the supplier and the customer, indicating the persons’ titles, date and place.
    It is wise for both parties to retain a copy of the signed Credit Agreement Form together with a Welcome Letter. This ensures that the seller and the customer know what has been mutually agreed. As the Italian saying goes “Patti chiari, amicizia lunga”

    Josef is the Director General of MACM and President of FECMA.
    He obtained his MBA from Henley Management College, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK), and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (UK). Josef contributed to and delivered a number of intuitive credit management workshops and presentations & he is a regular contributor of business articles to international business press.

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