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President's Address – Fabio Axisa

10 Dec 2019 12:00 | Deleted user
The Accountant – The Future Professional Accountant in Business. Autumn 2019 (MIA Publication)
In my first address as President of the Institute, I had highlighted five core pillars that shall characterise the MIA’s strategy in the coming years. 
Going forward, in every address I will highlight the key initiatives within the domain of each of these five pillars.  We are determined to execute our programme with resilience and we would like to ensure we are accountable to you, as our members, in respect of the achievement of the Institute’s strategic objectives.   


1.    MIA as a home to all qualified professional accountants
Our market has changed drastically in the last few years.  One of the key changes is the presence of a significant number of expatriate accountants practising their profession in Malta.  Expatriate accountants are extremely important for our local profession and help us address the supply side challenge that we are facing on a day-to-day basis, apart from sharing skills and experience.  The Institute must take cognisance of this reality and will be widening its membership base by introducing an international affiliate programme.  The objective of this programme will be to enrol and involve within the Institute expatriate professional accountants practising as accountants in Malta, who would have qualified as accountants through a route such as overseas university degrees, which would not constitute one of the three routes typically utilised in Malta to attain qualification.  We look forward to reaching out to the expatriate community and to involving these colleagues within the structures of the Institute, including its committees.  We strongly urge these accountants to contribute to the MIA and would like them to assist the Institute in achieving our objectives. 
2.    Elevating quality and raising standards within our profession
As you all know by now, the much awaited fifth round mutual evaluation report on Malta adopted by the MONEYVAL Committee has been published.  Our profession is mentioned in a number of areas within the report.  Clearly there are lessons to be learnt and, whilst we remain confident on the overall quality of the profession, it is quite obvious that certain improvements need to be registered - and quite fast.   We are proud to be one of the principal gateways to businesses that choose Malta; but this role entails significant responsibilities and implies that we have to do the right thing for the jurisdiction all the time, sometimes even by turning down work and foregoing potential income streams.  We are part of the first line of defence, and must take decisions based also on the overall benefits to the market place, rather than solely by reference to individual or monetary objectives.  Our profession is the elite – but we need to live up to this reputation by being selective in what business we accept to service and by ensuring that the quality of our work is top quality all the time.  We must never relax on our key professional principles: 
a) we need to understand the economic rationale underlying the business or transactions of our clients or companies with whom we are employed;
b) we need to focus on substance of arrangements or transactions and not simply form –we frequently hear or use the expression ‘substance over form’;
c) onboarding of clients and engagements requires rigour and critical analysis – it should never be deemed a fait accompli no matter how easy it seems;
d) risk management and compliance are an intrinsic part of the day-to-day behaviour of a professional accountant – it should never be construed simply as a burden or cost;
e) if something does not make sense, we should stop, think and take the necessary actions – if we are acting to the best of our professional skills and abilities we should not worry about the consequences as our profession will protect individuals doing the right thing.
I expect our profession to live up to these principles, elevate the quality of behaviour in the marketplace and take all corrective measures necessary to keep on demonstrating the quality of professional accountants.  In the coming weeks the Institute will be organising a high-profile event, inviting regulators and bankers, to discuss the findings of the report and other matters impacting our profession. I understand that we all have professional pride and that sometimes we struggle to understand why our profession is the recipient of adverse feedback, considering the hard work and overall conscientious effort to act professionally by most accountants, which I personally witness on a daily basis.  But we need to embrace this debate on the overall quality of the profession with a positive approach – we will come out of this phase as a stronger profession demonstrating maturity and openness to feedback.
3.    Enhancing the education and qualification process
We have continued our discussions with relevant stakeholders and plan to increase our efforts in this area.  We would like to see all three routes to qualification in Malta being enhanced to take cognisance of today’s realities and expectations in the marketplace.  Our interaction with the Accountancy Board is extremely important to us and we will continue to work with our profession’s regulator.
4.    Fostering collegiality and comradeship among accountants
5.      Striving to make the Institute’s voice heard, loud and clear
Currently the Institute is addressing a number of national or regulatory matters which will potentially have a significant impact on our profession.  The Proposed Legal Profession (Advocates) Regulation Act is a key development in this respect.  As an Institute we support this proposed legislation as the proposals will elevate the regulation of the legal profession.  However, there are a number of proposed measures which will potentially have an impact on the services we provide as a profession and on our profession in general.  It seems that the proposed legislation will define the restricted services which members of designated professions (other than the legal profession), including accountants and auditors, can provide in respect of legal and regulatory requirements.  Furthermore, it seems that, amongst other measures, the extent of ownership and management of legal firms by members of designated professions will be severely restricted, and that a professional would not be able to be a partner in a legal firm and in an accountancy or audit firm simultaneously.  We must continue to assess the impact of these proposals on our profession, but also respect and understand the origin of such proposals.   
Our profession respects the legal profession tremendously; we have worked together as two professions side by side to make our marketplace successful. I believe our national success is also partly due to this great collaboration between our two professions.  We must treasure this relationship and mutual respect.  But each profession clearly has to defend the respective interests of its members and my responsibility is to defend the interests of the members of the MIA.  Rest assured that I will serve the interests of all members, not just those hailing from bigger or mid-tier firms.   We will work for your interests, but we also want to do the right thing and place public interest above everything else.  We need to defend our interests with utmost respect to the legal profession and also keeping in mind that the quality within both professions, not just ours, needs to be safeguarded to secure a strong marketplace. 
The MFSA has published a Consultation Document entitled Raising the Bar for Company Service Providers proposing a number of significant changes to the manner in which CSPs are authorised and regulated, impacting their business model.   As an Institute we will be establishing a forum to review these proposals in detail and to contribute with our feedback.  I urge you strongly to participate and share your feedback.  This is a very important opportunity not only to participate in regulation-setting as a profession, but also to demonstrate how serious and mature our profession is.
It is through such processes that, as a profession, we will demonstrate collegiality and comradeship. The MIA leads the profession on these matters and strives to defend our members’ interests vigorously and relentlessly. But, in the process, we must always uphold the best interests of the entire profession, public interest and the overall quality in the market-place.  Our profession will be successful in the future only if our marketplace is successful and considered robust.
Changing tack, we are taking a number of steps to enhance the financial strength and future viability of the Institute.  You will have noticed that, amongst a number of steps, we have decided to cease certain tuition operations within AIM Academy.  We believe that our setting up this activity has served the marketplace well, but we also think that times have changed and that the Institute should focus on other matters, considering the number of learning providers which are now active.  It was a tough decision, but we represent our members within the Institute to take tough decisions as well.  I will provide a more detailed update on our initiatives in this and other related areas within the next address.
On a softer note, the Institute has organised a football tournament with the objective of raising funds for Beating Hearts Malta.  It was a great event which was very well attended.  I thank all those who attended and contributed to the organisation of this event.  We will endeavour to increase our efforts in this area with your help and support; to continue demonstrating what great and generous individuals, accountants are. 

 

               
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