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 the accountant - Spring 2019


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  • 10 Dec 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    I have always encouraged my fellow professionals to be forward-looking, but in this final address as President of the Malta Institute of Accountants, allow me to take a look back at the extraordinary experience this responsibility has given me.
    Indeed, these are exciting times for the accountancy profession as more leaders in the public, business, and civil spheres recognise the importance of the values that have always driven us: answerability, transparency, rigour. Not only are end-users demanding better conduct from those with authority, but new management models make integrity and accountability a sure foundation for sustainable growth.


    The role of accountancy professionals all over the world has developed from that of a prescribed set of duties to an invaluable consultative service, helping organisations shape their strategies to meet obligations, expectations, and goals defined by a changing blend of stakeholders.
    Malta is at the forefront of these developments and it has been my honour to serve as President of the MIA, speaking for the profession, preparing it for changes, and raising the profile of accountancy in the country.
    The Institute is truly a reflection of the profession and I have made it a priority this term to revisit its structure and renew it in line with today’s needs. We created new Committees, namely: The Young Members Advisory Committee; the Senior Members Committee; the Digitization Committee; the Local Regulatory Committee; the Gaming Committee; the Financial Services Committee. These fora will help MIA better channel and harvest the wealth of knowledge that members bring.
    We also took active steps to decouple the Tax Committee into the Direct Tax Committee and the Indirect Tax Committee, sharpening the focus of each to address challenges in their respective areas. Together with the Young Members Advisory Committee, the Small and Medium-Sized Practices Advisory Group and the Professional Accountants in Business & Advisory Group are represented in the Core Committees to further help the convergence of ideas.
    I am confident that the Institute now has the right architecture to accommodate the different realities within the profession and properly discern the opportunities of the future. The inter-relation between these fora is crucial for the effectiveness of the MIA and Terms of Reference have been drawn for each Committee to facilitate their operation.
    Like industry and societies in general, the profession is going through a revolutionary period of digitisation. The pace of change is sometimes so fast that it is hard for anyone to notice its immediate effects, and it is only when we take a step back that we realise how much our methods and perspectives have progressed.
    The 2018 Biennial Conference was dedicated to this shift to actively prepare the profession for this new chapter. It has been my personal conviction that digitalisation offers accountancy a unique chance to influence stakeholder decisions for the better. Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Blockchain technologies are not simply tools that make our tasks easier – or threatening to take over our jobs, as some may fear. Digitalisation is a paradigm shift that is reformulating the way people live, their value-systems, their needs and wants .
    The theme of the conference was ‘The Finance (R)evolution… unlocking the digital riddle’ and the more than 300 delegates who participated took the opportunity to discuss our collective future. The Biennial Conference was a strong statement that accountancy professionals in Malta are ready and willing to take on the challenges of this new era.
    Over the past two years, we have worked tirelessly to strengthen the stature of the profession among key partners and establish accountancy as a respected, trusted voice. We reinforced ties with strategic local and international organisations including ACCA, ACA, IFAC, and the University of Malta. As President of the MIA it was a singular honour to represent the profession with such and other reputable institutions, authorities, and regulators, and to create constructive new initiatives with them.
    The dynamic jobs market in Malta means that there is, today, an important share of non-Maltese colleagues within the profession. I believe this is a richness and the MIA has opened itself to welcome foreign nationals working here, making sure that standards are maintained and developed together.
    Relevance means allowing others to profit from your value and expertise, and the Institute pursued a proactive agenda to reach out to different audiences in the past two years. The main stakeholders are, of course, the professionals themselves and it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience for me to visit members at their place of work in my capacity as MIA President. It was an enriching exercise that helped our Board and Committees stay the course over priorities and decisions affecting the profession.
    The Institute took steps to move closer to the general public, too, carving out a space for the profession in the media landscape and harnessing the power of social media to increase its presence online. We launched a revamped MIA website and Membership Relation Management system to facilitate easy, fast, and secure access to information for members. In the meantime, we upgraded the Institute’s IT infrastructure and now have a modern and efficient setup in place.
    One of the main benefits of the new IT system is that it offers opportunities of work-from-home to our staff. We have a responsibility to address the need to balance work and family life, and I am pleased that the Institute has been able to retain the capabilities of its staff through modern solutions.
    Women are mostly affected by the lack of flexibility on the workplace and we want to set an example for other professions and organisations to invest in processes and technologies that curtail this inequality.
    There are areas where the Institute needs to do more to empower women professionals, especially in terms of representation on Committees and fora. However, I am encouraged by the rising number of women in the Institute’s membership and hope that more can involve themselves in its projects.
    In 2017, the MIA held its first Women’s Day Conference, presided over by H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. It was a significant occasion that helped us reflect on the changes that, a rather male-oriented profession, needs to make to be more inclusive of women’s strengths and abilities. At the same event, we launched a scientific study into Gender Pay Gap within the accountancy profession, the results of which earmarked areas that need attention to address disparity in conditions, often arising out of family circumstances.
    I hope that the Institute continues to show leadership and commitment to this contemptible social situation that has hindered generations of bright, talented women.
    The Malta Institute of Accountants has always been a force for change, guiding members to deliver value and improvement for stakeholders and the general public. To mark the MIA’s 50th anniversary, we have commissioned a historical research which is now being published in an enlightening new book.
    I consider it my privilege to have enjoyed the trust of you members to be an active part of the MIA’s next fifty years.
    There are many people that I wish to thank for assisting me in forming and implementing a vision for this term. From the individual members who have offered personal feedback to the Council where top-level ideas where discussed, and from officials from partner organisations to our formidable MIA team, there are no words to express my gratitude for your constant support and stimulation.
  • 10 Dec 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    Q: Who is Maria Cauchi Delia outside of work?
    MCD: Outside work, I am primarily a wife and mum.  Particularly during weekends, apart from catching up on several chores, I love spending quality relaxing time with my family.  Even during difficult times, I try to keep my focus on the little things that really matter.  My motto is Life is short, live it! 
     
    Q: How do you balance your work life with your personal life?
    MCD: I have been blessed with two children, who are my world, four dogs, one of which recently sadly passed away, a caring and understanding husband as well as the opportunity to have a key role within the MIA. 
    Attaining a work-life balance can be quite challenging at times.  There can be the good days and the bad days.  However, balancing my work life with my personal life would not be possible without the continuous support of my husband, parents and in-laws.
    Being a full-time working mum can lead to feelings of guilt and stress because of divided attention between work and family.  I am a multi-tasker and adopt a flexible approach if things do not go as planned.  As much as possible, I try to plan, make necessary choices, get organised and keep positive.  It is complicated but with the right will power, support structure and optimistic approach, it is a very rewarding experience.  Where there is a will, there is a way!
     
    Q: Describe yourself in three words?
    MCD: Dynamic; realistic; assertive.
      
    Q: What attracted you to follow a career in Accounting?  And (why) the Institute?
    MCD: I was a science student till I did my ordinary level examinations since I always was very much interested in the science subjects, particularly biology but felt that working in a hospital environment was not for me.  When deciding on a way forward, I started getting interested in the finance and business field and therefore decided to proceed with doing my Accounts and Economics ‘O’ levels.  I had no expectations or plans at that point in time.  However, I must say that I never looked back on my decision.  I feel that Accounting opens an array of opportunities and specialisations, both locally and abroad, which not all other professional qualifications can offer.  It also provides stability and gives the chance to meet different people, from various fields, which makes the job even more interesting.  More importantly, it also gives you the challenge to assist businesses to grow and help solve any matters, as they arise.  Working within the profession is not boring because it is dynamic and diversified, whilst providing ongoing growth and learning opportunities.
      
    I have been a member of the Institute since I graduated with an Accountancy degree at the University of Malta.  I always considered the Institute as being the leader in the field in the local accountancy scenario.  Hence, it was an honour for me when I had the opportunity to join the Institute, as a financial controller, some years back.  It was a way of getting closer to the profession and to what it stands for.
     
    Q: What career path did you carve for yourself to earn your current role as CEO of MIA?  
     MCD: Throughout my career, I have occupied multiple roles, within the private and the public sector, both locally and abroad.  This has provided me with an opportunity to grow and assist organisations, at different levels and areas.  The qualifications, continuous diversified learning, experience and exposure gained over the years, have provided me with an insight on how to deal with different situations and people.  Over the years, I have learnt to adopt a constructive, though realistic forward-looking approach, when analysing circumstances, to take stock of situations, plan and move on, accordingly.  Being a forward-looking, perseverant and analytical person has helped me advance in my career, whilst always preserving fundamental values, ingrained in me from a very young age, namely: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage.
     
    Q: Will you share with us 3 things you like and 3 things you dislike about your current position?
     
    MCD:  
    Three things which I like about my current position are:
    • the opportunity to be instrumental to change, particularly in a period whereby the profession is facing a lot of opportunities, as well as challenges, which will shape the future of the profession;
    • the opportunity to network with various local and international individuals and stakeholders and to identify areas, where the Institute can be an influencer, in order to assist its members in their different areas, whilst keeping in mind the public interest;
    • working with a very professional, hard-working and dedicated team, without whom the Institute would not be able to meet its objectives and move forward.
    Overall, I like my job, though there are several challenges, which probably make the job, even more interesting:
    • Being a non-profit making organisation, the Institute has its challenges when it comes to matching essential resources in line with its wide remit and priorities.
    • Although there are a few dedicated professionals, who volunteer to assist the Institute in several ways, yet this is not enough, and members are being encouraged to contribute more actively.
    • The need for more focus on identified priorities and a longer term forward-looking holistic approach.

    Q: What is your vision for the next 12 months at MIA? How about long term? What is your 5-year vision for the MIA? How do you plan to achieve it?  

    MCD:  During the past two years, the MIA has been rethinking its operations in line with its vision, strategy and objectives.     The Institute has existed for over fifty years and although, its fundamental core remains unchanged, it is recognised that the Institute needs to alter in line with economic, social, regulatory, technological and other profession related changes.  It needs to ensure that it maintains its relevance, consistent with ongoing professional transformations and expectations.  This must be considered, whilst keeping in mind the sustainability of the Institute’s operations; the impartiality and transparency required, in line with ethical standards and the public interest.
    The Institute plans to continue strengthening and broadening its relationships with external stakeholders, in order to consolidate its role as a leader of the profession, in the local scenario.  It needs to persist in sharing knowledge and experience with other stakeholders, with an interest to grow and obtain synergy in areas of interest to the profession, whilst capitalising on costs and resources.
    In the coming five years, the MIA should focus its efforts on a few areas, which have always been at its core but for which, it is felt that more special attention is required given the growing challenges ahead:
    • Education, including attracting the right people to the profession;
    • Giving more specific attention to its focus groups, to continue enhancing its relevance to the different member categories and boost member engagement. This will be done keeping in mind potential challenges which might arise in view of the changing local and European economical scenarios, changing regulations and compliance requirements; changing professional skills, including the need for enhanced quality, more specialisation and the role of digitalisation.
    It is very well understood that the challenges ahead are not few.  However, it is truly believed that if tackled proactively, such challenges could create other opportunities for responsible professionals, who are willing to be proactive and ready to change.
    The MIA will achieve the above by maintaining and investing in the right resources, rethinking its operations, keeping up to scratch with changing scenarios and being an influencer.  This obviously cannot be achieved without the valuable contribution of its main stakeholders and dedicated personnel.
     
    Q: Who is your role model?  Who influences you?
    MCD: My parents are my role model.  Both my parents are economists.  Apart from instilling in me, fundamental values, which I mentioned earlier on, they encouraged me throughout the years, to continue studying and become the independent, forward looking and analytical person, whom I am today.
    I have been blessed with parents, both of whom have worked over the years, whilst making sure that family related roles were shared and continuously met.  Gender discrimination was not an issue in our household.  This had major influence on the various choices made throughout my life.
     
    Q: What three tips can you share with female leaders for longevity and success in their role?  
    MCD: Believe that you can; Surround yourself by people who help you progress; Stand up for what you believe.
     
    Q: We are in an era where adaptability is one of the most important qualities, at all levels.  How do you approach change?
    MCD: Generally, I am a person who embraces change with a positive mindset, particularly in work-related matters.  I do believe that adaptability is a must nowadays.  Change can be beautiful and scary at the same time.  However, sometimes a less positive experience can be a blessing in disguise.
     
     Q: What do you want your legacy to be at MIA? (i.e. what would you like to be remembered for?)
    MCD:  I would like to be remembered for an approach promulgated during my time within the Institute, which emphasises the fact that leadership is not a position or title but is about leading by example and taking timely action.
  • 10 Dec 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication)  
    SME FORUM 2019
    The 10th Edition of the SME Forum was held at the Golden Sands Resort & SPA last Wednesday 27th February 2019 where thankfully the sun was in cooperative mode, at least for the better part of the day! 
    The enchanting view of Golden Bay was one of many tactics the Institute adopted this year to elevate the SME Forum to a new level.  We enlisted the veteran scholar, Ranier Fsadni, as an expert moderator of two interactive panels, we introduced breakout sessions which gave attendees the freedom to choose topics closer to their hearts, as well as provided a platform of experts that guided and advised on the dynamic landscape of AML, GAPSME and Quality Assurance.
    The aim of the Forum was to arm SMEs and SMPs with practical knowledge that can be applied back at their workplace.  We have created much-needed awareness on the new REQs introduced by FIAU, as well as put big words to work from business leaders on strategy, vision, leadership and growth. 
    Abigail Mamo, CEO of GRTU delivered positive statistics on Malta’s exceptional growth in 2018, that of 5.8%, surpassing the EU average of 4%. As this reality sinks in, sustaining such a momentum does perhaps necessitate revisiting one’s growth strategy, possibly through people development as Dr Kenely suggested?
    At the close of the Forum MIA hosted networking drinks, another first, which gave further scope for exchange of ideas and networking in an informal and leisurely setting.
    MIA gives heartfelt thanks to all our Sponsors present at the Forum, Buddy, BOV, Inscope, Nouv and LEXCO who have all contributed towards offering a sustainable and unique experience at the Forum.



    Malta Institute of Accountants hosts Accountancy Profession Strategic Forum
    The Malta Institute of Accountants hosted the 2019 edition of the Accountancy Professionals Strategic Forum (APSF). Coordinated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the annual event has grown into a key international event for professional accountancy bodies since its first convocation in 2012.
    Organisations from 23 countries including Malta participated this year, representing thousands of professionals working in different regions to discuss emerging technical and strategic issues affecting the profession and its stakeholders.
    The Accountancy Profession Strategic Forum provided a unique opportunity for professionals and regulators in Malta to network with counterparts from other countries while enabling the Institute to set the agenda for international discussion based on the interests of the profession in Malta. The discussion engaged various interested participants and organisations including the European Contact Group, the European Group of International Accounting Networks and Associations, the Malta Accountancy Board, the Malta Financial Services Authority, and the Public Interest Oversight Board.

    The Malta Institute of Accountants participation in Career Fairs & Education initiatives
    Participation is MIA’s endeavour and commitment and drive to promote and advocate the profession as a career path to the senior schools, sixth form students and at tertiary level.
    1) De La Salle Careers fair, De la Salle College, Wednesday, 13th March 2019
    This year the Institute has reached out to its Advisory Groups and Committees seeking participation and the members’ expertise to the career fairs.   Stephen L. Muscat, Chair, MIA PAIB & Advisory Group, was one who volunteered and engaged with the youngsters about career paths available in accountancy and finance.
    2) I Choose Fairs Gozo and Malta
    The Ministry for Education and Employment embarked in the ‘I Choose’ initiative for another year, targeting fifth form students.  This was another opportunity to meet with students from public schools to entice them to explore further career options as they leave compulsory education.
    The Malta Institute of Accountants attended the Fair organised in Gozo and the three-days held at St. Ignatius College in Siggiewi.
    The Institute was supported by MIA members who volunteered their time to offer career guidance to the youths.  We were joined by Stefanel Mercieca Zammit from the Young Members Advisory Focus Group and Jozef W Galea from the SMP Advisory Focus Group and Direct Taxation Committee, on two different occasions.
    3) St Jeanne Antide College, Immaculate Conception School Tarxien – Career Expo 02nd April 2019
    This is an annual event in the school’s diary however this year the invitation was extended to the business community.  The initiative by St Jeanne Antide College is dedicated to the girls in Form 2 and Form 5 and is an excellent opportunity for the students to see various avenues of employment, training and/or further education.  The Institute was proud to be present in this intimate yet effective initiative to promote the accountancy profession and to offer guidance on the various route and available career paths.
    4) The MIA Technical Team presents to MCAST Students - Wednesday, 13th March 2019
    The Contemporary Issues Unit invited the Institute to deliver a two-hour intervention to MCAST pupils studying Level 4 Accounting at the Institute of Business & Commerce.  
    The technical team delivered an interactive and practical session to the budding 16 / 17-year olds to broaden their views on what an accountant’s job entails, as well as introduce the diverse career paths and progressions one may enjoy in the field. The delivery consisted of creative, inspiring videos and a team activity that tasked each team to develop a business plan, for an innovative idea, within set parameters including marketing, costings and profitability
    MIA presents at the University of Malta Awards Ceremony 2019
    William Spiteri Bailey in his capacity as MIA President presented at the Prize-winning Dissertations and Best Dissertation Awards Ceremony at the University of Malta on 02nd April 2019.
    The prizes are awarded to University graduate which the Institute supports as part of its ongoing efforts to foster talent in the profession.
    Mr Spiteri Bailey presented to Matthew Sciberras for Best Student in the Master in Accountancy Course Group 2016 – 2018.  We wish Mr Sciberras the best of luck and success in his career within the accountancy profession.  
    President of Malta visit at MIA as the Institute takes the lead to address gender-based disparity - Thursday 7th March 2019

    MIA commissioned a member survey to assess gender-based pay disparity in the accounting profession. Conducted by MISCO the study shows that the gap in income between men and women tends to grow as careers progress.
    Speaking at the presentation of findings, Institute CEO Maria Cauchi Delia said that women carry a heavier burden because they are more likely to take career breaks to raise their families, falling out of pace with their male colleagues who continue to develop their careers.
    In fact, the study reveals that less than five percent of companies offer structured career break opportunities that allow employees to balance their professional and personal development.  MISCO Director Lawrence Zammit said that reduced hours oftentimes penalise women most because they affect their bonuses and performance benefits, contributing to a widening gap along the years.
    “Work rate should not be measured by hours spent at the office but by the value it creates.” said Cauchi Delia, arguing that all roles, irrespective of gender, should be made more flexible.
    President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca praised the Malta Institute of Accountants for taking the lead on gender pay inequality and hoped that other professions follow the example.
    President Coleiro Preca claimed that disparity in pay not only affects quality of life in the immediate term but constitutes inequality in pensions at the end of the professionals’ careers, pushing down women’s gross entitlement in relation to men. “These are inequalities that will have to be carried by society,” warned the President.  She finished by praising the Malta Institute of Accountants for taking the lead on gender pay inequality and hoped that other professions follow the example.
    Maria Cauchi Delia said that the Institute will be promoting best practice to its members and industry and make recommendations about strategic issues including the need for increased flexibility, Gender-Neutral Job Evaluation Schemes, compensation schemes and salary transparency. She said that the profession wants to keep attracting a balanced share of both women and men but indicated that more women are needed in top positions. The increasing number of female graduates, said Cauchi Delia, gives hope for change.
    The Malta Institute of Accountants hosted the 2019 edition of the Accountancy Professionals Strategic Forum (APSF). Coordinated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the annual event has grown into a key international event for professional accountancy bodies since its first convocation in 2012.
    Organisations from 23 countries including Malta participated this year, representing thousands of professionals working in different regions to discuss emerging technical and strategic issues affecting the profession and its stakeholders.
    The Accountancy Profession Strategic Forum provided a unique opportunity for professionals and regulators in Malta to network with counterparts from other countries while enabling the Institute to set the agenda for international discussion based on the interests of the profession in Malta. The discussion engaged various interested participants and organisations including: the European Contact Group, the European Group of International Accounting Networks and Associations, the Malta Accountancy Board, the Malta Financial Services Authority, and the Public Interest Oversight Board.
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
     
    The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter. It proposes that gender balance is a business issue, not a woman’s one. Given ACCA was the first accountancy body to admit women to its membership, we tend to agree.


    One hundred years ago, ACCA’s first female member Ethel Ayres Purdie was just the beginning of a long story of ACCA women in business. Across more than 180 countries, and from all walks of life, 46% of ACCA’s membership and 56% of its student base are now female.
    This is a long way from Purdie’s day when she was fighting for women to have the vote and to be allowed to stand independently – socially and economically. And while there has certainly been progress since Purdie’s time, there remains a lot to do. Fortunately, for modern women, there are more and more female role models to look to for inspiration and encouragement, as well as changing attitudes to women in leadership and the growing recognition that greater diversity and inclusion are only a good thing.
     
    The power of role models
     

    Julie Devonshire OBE FCCA, director at King’s College London’s Entrepreneurship Institute, has been inspired by the women who paved the way for her, not only to succeed in her own career, but also to help light the path for future women professionals. ‘The possibilities for them are really unlimited, and so they should be. I view it as part of my role to pave the way for them to achieve exactly what they want to in the future.’
    Devonshire, in her role of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs to realise their visions, is taking matters into her own hands, as only an accountant can: ‘We were taught that if we thought diversity and inclusion could be improved, the first thing to do is to count, which of course accountants are fantastic at.’
    Looking at the numbers, she found that women were underrepresented in her entrepreneur programme. But why?
     
    ‘One thing we discovered was that, for men, role models don't mean that much, but for women they're very important and very provocative,’ says Devonshire. ‘We realised we needed to find amazing role models and we needed to use them to support other women to be able to step forward in this kind of space, where they perhaps wouldn't on their own.’ This has involved featuring more women on the cover of the programme’s magazine (see picture) and changing all communications and marketing so there is always at least 50% female representation.
    It is hoped that this positive reinforcement will support women to be more confident.
    ‘Each year I see, read or hear hundreds of new venture ideas, and typically when men come into the room they'll say “I've had the most amazing idea, it's going to do this and change that and solve this”,’ says Devonshire. ‘They're very positive and confident about exactly what their idea is going to do, deliver and achieve. The idea could be good, bad or indifferent, but it doesn’t seem to matter; largely speaking, the male representation of an idea is very confident, possibly in some instances too confident.’
    On the other hand, sometimes when women present ideas, they can be much more tentative, as if they’re seeking endorsement, approval or recognition that theirs is a good idea, says Devonshire: ‘We're trying to find ways to help women to not have imposter syndrome – for them to know that all ideas are valid and all ideas can be developed or moved or pivoted. We’re trying to support women to bring forward their ideas in a more confident fashion, which involves bigger amounts of self-belief.’
    Devonshire’s ambition is for the entrepreneurship programme to achieve gender parity by 2021: ‘By making adjustments to how we reach out, fill our pipeline, support and bring forward entrepreneurial women, we will be the first university accelerator to achieve gender parity. And we'll do this without compromising on quality and in a sustainable fashion – that’s our dream.’
      
    Look to the process
     

    Melanie Proffitt FCCA, CFO at Farncombe Estate and an ACCA Council member, shares a similar ambition, which requires an equally active approach. She’s also aware that there is real work to be done around organisational culture, policies and processes if there is to be real momentum.
    ‘It's great talking about gender equality, it's great having the vision from the top, but it's still not happening fast enough, so something else is wrong and it'll be the policies and processes,’ says Proffitt.
    Melanie Proffitt
    In her view, gains can be made around recruiting and promoting for roles to address an organisation’s gender mix: ‘We need to remove subjectivity, make it easier for people to challenge their bias and the status quo.’
    To this end, Proffitt is intent on nurturing talent in her key industry – hospitality.
    ‘We already have a good split of women to men, but many employees work in pre-existing gender roles – a lot of men are chefs and females are housekeepers,’ says Proffitt. ‘We have to challenge these stereotypical roles and encourage people. It will be addressed in our flexible working policy, by looking to promote and develop homegrown talent, working with apprenticeships and training, developing and retaining our staff and winning their loyalty.’
    There are also deep-rooted cultural norms to address if more women are to aim for a more diverse spectrum of roles. This is where strong role models can again play a key role in positive reinforcement.
    ‘Even with a positive recruitment drive, there just isn't enough qualified women to fill certain positions,’ says Proffitt. ‘This is where role models are important to encourage women. It's not such a problem in finance, certainly with the ACCA student mix, so we have a head start in representation, but what we need to do is push that further through business.’
     
    The entrepreneur

    ‘In my experience there is still a ceiling, women progress a bit slower than men,’ says Anita Kerai FCCA. Kenya-born Kerai made the leap from being a senior finance professional to setting up her own cooking business, which includes her TV show ‘Return to Kenya’ – airing on Amazon Prime in the UK, Europe and in the US – her cook book Flavours of Kenya and teaching.

    Workmates used to grab my lunch and they loved it,’ says Kerai. 'The idea behind Anita’s Kitchen is to educate people on how to cook, how to reduce food waste, what you can do with what's in your pantry, that you don't always need to go shopping. I'm a green person; where I come from there was a lot of poverty, so I don't like to see food or water waste. That's how I started my cookery school Anita's Kitchen, to show people how to reduce meat intake and transition into being vegan and vegetarian. It's nothing “cheffy”, it's more like cooking with friends.’
     
    The transition from employee to entrepreneur can be tough.
    ‘You become an entrepreneur because you want to spend more time with your family, but that isn't the case in the first few years. You have to give so much of your own time to make sure it works,’ says Kerai.
    ‘In the first three years you need to really push yourself. You need to be mentally, physically and emotionally strong. You need to believe this is want you want to do. I have a deadline, if it doesn't work by a certain point, I will go to plan B. I'm in a good position, I know I can always go back to work straightaway because of my qualification and my level of experience, but I've come across entrepreneurs who don't have a plan B. My advice to women is work for a few years and build up that experience before becoming an entrepreneur.’
    Progressive leadership values
     
    ‘Sadly, too many people wrongly believe that when females step into their own power and “show up”, it is somehow only to challenge men,’ says Kate Turner, director at Motivational Leadership, a leadership development consultancy. ‘This is far from true. Rather, I want us to start recognising the contribution of both genders. We need to embrace the good in each gender and shave off those elements of behaviour that have no place in the 21st century.’
    Turner believes we must learn to celebrate both the masculine and the feminine. We can then begin to understand which aspects to use at any given time: ‘Not because one is better than the other, but rather because combining the two can enable truly great things.’
    Sustaining this will require societal and structural changes, but Turner is confident it’s possible over time: ‘In the meantime, we must look to each other and influence one another to “show up”. We can cheer each other on and, in so doing, we will also cheer ourselves on. We can then stand for what we believe in and allow others to hold us accountable for it, as we must also do for them.’
    Turner’s vision is for a generation inspired to ignite and sustain the talents of both themselves and those around them, so they can make a positive contribution to the world.
    ‘We can’t do that when we are distracted with the “oughts” and “shoulds” of our gender (whether male or female). So, let’s embrace what and who we are right now. Let’s show up fully and influence others to show up too, so that we can get on with making the difference that our planet is crying out for.’
     
    Diversity is a winning formula
    So yes, there are lots of good things happening in terms of gender equality, but they’re yet to come through in the cold hard numbers.
    ‘When you look at the numbers of women on boards there's miles to go,’ says Devonshire. ‘When you look at the amount of investment for early stage entrepreneurs that's taken by women as opposed to men, there's miles to go.
    ‘But I'm hopeful that people are starting to think about diversity as the winning formula, rather than some kind of tick list they have to do for the HR department. I do believe that people are beginning to understand that this is about succeeding because diversity of thought is the key to success.’


  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    According to an ongoing research project, conducted by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org (2018), while many companies report a commitment to gender diversity, that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress across the board. Progress is slow and in some cases it is stalled. This is especially the case when it comes to women’s representation in senior management and other C-suite positions.

    The research draws on data from 279 companies that together employ more than 13 million people in a survey of more than 64,000 employees and a series of qualitative interviews. It concludes with six critical actions companies need to take to make progress on gender diversity and equal opportunity.
    • Include gender diversity as part of the company’s targets, reporting, and accountability structures.
    • Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair.
    • Make senior leaders and managers champions of diversity.
    • Foster an inclusive and respectful culture.
    • Take steps to reduce the number of cases where women are the “only one” in the group.
    • Offer employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives.
    In the light of this data, it is important to understand that any skills that are specific to women to be successful at work, do not exist by virtue of their gender.  It is the social and cultural context within which organisations operate and their internal culture that creates the need for gender specific skills. Most organizations still do not provide equal opportunities and more often than not, put women at a disadvantage. It is within this context that women may require specific skills or may need to use such skills more than men, for them to succeed. It is important to recognize that ensuring fair and equal working conditions and opportunities for all, is the responsibility of the leaders of the organization. Leaders need to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, succeed: that is, reach their full potential as employees.
    Within this scenario, what specific skills do women need to help them navigate the current work reality and increase their achievement of success? The following are a few examples.
    Technical Knowledge and Expertise
    Whatever the nature of the work, it is essential that women are as knowledgeable and technically competent in their field of expertise as possible. They can do this by adopting a growth mindset, taking every opportunity to learn more and by being open to new challenges and opportunities. They also need to venture out of their comfort zones especially in assuming leading roles.
    Self-Awareness: Women should take the necessary time to examine their strengths and weakness so that they can refine and grow their strengths to a level of excellence. The best way to increase self-awareness is through reflective practice, feedback elicitation from the right people and psychometric tests like the “Strengths Profile”. These tools help women achieve a clear picture of where they should maintain their focus in order to maximize their potential for success.
    Break the Stereotype: Society can often prescribe women’s expectations, aspirations, behaviours and goals. Conforming to social expectations can very often be self-limiting especially for women. Finding the courage and mastering the skill of pushing those boundaries can be a challenging but rewarding experience that opens up new opportunities for women that they never imagined possible.
    Building Rapport: The ability to build solid professional relationships through networking and good communication with others will go a long way towards gaining positive exposure. People look out for two things when they meet someone new: Credibility and Trust. Women should show that they are experts in their field by having a good “elevator pitch” and “statement of credibility”. Most women hold back from presenting themselves in this way for fear of coming across as conceited or pretentious. However, if elegantly done, this does not have to be the case.
    Assertiveness: A fundamental skill that is especially important for women at the workplace is the skill of assertiveness. Behaviour that is perceived as firm or manly [in men] is often judged as aggressive when displayed by women. This is because of the social expectation that women should be softer, gentler and more sensitive than men. Mastering the skill of assertiveness can enable women to say what they have to say in an honest, direct yet diplomatic and tactful way that will help them gain credibility and respect from other people. It will also send the message that they mean business and that while respecting other people’s points of view, their opinion is equally valid. Assertiveness also involves making their needs known and not over-accommodating others.
    Personal Branding: Apart from having a high definition of their strengths and weaknesses it is equally important to know how to position and present themselves. It is important that a woman is clear about her core values and competencies and what she wants to be known for and project this “brand” at every opportunity. This includes her Linkedin profile, resume’, personal style, personal introduction during meetings and networking opportunities. She needs to establish contacts with the right people who can support her and help her along the way to success.
    Self-Confidence: While self-esteem is a life-long struggle for most people, especially women, self-confidence is a skill that can be learned. Getting some form of coaching may be especially useful for building and projecting self-confidence. This ranges from a woman’s body language and tone of voice to the quality of her internal dialogue as she goes through her day at work.
    Coach or Mentor Someone: The research in the area of coaching and mentoring indicates that coaches and mentors often gain just as much from the relationship as the coachees themselves. Coaching someone puts women in a position where they can share their knowledge and expertise and support the development of another person at work. This automatically establishes them as someone who has the confidence and experience to be able to guide and help someone else in their own personal and professional development. It also positions them as a recognised professional in their field who can contribute towards developing others.
    Naturally, the skills I have described are not exclusive to women, men need to practice them as well. However, in my experience as training consultant, coach and psychologist, they are even more important for women if they are to access the same opportunities as their male counterparts. I reiterate however, that when it comes to creating equal and fair opportunities for career development and success the onus is mainly on organisational leaders and policy makers.
    Patrick Psaila is a registered psychologist, training consultant and coach specialising in human factors in leadership. He is Director and Co-owner of PsyPotential Ltd. 
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
     
    Reference is made to the first article, on the European Single Electronic Format Reporting Regime (ESEF)[1]. 
    European listed companies (issuers of shares and bonds operating in regulated markets) will have to report their entire annual financial reports (‘AFR’) in ESEF starting with financial statements for 2020. The AFR will be prepared in XHTML format, and IFRS consolidated financial statements data included in the XHTML document will be marked up with XBRL tags. XBRL tagging will be done using iXBRL technology (InlineXBRL[2]).
     
    On 28 February 2019, the European Securities and Markets Authority (‘ESMA’) published the 2nd tutorial on the process of preparing an inline XBRL report. This tutorial builds up on the 1st  Tutorial[3] on the RTS on ESEF which ESMA published in November 2018. Details of the 2nd tutorial can be accessed through the Malta Financial Services Authority website, under the ESEF section. The Circular has been issued on 5 March 2019, titled ‘European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) Tutorial 2’.
    As also noted by ESMA, in Tutorial 2, in order to be in a position of preparing an inline XBRL report, the preparer needs to get familiar with the requirements set out in the Regulatory Technical Standard (‘RTS’)[4] specifying the electronic reporting format in which issuers should prepare their AFRs from 1 January 2020, the ESEF Reporting Manual[5] and the ESEF Taxonomy.
    ‘The ESEF Taxonomy is made up of two components: the schema of the core taxonomy, which is the list of all human readable labels contained in Annex VI of the RTS, and the ESEF XBRL taxonomy files, which are published on ESMA’s website’[6]. 
    The ESEF taxonomy builds very closely on the IFRS Taxonomy. The IFRS Taxonomy lists and defines the specific elements that preparers can use to tag the information disclosed within IFRS financial statements.
     
    The purpose of Tutorial 2 is to discuss the process of mapping the IFRS financial statements to the ESEF taxonomy. It also provides examples in this respect. The RTS on ESEF allows the use of ‘extensions’. That is, in using the IFRS Taxonomy, issuers can create ‘extensions’ or an ‘entity-specific taxonomy element’. These ‘extensions’ allow issuers to tag information which is unique about a company, which information cannot be found in the core taxonomy.
     
    The RTS on ESEF further requires that extension taxonomy elements are anchored to the closest wider base taxonomy element existing in the taxonomy. Readers are encouraged to go through the examples presented in the 2nd Tutorial published by ESMA, to obtain a better understanding of ‘extensions’ as well as the anchoring process.
    The requirements to detail tag the Primary Financial Statements, and therefore to create extensions if necessary and anchor them, will come into force in 2020, for AFRs containing financial statements for financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2020. In addition, a small number of mandatory mark-ups applicable from 2020 are listed in Annex II of the RTS on ESEF, which need to be applied to all corresponding disclosures made in IFRS consolidated financial statements or made by cross-reference to other parts of the AFR.
    The requirement to block tag the Notes will come into force starting in 2022. Annex II lists the mandatory tags which need to be applied to all corresponding disclosures made in IFRS consolidated financial statements or made by cross-reference to other parts of the AFR.
    The RTS on ESEF also allows voluntary tagging of additional data and disclosures. As explained by ESMA, ‘it should also be highlighted that on top of these requirements, the RTS on ESEF allows, on a voluntary basis, tagging of much more, on a more granular basis: for example, numeric data contained in text, or in images, data in graphics, or disclosures in footnotes and so forth. Providing more detailed information than the minimum required, might provide end-users with additional meaningful information for their analyses.’[7]
    On 21 March 2019, ESMA has published taxonomy files to facilitate the implementation of the requirements set out by the draft RTS on ESEF. As reiterated, the taxonomy files are based on the IFRS taxonomy. Preparers can access the taxonomy in the form of a set of electronic XBRL files (‘ESEF XBRL taxonomy files’) that are available in a machine-readable and freely downloadable format.
     
    Through this publication, ESMA aims to facilitate the implementation of the RTS on ESEF by providing XBRL taxonomy files that are compliant with all relevant technical and legal requirements in the RTS, and that issuers should use as a starting point to create their own taxonomies. The taxonomy files intend to facilitate the accessibility, analysis and comparability of AFRs in the ESEF format. A copy of the taxonomy files can be obtained through ESMA’s official website. The publication of the ESEF XBRL taxonomy files is accompanied by the publication of a set of documentation material presenting their architecture and content.
     
    Validation and Submission of the Report
    Prior to submission, various checks and rules need to be run in order to ensure that the file is correct, complete, accurate and consistent. As also outlined by ESMA in their 2nd Tutorial, some of the checks and rules will be included directly in the taxonomy itself. Some of the checks and rules may be implemented by software developers.
     
    The RTS on ESEF does not change the way issuers publish or disclose regulated information. That is the obligation to submit AFRs to the Officially Appointed Mechanism will not change. 

     
    [1] The European Single Electronic Format – An Introduction, article published in the Winter 2019 publication of The Accountant.
    [2] The ESEF Reporting Manual, Preparation of Annual Financial Reports in Inline XBRL (14 December 2017 | ESMA32-60-254) defines ‘Inline XBRL’ as a mechanism for embedding XBRL tags in HTML documents. This allows the XBRL benefits of tagged data to be combined with a human-readable presentation of a report, which is under the control of the preparer.
    [3] ESMA32-60-403, ‘Video Tutorial on the European Single Electronic Format – Introduction to the draft RTS and ESEF’, 19 November 2018.
    [4] Final Report on the RTS on the European Single Electronic Format, 18 December 2017 | ESMA32-60-204.
    [5] The ESEF Reporting Manual, Preparation of Annual Financial Reports in Inline XBRL (14 December 2017 | ESMA32-60-254).
    [6] ESMA32-60-456, ‘Tutorial on the European Single Electronic Format – Overview of the preparation of an Inline XBRL Report’, 28 February 2019. 
    [7] ESMA32-60-456, ‘Tutorial on the European Single Electronic Format – Overview of the preparation of an Inline XBRL Report’, 28 February 2019. 


    Stephanie Buhagiar Camilleri is a Certified Public Accountant and Auditor, currently working at the Securities and Markets Unit within the Malta Financial Services Authority. 
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    The Notional Interest Deduction Rules (NIDR) were published on the 5 October 2017 by means of Legal notice 262 of 2017. These rules came to force with effect from year of assessment 2018.  Legal notice 262 of 2017 was subsequently repealed and replaced by Legal Notice 37 of 2018. The Commissioner for Revenue subsequently issued guidelines which where further amended on the 8 August 2018.
     
    From a Malta tax perspective debt is more efficient than equity when financing a corporate vehicle, since Malta tax legislation allows a deduction for interest incurred on finance used to generate income. On the other hand, return on equity is not deductible for tax purposes even though it could be argued that equity finance is the risker of the two. NIDR are designed to align equity financing with debt financing.
     
    When comparing Malta to other financial services jurisdictions Malta had been lagging, and thus these rules have been long due.  For example, Belgium has applied similar rules as from 1 January 2006.[1]
     
    Main Features
    The Notional Interest Deduction (NID) applies only in respect of profits which stand to be allocated to a Foreign Income Account (FIA) or Maltese Taxed Account (MTA) of a Malta company.  In the case of partnerships, the NID can be applied to sums that would have stood to be allocated to the FIA and MTA had the partnership been a company. The deduction is optional and subject to the approval of shareholders or partners of the undertaking.
     
    The NIDR allow for a deduction of “interest on risk capital” by applying the following formula.
     
    Notional Interest Deduction (NID)= Reference Rate X   Risk Capital.
    The reference rate is the risk-free rate set by the reference to the yield to maturity on Malta Government Stocks with a remaining term of approximately 20 years plus a premium of 5%. These rates published on quarterly basis on Central Bank of Malta website. For the purpose of computing the formula, risk capital includes share or partnership capital of a company or partnership, any share premium, positive retained earnings, loans or other debt borrowed by the undertaking which do not bear interest, and any other reserves resulting from a contribution to the company or partnership. An equivalent deduction is permitted to a Maltese permanent establishment of a foreign undertaking.
     
    Notional Interest Deduction Limitation
    The NID is capped at 90% of chargeable income with any access to be carried forward to the following year.   It would be deemed to be part of that deduction for that year and so on for subsequent years. Any amounts carried forward shall be increased by such rate as may be prescribed by the Commissioner.
     
    Example 1

    Tax effect                                                                  3.5%  

    In the case were any secondary allocations are required to be made to the Immovable Property Account (IPA) for example, due to a calculation of annual market rent (AMR), the 90% limitation is calculated after such an allocation is carried out.
     
    Example 2
    Company has a chargeable income €100 and an AMR of €45.
    Tax effect                                                                   25.55%  
    Tax Accounting  
    When a company opts to apply NID, the company is required to allocate 110% of the profits, which were relieved by such a deduction to the Final Tax Account (FTA). The 110% is allocated in the following manner:
    • 100% of the profits relieved by tax are allocated directly to the FTA.
    • An additional reallocation of 10% from the MTA or FIA.
     
    The allocation to the FTA is made to the extent that there exist profits in the other tax accounts.  Any excess will be ignored.
     
    Example 3

    Profit after Tax                                                       €96.5  

    Tax Accounting

    The effect of NID at the Shareholder/s Level.  
    Whenever a company or partnership claims the NID, each shareholder or partner as applicable, is deemed to have received an amount of deemed income as corresponds to the proportion of the nominal value of the risk capital pertaining to each shareholder or partner.
     
    It stands to reason that the deemed notional income should be allocated to the shareholder in the same year of assessment as the NID. The deemed income might however fall in a different accounting period from the NID for individual shareholders whose tax year is always a calendar year.
     
    For all intents and purposes, the receipt is classified as interest income for income tax purposes. However, the NIDR specifically preclude the application of the Investment Income Provisions (15% final tax option) on such interest income. On the other hand, the classification of such income as interest income imply that receipt of income is exempt from tax in terms of Article 12 (1) (c) (i) when paid to a non-resident.
     
    If a company, being a shareholder that received deemed interest income, has other sources of income in respect of the risk capital that it has employed in another company for example dividends, its own NID attributable to risk capital is first set off against such deemed interest income. The NID would not be limited to 90% of the chargeable income in this case. If deemed interest income is offset by own NID no tax is payable in Malta.
     
    Conclusion
    The NIDR certainly have provided new opportunities for companies to get an immediate deduction when investing equity in a company. Even though the NIDR where effective as from the year of assessment 2018, the respective guidelines where issued quite late in the year. This fact together with the uncertainty which always accompanies a new rule, resulted in a smaller then expected number of companies applying the NIDR.  An added factor to the lack of application of the NIDR is that these were under scrutiny of the Council of the European Union.
    On the 20 November 2018 the General Secretariat of the Council gave an overall assessment in the Code of Conduct (Business Taxation) report which stated that ‘the regime is considered as overall not harmful”.[2] This assessment gave investors security that the regime was in fact here to stay.  It is thus expected that for year of assessment 2019 more companies would be able to benefit from the NIDR also given that companies where now able to monitor their accounts with a view to apply the NIDR.
     
    [1] Notional Interest Deduction – An innovative Belgian Tax Incentive – Available Online: https://finance.belgium.be/en/ondernemingen/vennootschapsbelasting/belas... | Notional-interest-deduction%3A-what-is-it&utm_medium=accordeon_faqs_MMF. Accessed on 9 April 2019
    [2] General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union [2018], ‘Code of Conduct Group (Business Taxation)’, Brussels ECOFIN 1059, FISC 481
    Dr Jeanette Calleja Borg read for a Bachelor of Commerce, a Bachelor of Accountancy (Hons.), a Masters in Financial Services from the University of Malta and subsequently a Ph.D. in Taxation from the School of Law, within the Centre for Commercial Legal Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. Her area of research was Cross Border Group Loss Relief in the EU. Law. Dr Jeanette Calleja Borg is a member of the Malta Institute of Taxation Council and the Malta Institute for Accountants.
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    The issue of ethics and the accountant has been in the limelight for a number of years. The increased involvement of women in finance and accounting over the past years prompted the discussion on the relationship between gender and ethics.
     
    Women within the profession are sometimes described as less assertive, less aggressive, more anxious and more risk averse. It has also sometimes been observed that female professional accountants have a stronger ethical disposition. Research focusing on the relationship between gender and work identified that females are more concerned with helping others, whilst males are more focused on income and career advancement. Females have also been known to demonstrate an ethics of care, as opposed to an ethics of justice or rule-based reasoning exhibited by males.


    Debates explaining these differences in ethical reasoning and behaviour between genders have been largely attributed to two schools of thought. The ‘structural’ view implies that differences in ethical reasoning between men and women is a cultural explanation established in early socialisation, during childhood and later responsibilities, in their roles as mothers and wives, and alternatively as husbands and bread-winners. The other theory is the ‘gender socialisation’ view, which simply propounds that innately, men and women have different values and traits, which in turn affects their ethical decision-making. 
    A study conducted with accounting professionals exposed the perspective that lower moral reasoning scores are observed at higher managerial levels. However it was also noted that only 17% of the respondents to the study were women occupying managerial positions within the firm. Furthermore, it also transpired that the women, who did advance in the firm, demonstrated a significantly higher level of moral reasoning at the senior and management levels. Therefore implying that lower moral reasoning at managerial level is due to having fewer women. Does the accounting profession need more women in higher-level positions in order to improve the ethical environment?
    Let us not precipitate the argument towards that direction. There are also a number of studies which conflict with the ideas highlighted above. These studies did not find any significant differences in ethical evaluations, moral judgments, moral intentions to whistleblow and moral intensity between males and females. Other studies also identified that generally males and females do not differ in their perception of what is considered to be ethical or unethical, attributed to a number of factors including that males and females receive similar ethical training, and participation and advancement of women within the profession is increasing. Lastly, another interesting find was that when asked to express an opinion about ethical decision making of the opposite sex, almost universally both parties stated that the opposite sex is more unethical!
    Accountants have a responsibility towards their profession and the public to maintain the highest standards of ethical behaviour. They must be competent and maintain confidentiality, integrity and objectivity. These standards of behaviour are clearly laid out in the Code of Ethics, however, ethics goes beyond rules and regulations. Ethical behaviour is concerned with what society considers right or wrong and although a particular course of action is deemed to be within the bounds of the law, it is could still be considered ethically incorrect.
    To start an accountant needs a proper ethical education. Historically, there have been many calls for an increase in the level of ‘ethics education’ in the accounting curriculum. Education and training raises awareness and develops the required attitude. At present, accounting education places emphasis on the specifics of generally accepted accounting principles, which have increased in complexity in recent years. The moral obligation of the professional is to act in the public interest, by remaining true to the role as an independent watchdog, which is equally important. This balance should also be supplemented by an increased focus on developing students’ capability to reason out ethical dilemmas, also considering the emotional side of ethical decision-making.
    Our Code of Ethics specifies that a professional accountant’s responsibility should not be focused solely on the needs of an individual client, but shall act in the public interest. Therefore the procedural approach is to be supplemented by the equally important principle-based perspective. The principles of ethical analysis are the means by which an accountant can objectively determine whether the decisions or actions will lead to what is 'right' or 'wrong, 'just' or 'unjust,' 'fair' or 'unfair”.
    An individual on his/her own however cannot promulgate ethics alone. It also has to be supported by the organisation within which they are employed. This is only possible if the ethical work climate, determined by the tone set by senior management, promotes true and fair financial reporting. The importance of an ethical organisation cannot be under-emphasised. An organisation’s moral and ethical stance have increasingly become important qualities which stakeholders use to define, perceive, and evaluate a company, and are being held at par with an individual’s morality and ethical attributes. 
    Therefore our profession should be guided by proper ethical conduct and not by gender differentiation. Being ethical means, that as accountants we should have the ability and moral courage to make the right choices. We must be willing to choose what is morally correct.
    (The list of references is available from the editor on request)
    Michelle Spiteri Bailey studied accountancy at the University of Malta and completed her B.A. (Hons.) Accountancy. She continued her studies and obtained a MBA degree in Finance from the University of Leicester, a specialised Diploma in Shipping Economics and Operations from the Cambridge Academy of Transport, and finalised her doctorate studies. Michelle is a senior manager at KPMG, a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta and will be awarded a PhD with Cranfield University in June 2019.
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    A lot has been said about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, and how this will change the world of work as we know it. The conversation around the future of work usually focuses on desired efficiencies and cost reductions. We talk of how AI and robotics can automate routine tasks and sift through massive mounds of data, working through the night and without needing coffee or cigarette breaks, and in the process freeing up swathes of workers who would need to reskill to do other work.


    If taken to the extreme the scenario can appear almost apocalyptic, with visions of redundant employees who have been replaced by machines finding it very hard if not impossible to find some new form of employment. One just needs to think about the prospects for professional drivers (taxi drivers, lorry drivers, deliverymen) in a world of autonomous vehicles and delivery drones to get a sense of how the situation could rapidly get difficult. So much so that often these conversations veer towards topics such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI) and other policies designed to ensure that citizens would not become destitute in these situations.
    It could get ugly, but it does not have to be this way. It is true that technology will automate several time-consuming processes that will no longer need to be done by humans, but this does not mean that humans will become redundant. If tackled with the right vision these developments could make it possible to redefine the meaning of work, empowering employees to shift from executing routine tasks to instead identifying and addressing unseen problems and opportunities.
    “Focusing on the unseen means imagining solutions that don’t exist for needs that haven’t yet emerged. Solving nonroutine problems and seeking fresh opportunities should be a large and expanding portion of a workload, not a small piece of a larger traditional work pie.”
    Hagel et Wool – What is work
    Unleashing the creative potential of employees is something that has cropped up on the agenda of many companies already. In order to foster creativity companies such as Google introduced concepts such as 20% time (which employees could use to work on different ideas and which is credited to have led to success stories such as Gmail and Adsense) or fostering a stress-free environment (onsite laundry service, free meals, free public transport, etc). However as time went by what happened was that the daily workload often took over and people no longer managed to dedicate 20% of their time to unstructured creativity. The routine essentially killed the creative. Being creative became an added chore, rather than the focus of employees’ contribution.
    Artificial Intelligence and Automation can free us from these distractions.
    The future of human work will be defined along the six human capabilities – curiosity, imagination, intuition, creativity, empathy and emotional and social intelligence – which are illustrated on the diagram below.

    How can employees identify “unseen problems”?  They can use empathy to understand how clients are using products and what problems they are encountering. They can use imagination to draw analogies from similar situations or improvise to see if using a product differently can get a better result.
    In other words, the future of work is not about skills, but rather about passion. The desire to use our human capabilities in order to make the environment around us, in this case our workplace, a better place. Obviously, passion is not something that we have on tap. Years of working routine jobs has killed most workers’ motivation – recent research by Deloitte in the US has shown that only 14% of US workers describe themselves as motivated and passionate about their job. There is little doubt that the situation in Malta is similar.
    So, the challenge will be for companies to create an environment that stimulates their employees’ passion, unleashing their creativity and achieving the added value that machines will never be able to bring to the table.
    This might sound very complicated and difficult to achieve, and you are right, it is. In order to achieve this fundamental shift we would need a total redefinition of how work and organisations are organised. We would need to think about where work is done, how it is done, when it is done as well as who does it.
    Fostering curiosity, imagination, intuition, creativity, empathy and emotional and social intelligence is no mean feat and will require a major shift in leadership, performance management and human capital practices. However, those companies who manage to achieve this shift will unlock the power of human potential, creating meaning and engagement for their staff, which will inevitably lead to strong competitive advantage and results.

    Claudine Cassar is the leader of Deloitte Consulting in Malta.
  • 3 May 2019 12:00 | Anonymous
    The Accountant – Women in the Accounting Profession. Spring 2019 (MIA Publication) 
    Established in 1987, CSB Group employs over 80 individuals, 70% of which are female.  The Client Accounting department totals 14 professionals where women account for 80% of the team.
    I took some time to speak to 5 of these women to ask about their career in Accounting and get any snippets of advice for aspiring future Accountants.
     
    Why do women choose a career in Accounting?
    I was curious to know what led each of the 5 women to choose Accounting as a career. Four of the professionals admitted that ever since they could remember, they had a strong grasp of numbers and that Accounts was a favourite school subject. Anabelle and Miriam, both in their late 30s, also commented that at the time when they were still at school, Accounting and Financial services in Malta “were relatively new areas and heavily marketed with a lot of job openings”. Potentially motivated by their strong grasp of numbers and coupled with this need within the labour market, the choice was not hard to make. “I recall that back in my school days, in the 1980’s, the choice of subjects and careers, especially to women, were not as great. The Accounts subject was popular with girls, probably since this led to an office job, and who was good in Maths did well in it and found it as a good option to further their studies in.”
    In a sense, their career path was shaped by Malta’s own development as a hub for Financial services, together with evolving social norms on women’s participation in the labour force. I wondered therefore whether they perceived the Accounting profession, in comparison to other career paths, to provide women with any specific advantages. However, all four professionals felt that there were no specific advantages. “Not necessarily to be honest, as it is a very demanding career, constant deadlines and includes a significant share of stress, especially when you progress to the senior roles.”
     
    Advantages of working in accounting
    All of the women commented that the advantages were more dependent on the organisation one worked with and its culture. Due to the competition for good talent in the industry, organisations in the Financial Services industry tend to provide a degree of flexibility to its workforce as well as the possibility of working from home. This is seen as being advantageous especially if one is still studying or juggling other responsibilities. “At the same time, it is a taken for granted perhaps, that this flexibility, including remote working, is only possible because accounting data and software can be accessed digitally. This is not necessarily the case in other industries where the job requires persons to be physically located in one specific place.”
     
    Gender gaps
    One point that keeps cropping up in the media, and which I was curious to tap into, is the reported gender gap in salary and the glass ceiling effecting progression. I wondered whether my five colleagues perceive this to be the case in the accounting profession. All five professionals felt that this was not the case for them or for the profession in general.
    Catherine, who recently obtained her warrant, commented that, “at the place of work there are far more women in accounting than men, and so far, I haven’t encountered any gender gaps. At CSB we also have a lot of women in managerial positions so it’s definitely not the case.” Anabelle continued by saying that, “in my view this is not the case in the accountancy profession because for instance I am the senior manager of the Client Accounting department. So, if you work hard and are committed, gender doesn’t really come into play both in terms of salary and in terms of seniority.” 
     
    Women’s advice to women interested in an Accounting profession
    So, with over 40 years of accounting experience between them, what advice could these five professionals impart to young women who are planning to start studying Accounts or move into the Accounting profession?  
    Catherine explained that, “Accountancy is a growing field and accountants are always in demand. This provides you with stability of employment. Furthermore, it’s a well-respected and rewarding profession. You’ll never be bored as you’re constantly being challenged.” 
    Tania and Anabelle added that working in the accounting field whilst studying is something they would suggest to anyone who is embarking on this career path. Tania explained that, “If I had to go back, I would have started working and taken up studying independently instead of following a full-time course.  This would have saved me time for sure.” Anabelle added that, “Something I would have done if I were to go back is that I would have worked more in the accountancy field at the same time whilst studying. It is hard, but putting into practice what one learns would guarantee a much speedier learning curve.”
     
    Finally, Anabelle and Catherine both recommended to continue learning. “Changes in technology and regulation mean that the accounting industry is constantly evolving so you have to keep your knowledge updated.” “Don't ever stop studying is my recommendation. Even when you finish your University or ACCA course, enrol into a diploma specialised in VAT, tax or any other course because as accountants we should always stay updated. Keep in mind that when you are younger, it is really the best time to study because once kids come along it is definitely harder!”   
    *Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
    Elaine Dutton
    Head of Human Resources
    CSB Group
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