Important themes were raised during the World Congress of Accountants in Rome, attended by 4,000 people from 150 countries. But two of the most pressing issues, frequently cited by leaders from all sectors, were planning for the long term and making effective use of data and technology.
These illustrate a shift in outlook in business towards a wider concept of value creation – a theme echoed by a number of speakers. They also reflect the reality of today’s business, as summarized by IIRC CEO, Paul Druckman, who said that ‘speed and interconnectedness are norms in business today’. Business needs to respond by planning to achieve long-term outcomes while managing the short term.
The conference made a powerful statement about the opportunities for enhancing reporting. This was reinforced by the clear calls from the immediate past president of IFAC, Warren Allen, for professional accountants to ‘get on the train’ while there is time, while new IFAC president Olivia Kirtley encouraged delegates to take action to further the adoption of Integrated Reporting. Professional accountants are in an excellent position to innovate reporting to meet the needs of investors and other shareholders, so it is a prime opportunity for the profession to show how it can continue to add value.
But what does this mean? Implementing is a journey that will take several reporting cycles to get right. Professional accountants will therefore need to be change managers and a source of strategic thinking. Accountants are found at the board table, working in strategic management roles, leading reporting teams, providing independent advice and assurance. At each point there are opportunities for innovation and enhanced value creation.
Seizing these opportunities will lead to a range of benefits, from attracting more long-term investors, through to better understanding of the business model, better long-term outlook and improved decision making.
Thomas Kusterer, CFO of Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (EnBW) said that the corporate finance function can play a crucial role in changing corporate behaviour and orienting the company towards long-term value creation. Finance can initiate the process but it is a company-wide activity. The finance leader must bring in many other skill sets from across the company to achieve integrated thinking and reporting.
Professional accountants as agents for change for financial stability and sustainable development sounds a rewarding outcome from the World Congress of Accountants. We look forward to seeing the fruits of this shift in reporting practice at the next congress in Australia in 2018!