“Congratulations…Thank you for joining…and make us proud!” The reply that came back was invariably, “Thank you,…I will!”
This was the whispered short conversation between myself and each and every graduate I shook hands with during the 15th October graduation ceremony and presentation of their certificate of membership with MIA, our Institute. Our membership increases by just shy of another 10% growth. Our responsibility increases towards a larger number of Accountants who expect to see value in being Members of the Institute where they can intermediate knowledge and experience, and where they know they find support and confidence.
I feel you would be interested to know also that out of all the new graduates, more than 60% of students whose performance even landed them an ACCA global placing, studied through the Institute’s wholly owned professional learning academy. We are proud to say and at the same time applaud our academy for indeed delivering yet again its brand promise, ‘AIM’, or focus higher. It is good to note that ‘AIM Professional Academy’ is a Premier Member of the BPP Global Network (Europe’s leader in professional training).
A snippet from my speech before the ceremony, in front of a record audience of close to 700 people, reads as follows. “We are proud of the results obtained and of the quality of the available courses on the island; our country is endowed with a huge human potential and this keeps making us proud, both locally and overseas, year after year. As our nation’s economy flexes its muscles further, the role of Accountants is pivotal for our continued economic growth and competitiveness,” This message was built around the question “Where would Malta be today without the crucial role the accountancy profession has played in the country’s economic success?” I think you would all agree that Malta would have had a different hue, economically, had our Institute and my predecessor Presidents and Council members not been visionaries and forceful drivers of change. We should all be proud of this legacy and we should all hold high our Institute’s banner.
This brings me to a connected point. Even if the supply of Accountants is steady, demand seems to outpace it causing some concern in terms of satisfying the demand. Our counter reaction has been to import talent both from Europe and rest of the world. The process to do so is an administrative burden. The usual economic forces come into play with the consequential viral inflation of payroll costs, which may eventually threaten our competitiveness. But this means there is also a huge opportunity and a lot of upside. The Institute will continue to encourage more students to take up Accountancy as their career of choice, by reaching deeper and further within the Millennial circles. At the moment we are working on a communications and marketing strategy. I am confident that this will increase our success rate in the contest for talent. The strong competitive advantage we have, compared to our competitors, is that Accountancy is the language that business speaks. It is a significant asset to have even if one may wish to venture into entrepreneurship. A majority of Fortune 500 CEO’s have a finance background. It is an undisputed advantage also in the boardroom. My own experience as the CEO of a fast-paced service company hitting close to a €30m top line, and also as a board member of various regulated entities, is an extremely positive one. I personally feel that the Accountancy Profession adds immensely to my capacity, competence and confidence in myself, and this stems mainly from my past training and experience in the profession. We need to use such statistics and stories to enlighten bright students towards the Institute.
Another major selling point for Accountancy is that it is now so entrenched in our everyday lives, that it is a profession that endures and also grows further, even in economic downturns. It is a profession that supports the harmonisation of reporting requirements and hence provides Accountants with a flexible international mobility. Accountants are and will remain in demand, both in developed and still developing economies.
High quality accounting, financial reporting, auditing and advice, play an important role in improving economic performance. Our Institute has contributed significantly in capacity building towards high calibre professionals who are premier players and who in turn improve transparency, thus facilitating the mobilisation of domestic and international investment, creating a sound investment environment and fostering investor confidence. We give the peace of mind to users of financial information that through our bond with international standard setters since several decades, the local reporting system is based on a strong and internationally comparable set of standards, and our role in the continuous education and technical support we give to our members ensures the highest quality of those reports and statements. The direct positive contribution of this is that the international competitiveness of enterprises is strengthened, and also that capital flows and financing becomes more accessible and at competitive costs. The Institute has played a critical role in the design-and-build of the robust corporate reporting infrastructure, including the essential legal and regulatory frameworks, and the development of the human capacity based on the highest ethical behaviour. I strongly believe that the Institute, and its Members and sponsoring firms, have earned a lot of credit for the optimal economic performance we are boast of. We need to communicate better the value we bring to business, government, regulators and the populace in general.
Now for some updates on the work done by the executive team led by the CEO, and by the voluntary Officers, Council members and members of the various working groups. We have again taken a lead role in the amendments to the Companies Act to reflect the changes to the requirements of the accounting reporting. The General Accounting Principles for Small and Medium-sized Entities (GAPSME) Legal Notice issued on 28 August 2015 was the first published legal document to transpose the provisions in the EC Directive applicable to small and medium-sized entities. This will be followed by the Bill to amend the Companies Act that will be published shortly. GAPSME as well as the amended Companies Act are the result of decisions taken by a transposition working group made up of a wide range of stakeholders from the public and private sectors that was led by the Accountancy Board. The Malta Institute of Accountants was a key contributor in the design phase and drafting of GAPSME and the amendments to the Companies Act. I here need to thank our CEO Mark Abela, our Secretary Fabio Axisa and also Bernard Scicluna, an ex-President of the Institute, for their collective effort with the Accountancy Board, in bringing this project to a close within tight deadlines. We shall be giving you updates and information sessions as part of our CPE programme soon.
We have also progressed in the Legal Bill with the significant support of the Managing Partners of the Big4. I was personally present in all meetings representing the Institute and keeping the Council in synch at all times. I believe that we are close to a closure on this project as well especially since we all joined in an orchestrated effort to find acceptable compromises with representatives of the legal profession who are attempting to put some structure to their own profession. I think that this initiative should be seen positively as further reinforcing the robustness of our national offering and economic fabric that is in turn squarely based on our sound reputation of the professions.
I end this address by auguring you all the very best for the coming Festive Season. I look forward to giving the Institute that visibility and respect that it merits among the different circles of stakeholders, and this because we all deserve it!