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ICAEW members around the world make up a truly global community. We have members in 153 countries, around one sixth of our members live and work outside the UK and an ever-increasing proportion of our students – whether studying for CFAB, BFP or the ACA - are outside the UK. And it is important that we work ever more closely with other professional bodies around the world as part of an even wider, connected global community.
Over the summer I welcomed delegations from Nepal, Zimbabwe and India to Chartered Accountants’ Hall. At the beginning of October, I travelled to Botswana to meet colleagues from the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants and to present awards at their graduation and awards evening, as well as to meet local ICAEW members. More recently I attended the Council of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and the World Congress of Accountants in Sydney, where I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sri Lanka Institute of Chartered Accountants, before travelling on to meet ICAEW members in Canberra and Melbourne.
A number of themes ran through these meetings – I will return to some of them over the coming weeks, but three came through consistently.
The first was that the issue of trust in business is a global one. While the precise focus may change (from audit and corporate governance in the UK, to the banking and pensions sectors in Australia) the word that connects is still ‘trust’. There is a distrust of globalised organisations and a diminished confidence in business and the professions. Whatever the causes, there is work to be done both nationally and globally to restore trust and confidence.
The second thing was the impact of digital technology. This is a global revolution – one that largely ignores national borders - and it impacts upon individuals as well as upon businesses of all sizes; it affects the way we connect and engage, the way we capture and structure data and the way we audit. My conversations over recent weeks have significantly reinforced my belief that we must not only embrace this change, but be – and be seen as - leaders.
The third thing that ran through every conversation was the sense of community, both amongst ICAEW members and between members of different professional bodies. Our member groups in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne are thriving. The sense of pride in the ACA is palpable.
I came away from Australia with a renewed sense of purpose and with an absolute belief that we have to think as a global community, whether as members of ICAEW or as part of the wider global profession.
ICAEW’s vision is of a World of Strong Economies. As I have now said many times in speeches around the world, strong national economies cannot exist without strong national accountancy professions and a strong global economy cannot exist without a strong global accountancy profession. We have a vital role to play in the global profession, working with our partners around the world to maintain confidence in financial information and to facilitate international trade. In the post-Brexit world, that role will be more important than ever.