Wednesday 11 November 2009

Regulatory Effectiveness and Operational Sustainability of Accounting Firms

Somehow accountants in practice take regulation seriously. What more when regulation created opportunities for them to provide services be it audit, tax, insolvency or secretarial services. That is why when there are proposal to amend regulations, this group of professionals would normally pay serious attention to the possible changes although the change may occur a number of years down the road.

These were the issues that were discussed during a forum with the theme Effective Regulation; Sustainable Operations organised by the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) today for the practitioners. I was invited to be the moderator. The panellists were Billy Kang, Council member of MIA, Jennifer Lopez, Head of ACCA Malaysia and Dr Cheah Foo Seong, Chief Technical Officer of Tricor.

While certain risks were identified with changes in the company laws, for example, opportunities are aplenty as well. Jennifer suggested that accountants consider training as one options to expand their firms. Changes in accounting standards, for example, means companies need to build capacity and ensure their staff are competent to handle new financial reporting standards.

Billy reminded auditors to educate and convince their clients to see value from audit. Otherwise, clients would not appreciate the value of audit and would be very hesitant to pay audit fees.

Dr. Cheah shared his experience in providing services to corporate clients. According to him, accountants need to be innovative and provide services beyond the ones which are triggered by regulation.

I had the opportunity to suggest accountants to shape their future without waiting for the laws to be amended. If accountants are working on their practices rather than in their practices, they would be able to spot opportunities faster or identify risks that are forthcoming. This requires a shift in mindset.

Eventually practising accountants have to create value out of the services provided to clients rather than relying on regulation to drive their practices forward. This is quite challenging for some as being in a closed profession, regulation has provided accountants with monopoly over certain services such as auditing.

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