Saturday 23 March 2013

Competitor moves further ahead

If one visits the Asiatique night market in Bangkok, one could observe that Thailand is strengthening its position as a tourist destination a notch higher. This place stretches the concept of night market a notch higher.

The overall concept, layout, products sold and people at this huge tourist spot is not easily duplicated elsewhere. The strong Thai small and medium enterprise community is one of its pillars of the strength of its economy. You can't set up a huge market like this unless you are a key supply chain player. The availability of competitively priced labour is another pillar.

The choice and quality of products here appear to be slightly different from those offered at places such as MKT. Is Thailand moving away from the cheap imitation goods image that many of us usually think of?

While I may not have made a correct analysis, Asiatique is certainly a place where I will bring my family to and I am sure they will be enjoying themselves.

Off course, the famous Bangkok traffic jam seems to be the problem that they need to work on.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Malaysia sets up accounting training centre


PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has kicked off the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)Regional Centre of Accountancy Training Excellence that will offer students from the country as well as the region to be qualified as chartered accountants.
This would be the first accounting training excellence centre in the region.
It is a collaboration between ICAEW, TalentCorp Malaysia Bhd, Sunway-TES, Sunway Group and five accounting firms - BDO Malaysia, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC.
This is the first such public-private partnership in the region and supports the government's aim of establishing Malaysia as an education hub for Asean and provide the needed skilled talent to effect Malaysia'sEconomic Transformation Programme (ETP).
Speaking at the launch, TalentCorp chief executive officer Johan Mahmood Merican said the initiative was in line with the Talent Roadmap 2020 and it would be a critical step in building a world-class workforce.
“In order to achieve this, we would need to reach the talent available in the region and through this partnership, it would ensure us to tap upon an elite group of individuals who wants to work in Malaysia and contribute to our economic transformation,” he said.
“Under the ETP, we want to create a cycle of having more investments attracting and retaining more talents which would further drive more investments to our economy,” Johan said
Business services makes up one of the ETP's 12 National Key Economic Areas and the accountancy sector has been identified as a business opportunity.
Sunway-TES director Lee Weng Keng said the programme would enable students from all over the region to be qualified as chartered accountants, offer career opportunities and increase the skills and talent pool in the country.
“Talentcorp would be the facilitator to get the employment pass for the international students to be able to work here,”he told StarBiz.
He expected other accounting firms, banks and businesses to participate as the programme matures, perhaps by next year.
“This year we are targeting to have 30 international students to participate in the programme and additional 70 by next year,” he added.
Lee noted that BDO had already recruited five students from Vietnam (2), Indonesia (2) and China (1).
Malaysia Institute of Accountants chief executive officer Ho Foong Moitold StarBiz that Malaysia currently faced a shortage of accountants.
“The need for accountants is in tandem with the economy growth and there is also a great demand for accountants in the region.
“We think this is a good initiative and we believe this would help to build a pool of accountants both in Malaysia as well as in the region,” she added.
ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza told reporters that Malaysia was chosen to be the training hub in region for ICAEW because of Sunway's track record to produce the best accounting students with six World Prize winners for individual papers so far.
“Besides the good track record, we also like with the support by various parties such as the educational institutions, employers and the government,” he added.

Conversations with Global Thought Leaders

I met two global thought leaders in the recent weeks. The first was Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, the KPMG Global Head of Corporate Citizenship. He was the speaker at the CPA Australia CEO luncheon and he spoke about whether corporate philanthropic is a reflection of good corporate behaviour. 

According to Lord Hastings, what is more important is the overall behaviour of a corporation in ensuring its conducts are in line with social expectations and do not compromise our environment. Hence, doing one or two corporate social responsibility activities is not a substitute for good corporate citizenship.

We sort of agreed that in ensuring good corporate behaviour, the people within the organisation matters and we should leverage on their beliefs to encourage them to do the right thing. This is somewhat neglected in Europe and America as religion is purposely ignored, especially in the corporate world.

I also had the opportunity to meet Michael Izza, the CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Michael was in town recently to launch the ICAEW Regional Centre of Accountancy Training Excellence.

In sharing the development of the capital market and where accountants can play their roles, Michael spoke about the important of ethics. When I asked about the role of values in instilling integrity, Michael responded that organisations such as ICAEW are becoming more concerned in sending messages that what is legally right is not necessarily acceptable. He cited the example of global companies which are paying very minimum taxes based on business structures which are perfectly legal.

I suppose moving forward, the issue of values and good citizenship would be more debated and considered based on our present understanding of how greed and selfishness drove the recent global financial crisis.

Given the importance of ensuring persons to be given responsibilities should be selected based on their merits, values and ethical conducts, we should not be blinded just because of impressive historical financial performance or promise offered. The crisis had certainly educated us that anything that is not built on a solid foundation will eventually crumble. The question is who is going to pick up the pieces and pay the bill. You and me or our children and their children?

Saturday 9 March 2013

Singapore wants to lead the region in accountancy

Optimistically Cautious by ERROL OH

MANY of us tend to get irritated when we're compared to Singapore. So be warned, this article may annoy you. However, it's good to appreciate that we sometimes need to be needled into action. This is probably such a case.
It's about accountancy. At a hotel in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, there will be the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for an initiative that will involve professional bodies, educational institutions, accounting firms and Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp).
According to an invitation sent out to journalists on behalf of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), this initiative is called the ICAEW Regional Centre of Accountancy Training Excellence.
It's described as a collaboration between TalentCorp, ICAEW senior members and Sunway-TES, a subsidiary of the Sunway Education Group that delivers professional accounting programmes.
This will start with a pilot programme in which students from Asean countries and China will “undergo the rigorous ACA qualification, administered by ICAEW and taught by Sunway-TES”.
The pioneer batch will be drawn from Sunway University, Taylor's University and Nottingham University, and they will receive the required training at firms in Malaysia such as BDO, Ernst & Young and PwC.
Says the media invitation: “The centre will deliver the highest standards of ICAEW training and development, and contribute to the development of skilled talent to support Malaysia's drive for economic transformation.”
It's understood that the ICAEW Regional Centre of Accountancy Training Excellence is just one component of a larger effort to bring more people into Malaysia to study accountancy and to later serve in the accounting sector here. Other accountancy bodies, firms and schools are expected to be part of similar initiatives that will kick off soon as well.
Building a pipeline
Why is this important? The invitation provides an answer: “A robust pipeline of highly skilled professionals is a key ingredient to sustain Malaysia's economic development and support the nation's aim to achieve high-income status by 2020.”
The references to economic transformation and the high-income status target by 2020 suggest that these initiatives are linked to the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). And indeed they are.
Business services make up one of the ETP's 12 National Key Economic Areas, and within that, the accountancy sector has been identified as a business opportunity.
The ETP roadmap, launched in October 2010, points out that the sector's growth traditionally rides on the size of the economy, with demand hinging upon domestic reporting requirements and tax regulations.
However, deregulation and the global convergence of financial reporting standards are paving the way for the export of accountancy services.
“To be able to capitalise on those opportunities, Malaysia must increase the quality of its accountants and develop specialised skill sets in areas such as international taxation, forensic accounting and carbon accounting, in line with future growth areas,” says the roadmap.
The ETP incorporates two relevant proposals. The first is to only allow those with recognised professional qualifications to be admitted as chartered accountants in Malaysia. This is to improve the quality of Malaysia's chartered accountants.
“The chartered accountant qualification is currently awarded automatically to Malaysian graduates after three years of experience within the industry. The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) will introduce the additional requirement to hold a professional qualification to qualify as a chartered accountant by mid-2012,” adds the roadmap.
The second proposal talks about developing Malaysian expertise in specialised areas of accountancy so as to seize export opportunities. The idea is to do so via education and policies on granting visas,
The ETP roadmap recommends that the Higher Education Ministry launches new Masters programmes at local universities in these areas and that the Home Affairs Ministry eases restrictions on the entry of foreigners with specialised skills.
Singapore's vision
On the other hand, Singapore seems to have had a headstart in expanding the economic role of its accountancy sector. With the objective of positioning the island state as “a leading international centre for accountancy services and professionals”, the Government set up the Committee to Develop the Singapore Accountancy Sector (CDAS) in December 2008.
Six months before the release of the ETP roadmap, the committee had issued its 82-page final report on how to transform Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub for the Asia Pacific region by 2020.
Here are excerpts from the report's vision for the Singapore accountancy sector:
“A globally recognised professional accountancy qualification is key to the successful transformation of the Singapore accountancy sector. Singapore will be the place of choice for students in the region wanting to become a qualified accountant.”
“Accountancy graduates from Singapore's three universities will enhance their accountancy careers through this professional qualification. The talent pool of accountants in Singapore will be broadened and strengthened as non-accountancy degree graduates are also attracted to the sector with the opportunity to pursue the professional qualification.”
“Singapore will be the regional centre offering other accountancy qualifications by international professional bodies.”
“Accountants from the region will come to Singapore for their professional development and certification as chief financial officers and internal auditors, and to acquire specialised skills in risk management, tax and valuation.”
It's somewhat different from the ETP objective of exporting accountancy services, but it's clear that both Malaysia and Singapore intend to attract accountancy students from abroad. Who has the edge? What's our game plan?
It looks like Singapore already has an overall strategy to work on. Based on the CDAS' recommendations, the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council was formed to spearhead the development of the Singapore accountancy sector. Next month, it will become a statutory body called the Singapore Accountancy Commission.
Meanwhile, Malaysia pins its hopes largely on the MIA, which is both a regulator and a professional body. There is yet any move to make it mandatory for chartered accountants to have professional qualifications.
Neither was this directly addressed in the institute's annual report 2012, although in his message, MIA president Datuk Mohamed Nasir Ahmadwrote: “Since the country is being helmed by a reform-minded leadership bent on achieving the goals of the ETP, we must seize this window of opportunity to lobby for reforms in the accounting legislative framework.”
It's encouraging that TalentCorp has teamed up with professional bodies, accounting firms and universities to boost human capital in Malaysia's accountancy sector, but this is surely not enough.
Accountancy is essential, broad-ranging, ever evolving and technically demanding. Piecemeal adjustments and improvements are necessary sometimes, but these can't elevate the sector to the next level. There has to be a holistic and co-ordinated approach in order to achieve something like that.
MIA, of course, has to take a lead in such an effort. But what about the Accountant General's Department? The MIA comes under the Finance Ministry, which is represented by the department in the governance of the institute.
Malaysia's accountancy sector deserves a solid game plan, and the right people should step up to take ownership of such a project and to ensure its proper execution. Otherwise, losing our competitiveness in accountancy will be yet another reason to be irritated with the neighbour across the Causeway.
l Executive editor Errol Oh is waiting for a marketing and branding genius to turn accountancy into an ultra-cool profession.