Saturday 29 October 2016

A Morning About Governance

I have been making a number of speaking appearances lately. That helped to maintain my visibility within the corporate community since I left my positions with the Securities Commission last March.

The Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance (MICG) and Unitar invited me to be the keynote speaker at their governance conference yesterday. All aspects of governance, human, corporate and public were touched on by various speakers.

I shared my observations on the progress of corporate governance in Malaysia especially by providing the contexts of why certain positions were taken. Put in place as a response to the financial crisis in 1997, the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance, which is spearheaded by the Securities Commission, has changed the corporate practices in Malaysia to a respectable position compared to where it was decades ago.

However, the 1MDB issue had dragged perception about our governance standards down and this was reflected in the recent Asian Corporate Governance Associations' assessment where Malaysia is now placed at fourth in Asia, behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Many people may not realise the efforts made by regulators, corporate Malaysia and other institutions such as MICG all this while in shaping Malaysia as a competitive market with good governance environment.

One key point which I emphasised was the influence of public governance on the governance practises at the corporate side. Given that power is mainly concentrated in the public sector, any practise which results in corruption and abuse of power in the public sector would be transmitted into the ecosystem.

While the discussion about governance would be concentrated on the systems and processes, the human dimension is very critical in shaping the quality of governance. After all, those systems and processes are operated by humans. Hence the issue of minds and hearts should not be ignored.

While the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance 2016 is being formulated, after considering public feedbacks which were provided in respond to its public disclosure, its focus on corporate culture is a manifestation of the importance of the human part in shaping governance practices. I pointed out that Prophet Muhammad was known as an honest person (Al Amin) before he was chosen to be the Messenger of God. This signals that conscience should take precedence over competence when choosing leaders. An honest leader could leverage on competent advisors but a dishonest but competent leader could abuse his or her  competency and create huge problems to all stakeholders.

In closing, I appealed to all Malaysians to do the right thing in whatever decisions which they are making. Do not wait for the world to change but make whatever little change that they can to make Malaysia a better country. This is more critical when they choose people to be given responsibilities which would affect our daily lives.

My presentation could be downloaded here.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Should We Take Digital Economy Seriously?

I was invited by CPA Australia to share my views on how Small and Medium Practices (referring to accounting firms) could revamp themselves by leveraging on economic crisis. I was given the final slot at the ASEAN Regional Small & Medium Practices Conference 2016 held back to back with the ASEAN Federation of Accountants' Council meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

The thrust of my presentation was for the accountants to reframe their mindsets. Instead of worrying about the sizes of the firm they should be planning to be Meaningful and Significant to their clients. So, moving forward, SMPs should be referring to accounting firms which are providing meaningful services to their clients and making the firms significant in the minds  of the clients with respect to business.

My slides can be downloaded from this site.

I was then told that the Federation of Accounting Professions (Thailand) would be organising an international conference on digital economy. I managed to get myself invited as I am really keen to understand how the Thais in particular and ASEAN generally are dealing with this ever-changing landscape. Coincidently, technology was one of the topics discussed at the SME Conference.

Two presenters from Thailand kick started the conference. The representative from the Ministry of Commerce recaptured the progress of digitising the economy, which was mainly driven by the government. This incorporates various online submissions replacing papers which were the norm in the past. The Director of Payment Systems from the Thai Central Bank shared the progress and future of the usage of digital technology in the Thai economy. 

Then, the elders of the accounting profession (read: presidents of accounting bodies from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore) took the centre stage and shared the progress of the digitisation of their various economies. What surprised me was the depth of knowledge and technical jargons used. I was not expecting that given what is commonly perceived of accountants. Their collective messages to the accountants in the audience were simple, the world is changing rapidly and accountants mush have their agenda in the digital game. 

Trust was mentioned as the edge that accountants have and that should be leveraged over even when problems are solves in nano seconds digitally. I suppose many accountants would have to reflect on this point. Are they being trusted now and how could they maintain trust in the domain naturally not associated with them?

I am scheduled to discuss about discuss about changes in technology with directors of capital market institutions next week. So, technology and digitisations seem to be the common theme in three events which I attended and would be attending in a week. What does this mean?

So, the digital economy is here and we have to embrace the challenge ourselves. There is no point to pray for the world to stand still. We would be missing the boat is we try that path.

In any case, the fact that you are reading this posting means you are already connected to me either through this blog, Facebook or Twitter.

The digital economy is real and it influences you and me similarly.