Saturday 27 April 2019

Disrupting A Profession

Where on earth could be a better place to learn about disruption other than Bali? The so called "Island of Gods" provided the right setting about the future which is highly volatile and exciting, full of the unknown unknowns. I was there to attend the IAI-AFA-IAESB International Conference 2019 with the theme "Professionalism of Accountants in the Disruption Era".

The conference was held in conjunction with the meeting of the International Accountants Education Standards Board's (IEASB) meeting held at this famous tourist destination.

It was also a reunion of sort as I managed to meet colleagues and friends from the accountancy profession who were together with me in the leadership of regional accountancy bodies. The guest of honour was Dr In-Ki Joo, the President of the International Federation of Accountants. In-Ki was together with me when we served the Executive Committee of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Accountants (CAPA). My Indonesian best friends, Pak Ahmadi Hadibroto and Pak Djoko Susanto, were there as well. They were my "partner in crime" when we led the Asean Federation of Accountants.

While we are fully aware of the rapid changes in the ways we live and work, particularly driven by technology and globalisation, the focus of the conference was how accounting education should evolve in meeting the demands arising from these changes. When industries are disrupted, accountants who are serving employers and clients within those industries must be able to create value using new competencies which are relevant, especially in using volumes of data and information which are captured through various means. 

I was impressed with the thoughts of Prof. Ainun Naim who was representing the Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education of Indonesia. In facing the 4th industrial revolution, competitive graduates should be literate in data, technology and humanity instead of the old literation of reading, writing and arithmetics. Universities should develop the cognitive capacity of students such as critical and systematic thinking skills, nurture cultural agility and enhance their entrepreneurship abilities. Indonesia will liberalise their eduction systems and allow education institutions do deliver education through various means including social media.

The other key focus area was professional scepticism and judgment of accountants which are widely discussed and challenged worldwide. This is also my favourite topic as I was closely involved in dealings with auditors' judgments when I was the Executive Chairman of the Audit Oversight Board. While the panellists shared the latest updates of the area, I sensed some reluctance in acknowledging that profits as one key drivers which caused professionals not to ask pertinent questions when performing their work. I suppose the debate will continue especially with some latest developments in the United Kingdom in reforming the auditing industry.

The topic of education reform and nurturing new key competencies were discussed in great details by experts from IAESB committee members and industry players. Telekom Indonesia is really serious in embarking on projects which not only change the ways their employees work but maximising their new competencies which are blended with technology in creating value for its customers.

What was clear to me is the importance of lifelong learning. While accountants may complain about their Continuing Professional Education requirements, that is the only way for them to acquire new skills and competencies which are critical in a highly disruptive business environment. At the same time, the time tested professional values such as integrity and courage to do the right thing will remain relevant for accountants to be respected as trusted professionals.

Ibu Elly, the Executive Director of Ikatan Akuntan Indonesia (IAI), and her team from IAI were really great hosts, not only in ensuring the conference went smoothly but also in providing us with their Indonesian hospitality. As usual, food was great!

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