Keynote speech by Hin H. Leong, Secretary, ACCA Canada
Third annual ACCA Canada graduation ceremony
November 15th, 2003, Delta Chelsea Hotel, Toronto
Good evening Mr. President, Board of Officers, fellow members, affiliates, students, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our 3rd Annual ACCA Canada Graduation Ceremony.
First of all, I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to our brand new graduates. After all the hard work you have put in, you have finally arrived. You have conquered the world's most difficult professional accounting exams. I know this because I have been there before. I even sat for two other professional accounting exams. Let me tell you, those are nothing compared to the ACCA exams. For many of you, the journey has been long and hard. Many times you wanted to give up, but then you told yourself you could do it. You must carry on because it is worth it and so much is at stake. You soldiered on and finally you did it. Congratulations once again to each and every one of you here tonight and to those across Canada who are unable to celebrate with us directly.
Thank you. Tonight, even though we are gathered here to congratulate and celebrate our new graduates' achievement, we must not forget that their success did come with a price. That price was the daily sacrifice made by family members such as parents, husbands, wives, partners, relatives, friends, loved ones, even children. As I can see, many of you are with us here tonight and we are so glad that you are able to join us. Therefore, to all the family members, and on behalf of the graduates and the ACCA, we commend you and extend our utmost and sincere thanks for believing in us and for your love and support in helping our graduates accomplish their dreams. Let us give them a round of applause to show our appreciation.
Thank you. Now that you have passed all the exams and are ready to become a full fledged member of ACCA, let me take a few minutes to refresh you of our mission and core values, and to bring you up to speed on where ACCA is today.
ACCA is the world largest and fastest growing global professional accountancy body with over 300,000 members and students in 160 countries. We have an extensive network of over 70 staffed offices and other centres around the world.
Our mission is to provide quality professional opportunities to people of ability and application throughout their working careers; to promote the highest ethical and governance standards; to work in the public interest and to be a leading player, at both global and national level, in the knowledge-based profession of the 21st century.
Our core values are to provide opportunity and access, without artificial barriers; to meet changing needs through flexibility; to maintain quality at all times; to promote the highest possible standards of integrity; to have a global perspective and to have a modern approach.
ACCA's reputation is grounded in almost 100 years of providing accounting and financial qualifications. Our long traditions are complemented by modern thinking, backed by a predominantly young, dynamic membership like yourselves. On December 1, 2003, ACCA will commence its yearlong centenary celebrations starting in Hong Kong. The theme for the celebrations will be "responsibility". We believe that responsibility is the cornerstone of the accounting profession. It is as critical today as it was 100 years ago when ACCA was founded. For without responsibility, there can be no trust or confidence in business.
In addition, starting from January 2005 onwards, ACCA proposes that the completion of CPD or Continuing Professional Development will become a requirement for continuing membership.
ACCA may be a household name in Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa, the Commonwealth and many parts of the world, yet it is still not as well known in North America. This means that we have a big task ahead of us.
The fact remains that ACCA is the best and the most mobile professional accounting qualification in the world. We have the most rigorous training programs and many of our members hold senior positions in large corporations and governments around the world, including Canada and the United States. In order to ensure that our members, affiliates and students are given the same opportunity in Canada as locally qualified accountants, we need to focus our energy and resources towards the issue of recognition of the ACCA designation in Canada. Therefore, I would encourage all ACCAs to ask themselves a very important question tonight.
The question is "What can I do to help ACCA Canada to secure and maintain recognition and visibility of the ACCA designation in Canada?"
Canada, as we all know, is a nation of immigrants. Many successful ACCAs and students with years of working experience immigrated to Canada in search of better opportunities and quality of life. Often, we heard that it was difficult for them to find a similar or comparable job they left behind once they landed. This primarily was because of their lack of so called "Canadian experience". In addition, many potential employers have not heard of the ACCA designation and were reluctant to hire them. As a result, many of them faced the challenging tasks of adapting to their newly adopted country, trying to secure suitable employment that they were trained for, and at the same time having to look after their family and themselves. This created a daunting challenge to the newly arrived ACCAs and students. Despite the odds, most ACCAs and students did find the jobs they wanted and went on to become very successful later in their lives.
Just like many of you or your parents, I too immigrated to this great country from Malaysia, armed with an FCCA designation and 10 years of working experience. Before I came, I had a fairly successful career working in a bank as an officer earning a good salary. I still remember the day of June 29, 1990 when I landed in Vancouver with a pregnant wife and a 16-month-old daughter. We came to a country which we had never visited before and with no friends and no relatives to help us. When we walked out of that old Vancouver airport with our 2 suitcases, there was no one to greet us. It was a beautiful day and I told my wife and my daughter the future looked promising here and we had arrived at the right place to call home.
We quickly settled down in an apartment in downtown Robson Street and I started looking for a job. Unfamiliar with the Canadian employment equity laws, I sent out hundreds of resumes with my photo attached, including all my personal information such as my date of birth, my height, my weight, my race and even the colour of my eyes. I now realize that my resume looked more like a criminal report of myself than an application for employment! Because of my lack of Canadian experience and the fact that I spoke with a funny accent at that time, no one would hire me. When the little savings I brought with me began to run out, I began to worry and was prepared to do anything to get a job. From Vancouver, I began to apply for jobs in Toronto. To my surprise, I secured employment with an oil and gas company in Toronto and moved my entire family there. I have never looked back since.
With hindsight, I realize that we ACCAs are used to difficult challenges. Our comprehensive syllabus and grueling exams speak for themselves. Many of us have never visited the UK, the country where ACCA was founded, yet we have managed to pass ACCA exam after exam, including those difficult UK taxation and UK laws exams. This requires intelligence, determination, perseverance, strategies, and the courage to confront challenges and to overcome them and thrive. I like to think that the ACCA program of study has prepared us well for all that, besides teaching us the knowledge of accounting, auditing, management, taxation and laws. Most of all, it has also instilled in us a lifelong lesson of character building, a "can do" attitude, with the desire to succeed under any circumstances.
Looking back, how I wish that there were a network of ACCAs that I could have turned to when I decided to immigrate to Canada. It would have been a lot easier if I could have found out more about the employment situation for accountants in Canada before I arrived. It would definitely have been more reassuring to know that there was an establishment of ACCAs in Canada that I could have turned to for advice when I first arrived in Canada.
Well, ACCA Canada was formed precisely for that purpose. It was incorporated in 1997 with great foresight to promote and serve the interest of ACCAs, affiliates and students in Canada. One of the original three directors who signed the letter of incorporation is Mr. Marcel Latouche, an FCCA and a Board member, who is with us here tonight.
Thank you. We currently have more than 1,400 members and students contributing to the Canadian economy and our numbers are growing every day. Our professionally staffed office, funded by Headquarters in the UK, is located here in Toronto. It is managed by an elected Board of Officers which meets regularly to discuss and plan Canadian activities and developments. We have provincial representatives in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC. You may learn more about ACCA Canada through the global website at www.accaglobal.com and then by just clicking on the countries and regions of Canada.
Securing recognition of the ACCA qualification in Canada has been and remains the top priority of the Board of Officers of ACCA Canada. The process is challenging and requires patience and strategy. The good news is we are making progress and encouraged by a number of developments such as the recent enactment of Bill 213 in Ontario which made changes to the Public Accountancy Act that may provide ACCA with a window of opportunity to present our case for recognition in Ontario. In addition, the recent appointment of Mr. John Ferguson as the Head of Communications for North America is another testimony that our Headquarters in the UK is now making a significant effort in addressing the issues faced by ACCAs in North America.
Thank you. We are also happy to report that through the effort of ACCA Canada, the University of Windsor in Ontario is now recognizing ACCA as equivalent to a first degree for admission to their MBA program. We have also negotiated with CGA Canada, one of the three local major accountancy bodies, for a fast track program if you so choose later to pursue the CGA designation.
In summary, we strongly believe that slowly but surely, ACCA will one day become a prominent brand in Canada and the preferred accounting designation of choice for many Canadians.
With your ACCA qualification, you are now ready to advance in your careers to fulfill your dreams and ambitions. Many opportunities are now open to you. I have no doubt that all of you graduates will one day become very successful in your chosen careers, be it in the public or private sector. Some of you will go on to become leaders of the corporate world or even the government. Regardless of where or who you are, and even if you later decide to become a member of one of the local accountancy bodies, such as myself, I urge you not to forget your roots in ACCA. This is because all the ACCAs in Canada will be counting on you to protect and promote their interest.
ACCA Canada's ultimate goal is to secure and maintain recognition and visibility of the ACCA designation in Canada in all provincial and federal jurisdictions. We have been working hard on this important issue and will continue to work harder. However, we need your support and participation in the activities organized by ACCA Canada in order to accomplish this important goal. Therefore, I encourage all of you to get involved, participate and support your provincial representative and even consider standing for election to join the Board of Officers of ACCA Canada.
Finally, if you don't remember most of the things I have said tonight, that is OK. However, I do hope that you will not stop asking the most important question all ACCAs in Canada should continue asking themselves. That question is "What can I do to help ACCA Canada to secure and maintain recognition and visibility of the ACCA designation in Canada?"
In conclusion, I once again congratulate all the graduates on their success and may your professional journey from now forward be a fruitful and very rewarding one.
Thank you and please enjoy the rest of your evening.