Thousands continue to choose ACCA qualifications in tough economic times
Candidates around the world took more than 363,000 papers, with 6,313 students successfully completing their final ACCA exams.
At the Fundamentals level, pass rates were particularly pleasing. The pass rate of the F7, Financial Reporting exam at 56% was significantly higher than in recent times. All other pass rates at the Fundamentals level remained close to their historic averages. At the Professional level, the results for the Essential papers remain strong while results for the Options papers are less good. The P5, Advanced Performance Management result was very disappointing at 29%. In response to a number of sessions of poor performance in the Options papers ACCA has carried out work to offer a range of support for students taking these papers to help improve the pass rates. This will be available shortly.
Clare Minchington, ACCA executive director - learning, said: 'We congratulate those who have succeeded in their exams – and we are delighted to see that more than 6,000 have completed their examinations, having been able to demonstrate the financial knowledge and professional skills which are needed by organisations in challenging economic conditions. We look forward to welcoming them to ACCA membership on completion of their practical experience requirements.'
In December 2011, ACCA’s new Foundations in Accountancy suite of awards was first examined as paper-based and computer-based exams (CBEs). This is an exciting and significant milestone achieved for ACCA. Almost 13,000 paper-based Foundations in Accountancy exams were sat in December 2011 in addition to over 34,000 exams sat as CBEs that month.
Commenting on the successful first exam session for Foundations in Accountancy, Minchington said: 'We are really proud that we have successfully delivered our first exam session for Foundations in Accountancy. As a global body, the planning and implementation of any new qualification and syllabus is a lengthy process – simply because we have to ensure that a robust infrastructure is in place to deliver the awards to the high standards our stakeholders expect and deserve from ACCA.'
As a professional body which has professionalism and ethics at the core of everything it does and stands for, ACCA made the decision when it introduced Foundations in Accountancy to make it mandatory for every student completing a diploma or certificate from the range of awards to pass Foundations in Professionalism – a free online interactive module which tests ethics and professionalism.
'All accountants, irrespective of what level they choose to operate, should know, understand and demonstrate what it means to act professionally and ethically when carrying out their work,' said Minchington.
ACCA will start to award the new certificates and diplomas, after the February exam results are released, to students who have successfully passed the relevant exams and completed the online ethics module.
To find out more about Foundations in Accountancy, please click here
Diversity in adversity
In today’s unpredictable economic climate, diversity has become more than a recruitment requirement. Once represented by a tick-box survey completed with every job application, diversity today is increasingly seen as critical to success in global business.
More than just a consideration of gender, ethnic background and sexual orientation, diversity now encompasses not only visible differences, but the things that make people unique: life and work experiences, views and beliefs. Diversity in this wider sense is about harnessing different perspectives and inputs, encouraging productive collaboration, innovation and creativity. Companies grappling with the challenges of a changing global economy are increasingly seeing it as something they need to embrace.
In a new ACCA report, Building a Better Business through Finance Diversity, 12 international diversity, HR and finance experts give their views on the importance of diversity in finance. And, they say, the bottom line is that the global business environment not only demands that diversity be taken into account, but also that success depends on it.
Companies need creative finance professionals who can devise new solutions to new problems. This changes the way finance professionals are recruited, but also the job of the CFO. ‘The role of CFO is becoming more of a trusted adviser, providing insight into the business, driving a lot of the strategy and with a very important seat at the table,’ says Carlos Passi, assistant controller of business transformation at IBM. ‘And with that change, the skills required are also different.’
An impressive finance background is no longer enough for tomorrow’s CFO. ‘When we look for finance leaders, we try to play down their functional strengths once they reach a certain level and get them more rounded in term of business experience,’ says Datin Badrunnisa Mohd Yasin Khan, group chief talent officer at Axiata. ‘Of course, we’re looking for people who have grown up with the finance discipline but that alone is not enough.’
Finance leaders must develop broad experience in developed and emerging markets and while CFOs are expected to adapt to disruptive innovations and new business models, their teams also need to keep pace. This is where diversity of thought and experience can be a vital tool for staying ahead of the competition. Recruiters should be looking to bring individuals with fresh ideas into the finance function.
Roberto Mello, CFO of GE Healthcare China, welcomes the challenge. ‘The opportunity to tap into talent from different cultures and backgrounds is a powerful tool because it gives us the chance to have different points of view,’ he says. ‘There is incredible opportunity and strength for the business to be found in the differences between people.’
A potential pitfall of diversity, warns Kathryn Komsa, chief diversity officer at Marsh & McLennan, is the patience and time required to consider numerous opinions during decision-making. ‘When people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, ways of interpreting things come together, it may take longer to get a solution,’ she says. ‘But you will inevitably get to a better solution.’
As many companies consolidate their finance teams into regional hubs or outsource processes to cut costs, diversity may seem a pipe dream. Globalisation swells the financial information companies need to manage, forcing them to shrink in-country finance teams and migrate commoditised activities to shared service centres. This boosts productivity and saves costs by standardising processes for routine transactions.
At the same time, companies must comply with local financial and governance regulations in the jurisdictions where they operate. This encourages a shift to a process-driven approach that assures compliance and improves accountability. ‘More than any other function, finance demands sticking to the rules and doing the same thing in a very standardised business model,’ says Reilly. ‘There’s an argument that the greater the standardisation applied, the harder it is to benefit from diversity.’
But not everyone agrees. Stevan Rolls, head of HR at Deloitte, believes that standardisation and diversity can work together. ‘Some activities in the finance function need to be robust and repeatable and so are good candidates for standardisation regardless of where you are,’ he says. ‘Others require local treatment or are more complex and so require on-the-ground expertise. Finance is a function in which there are places where you want innovation and places you don’t want innovation. The key is deciding which is which.’
Even if it overcomes these potential pitfalls, a company can end up with diversity without the benefits. Businesses can benefit only if the workforce is empowered to express its diversity – otherwise, companies end up with teams who look different, but think the same. ‘It’s diversity of thought that brings the real business advantage,’ Rolls explains.
Harnessing the power
Finance leaders and HR professionals need to tap the potential of diversity, strive to foster diverse thinking across the organisation and encourage the open discussion of views and ideas. Companies need to be open to recruiting staff from different sectors, regions or professional backgrounds. Finance executives must be encouraged to develop greater experience through secondment or job rotation and leaders should resist the urge to retain good staff members in one position for too long.
‘It’s never easy, because if you have a great person in the team you don’t necessarily want them going off to do something else,’ says Rolls. ‘But in the long term, they’ll come back with different skills and a wider view on their role. Ultimately, you get a lot more out of them by letting them go.’
To download “Building a Better Business through Finance Diversity”, please click here
How healthy is your risk management?
The Rules for Risk Management online benchmarker was developed in response to a recent survey report, The Reality of Risk: Culture, Behaviour, and the role of Accountants. The online resource not only diagnoses your business’s risk management health, but provides ideas for best practice and practical techniques to apply within your organisation.
Paul Moxey, head of risk management and corporate governance at ACCA said: ‘Now is a critical time for risk management. The financial crisis highlighted the disastrous consequences of senior management effectively ignoring risk management. Risk management has since risen up the agenda, but its importance hasn’t always been reflected in budgets or actual actions and there’s a danger it will be forgotten about once the current crisis has passed. Businesses need to take this opportunity to properly integrate risk management into their business processes.
‘Integrated risk management is vital for any business that wants to pursue sustainable growth. We hope businesses take advantage of the insights on offer as part of the ‘health check’.
To check your organisation’s risk management health, please click here
E-Learning: The Way of the Future
An ACCA report shows how major employers are using e-learning and e-assessment and why.
Clare Minchington, ACCA’s executive director - learning, said: ‘We commissioned this report to gauge how employers are adopting technology-enabled learning and assessment, and also to understand the key drivers for its adoption.’
The e-professional: embracing learning technologies, explores the development of the accountant as an e-professional, focusing on how learning technologies are changing professional development at an individual level, impacting employers, and what the future of the profession may look like. The report was compiled in collaboration with research group Lighthouse Global and considered the opinions of an expert panel from multinational corporations, global professional services firms, learning providers and other professional bodies.
‘Lighthouse’s research and the insights from the panelists dispel common myths about technology-based learning and development,’ Minchington said.
‘For example that e-learning and assessment lack sophistication and rigour. This is clearly not the case, as the panelists pointed to rich and complex solutions to create a better learning experience, as well as developing more challenging and realistic tests of skills and competences. Importantly, this new way of developing professionals fits with the preferences and expectations of the 21st century finance professional.’
Key findings highlighted that the benefits of e-learning include greater flexibility, sophistication and innovation. The use of technology can also lead to cost savings. Of these, the flexibility of e-learning is seen as the most attractive benefit, as the location, timing and implementation of the learning can be tailored to the needs of the organisation and the individual.
Panelist Damian Day, head of education and registration policy at the General Pharmaceutical Council said: ‘Once people have learned in an e-environment and realised that it is not a scary thing, they will do it again. This lays the ground for flexible common professional development to a much greater extent than we have yet seen.’
May Chan, learning designer at Standard Chartered Bank added: ‘E-learning has become part of our formal learning culture and it starts from day one.’
The report concludes that this is only the beginning of a trend towards the use of technology in training. According to the most recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development International Learning and Talent Development Survey, the number of organisations that deliver at least half of their training time via e-learning is expected to more than double during 2012. Experts advise that over the next five years the most influential growth areas in e-learning are expected to be in mobile services, social networks and gamification.
Minchington concluded: ‘In the report, Richard Pollard, global development leader at PwC asked ‘Can we use technology better? Can we be more exciting with it?’ Like Richard, ACCA’s answer to both questions is ‘yes’. It is a challenge to which we are committed as we will be moving towards delivering all our exams online, through an e-assessment programme we announced earlier this year.’
To download “The e-professional: embracing learning technologies” either as a full report or a five-minute guide, please click here
Transforming Finance: Views From The Top
Experts from 20 global companies including Shell, KPMG and Coca-Cola have shared their insights on finance transformation, concluding that there is ‘no turning back’ from outsourcing and shared services.
A new ACCA report entitled Finance Transformation: expert insights on shared services and outsourcing explores the challenges, issues and opportunities that finance leaders face in transforming the finance function.
Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector at ACCA and co-author of the report, said: ‘What comes across clearly from the global leaders we interviewed for this report is that there is much more value still to be gained through finance transformation with shared services and outsourcing so that it drives long term sustainable business performance improvement.’
The report showed that the scope for transformation varies according to business priority – for some organisations, transformation is simply about improving finance functions, for others it is a business solution that represents a fundamental shift in the vision and core purpose of financial change.
Anoop Sagoo, senior executive, business process outsourcing at Accenture (pictured right) said: ‘The CFOs I work with see finance transformation as a vehicle to drive change. Now they are most interested in business performance.’
‘This report suggests clear benefits from finance shared services and outsourcing have materialised, but it also recognises how much more can be done,’ Lyon added.
Peter Moller, partner, Deloitte Consulting (pictured left) said: ‘Shared services have been an overwhelming success and are now recognised as a key component of a best practice function … Consolidating transaction processing and even higher-value activities will continue to make good business sense – there will be no turning back.’
Simon Newton of Kimberly-Clark commented: ‘We are not taking a functional approach but a process-led approach because greater benefit to the business can be generated more quickly by taking a cross-functional process approach.’
George Connell of Shell agreed: ‘ Strategically, we refocused shared service centre performance from attaining service level agreements to being a true business partner. Now we have ‘connected finance’ across the organisation.’
Global leaders featured in the report recognised capability shortfalls, from the effectiveness of change management processes to the lack of focus on the retained finance team and inability to see shared services and outsourcing in the context of an overarching vision for finance. These factors are cited as major barriers to finance transformation success.
WPP Group director of business process outsourcing Graham Russell said: ‘in all these finance transformation journeys the hardest part is always change management’.
Other interviewees included Chris Stancombe, global head of finance and accounting outsourcing at Capgemini, David E. Powell, senior director, global finance processes, at AstraZeneca, and Terry Balzanella, vice president for the EXL centre of excellence for finance and accounting in Europe.
To download “Finance Transformation: expert insights on shared services and outsourcing”, please click here
Recruiting top finance talent with ACCA Careers
The global careers portal presents an opportunity to reach an international talent pool of part-qualified and qualified accountants across a breadth of disciplines, skills, experience, industries and sectors. In addition to the global site, five dedicated country sites have also been launched for Hong Kong/mainland China, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK.
‘Featuring high-calibre vacancies from employers including the BBC and RSM Tenon, the launch of www.accacareers.com is a long awaited addition to our suite of web services for members, trainees and recruiters globally,’ commented Andrew Leck, head of ACCA UK.
Since the launch, traffic through the site has risen to a daily average of 11,352 page views, 253 job applications and 150 candidate registrations. There is a daily average of two new employer registrations, adding to the list of high-profile companies recruiting through the site such as the BBC, Coca-Cola, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG. Testimonials from employers recruiting staff through the site pay tribute to its effectiveness.
Recruiters from Mashasha, Strauns & Dunross said: ‘We got great support from the ACCA Careers team in getting my advert verified and online in time for our campaign. Our advert has done well, receiving a lot of interest both within the UK and internationally.’
‘Our vacancy was online incredibly quickly, and the applications started to come in straight away,’ added Alexander James’ finance director. ‘My firm will definitely use this cost-effective service again.’
‘We used ACCA Careers initially to source just one junior-level accountancy role and were generally happy with the quality and volume of candidates that came through,’ CIVVALS’ managing director said. ‘In fact, because of the good response we extended the intake and took on two people.’
Employers looking to recruit talented qualified and part-qualified finance professionals can reach ACCA Careers candidates in a range of ways:
• posting and targeting job listings locally, nationally, regionally or globally
• searching the database of candidate CVs
• setting competency and other relevant questions, such as visa requirements, to ensure greater relevancy of applicants
• validating an ACCA member or trainee’s status
• creating a microsite to promote your organisation as an employer of choice
• placing targeted advertising on the global or country websites, selected sections of the websites and also on email alerts.
As well as helpful job-hunting tips for candidates, the site offers news, interviews and features in a specialised section called the Careers Centre. Employers have opportunities to be profiled or advertised here to gain the attention of prospective employees. The mobile site has now also gone live.
Visit www.accacareers.com and register to recruit your business’s future people.
Investors' views locked out of debate, finds ACCA/Grant Thornton roundtables
Investors should be placed at the heart of global financial and accounting standards, say ACCA and Grant Thornton in a new report. However, the pair warns that investors' views on shaping future standards are not being heard.
They also say that the piecemeal, fragmented way in which solutions to global economic uncertainty are proposed and the lack of focus on investors in the reform process prolong global economic fragility.
The report, 'Putting investors at the heart of the financial system', is based on a series of roundtables for investors and investor representatives held in markets around the world. The report proposes seven steps to improve matters.
'Investors should be the primary focus for global financial and accounting standards, yet their voices are not being clearly heard,' says Sue Almond, director of technical at ACCA. 'Investor opinion is not seen as a reference point against which to prioritise issues, nor does it drive an agenda for a continuous improvement in transparency and measures to meet the needs of shareholders.
'Investors don't always speak with one voice and the investor community opinion isn't necessarily homogenous, but this doesn't mean all voices should be ignored.'
There are steps that can be taken to improve the position:
1.Setting an integrated reform agenda with investors' needs at its heart. Investors would like to see new and improved accounting, auditing, and corporate governance standards developed in a more integrated manner. Reform proposals need to be based on a solid understanding of investors' needs and priorities.
2.Continuing to develop globally consistent standards. Global consistency is essential for investors with global portfolios. Investors seek comparable information on financial statements and the application of audit and accounting standards.
3.Broadening the reports issued by companies. Integrated reporting is seen as representing an opportunity to fill some information gaps. Its closer alignment of risk management and performance could enhance investor confidence in management's ability to perform in future.
4.Spreading high standards of corporate governance. The adoption and enforcement of corporate governance frameworks and codes is patchy globally. Wider adoption is seen as valuable by investors. In some regions, improved corporate governance was seen as the highest priority for improving investor confidence.
5.Expanding assurance provision and auditors' reports. There is a desire for more information on the audit process and any issues identified, as well as information on the effectiveness of a company's management and corporate governance. Investors would be willing to pay for greater assurance if it provided more value.
6.Enabling greater investor participation in setting the reform agenda and developing new standards. Investors are keen to raise their profiles with standard setters and regulators to ensure their needs are prioritised when reforms to the financial reporting system are debated.
7.Sharing opinions to encourage further progress. Investors are keen to share opinions and ideas among themselves, to encourage the wider adoption of best practice. They are also supportive of greater dialogue with the auditing profession to increase understanding of the challenges that each party faces.
'The investor roundtable discussions organised by ACCA and Grant Thornton provide a springboard for further debate,' says Steve Maslin, chair of the Grant Thornton partnership oversight board.
'Investors are willing to explore new approaches to developing financial reporting reforms. They support the concept of a more integrated process that emphasises the interrelated nature of accounting, reporting, auditing and corporate governance standards and regulations. They fully endorse the prioritising of investor needs, ensuring that any proposals for reform begin first with a sound analysis and understanding of the challenges investors face and their most urgent priorities for improvement.
'ACCA and Grant Thornton will explore means of facilitating further debate, and continue their efforts to bring the views and interests of investors to the forefront of that debate. Policymakers, standard setters and professional bodies alike must put investors' needs at the heart of the agenda to enhance the accountancy profession.'
To read the report, please click here
5-step guide to making diversity work for your business
Finance teams in business need to embrace diversity if they are to tackle modern business problems, according to a new ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) report.
The report, ‘Building a better business through finance diversity’ identifies five key steps for businesses to take to harness diversity within their finance teams to give them a cutting edge in a competitive business world.
‘Diversity is a word often thrown around in business without much thought,’ says Jamie Lyon, ACCA’s head of corporate sector. ‘It’s too often seen as a presentational device: what does our company look like, is the question that’s asked. Diversity isn’t about that at all.
'Our research shows that the top companies take a broader perspective. Diversity’s about how their companies think, how their processes work, and how they manage their human capital. It’s about getting the most out of your business, taking advantage of creative tension, making sure that the way you do business doesn’t miss out on the talent you have.
‘The modern finance team sits at the heart of businesses around the world, and is under pressure more than ever before to get results. Manage the diversity of your finance team successfully, and you’ve given your business an excellent tool for competing in a globalised, dynamic business world.’
The report looks at the experiences of some of the world’s leading companies, including IBM and GE Healthcare China, and makes the following recommendations for creating a successful, diverse finance function:
1.Understand cultural differences. These really matter. You may have a team that looks different, which looks good in your CSR reports, but your team is consequently going to think and work differently too. For companies expanding overseas, new markets bring their own customs, culture, regulatory environments, and governance standards. Get to grips with each market, and consider how to integrate working practices into your existing corporate model.
2.Diversity starts with recruitment. By bringing in individuals from different backgrounds, sectors, experiences, and careers, finance leaders can bring a mix of different skills to their team. Working effectively with HR is crucial and recruitment policies must be effective and engaging.
3.Nurture diversity where it doesn’t already exist. A wide range of experiences and perspectives are needed to develop the finance leaders of the future: it’s no longer the corporate career ladder, but the corporate career lattice. Managers from developed markets should be given the opportunity to spend time in emerging markets and vice versa. Experience outside the finance function is crucial and a commercial role can be valuable in developing business experience and awareness. Job rotations might meet resistance from managers who don’t want to lose good staff; support from the top is vital to ensure job rotation becomes part of a business’ DNA.
4.Embrace open ways of working. Finance leaders that promote a diversity of thinking, and encourage their teams to express different views, will be better able to identify risks and opportunities. Allowing time for a constructive debate means it might take longer to reach decisions, but decisions are likely to be better for it
5.Manage the tension between standardisation and diversity. Many companies have established regional shared-service centres – at the expense of in-country operations – to standardise procedures and capture economies of scale. This drive for standardisation needs to be balanced with the diversity of local experience and knowledge from different backgrounds. Finance leaders need to think carefully about the right global/local balance for an optimal finance function.
To read the report, please click here