An accounting vision for a better world

December 19, 2022 | 11:44
(0) user say
On the occasion of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ 20th anniversary in Vietnam, chief executive Helen Brand discussed the role of professional accountants in the modern setting and the organisation’s strategic initiatives in the country with VIR’s Linh Le.
An accounting vision for a better world
The ACCA’s ambition is to develop the accountancy profession the world needs

Where does Vietnam place on the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ (ACCA) strategic map during past years?

Although our operations have been in Vietnam for 20 years, we’ve had members here for longer than that. The ACCA was founded in 1904 with the intention to open up the profession to people who had been excluded from it previously. So, we very much value inclusion.

An accounting vision for a better world
Chief executive Helen Brand

That’s why we’ve been able to flourish globally – we seek to develop the profession wherever it is needed. Economies need a flourishing accountancy profession for businesses to be sustainable, for capital markets to operate and for development to take place.

Vietnam has been a critical part of the ACCA family for a long time, since the government and national bodies sought to encourage ACCA development as part of the capacity building project for the nation as a whole. Even though the last couple of years have been very challenging, it is wonderful to see Vietnam flourish again and become an economy of opportunity. But for that to be sustainable, there’s still a need to develop the finance professional talent which the ACCA brings.

We have been putting a lot of focus here in understanding our partners, whether they are employers, universities, learning providers, the existing businesses and firms in the country, and learning about what they need from us. We are thrilled to work with them, not only on developing talents but also on broader topics such as sustainability and digital competence, and the role that the profession is playing.

We also work with our partners around the sustainability reporting awards – a key activity that creates the context for the profession, as well as the qualification itself.

For your visit to Vietnam this time, besides the ACCA’s 20th anniversary in the country, are there any other key activities?

This anniversary is significant. I am inspired by it, and I hope that our members, future members, and key partners are all feeling inspired by what’s to come in the future.

It’s important to acknowledge our success and achievements, but we are also using this as a time to extend, deepen, and evolve to meet Vietnam’s future needs.

During my trip, we’ve entered a new agreement with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to improve the quality of accountancy exams in Vietnam and work in partnership to continue to develop the profession.

The Joint Examination Scheme (JES), which recognises and jointly delivers the ACCA qualification as the national accounting qualification in Vietnam, has been in place between the ACCA and the MoF for almost 20 years, and this latest agreement sets out to increase the number of professionally qualified accountants being recognised internationally and regionally.

Upon successful completion of the ACCA qualification exams, JES students are eligible to apply for membership of the ACCA and also to apply for the Vietnam Conversion Test to qualify for the Vietnam CPA certificate. The ACCA will support the MoF in updating its conversion test and related study programme.

This agreement is very significant for us, as it represents an important continuation and strengthening of our joint commitment to developing both a robust accounting profession in the country and exceptional career opportunities for its people.

Upskilling the accountancy sector to approaching international standards benefits all parties, with the technical, professional, and ethical skills developed serving businesses and the economy, while also increasing opportunities for students attaining a globally sought after qualification. On the other hand, I’ve been visiting our employer stakeholders who employ ACCA members to see what they need, among other partnership engagements.

What is your take on the importance of environmental, social, and governance criteria for the ACCA to maintain stable growth?

The ACCA actually had its first environmental reporting award back in 1990. Businesses have to understand the value they are creating in a much broader sense than financial profit. How are they using natural and human capital? How are they developing their relationships?

In addition, the accountancy profession has a huge role to play in changing businesses so that they behave sustainably, whether in relation to natural capital and climate impact, or in relation to social impact and the communities in which they operate, and, of course, in relation to the way in which they’re governed.

A crucial role of professional accountancy bodies is the fact that we are required, under our charter, to act in the public interest, which is a vital part of a sustainability activity.

The ACCA aims to equip our three quarters of a million members and future members with an understanding of how to change businesses to, firstly, operate that way, and then to be held accountable through reporting on that impact transparently. Professional accountants have a long history of ethics being at the core of the profession. But accountants in modern times also need to be able to analyse data and form judgments about the way in which a business should perform across the organisation. They’re ideally placed to be the sustainability drivers and champions of businesses.

What do you think has shifted in the role of finance professionals in driving business sustainability and deliver strategic, long-term value to stakeholders?

It has definitely shifted way beyond the simple bookkeeper role, one of the reasons being automation and technology. In developing economies, what we’re seeing is a leap-frogging where it’s not just about recording transactions, and it’s much more about adding value where professional accountants in the business are just as critical as those who might be advising or auditing from outside the business. So, all professional accountants have a role to play.

I mentioned the ethical dimension, where accountants are required to behave ethically and to act in the public interest. That’s what the public is demanding from businesses and governments currently: more accountability and more action. Being able to demonstrate that action fits the professional accountant’s skill sets, and more frameworks are emerging.

Last year, the International Sustainability Standards Board was set up under the IFRS Foundation, so we will now have financial reporting standards and sustainability reporting standards to comply with. Vietnam is going through a big process at the moment of convergence with this progress.

This is especially exciting for a younger generation who are looking for a career with purpose. We’ve done a lot of work around Gen-Z and what they want from their career, and it’s obvious that beyond making a living and being successful, they want a career with purpose. I think professional accountancy is increasingly providing that career pathway for people.

What is the ACCA’s global strategy for the next few years, and how could this strategy be applied in Vietnam?

Everything we do is guided by our purpose: to be a force for public good, and to lead the global accountancy profession by creating opportunities. This is aligned with our values of inclusion, integrity, and innovation.

Our strategic vision is to be number one in developing the accountancy profession the world needs. To me, the last part, “the world needs”, is essential. Part of the reason we have a team here is to understand what is needed in Vietnam at any time.

That’s why we’ve had initiatives like the sustainability reporting awards, and why we’re working with universities and others to embed the international standards within degree programmes and post qualifications.

In Vietnam, our role here is to support that the development of the economy in a sustainable way, whether through supporting the policies or regulatory frameworks and standards that are developed, or supporting the people and the capability to implement those standards. I see a growth opportunity for Vietnam, and for the ACCA in coming years.

What piece of advice would you offer to future accountants?

The public’s understanding of the value of the accountant profession has definitely expanded. Many people initially start off as accountants, but actually, a professional accountancy qualification is the foundation for career or any business. Even if you’re an entrepreneur, your financial acumen is significant to the longevity of your career.

You might have a brilliant idea, but unless you have the financial knowledge, either from an advisor who can be a professional accountant or yourself, it’s hard to sell. We see many people coming into the profession and use it as a foundation for a business career, particularly now it has that broad digital and sustainability competence embedded in it.

My advice would be this: be ambitious. There’s so much opportunity, but you have to take that opportunity. Employers continually look for the person who puts their hand up first. So show ambition and enthusiasm and it will go a very long way.

NEU and ACCA continue to cooperate in international integration in education NEU and ACCA continue to cooperate in international integration in education

The National Economics University (NEU) and the Association of British Chartered Accountants (ACCA) officially signed the extension of the MoU on their strategic cooperation in the presence of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.

ACCA and UEH enhance opportunities for Vietnam’s future accountants ACCA and UEH enhance opportunities for Vietnam’s future accountants

Following an announcement in February, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH) have inked a cooperation agreement to implement modules from ACCA’s Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business at UEH, placing UEH students on a fast-tracked path to success in their finance and accounting careers.

ACCA and VACPA renew cooperation ACCA and VACPA renew cooperation

The Vietnam Association of Certified Public Accountants (VACPA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) have extended their MoU, closely and effectively coordinating through training activities and improving knowledge for members for the next five years (2022-2027), thus contributing to the development of accounting and auditing professions in Vietnam.

ACCA honoured by MoF for contribution to Vietnam ACCA honoured by MoF for contribution to Vietnam

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has received a certificate of merit from the Ministry of Finance for its contributions to the country's development in a ceremony to mark 20 years of operations in Vietnam.

By Linh Le

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional