A strong Institute requires strong leadership. The hiring of the new Chief Executive and Registrar Margaret W.S. Chan, who joined in July 2019, will help the Institute to develop further. Under her leadership, I foresee a great future for the Institute and the accounting profession in Hong Kong.
Another new development this year was the preparation of biographies of Council members on the Institute’s website. These biographies inform members about the background of Council members, their skills and experience, and other relevant information. Ensuring that members are aware of the background of our Council members can help them to feel more connected to the Institute and help them understand how it is working in their interests.
The Institute has been increasingly transparent and openly engaging with members, expanding pathways to membership and developing different ways to provide innovative support and services to members.
With the approval of the Council, the Institute embarked on a three-year Digital Strategic Plan to develop the Institute’s digital capabilities and improve the digital experience for our members and Qualification Programme (QP) students, including revamping of the Institute’s website and updating its event mobile application. The new website received positive feedback regarding the design and mobile compatibility.
The Council determined to introduce a full fee waiver for members who were on the register of members at 31 December 2017 for the 2019 financial year. Maintaining sufficient reserves for the Institute’s planned developments is vital. In 2019, the Council determined that another full fee waiver would be appropriate for 2020, and so members who were on the register at 31 December 2017 will again enjoy another membership fee waiver this year.
Upgrading the Qualification Programme
The Institute’s commitment to nurturing a new generation of thinking and forward-looking accountants through the QP continues to see an encouraging return. As of the end of September 2019, over 22,000 QP students have graduated from the programme since its inception in 1999.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the QP and also the launch of the new QP, which comprises three progressive levels with 14 modules and a Capstone. The new QP is important in preparing our students to be Accountants Plus. One feature of the new QP that will help promote the profession to university students from a wider range of disciplines is the Associate level. Rather than being required to take a conversion course, the Associate level equips accountant aspirants with the fundamentals needed for the rest of the QP.
The Professional and the Capstone levels aim to further develop students’ skills in research, analysis, the application of technical knowledge, and inter-participant experience sharing, as well as the ability to handle situations professional accountants typically encounter.
The Institute has undertaken significant efforts over the past years to prepare for the first sitting of the new QP in 2020.
Preparing members for opportunities ahead
Careers increasingly face disruption by technology and changing business demands for the services of accountants. An accountant must ensure their skills are kept up-to-date and they have training on the technology they need to use. To assist its members, the Institute regularly offers new continuing professional development content. Increasingly, online courses are being offered, including recordings of traditional face-to-face events, to enable members to study any time they want.
Technical seminars and workshops on new regulations and technologies held this year updated members on the changing environment and helped them to respond to the ever-evolving business demands. As well as the seminars and workshops, the Institute organized conferences for professional accountants in business (PAIBs) and small- and medium-sized practices (SMPs). This year, the PAIB Conference was themed “Digital & Virtual Banking: tomorrow’s banking today?” and covered the impacts of new technologies on the development of the accounting profession.
Maintaining Hong Kong’s role as a leading financial centre requires constant improvements. The year saw the passing of the Financial Reporting Council (Amendment) Bill to transfer the regulation of public interest entity auditors from the Institute to the independent Financial Reporting Council (FRC). This change brings Hong Kong in line with international practices. The Institute and the FRC have met often to ensure the handover of responsibilities is smooth.
Developing our GBA relations
The development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) is one of the key strategies for China’s continued successful economic development. This year saw the unveiling of the official blueprint for the GBA, the Outline Development Plan, in February 2019. Governments, professional bodies (including the Institute), industries, and business communities are proactively responding to develop the GBA for the betterment of all. The Institute’s members cover a wide range of specializations and have the ability to help the GBA initiative achieve its goals.
The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau CPA Practices Alliance is a key way to connect our SMPs with their contemporaries across the GBA. The alliance held its third meeting on 21 June 2019, under the theme of “Digital Economy and the GBA Construction”, with close to 150 participants attending to strengthen relationships and exchange views among CPAs in the GBA.
The Institute also organizes regular events across the GBA to promote interactions and discussions. The annual cocktail reception in February 2019 in Guangzhou saw over 100 members and guests from Mainland government and regulatory authorities, professional and business organizations, universities and professional firms come together to celebrate the new year. In June 2019, a delegation of 30 SMPs visited Huizhou to learn about the latest economic developments and explore cooperation opportunities.
As well as the GBA, the Institute arranges tours for members across the Mainland. In October 2018, the Young Members Committee organized a four-day study tour to Shanghai for 40 young members, visiting local government bureaux, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and an automobile company, to enhance their understanding of Shanghai’s financial and business sectors.
Advancing the profession’s image
In early June, the Institute proactively engaged with a financial news programme to secure a 10-minute feature for promoting the accounting profession. I shared my views on how the demand for accounting professionals has changed from traditional auditing and taxation services to talents with cross-disciplinary experience, and the determination of the Institute to train Accountants Plus with the necessary skills to deal with growing client needs. The feature also interviewed two young members, who shared how they seize the opportunities and tackle work challenges in an accounting firm and a corporate respectively.
It has been my great honour to be able to serve as President in 2019. I would like to record my thanks to all Council members, committee members, and the management and staff of the Institute for their great support and teamwork, particularly the two Vice-Presidents, Johnson Kong and Nelson Lam. Last but not least, my big thank you also goes to all the members who gave their views at various occasions, including the three members’ forums held in September, to help shape the Institute’s future direction.
Together we have achieved a lot and I trust next year to be even more eventful with all the hard work preparing for the future over the past year.