Thursday, October 16, 2008

Itchy feet: If you're not fearful, you're crazy

Itchy feet

CPA Australia's director of international development Paul Wappett tells Business Spectator's Isabelle Oderberg why in the tough economic climate, professional service providers should be looking overseas for business growth opportunities.

Isabelle Oderberg: What are the key geographic markets that CPA Australia is encouraging professionals to be looking at?

Paul Wappett: Well, predominantly through the Asia Pacific region just we see that a number of the growth economies in the world are in that region at the moment anyway and moreover I guess there’s an opportunity with the fact that some of them are in either emerging, developing or transition economy status, I suppose. There’s more of a need for the expertise and the capability that the Australian professional scene has to help build their financial infrastructure there. So we’d be saying that throughout the Asia Pacific region, but predominantly on the developing nation and transition economies.

IO: So you’re talking about India and China and places like that?

PW: Yeah. And even further afield than that because those ones are clearly the obvious ones, but there’s great growth in markets like Vietnam and Thailand and Indonesia at the moment for example as well.

IO: What sorts of sectors would be people be looking at? I mean are you talking about M&A or are there particular sectors where professionals should be sort of seeking out opportunities?

PW: Well, in fact we’re even talking at a more fundamental level and it’s about how to set up good structures and good professional underpinnings to provide the level of competency within those markets themselves. So what do I mean by that? For example, we fundamentally believe in the importance of accountants, as you’d expect I guess. The measurement and the reporting and the analysis and the controls that accountants provide and perform - they provide the stability to underpin capital markets and to give confidence to the owners of foreign capital about the types of performance and position of the investments that they’re making in those countries, and ultimately to underpin economic growth. So unless there’s a strong, confident, ethical and independent accounting profession, then the owners of foreign capital are likely to look for markets where they can get certainty. So we’re even talking at the fundamental level of Australia, which has the ability to be able to set up and enhance the capability of the accounting profession in those developing nations, so that that certainty is provided.

IO: I understand that the membership diversity is quite strong in CPA Australia. Could you tell me a little bit about that? I understand that you’ve got a huge number of members overseas.

PW: We do, we have just under 25,000 of our 120,000 members living and working outside of Australia. Most of those from within the Asia Pacific region, but we actually have CPAs working in over 100 countries now throughout the world. That growth in our international membership numbers has largely come on the back of the Australian higher education sector dating all the way back to the Colombo Plan. We’ve had a big influx of international students come to Australian universities and then return home, but the challenge for a body like ours in the future is how we can establish our qualification and our certification as a global standard so that we can attract members in those developing markets who may have no nexus with Australia and no intention of working in Australia in the future.

IO: You mentioned in a press release that CPAs should be looking to be high quality accounting professionals. What are some of the skills that a graduate with an accounting qualification should be looking to supplement it with?

PW: The stock in trade for an accountant is measurement, reporting, analysis, controls and assurance and we think every accountant in the world should have those, no doubt, but what it takes to be a CPA is also a fundamental insistence on or a focus on ethics and integrity and independence on strategy and on leadership, on governance and on how to do business internationally. So those are the hallmarks of a professional accountant and certainly we think that sets CPAs apart from other accountants throughout the region.

IO: How easy is it for a CPA to go and work in other countries in Asia? Are the qualifications recognised?

PW: It’s becoming increasingly easy. CPA Australia has set up for our members a series of mutual recognition agreements which means that they can take their qualifications and either get exemptions from a number of the requirements for local qualifications or in some cases, for example in Malaysia, in Singapore and in Hong Kong, our members can become members of the local body and have those qualifications recognised directly.

source: Kohler: If you're not fearful, you're crazy
Business Spectator, Australia