Home' Charter : 0811 Charter Aug Contents August 2011 I Charter 41
that we could talk to our clients on social
media. But while most of the decision-
makers are still digital dinosaurs and not
active on social media, you can’t get people
to read things that they don’t read.
CHARTER: What is your long-term view
for the accounting profession, say, over
the next 10 to 30 years?
GW: We do a lot more than accounting
these days. Where there is business, there
is need for an accounting profession. I don’t
think that’s going to change in the next 30
years. However, what we actually do might
change quite a lot.
Our profession is incredibly well placed in
the way professionals are developed and the
broad business knowledge and acumen they
acquire. Whether it’s in assurance, or around
growth, or sometimes survival – and we know
what that’s been like in the past three years for
some of our clients – or accelerating growth
to a new level, the accounting profession
and the broader businesses we offer around
assurance, tax and consulting will continue to
be in very high demand in the next 10 to 30
years. I’m very confident of that.
RM: My outlook is unambiguously optimistic.
I think a key dynamic is the interplay between
the regulators and the profession on things
like assurance. That’s a big topic and it will
probably never disappear.
An issue is the extent to which the
private sector is involved in policing and
compliance functions around statutory
audit. My own view strongly is that private
sector provision gives a better outcome
for the system, in the sense it allows a
broader footprint of professionals to come
in and be subject to the competition which
is conducive to quality in that sector.
My argument is that the average level
of skill will be higher if the private sector
dominates provision compared to public
GS: If we go back 15 years, there were six
firms, go back 20 years there were eight firms,
there are four now – I can’t see it becoming
less than four. But that doesn’t mean there
can’t be new competitors for some of the
stuff we do in the accounting profession. I’m
very optimistic, we have a great brand and we
know how to train smart young people.
MJ: The biggest challenge I see for the
profession is remaining relevant, and making
sure we’ve got the talent and the resources
to capitalise on the opportunities and that we
continue to invest in our business. Just as
we ask the government and others to invest
in the country and infrastructure, we need to
invest in our own business.
PwC is often called an accounting
firm, but we’re not. We’re a broad-based
professional services firm – it means we’ve
adapted to remain relevant to new markets
and opportunities. While we celebrate the
continuing success of our accounting and
auditing and tax and business, I’ve got 400
lawyers on staff. I’ve got the biggest actuarial
practice in Australia. And I also have doctors
and clinicians in Australia’s largest health
practice, in consulting.
CHARTER: What are the issues that will
have a defining effect on the profession?
MJ: Having standards, skills and service
offerings that help clients meet their business
and other needs is important. Accounting
standards is always a hot debate in the
profession. Some people question or
challenge the value of accounting standards
today, and ask what’s the future financial
We need to be agile and respond to
market expectations and regulatory demands
for those sorts of service offerings. We need
to ensure they are relevant, affordable and
add value for our clients. If we do all those
things, we will flourish.
GW: For me there are two issues: diversity
and inclusion is one particular area I’m
passionate about. I’m particularly interested
in us being on a journey of change that will
benefit us for decades to come.
The second area is the use of technology.
Technology clearly will transform the
economy and our business and how we can
add value to our clients’ businesses. And
the technology revolution has really only just
begun. How we interact with our clients is
going to be dramatically different because
of technology. Living in Silicon Valley for
three years was life changing for me and
my family. Just to see how that community
works, innovates, creates wealth and
integrates technology into everyday life was a
RM: In terms of other topics, for me, it’s
primarily around the scope of services –
I think that’s a major issue that’s been with
us for some time – what the limits of the
profession actually are. Convergence and
conflation dynamics will see multi-disciplinary
activity continuing in the services sector
which will blur the boundaries (of what we
do). If you take the Big 4 and what the
Big 4 do, they are now in activities
far beyond the historical scope of the
accounting profession. Many of the people
in our firm would not regard themselves as
accountants or accounting professionals.
CHARTER: How do we make sure
accounting graduates are work ready
when they leave university?
GS: I think it’s far more important that the
students come out learning ready rather
than work ready. There is so much now to
continue to learn.
GW: That’s where I believe the Chartered
Accountants Program is the right finishing
school to enable graduates to build on
university to get that final piece of professional
training. After that learning on the job is exactly
what they need at the start of their career.
RM: I’ve got a taxation background, and
that’s a subject like most others that is
continuously being re-invented. As a
result, you have to be re-inventing yourself
educationally every day.
MJ: I think there’s a real need for
better development of relationship and
communication skills coming out of the
universities and that’s really important for us
to be successful accountants and advisers.
CHARTER: Have we learnt the lessons
of the GFC or might we still be grappling
with them even in 20 years or so?
GW: One thing we did learn through the GFC
is that traditional risk management didn’t
alert us to all the potential significant risks
that businesses face. You may foresee a
potential risk topic but have no idea of the
potential magnitude and knock-on effect. We
need to re-evaluate how we look at and deal
with risk management going forward.
RM: Financial systems are cyclical and
susceptible to collapse, so people shouldn’t
think that these things are completely
avoidable. Investors who want higher rates of
return have to take a risk that they might get
a lower rate of return. Professionals cannot
remove the risk of financial collapse but they
can reduce that risk.
MJ: I think we’ll look back on it as a difficult
time. I suppose we’ll look back and say we
did learn the lessons that we needed to in
the few years afterwards, but I’m not sure
we’ll find the lessons we learnt then very
relevant 15 or 20 years from now.
We just don’t have the skills in this
country to have the luxury of the
current way of managing with a
Giam Swiegers FCA
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