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Welcome Address by ISCA Vice-President Ms Yvonne Chan at ISCA’s Virtual PAIB Conference on 19 August 2021

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to ISCA’s 2021 PAIB Conference. The theme for this year’s conference is “Sustainability and Trust: Taking Centre Stage in a New Era of Business”.

The theme is very appropriate and timely as the Singapore government has launched the Green Plan 2030 to advance the national agenda on sustainable development. This is also a topic that I personally hold dear to my heart, having done the inaugural four annual sustainability reports for my previous organisation and being the Chief Sustainability Officer for internal initiatives.

Minister Grace Fu will be sharing more about the Green Plan in her keynote address shortly. In combating climate change, the accountancy profession has a pivotal role to play. We are in an influential position to help businesses infuse a sustainability culture in operations, from planning and strategy to improving processes and measuring performance to achieve the triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.  I invite you to watch a video on how accountancy professionals can make a difference in today’s world.

Indeed, we all can make a difference through the decisions we make and the directions we steer. Collectively, our actions have a massive impact on the sustainability of the Earth for our future generations as businesses have the potential to be a driving force for positive impact.

Accountancy Profession’s Role in Promoting Sustainability
It is heartening to know that the accountancy profession around the world is actively working to be part of the evolution. For example, the global Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (or TCFD) has galvanised action towards providing more effective climate-related disclosures that promote a better understanding of the financial implications of climate change. In Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Singapore Exchange are looking into mandating climate-related financial disclosures based on the TCFD recommendations.We are honoured to have Ms Yeo Lian Sim,Vice Chair of TCFD, here today to share about the TCFD recommendations.

Lian Sim is also a member of ISCA’s Sustainability and Climate Change Committee. This committee was formerly known as ISCA’s Corporate Reporting Committee but was renamed Sustainability and Climate Change, to better reflect its expanded scope. Beyond sustainability reporting, the committee will also promote the relevance to business strategy and the accountant’s role in advancing the green agenda in their own organisation.

I take this opportunity to introduce another two dear friends of mine from the committee. Ms Fang Eu-Lin, Sustainability and Climate Change Leader at PwC, and Mr Ian Hong,Sustainability Services Leader at KPMG – will take part in the panel discussion today on “Accountants: Spearheading Business Change… and now, Sustainability”.

By providing a platform for these leading experts in the sustainability space to share their insights, we aim to equip accountancy professionals and the business fraternity with relevant knowledge to pursue green and sustainable finance opportunities and support Singapore’s ambition to be a regional hub for green finance. ISCA will also continue to issue reports and guidance to keep accountancy professionals updated. Today, ISCA will release a publication titled “Fueling Sustainable Ecosystems”, which includesinsights from the financial services sector on why businesses should embark on the sustainability journey. It also highlights considerations for businesses which are beginning on the sustainability journey and shares actionable insights.

The Institute is also working on a series of publications on green and sustainable finance. These include a how-to guide for accountants and businesses on obtaining green and sustainable finance, and a set of best practice disclosures.

Impact of Technology and Intelligent Automation
Besides sustainability, today’s conference will explore two other megatrends for the accountancy profession – financial forensics and intelligent automation.

The global financial landscape has been significantly reshaped by technology and automation. To keep accountancy professionals up to date, ISCA, in collaboration with AI Singapore and the National University of Singapore, has produced the report, “The State of Play of Intelligent Automation in the Finance Function”.

This study provides insights into the Finance functions which can benefit from intelligent automation and explains the challenges faced by companies which have adopted intelligent automation. Dr Hanny Kusnadi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Accounting, NUS Business School will be sharing the findings in greater detail during her presentation later.

One of the issues arising from the adoption of intelligent automation is the need for Finance staff whose roles are affected to upskill and reskill. The digital landscape has been propelled by Covid-19 to transform at a faster speed.  Hence, accountancy professionals need to learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up to speed in the digital economy. To meet this need, ISCA has launched the Digital Learning Guide. The guide identifies 12 possible roles for accountancy professionals, based on five focus areas of digital transformation. With the guide, accountancy professionals can easily match their desired roles with the relevant courses.  The range of courses spans some 70 topics, from data management, analytics and visualisation to automation and machine learning.

Fortifying Business Trust through Financial Forensics
It is said that technology is a double-edged sword. The efficiency and inclusivity brought about by technology has also erased geographical boundaries for perpetrators of financial and cybercrime.

Hence, our companion track to Intelligent Automation in today’s conference is Financial Forensics.

With technology and automation, malicious cyber activities are increasingly a concern for individuals and businesses. It is imperative that organisations fortify business trust through effective risk management as well as combatting financial and cyber-crime.

Accountancy and finance professionals are privy to some of the most sensitive and important information in organisations. They are at the nexus of organisational activities and play a critical role in management of risks associated with financial crime and cybersecurity.

To equip accountancy professionals with the knowledge and skillsets to pick out dubious transactions and financial anomalies, the Institute offers the ISCA Financial Forensic Accounting Qualification. Earlier this year, we launched the ISCA Information Systems Risk Management Certificate.  This offering enables accountancy and finance professionals to make well-informed, risk-based decisions by applying common IT risk management techniques in their organisations.

It is evident from my short sharing that the accountancy professional’s role has expanded and evolved beyond accounting. As professionals with the breadth of skills, expertise and commitment to ethics, we are empowered to make a difference to the world today.

We have to acknowledge that today’s world is beset with challenges. As I speak, the world is still in a long-drawn and evolving battle with Covid-19, even as global warming reaches a crisis point. These are evident from the floods in China, forest fires in California and Australia and glaciers melting at the poles leading to rising sea levels.  It is in such times that humankind must unite and address these matters. More than ever, now is the time for the accountancy profession to utilise our influence to create a positive impact on the world. Let us do our part towards a green, sustainable and resilient recovery and get businesses and economies moving again.

Thank you.