Posted by Stephanie Kemp
on 12 November 2018
6,000 accountants from around the world descending on Sydney - what a thought! The World Congress of Accountants
takes place every 4 years and this year it is in Sydney. Accountants from all over the world learning together and exploring new ideas.
Indigenous dance and welcome to country started the ball rolling on Tuesday morning on what was to be a very Australian day, with a Melbourne Cup afternoon tea in the afternoon showing the race on big screens.
The first keynote address by economic historian Professor Niall Ferguson
was a reflection on the GFC and the unforeseen consequences in its aftermath from 2008 onwards. He looked at why the outcome could have been much worse but for the economic stimulus provided by China and how the wake of the GFC has had the unforeseen consequence of contributing to the rise in right wing populist politics. He went on to warn that economic fundamentals have in many ways returned to patterns seen in the early 2000s.
While the conference started with history, and its warnings about unforeseen consequences, its focus was very much on preparing the accounting profession for the future in a digital world where trust in institutions has been severely shaken. Major themes that crossed over multiple sessions were
how to rebuild trust in the community and the role that accountants can play in that preparing high quality relevant and usable information and adding assurance to it
how technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain together with the growth of available data are affecting our world and the impact that is having on accounting, reporting, managing people and so much more
As well as learning more about the new digital world (articles on these subjects had been lying unread in my reading pile for months) from excellent speakers, there were also updates from the international standard setting boards, who are responding to these challenges within their own context.
By Thursday night everyone I spoke to was tired out, but agreed that it had been a wonderful experience that cut across the usual boundaries between professional bodies and enabled everyone to mingle and network outside their usual group. In the words of one participant, "it made you feel proud to be an accountant".