The survey, conducted between October and November 2009, garnered responses from more than 100 presidents and chief executive officers from IFAC’s 157 member bodies and associates, regional organisations, and accountancy groupings.
Other issues at the top of respondents' list were “addressing the needs of SMEs and small and medium accountancy practices (SMPs) that serve them” and “educating/developing professional accountants.”
IFAC’s recommendations to the G-20 prior to its meetings in 2009 included the call for acknowledgement of the importance of the small business sector. Respondents believed that, of all IFAC’s initiatives during the last year, the most important to the accountancy profession was the recommendation to the G-20 that regulation or re-regulation in financial policies should not place unreasonable burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
When asked which of the risks faced by their organizations had increased, the most frequent answer by far was “increasing regulation of the accountancy profession,” with two others standing out: “failure to obtain sufficient funding or maintain the resources necessary to deliver services” to their membership and “damage to the credibility of the organization as representative of the professional accountant.” Still, only a relatively small segment, one in five, believed that risk, in general, had increased, while more than four in five believed it had stayed the same or decreased.
According to the vast majority of respondents, the most common action to enhance corporate governance being undertaken in IFAC member countries is to “Adopt and implement (in letter and spirit) principles of good corporate governance,” as put forth by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Meanwhile, respondents believe that it is very important for IFAC to assist investors and other consumers of financial information in better understanding the standards and practices used by the profession. This includes, in particular, building confidence in international standards and developing and promoting adoption of high-quality international standards in auditing and assurance, public sector accounting, ethics, and accounting education. More than half had confidence that international standards would increase in importance over the next three years—and a similar number believe that the auditing and financial reporting standards published by IFAC (International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs)), along with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and IFRS for SMEs, will gain importance.
Demand for Accountants
Almost four in five respondents rated the demand for professional accountants in “public practice/accounting, advisory, tax, other services” to be “Very high” or “High.” “Public practice/auditing and assurance services” was just 10% behind it, followed by “Private sector companies.” Those surveyed believe that demand in these segments will “Increase” or “Remain the same” over the next three years, with the “Public sector/government” and “Academia” segments shown as areas of growing interest.
Student interest in pursuing an accountancy career has increased dramatically over the past three years, according to the survey results. This is not so surprising at a time, during the financial crisis, when the attractiveness of competitive fields—including management consulting, investments, and investment banking, among others—has decreased. The accountancy profession has kept its appeal both for university students and those already in the field. It was rated either “Very attractive” or “Attractive” to university level students, as well as both experienced professionals and graduates recently entering the field. The profession was also rated “Very attractive” or “Attractive” to women by more than four in five respondents. In the coming three years, survey participants believed to a large degree that the profession will continue to be “Very attractive” or “Attractive” to the same groups—and that minorities in their jurisdictions will find it increasingly attractive.