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Editor's letter: Global approach to global problems

Nicola Maher, Editor

In this month's issue we have taken a truly global snapshot of the profession, surveying 44 professional accounting bodies across 27 countries around the world. (See: World report 2012: A year of worldwide innovation)

Last year, our world survey covered the emerging trend towards consolidation among institutes. This has not slowed in the past year, and shows no sign of doing so any time soon. More professional bodies are looking to conduct mergers, joint ventures and strategic partnerships, not only to provide better services to members and expand their global reach but to deepen the global talent pool and stem mobility issues in a more globalised business environment.

Looking forward, however, innovation was the most commonly recurring phrase in the conversations feeding into this year's report, with many agreeing it is the key to ensuring the longevity of the profession. For example, the work currently being undertaken around integrated reporting is generating substantial interest and support across the globe, and is now spreading even further on the back of the International Integrated Reporting Council's (IIRC) work.

The IIRC is working towards producing the world's first integrated reporting framework, due to be launched later this year after a draft version in April.

This type of initiative is adding value to the work of the profession at a time when it desperately needs it to reinforce waning public trust, an issue which remains at the top of the list of concerns for a number of institutes.

Another big issue the accounting profession will need to tackle, if integrated reporting is to become the 'future of corporate reporting', is assurance. While integrated reporting does not necessitate a new type of accounting, it does demand a new approach to assurance in order to bring confidence to investors. Debate is likely to ensue as the first version of the framework is released, and assurance should be at the forefront of those conversations.

Though the new way of reporting will be a change for the market, on an educational level at least accountants already have the knowledge they need to adjust to it. Nevertheless, extra training on integrated reporting would not go amiss and some institutes have already begun offering training courses on the topic.

Public sector in the spotlight
Public sector financial management is also a major issue noted by the professional bodies. Unless more is done to counter the fact that many governments are still using cash accounting rather than accrual methods, experts genuinely fear a new round of financial crisis that would make current economic troubles seem benign by comparison.

While work is being done by some accounting bodies to tackle this worrying scenario, more is needed - particularly on a local accounting body level - to help get public sector accounting standards adopted, and more importantly, to ensure they are understood in government.

As a member of the public as well as editor of this magazine, this is a worrying state of affairs indeed. Nevertheless, the work necessary to get public sector accounting in order is a perfect example of a challenge which, if tackled appropriately by the profession, can only reinforce the opinion that the wider public has of accountants.

To achieve this, the profession must act on a truly global level.

Nicola Maher

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