Category Archives: Accountancy

Over 50% of SMEs say resisting bribery and corruption results in lost business opportunities

  • New research shows 59% of SMEs believe that standing up to bribery and corruption will result in lost business opportunities.
  • However, 67% of UK respondents agree a strong anti-bribery policy boosts customer confidence.
  • 68% of UK respondents say stringent anti-corruption guidelines increase the likelihood of large contracts with big businesses and public sector bodies.

 

A new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Bribery and corruption: The hidden social evil on your doorstep, delves into the true extent of how bribery and corruption impact small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the world, highlighting the pressing need for enhanced transparency and robust regulatory frameworks.

 

The research shows a high prevalence and deep concern about the damaging impact of bribery and corruption on SMEs, with more than half (59%) of SMEs and their advisers believing that standing up to bribery and corruption will cost them business trade or opportunities. The UK appeared more relaxed, with 46% thinking taking a stand would cost them.

 

Yet the survey also reveals a strong understanding of the benefits of standing up to bribery and corruption. 77% of global respondents, and 67% of UK respondents, agree that having a strong anti-bribery policy boosts customer confidence in their business. Furthermore, 68% globally and 68% in the UK say it increases their chances of getting lucrative contracts with big businesses and public sector bodies.

 

Jason Piper, ACCA’s head of tax and business law, said: “Corruption is a poison; it distorts markets, stunts economic growth, and deters investment.

 

“Many very small businesses don’t have the bargaining power to refuse when small bribes are demanded of them. Entrepreneurs have to choose between paying the bribe or losing the business – and often that is no choice at all for someone trying to support a family.

 

“Our report aims to arm businesses and regulators with the necessary insights and tools to root out corruption and foster an environment of transparency and trust. This could include the use of the latest digital tools. Just as technology is being used by criminals, so regulators and enforcement agencies should embrace it in the battle to detect, prevent and respond to them.”

 

Drawing from a broad spectrum of global data, expert opinions, and real-world case studies, the report explores the multifaceted impacts of corrupt practices on SMEs and economic development. It highlights the severe consequences that businesses can face, including legal penalties and damage to their reputations.

 

The report also considers the effectiveness of current anti-corruption laws and policies across different countries, suggesting that while some progress has been made, much remains to be done to align international efforts.

 

Piper added: “As global markets become increasingly interconnected, the imperative for accountability and ethical business practices becomes more pronounced.”

 

Lloyd Powell, head of ACCA Cymru/Wales, added: “The threat of bribery and corruption is something that businesses across Wales face on a daily basis. The fact our members are reporting improved prosperity through having anti-corruption policies in place is a good start, but there is more we can do to help them moving forward. How best to address modern-day corruption can be confusing, but we hope our latest report will provide some clear advice on how members can identify and prevent such activity.”

 

ACCA hopes this report will serve as a catalyst for change, encouraging entities across all sectors to evaluate their practices and align with the best standards of business conduct. The report is recommended for business leaders, policymakers, and regulatory bodies worldwide committed to uprooting corruption and fostering a fairer business environment.

 

The full report can be accessed here.

 

Visit ACCA’s website for more information.

Two thirds of UK finance professionals optimistic about AI in accountancy

  • 66% of UK finance professionals believe that AI will allow them to add more value in their roles
  • 42% are concerned about the potential impact of AI on their roles in the future – but this is lower than the global average of 51%
  • 71% of finance professionals are keen for more training on AI to better understand it and integrate it into work

 

Recent research conducted by ACCA, the leading global accountancy body, takes a look at the current state of the UK workplace for finance professionals. Analysing key areas such as remuneration, staff retention, employee wellbeing, AI and diversity and inclusion, the study highlights the state of affairs for the finance profession across the UK.

 

AI has been dominating the conversation for UK finance professionals, but the response has been positive on the whole. Two thirds of survey respondents reported feeling positive about AI, seeing it as a tool to add more value to their roles and reduce data-heavy tasks. The fact that almost three quarters (71%) are keen for more training on how to best use AI demonstrates that the UK’s finance professionals want to understand and utilise AI effectively. Using AI to reduce time-intensive but low value work tasks means more time is freed up for high value work.

 

The pace of change in technology at work was a concern for one fifth (22%) of respondents, who felt overwhelmed by the rapid rate at which technology was advancing and changing.  However, the global average for this was 37%, indicating that UK finance professionals feel more prepared and resilient in the face of change than their global peers.

 

Concerns raised by respondents around AI included job displacement, qualifications taking longer, and the risks of AI such as privacy, security and ethical use of data, as well as potential issues of over-reliance on AI.

 

Alongside AI, ACCA’s survey revealed that finance and accounting employees in the UK are still very much embracing a hybrid work model, with 64% reporting this was their working pattern, almost a third higher than the global average of 41%. Only 21% of those surveyed are working full-time in the office in the UK – globally, that figure jumps to 52%. In the UK, Wales has the highest percentage of workers full-time in the office, at 38%. Only 52% of Wales’ finance professionals work in a hybrid pattern, the lowest of the UK nations surveyed.

 

However, there is a trade-off between productivity and team collaboration highlighted by the survey, with 68% saying working remotely improves their productivity, and 49% saying it makes team collaboration harder. Respondents did cite benefits of being in the office (in addition to improved collaboration) including workplace cultural reinforcement and adoption, particularly for new hires, organic learning and networking opportunities.

 

Joe Fitzsimons, senior manager, Policy & Insights, ACCA UK, and author of the report said: “The responses from UK finance professionals in this survey around AI reflects a growing conversation about how technology will change the future of work. It is positive to see that two third of respondents are optimistic about the role of AI and even more are keen to understand it more through training and upskilling. While UK finance professionals are more optimistic than their global peers, there is still a long way to go in full rollout of AI in organisations, and ACCA will continue to provide insight, research and support for a smooth transition.”

Lloyd Powell, head of ACCA Cymru/Wales, added: “Wales offers a diverse range of opportunities for those working in accountancy roles.

“We know from the many employers that we work with across Wales that attracting and retaining accounting and finance talent is a key focus, and that offering training, professional development and other employee benefits is something they are implementing in a competitive job market. The higher than UK average percentage of workers in the office full-time in Wales is interesting, and we’ll continue to monitor this from an employee and employer perspective.”

Read the full report here.

ACCA sets bold agenda for accountants on Earth Day

Professional accountants are especially well-placed to help change the world for the better

To mark Earth Day 2024, ACCA has identified five ways for professional accountants to make a positive impact in tackling issues such as climate change, social inequality and a widespread lack of trust.

Solving the biggest problems facing the world today is a challenge that faces all of us – not just governments and large organisations. ACCA believes that we all have an important role to play as individuals and that there are five key areas to focus on:

  1. Drive the sustainability agenda
  2. Understand the benefits of AI adoption
  3. Promote the importance of good ethics
  4. Advance an inclusive workplace culture
  5. Develop a continuous learning mindset.

ACCA president Ronnie Patton said: “A better, fairer and more sustainable world will only happen if we make it happen. ACCA believes that if we all work together, we can change the world. Professional accountants are perfectly placed to make practical and important contributions in shaping the safe, secure future which we all crave.”

Lloyd Powell, head of ACCA Cymru/Wales, said: “We’re excited about what can be achieved through the Green Growth Pledge. It is encouraging to hear so many people and institutions – including the Welsh Government – taking Earth Day so seriously. ACCA in Wales is keen to work with the private, public and third sectors to ensure Wales builds a sustainable future.”

ACCA is also hosting a free half-day conference on 22 April to explore how finance professionals can support the creation of sustainable organisations. ACCA experts Sharon Machado, head of sustainable business, and Jamie Lyon, head of skills, sectors and technology, will share how accountants can play their part at the heart of sustainable organisations of the future and ACCA’s Accounting for a Better World campaign.

In addition, ACCA will also be introducing a new Diploma in Sustainability later this year, bringing together high-quality learning support and assessments that will meet the emerging regulatory requirements for certification.

Read the agenda for action at

https://acca.shorthandstories.com/accounting-for-a-better-world/index.html

Economic confidence among finance professionals hits highest level since first half of 2023 

  • Although accountants have become more positive about the economy for the first time since Q1 2023, concerns about costs persist   
  • Global concerns about operating costs rose, as did uncertainty around geopolitical tensions and talent acquisition challenges
  • UK SMEs have experienced a similar buoying of confidence, but still face a tough economic landscape to navigate

 

Accountants and finance professionals are more confident in the global economy than they have been since early 2023.

 

The latest ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) saw a moderate increase in confidence to put the index just above its historical average. Add in small increases to the New Orders and Employment indices – both of which are slightly above their averages – and a positive picture emerges of a gradually improving economic outlook. That said, there was a small decline in the Capital Expenditure Index, which remains below average.

 

Encouragingly, there were gains in confidence in most regions. The rise in Asia Pacific was the third largest on record and may reflect growing confidence in the resilience of the US economy, signs of improvement in the Chinese data and wider global economy, and perhaps rising optimism that Japan may finally be exiting from its decades long battle against deflation. The moderate rise in confidence in Western Europe also suggests that growth may be gradually improving from the weakness of recent quarters.

 

On a less positive note, global concerns about increased operating costs rose, although they remain below their Q3 2022 peak. Interestingly, concerns about costs eased again in the advanced economies of North America and Western Europe while remaining elevated by historical standards. By contrast, cost concerns rose noticeably in Africa, Asia Pacific, and South Asia.

 

Additionally, Q1 2024 responses from the Global Risks Survey section of the GECS report demonstrate how the ripple effects of economic uncertainty have been exacerbated by rising geopolitical and talent scarcity challenges. Respondents across all sectors and regions said that they are feeling the impact of talent retention risks, with numerous respondents describing the skills shortage as an epidemic. Cybersecurity is also viewed as a significant threat, especially with advancements in generative AI making ransomware and other cybercrimes increasingly easier and quicker to carry out.

 

Jonathan Ashworth, chief economist, ACCA, said: “The survey points to some improvement in global growth. Nevertheless, while encouraging, it is no time to celebrate just yet, with the global economy facing many risks and challenges and still set for below average growth in 2024. Moreover, the elevated level of concerns about costs suggests that the major central banks should proceed very cautiously with any monetary easing.”

 

Specifically discussing the economic backdrop for UK SMEs, Glenn Collins, head of technical and strategic engagement, ACCA UK, added: “Confidence among UK SMEs increased quite materially in Q1 2024 and is only moderately below its historical average. The New Orders Index declined but is close to its average. The Capital Expenditure Index increased sharply for the second consecutive quarter and is now just above average, but the Employment Index declined again and looks weak by historical standards.

 

“Overall, the broad trend of the key activity indicators (save employment) over recent quarters points to some improvement in the economic backdrop for UK SMEs. Nevertheless, some of the early indicators of corporate stress increased in Q1. Worryingly, problems securing prompt payment, problems accessing finance, and concerns about customers going out of business all rose and are above their historical averages. This does highlight that businesses need to review their finance plans.”

 

Susie Duong, senior director of research and thought leadership at IMA, said of the report: “The continued improvement in confidence in North America, and the rise in the other indicators, likely reflects growing optimism that the US economy is on course for a ‘soft landing’ or perhaps no landing at all in 2024. That would clearly be welcome news for businesses, although it means we are likely to see less monetary easing by the Federal Reserve this year than investors expected a few months ago.”

 

Read the full report here.

 

Visit ACCA’s website for more information.

ACCA welcome UK/Australia audit recognition deal as step to driving audit quality

  • The deal between UK and Australian audit bodies allows professionally qualified auditors to more easily work in either country.
  • With talent in short supply, both countries’ regulators recognise audit professionals should face no boundaries in taking their work overseas. 

 

ACCA has welcomed the mutual recognition agreement between UK and Australian audit authorities. At a time of a talent shortage, the deal should make it easier for auditors, including ACCA members, to work between both countries.

 

The agreement between the UK’s Financial Reporting Council and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) allows auditors who have obtained professional audit qualifications as a statutory auditor in the UK or Australia to more easily apply for recognition of their qualification and audit rights in the other nation.

 

Maggie McGhee, executive director for strategy and governance at ACCA, said: “ACCA welcomes the UK and Australian audit authorities agreeing mutual recognition of audit qualifications.

 

“Over time this Memorandum of Understanding on Reciprocal Arrangements (MOURA) should increase the supply of high quality auditors for both economies. This is important at a time when audit talent globally is increasingly in short supply. This will in turn support the continued efforts from the respective regulators of the two countries to drive high quality audit in the public interest.”

 

ACCA has discussed the issue of audit talent scarcity in its recent report Attract, engage, retain: Insights and recommendations for audit talent success, published the day before the UK/Australia agreement was announced.

 

Simon Grant, CA ANZ group executive advocacy and international development, said: “The ability to be recognised and work overseas in a truly global profession is a major drawcard for a career in audit, and this agreement provides greater clarity and confidence for auditors moving between Australia and the UK.

 

“Australia is one of the first countries to be recognised under the UK FRC’s renewed approach on mutual recognition, which alongside New Zealand, is a testament to our close ties and shared history.”

 

Mike Suffield, ACCA’s director, policy and insights, said: “This builds on the professional ties between the two countries and helps embed the value of the strategic alliance between ACCA and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand which works to increase the flow of qualified accountants, including auditors, between the two countries.”

 

See the FRC/ASIC announcement.

Kilsby Williams continues to grow with new appointments

Tax and accountancy specialist Kilsby Williams has strengthened its business services and tax teams as the Newport-based firm continues to grow.

Ken Vargis has been appointed as a manager in Kilsby Williams’ business services team. An assurance professional, Ken will be applying his significant auditing expertise to support the firm’s varied client portfolio.

Ken said: “I am elated to be joining Kilsby Williams at such a pivotal point in its growth. I am looking forward to working with new clients, and adding value to their business by providing robust services.”

Joining Ken in the business services team is Hannah Griffiths, a Swansea University accounting and finance graduate.

In her role as business services assistant, Hannah will be involved in the preparation of accounts for a number of clients and assisting with audits, while working towards the ACA qualification to become a chartered accountant and progress further in the firm.

In the tax team, Cardiff University graduate Luis McCarthy has been appointed as a trainee. He will support the team with the preparation of corporation and personal tax returns and will study towards the ATT and CTA exams to become a chartered tax advisor.

Ataf Salim, partner at Kilsby Williams, said: “We are focused on attracting the best accountancy and tax talent at every stage of their careers and are pleased to share the news of our latest appointments ranging from trainee to managerial level.

“As the largest independent firm in the region, it is exciting to grow even further and we know that Ken, Hannah and Luis’ work will strengthen our services.”

Established in 1991, Kilsby Williams works with clients from across south Wales, the Midlands and London, ranging from sole traders to companies in international quoted groups.

Women are key to the success of the green transition

On International Women’s Day, ACCA underlines the need to address gender inequality in sustainability  

 

Women have a crucial role to play in the green economy. But leading global accountancy body ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is concerned that women are in danger of being left behind in the green transition. On International Women’s Day (IWD), ACCA is calling on governments, policymakers and employers to make a reality of the 2024 UN IWD theme ‘Invest in women: accelerate progress.’ 

 

ACCA highlights that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, and women are fourteen times more likely to die in climate emergencies than men. And UN data shows how women led households lose 8% more income to heat-stress than male led households. 

 

Emmeline Skelton, head of sustainability, ACCA, said: “Women work extensively in sectors such as agriculture where they are disproportionately exposed to climate-related events. On the other hand, they are underrepresented in sectors that are benefitting from the transition to net zero such as construction, utilities and manufacturing. This imbalance needs to be urgently addressed.” 

 

ACCA is working on this inequality through its focus on gender responsive budgeting (GRB), which measures impacts of gender inequality and mitigates them through targeted policies and budgets.  

 

Jessica Bingham, regional lead, policy & insights – EEMA and UK, is looking at how this can help investment in women. She said: “Gender responsive budgeting can help to identify and address differences by allocating resources to help resilience building. Women often leave the workplace to fulfil unpaid caring responsibilities. In many areas of the globe, work and employment issues are exacerbated by climate change where women have limited access to resources, loss of livelihood and food insecurity.”  

 

The accountancy profession is not immune to these issues. Women leave the profession at a much higher rate than men. In large accountancy firms, estimates suggest around 60% of the graduate intake are women, but that figures falls to an estimated 20%-30% at manager level.  

 

ACCA is providing education through initiatives such as workshops on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). ACCA is working specifically with public sector finance professionals to understand how gender responsive budgeting could be used to address the widening gender gap.  

 

Finance professionals have a vital role in the transition to net zero. ACCA research reveals that CFOs believe the finance function has a key role to play in business moving towards a sustainable business model creating long-term value. For instance, by grasping upskilling opportunities the finance profession can become the guardians of ESG (environmental, social and governance) corporate data.  

 

Skelton said: “In order to make progress we need to look at these issues from a holistic perspective. That is why ACCA supports the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) addressing gender, poverty and inequality. 

 

“The good news on IWD is the more I research this area the more I’m convinced women can create wonderful opportunities for themselves and for the rest of society in the green economy.” 

 

Watch here to see Emmeline and Jessica discuss green transition. 

Read ACCA’s transition report,

Quantum Advisory promotes Simon Hubbard to Principal Consultant in Cardiff

Quantum Advisory, the leading independent financial services consultancy, today announced the promotion of Simon Hubbard to the role of principal consultant. Simon, who is based in the firm’s head office in Cardiff, took up the role from 1 January 2024.

Joanne Eynon, partner, commented: “Our success as a firm depends on the quality of our people and we are pleased to be able to recognise their achievements and support them as their career evolves. This promotion is a demonstration of how we grow our talent from within the firm, and throughout the region.

“Simon has proved himself to be an invaluable member of our team and this promotion is well deserved.”

 

Simon added: “Since joining Quantum I have been pleased to support our clients in all aspects of their journey. I look forward to now also lending my expertise to the strategic leadership of the firm as a whole. We are an ambitious firm with grand plans and to lead the actuarial team in Cardiff will be extremely satisfying.”

Simon joined Quantum in 2016 and sits on Quantum’s risk transfer team, helping to manage client projects and working with major insurers to track market prices and market sentiment.

He has over fifteen years of experience delivering trustee and corporate consulting advice including valuation negotiations, benefit change projects, company pensions accounting and member option exercises.

He is also a member of Quantum’s Defined Benefit Strategy Group and assists with the development of Quantum’s in-house actuarial models.

Simon is currently Scheme Actuary to a number of pension schemes.

For more information on Quantum Advisory, visit www.quantumadvisory.co.uk

Kilsby Williams appoints directors in new year promotions

Tax and accountancy specialist Kilsby Williams has announced a trio of senior level promotions to start the new year.

The Newport-based business, which is the largest independent firm in the region, has promoted three employees to director roles within its tax and business services teams.

Lucy Creese and Kaye Morris have been promoted to director in the tax team, while Zak Wright has been promoted to director in the business services team.

Lucy and Kaye are both experienced corporation tax and company tax specialists, regularly undertaking compliance and tax planning work for a variety of clients including SMEs.

Zak has qualified as a Chartered Accountant since joining the firm nine years ago and has honed his skills in the provision of statutory financial audits, accounts and due diligence work.

The newly promoted directors will lead a growing team at Kilsby Williams, delivering astute accountancy, business and tax advice and identifying key planning opportunities for a diverse range of clients.

Simon Tee, managing partner at Kilsby Williams, said: “We are delighted to announce these senior promotions as we start the new year.

“We firmly believe in supporting the professional development of our employees and rewarding their hard work. With their technical expertise and dedication to providing the best possible service for our clients, Lucy, Kaye and Zak have all made a significant contribution to our firm’s success. I look forward to seeing them thrive in their new roles.”

Established in 1991, Kilsby Williams works with clients from across south Wales, the Midlands and London, ranging from sole traders to companies in international quoted groups.

Quantum Advisory secure £9m full scheme buy-in for Birmingham Chamber of Commerce with Just Group

Quantum Advisory, the leading independent financial services consultancy, has brokered a £9m full scheme buy-in with Just Group for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Pension Fund. The transaction provides improved benefit security to around 100 pensioners and 40 deferred members and opens a new chapter for the sponsoring employer, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry, who can now concentrate their resource on commercial activities for the benefit of businesses in the surrounding area.

After much work and due diligence, Trustee Corporation Limited (acting as Sole Trustee) signed terms with Just Group towards the end of last year, a significant step towards full scheme buy-out where all members’ benefits will be secured with, and paid by, Just Group for the lifetime of the Fund.

The lead transaction adviser, investment adviser and Scheme Actuary are Quantum Advisory and the Trustee legal adviser for the buy-out project is Gateley. The longstanding Trustee of the Fund is Trustee Corporation Limited, represented by Vivien Cockerill.

Adam Cottrell, lead transaction advisor at Quantum Advisory, said: “To complete a £9m transaction so seamlessly at an extremely busy time for the market was very satisfying. Knowing how this enhanced level of pension security will benefit members over the long term, at a time when everyone’s finances are so stretched, also makes this a particularly rewarding end to a successful project. The Trustee and the Chamber put their trust in us to make the right moves, at speed, at key stages of the transaction, something which is so often critical in getting this size of deal over the line.”

Joanne Eynon, partner and scheme actuary at Quantum Advisory, said: “We have worked diligently with the Trustee and Chamber since 2010 and so it was very fulfilling for us to see them achieve their long-term strategic objective as planned, providing additional security for Fund members and a new chapter for the Chamber. We are very proud to have helped them reach this key milestone on their journey to buy-out.”

Vivien Cockerill, trustee director at Trustee Corporation Limited, said: “The Chamber of Commerce and the trustees, including Trustee Corporation Limited, identified buy-out as their long-term aim many years ago. Trustee Corporation Limited moved to become the sole trustee more recently and the team is delighted to have achieved the important step of a full buy-in significantly more quickly than expected. The careful planning and good teamwork with the Chamber and the advisers in implementation have worked well.”

Helen Bates, chief financial officer at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said: “Birmingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry is pleased to secure its members’ benefits following the sale of its premises in 2020 and significant investment in the fund. The Chamber has worked closely with the trustee of the scheme Trustee Corporation Limited and scheme actuary Quantum Advisory to secure the future of the fund, and we can now focus on our mission to connect, support and grow businesses in Greater Birmingham.”

 

Rosie Mills, senior business development analyst, Just Group, said: “We completed this transaction in such a short timeframe, and in a particularly busy market – which illustrates that there’s a vibrant bulk annuity market for schemes of all sizes. We’re very pleased to have helped secure the future benefits of 140 members and assist the Trustee on its journey towards buy-out, while freeing the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry to focus their resources on commercial activity in their local area.”