Ethics and Professional Skills essential for finance professionals22.11.2017
Ethics plays a crucial role in everything that accountants do. Members of the public and clients trust professionals in all fields to commit to a high standard of ethical behaviour and a willingness to ‘do the right thing.’
Given the complexity of many financial transactions as well as the importance of best practice to business and society, professional bodies such as ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) have a particular responsibility to uphold and lead on ethical issues.
The ACCA Code of Ethics and Conduct (the Code) is binding on all our members and students, as well as any partner (or director) in an ACCA practice. It’s based on the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code, and the fundamental principles that we set out are the same as IESBA’s.
In order to stay vigilant to omissions, errors and deliberate accounting violations, all professional accountants will need to develop and balance necessary professional quotients to fit their role and stage of career. A key quotient is technical skills and ethics (TEQ): The skills and abilities to perform activities consistently to a defined standard while maintaining the highest standards of integrity, independence and scepticism.
Finance professionals must think and behave with integrity, independence and professional scepticism. They must also demonstrate this to stakeholders including regulators, investors, colleagues, and entities that are the subject of audit and assurance engagements. Vigilance is also needed in observing and applying local and international laws, regulations and standards relating to engagements for the audit and assurance of historical financial statements and other subject matters such as ISAs, federal company laws, and regulations on data protection.
Through maintaining high standards of quality in the practice of audit and other assurance, and in practice management, finance professional can ensure there is quality control.
Additionally, assessing and responding to risks of material misstatement within appropriate legal framework can aid in detection and reporting error and fraud.
There are wider business issues when it comes to ethics and ethics underpins everything professional accountants do. An ethical dilemma may be resolved by applying a conceptual framework. However, in order to achieve this, we first need to understand fundamental ethical principles so we can ensure there’s minimal risk of them being undermined.
An honest appraisal of the threats to those principles requires the application of personal ethics. That’s why the ACCA Rulebook isn’t just a list of rules, but instead sets out a framework that helps us to resolve or avoid ethical dilemmas in a way that shouldn’t conflict with our personal ethics.
In the global fight against corruption in all its forms, it is vitally important that potential
whistle blowers have a clear view of not only the avenues available for speaking up, but also the full path ahead of them as they go through the whistleblowing journey.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also best for the business. If employees feel that wrongdoing will be dealt with promptly, fairly and in a transparent manner, they are far less likely to make the issue a public one.
In order to foster a successful speak up arrangement, organisations need to consider how the arrangement interacts with cultural issues. Whilst cultural challenges are surmountable, this might take a little more time and effort using suitable strategies to address issues such as regional differences and language.
Additionally, it’s highly worth businesses considering the use of an external independent channel that sits alongside their internal conduits. It may feel counter intuitive to set up channels that are external and possibly more formal when you are trying to build trust
internally. However, if people use independent external channels and have a positive experience, the trust developed from the experience can transfer to others, including internal channels that they may use in the future.
Now more than ever, how an organisation does business is just as important as the results they achieve. It’s no secret that many of the great reputational disasters of recent years have been made worse by attempts to sweep them under the rug. If effective speak-up arrangements are implemented throughout corporate governance, public sector accountability and professional responsibility, it will create robust risk management, which is in an organisation’s highest interest.
ACCA recognises the importance of ethics and have enhanced our module covering this area. Our new Ethics and Professional Skills module focuses on developing vitally important ethical behaviour and judgement to ensure finance professionals are equipped with the skills needed to support exam success at Strategic Professional level.
Through this module, participants will be able to do a comprehensive and interactive assessment about ethics and professionalism through a case study. Through the case study, participants will take on the role of an accountant and face challenges that have to be identified and explored. The assessment will enable participants to provide solutions and effective ways of delivering these to ensure the best possible outcome for the business. ACCA were the first to introduce a compulsory ethics module in 2007.
Comprising of seven interactive units, the module provides the well-rounded skills employers need and covers: Ethics and professionalism, Personal effectiveness Innovation and scepticism implementation, Commercial awareness, analysis, evaluation and problem solving, Leadership and team-working, Communication skills and the final assessment.
On successful completion of the assessment, a certificate will be awarded.
The current Professional Ethics module will be available until 30 October 2017 and replaced by the new Ethics and Professional Skills module on 31 October 2017. Full information about the updates to the ACCA Qualification
can be found here: www.accaglobal.com/ thefuture
Ing. Katka Benešová
Head of ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) for the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. She is responsible for building business relationships and grow the ACCA market in the assigned region. She has been involved in finance professional training and people talent development for over 15 years while working for ATC International and Arthur Andersen. She is an CIPD member (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development). Katka is also a founding member of the ABSL Czech Republic (Association of Business Service Leaders) as well as co-founder and a board member of the CFO Club in Slovakia.