Developing the Accountancy Profession

Collaborative & Inclusive: How ACCA and SOCPA Are Expanding the Profession’s Contribution to the Business Ecosystem

Mahalah Groves , Professor Mohammad Nurunnabi PhD, SFHEA, FRSA, FAIA (Acad), CMBE, CMA, FFA, FIPA, CPA, Dana Jensen | June 7, 2021

In many Islamic jurisdictions, there is a fast transition occurring: the increasing use of financial technology to advance speed, accuracy, and inclusion in the workplace. It is therefore important for professional accountants to have the financial literary stipulated by Sharia law, as well as an adequate level of digital readiness to understand and implement the appropriate FinTech tools. Professional Accountancy Organizations (PAOs) need to be aware of these trends to strengthen their relevance and ensure their operational models continue to meet members’ expectations.

Financial Literacy

In jurisdictions where professional accountants must adhere to Sharia law, it is important for PAOs to understand the expectations placed upon their membership by businesses. PAOs should take targeted actions to serve segments of their membership, such as accounting technicians or those working in business or small- and medium-sized practices. In the case of many jurisdictions in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, this means enhancing financial literacy pertaining to Islamic Law.

The Saudi Organization for Chartered and Professional Accountants (SOCPA) is addressing this need with a new hub that links together a community of like-minded small and medium-sized accountancy practices (SMPs), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and professional accountants in business, so they can share with, learn from, and inspire each other. The SMP Center will provide resources, insights and innovative tools needed for SMPs in the MENA region to stay ahead and relevant in a rapidly changing business landscape. The creation and backdrop of the new center is inspiring in itself—in collaboration and knowledge sharing with ACCA, the SOCPA’s SMP Center will be structured similar to Practice Connect | ACCA Global which has seen much success since its establishment. ACCA’s Practice Connect is a platform which brings together SMPs from around the world to share ideas, access ACCA’s Professional Insights research and guidance, and learn how to attract, retain, and develop leading talent.

Through the SMP Center, SOCPA will offer training programs, research publications, and professional services for those who are seeking to improve their financial literacy. This supports a future-ready profession by providing opportunities to develop and maintain professional skills and capabilities that align with societal needs.

Islamic Finance & Sharia-compliant Products

It is also important to recognize the growing demand for Sharia-compliant products outside of the region, in countries such as the United Kingdom as noted by TheCityUK in their recent report.

Worldwide, accountancy professionals have a limited understanding of Islamic law. This is a clear opportunity for PAOs to fulfill a need and speak out on the strong ethical foundation of professional accountants providing services in Islamic jurisdictions. For example, PAOs can:

  • Enhance the public’s understanding of the contents of Sharia Law and how it relates to financial reporting and business transactions;
  • Highlight the accountancy profession’s role in anti-corruption initiatives; and
  • Speak out on issues of public interest and build a more inclusive profession.

ACCA has integrated learning around Sharia-compliant products into its Strategic Professional Level exams to ensure their members are equipped to understand the global business ecosystem. Furthermore, ACCA has partnered with the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment on a standalone Islamic Finance Qualification to give practitioners an in-depth understanding of the various Sharia-compliant products.

Digital Readiness

Many professional accountants that render services in accordance with rules and regulations prescribed by Sharia law, utilize FinTech solutions that help reduce costs and improve services. FinTech has benefits, such as boosting productivity, but also costs. For example, it can potentially increase the workload of regulators who must ensure stability of the financial system and protect it from fraud. PAOs can support regulators by providing an additional layer of monitoring that would help avoid cyber-attacks, data leakages and data theft that can lead to misuse of information. It is important then that PAOs, SMPs and businesses alike fully understand the opportunities and risks presented by new technology solutions, as articulated in TheCityUK’s UK/Turkey Islamic Fintech working group report.

Islamic finance is largely prevalent in Muslim-majority regions which are developing and might lack consistent access to both financial as well as telecommunication services. PAOs in Islamic jurisdictions have a significant opportunity here to help their members adapt to new technologies. PAOs can train accountancy professionals to see the “bigger picture” and support a continuous education process that is flexible and relevant to the current business environment. Combined with available technological tools, professional accountants will be well-equipped to add value to their clients.

Promising Developments for the Region

In May 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan University launched the Global Islamic Finance, Tax, & Zakat Center (GIFTZ Center) to facilitate cutting-edge research and e-publications conducted by experts in the field of Islamic finance, zakat, and tax. With academic research available via the GIFTZ Center, PAOs in the MENA region can better engage with national stakeholders who are responsible for supporting financial education and assessing the needs of the population.

 

Mahalah Groves

Mahalah Groves is Head of Capacity Building at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).  ACCA’s global community of 227,000 members and 544,000 and future members is based across 176 countries.  Mahalah supports many of ACCA’s key partnerships across the global accountancy profession and has oversight of ACCA’s funded international development work. Mahalah has been with ACCA since 2008 and, in her current role as Head of Capacity Building, she leads a wide variety of development projects to strengthen the accountancy profession. A portfolio that currently includes capacity building projects across Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and South Asia. Her experience includes initiatives to implement international standards, develop strategy, and strengthen qualifications and regulation – and to support partner bodies in their journey toward membership of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). Since 2017, Mahalah is a technical advisor to a member of the IFAC Professional Accountancy Organisation Development Committee (PAODC). Mahalah also plays a key role in ACCA’s partnerships with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the international development community. Prior to joining ACCA, Mahalah’s professional experience included intellectual property and brand development.   See more by Mahalah Groves

Professor Mohammad Nurunnabi PhD, SFHEA, FRSA, FAIA (Acad), CMBE, CMA, FFA, FIPA, CPA

Professor Mohammad Nurunnabi, PhD, SFHEA, FRSA, FAIA (Acad), CMBE, CMA, FFA, FIPA, CPA is the Aide to the President on Research, Ranking and Internationalization, and Chair of the Department of Accounting at Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia. He is an Academic Visitor (Senior Member) of St Antony's College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom. Previously he has taught in University of East London, United Kingdom (UK), University of Bedfordshire (UK), and Edge Hill University (UK). Prior to his academic career, he worked as a financial team member in ADVFN Plc, London, UK. He holds a PhD with an outright pass (no corrections) from the University of Edinburgh, UK. His most recent books are: International Financial Reporting Standards Implementation: A Global Experience (Emerald, UK) and The Role of the State and Accounting Transparency (Routledge: London and New York). He has published over 130 articles in international journals. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of PSU Research Review: An International Journal, Emerald, and Series Editor-in-Chief of Contributions to International Accounting. He serves on the editorial boards over 20 journals. He has received numerous prestigious researches and teaching awards including Prince Sultan University President’s Distinguished Research Award (2020), the IMA Faculty Leadership Award from Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), USA in 2017, ‘Outstanding Research Certificate’ (2015), Certificate of Appreciation on ‘Financial Leadership and Reporting’ from ACCA (2014), Recognition of ‘Outstanding Service as an IMA Campus Advocate’ from Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), USA in 2014, USA and ‘Academic Excellence in Research and Teaching’ Award from Channel S, UK based TV Channel in 2013. He was awarded a Platinum Lever Leader by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in 2019. He has significantly contributed to G20 Saudi Arabia and principal investigators for several policy papers. He is also conducting policy papers with The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). He is a regularly invited speaker for international conferences and policy forums. He is also a regulatory reviewer of government regulations on SME in Saudi Arabia. He is one of the founding leaders of the Global SME Policy Network (GSPN). He is contributing to policy issues on Global SME, Tax, IFRS, and Labour Market. He can be contacted at: mnurunnabi@psu.edu.sa See more by Professor Mohammad Nurunnabi PhD, SFHEA, FRSA, FAIA (Acad), CMBE, CMA, FFA, FIPA, CPA

Dana Jensen

Middle East North Africa (MENA) Portfolio Manager, Quality & Development, IFAC

Dana Jensen manages the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) portfolio under the IFAC Member Compliance Program to support the adoption and implementation efforts of international standards and best practices amongst IFAC’s member organizations. Prior to her time at IFAC, Dana was a Policy Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. She holds an MSc from Columbia University (2011) and is currently Prince Sultan University-Banque Saudi Fransi’s Fellow in Islamic Finance (2021-2023). See more by Dana Jensen

 

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