Developing the Accountancy Profession

PAOs Counting on Each Other—The Race to Online CPD During COVID-19

Alta Prinsloo | April 29, 2020

Available Languages: English | Albanian | Russian

Earlier this year, I participated in a review of our school district’s long-range financial plan and asked whether we should anticipate that children would not be sitting in classrooms in ten years’ time. Let’s just say, the question was not well received.

Little did we know then that this would happen in less than three months. And, although many of our professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) included online continuing professional development (CPD) in their medium- to longer-term plans, they were caught equally off-guard by COVID-19.

As the days become weeks and the weeks become months, IFAC staff continue to learn about the challenges our member organizations face and, particularly in the case of smaller PAOs, the implications for their future viability. This includes smaller PAOs struggling to pivot from in-person service delivery to virtual service delivery. Many, if not all, have cancelled their in-person CPD programs.

We have seen other organizations make their online services available to a wider audience, in some instances at no charge for a limited period. Nevertheless, these services are not necessarily accountancy related. This made us think about our Counting on Each Other—Establishing and Maintaining Effective PAO Partnerships publication and—more specifically—whether larger PAOs might consider providing smaller PAOs access to a selection of online courses so they could promote these courses to their members in lieu of in-person CPD programs.

We called on our largest member organizations for assistance toward the end of March, and—in true spirit of counting on each other—many responded to the call. Today, we have more than ten PAOs offering their online services to PAOs in need and the list continues to grow. These services include a wide range of CPD courses, some of which are offered in Portuguese. We hope that courses in French will follow soon.

In her January 2020 article, Re-imagining the Future Accountant—Our Call to Action, Anne-Marie Vitale, chair of IFAC’s International Panel on Accounting Education, called on PAOs to prepare to thrive in a digital era and meet the personalized needs of their members based on competencies not roles. She also encouraged PAOs to take advantage of EdTech. This has become even more relevant in the current environment and will likely remain the case in the next normal.

Anne-Marie’s article also discussed how changing business models and evolving business needs are creating new opportunities for those accountants who are ready to learn. Important future competencies highlighted in January included business acumen; behavioral competence; digital acumen; data interrogation, synthesis, and analysis; and communication. COVID-19 has propelled the need for these skills from the future to the now. The courses our member organizations are offering to PAOs in need cover these topics and much more.

If you are struggling to pivot from in-person to online CPD, please visit our Online CPD Services for PAOs page today. In addition, do not forget about our COVID-specific resources, which goes beyond online CPD.

I hope that our online CPD services for PAOs initiative will be the foundation for stronger PAO-to-PAO partnerships in the next normal.

If you are an IFAC member organization and interested in providing other PAOs access to your online CPD (paid or no charge), please contact me at



Alta Prinsloo

Alta Prinsloo

Cheif Executive Officer

Alta Prinsloo is the Chief Executive Officer of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA). She is an executive who is accomplished in strategic planning, capacity building, program implementation, and partnership development. Ms. Prinsloo previously served as Executive Director of IFAC with primary responsibility for IFAC’s approach to advancing education for future-ready professional accountants. Ms. Prinsloo joined the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board in 2002, and served as deputy director before transitioning to IFAC, where she has served in various executive roles, including governance and nominations, strategic planning, risk management, finance, operations & information technology, human resources and intellectual property. She has also overseen a wide variety of initiatives, including accountancy capacity building, Accountability.Now.—an initiative focused on transparency and accountability in the public sector—the IFAC Member Compliance Program, professional accountants in business and in small- and medium-sized practices, and the IFAC Global Knowledge Gateway. From 1997 through 2002, Ms. Prinsloo worked at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, becoming its technical director in 2000. In 1996, she worked at Amalgamated Banks of South Africa where she was responsible for professional development of the internal audit function. Prior to that, she worked in the national technical and training office of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ms. Prinsloo is originally from South Africa, qualified as a Chartered Accountant (SA), and holds a master’s degree in financial management. See more by Alta Prinsloo


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