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We are living trying and difficult times. But we are living in them together. To successfully navigate this new environment, professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) must learn from and support each other as much as possible—and this means we must keep connected.

Ibero-American PAOs and stakeholders quickly came together—over 25 representatives from 13 different jurisdictions and the Interamerican Accounting Association—in late March on a Zoom videoconference to discuss their strategies and plans for this unique situation. In the spirit of collaboration, we’re sharing some of the challenges, ideas, and solutions discussed. We hope they spark ideas for how to navigate this “new normal” at your PAO.

Dissemination with high credibility. PAOs have a key role in disseminating regulatory changes during COVID-19. Governments around the world are implementing different measures at a fast pace to deal with the social and economic impacts of the virus. In turn, clients are seeking their accountants’ advice on what the changes mean for their business. Given the significant amount of misinformation available, it can be difficult to understand regulatory changes. PAOs should step up communications with their members and the business community about the impacts. Some PAOs have also developed, or redirected previously existing, technical hotlines and dedicated email accounts to help their members respond to inquiries.

E-learning is the new normal. The cultural change is dramatically impacting Ibero-American professionals. Traditionally, professionals attend in-person training activities as part of their continuing professional development. Now, e-learning is the only solution. PAOs are keeping pace with this change by using different media platforms to communicate with their audience, some free and some paid, to ensure service continuity. The easiest solutions are sometimes the most effective—YouTube is a free resource, and some PAOs are taking advantage of the platform to regularly upload videos for important messages and training.

Liquidity risk. The main short-term impact, as a result of COVID-19, particularly on small practices and individual practitioners, is liquidity levels. In the short term, these professionals are likely to be some of the most significantly impacted. As most businesses are not operating, there will soon be a lack of liquidity. This will affect accountants, auditors, and PAOs were honest that there is no easy solution for this.

Advocating for necessary change. What PAOs can do to support members is advocate and PAOs are doing this at incredible rates. A significant amount of work with governments and regulators has already taken place to permit flexibility with accounting and auditing obligations, particularly related to tax filing extensions. Some noted initiatives to promote financial policies that will guarantee credit lines for small- and medium-sized practices and individual practitioners.

Shifting to working remotely. Most PAOs already had processes in place to work remotely. The primary challenge is not the change in technology but the change in routine. Compassion and understanding as everyone adapt to changes can go a long way.

Continue to visit the IFAC COVID-19 web page for new information.


Click here to view presentation slides.

Manuel Arias
Manuel Arias

Principal, IFAC

Manuel Arias serves as a Principal at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), where he plays a pivotal role in enhancing membership engagement, shaping policy, and organizing data collection within the financial regulatory landscape. Manuel coordinates with diverse stakeholders across Latin America, North America, and select European regions. His collaborations extend to professional accountancy organizations, regulatory bodies, public authorities, professional firms, development banks, and various non-accountancy entities, fostering robust partnerships and advancing the profession's objectives.

Manuel started his career in the Colombian Red Cross before transitioning into the accountancy profession with the Colombian National Institute of Public Accountants, leading the strategy and public policy before joining IFAC in 2014, where he has helped to drive the organization's strategic initiatives.

Manuel has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Universidad de Los Andes—Colombia and a degree in Economics from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.