Sempier Award Acceptance Speech
Marilyn A. Pendergast, CPA | Partner in UHY LLP and Past Chair of the IFAC Ethics Committee (1999 to 2004)
Nov 16, 2006 | at World Congress of Accountants 2006 | Istanbul, Turkey | English
It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to work with other accountants from around the world, those in public practice, industry, government and education and especially the leaders of the AICPA and IFAC. In particular, Rene Ricol and Graham Ward as well as Ian Ball have provided strong support during the years the new ethics code was in development, and I know that under Fermín de Valle’s leadership that support will continue. In my grandmother’s words, receiving the Sempier award is the “icing on the cake.” Robert Sempier’s vision of an accountancy organization which brings together all members of institutes throughout the world and recognizes the challenges of the global economy by working together to develop and implement the highest level of professional standards is today a reality. As we end this World Congress in Istanbul, which is so rich in history and diversity, we go out to our own countries and careers re-energized by the discussions and camaraderie of the last few days and more deeply committed than ever to the convergence of high quality standards which contribute to the strength of the profession worldwide and to the development of strong international economies.
Anyone who receives an honor such as the Sempier Award has many people who have helped make their efforts possible. For me that starts with my parents, who raised me to believe in the “power of positive thinking,” and continues with my daughter Patricia, who when she was very small said “different people have different thoughts.” That has served me well in trying to be receptive to the viewpoints of people coming from different perspectives, cultures and regulatory schemes. My sisters and their families, including my nephews who have joined me here at this World Congress, have always encouraged me. My partners in UHY LLP and all of the member firms of UHY International have supported my volunteer work in the profession, providing service to my clients when I could not be there to do so and sharing their own viewpoints and understanding of the issues which face us in the 21st century world of accounting.
Equally important have been the contributions of all the members of the IFAC Ethics Committee and Jan Munro, the committee’s Technical Manager, whose assistance was critical in completing the rewrite of the entire Code of Ethics which provides critical guidance for what is expected of accountants in performance of services in the public interest.
In my forty years of practicing public accountancy, I have constantly been challenged and rewarded by being a part of a profession which has grown to include many new ways in which we serve our clients and the public, and has continued to develop new standards to deal with changes in the economic and regulatory environment.
Advances in technology continue to make our world smaller and each day brings us closer to a truly global community. I believe that the most important element of the public’s reliance on our work is stakeholder trust in what we do. The international accounting and auditing standards that are being developed and adopted around the world are one aspect of attaining this important ideal. But, to me, the foundation for our profession is our ethical behavior. Commitment to integrity and objectivity and demonstration of independence is the foundation for the public’s trust. It is the keystone of our profession and has to come from within ourselves, demonstrated in action as well as words.
Harmony doesn’t mean that we all sing the same note. We serve different roles, as preparers, auditors, regulators or educators. We work in different areas, in firms, large and small, in countries at varying stages of economic development, and view things from our own perspective. Different is good! As a profession, though, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share one set of values and are committed to performing our work with this highest level of professional integrity and intellectual honesty. I hope that each of you recognizes as we leave Istanbul that every person has something to contribute and that each of us represents the others in our actions and our attitudes.
Eli Werlin, one of the founding partners of our firm in the U.S., always emphasized how important it is to continue to learn, adapt to new situations and to be a part of finding new solutions to old problems and new opportunities to provide services. I am honored that the AICPA and IFAC have allowed me to participate in this work and for the recognition of my efforts to make a contribution to our profession. I sincerely thank you all.