ACCA’s global forums bring together experts from around the world to help ACCA understand key issues, trends and developments across the profession.

Experts from business, practice, the public sector and the academic world come together to debate professional hot topics, which ACCA feeds into its research and professional insights work.

ACCA is frequently called on to present its views on the profession, or to comment on wider business or society generally. The fact that the organisation has engaged with its members on these topics puts it in a strong position to respond. This in turn helps ACCA to lead the profession, influence public policy and regulation, and shape business practices on key issues.

Governance, risk and performance forum

Rachael Johnson, ACCA’s head of risk management and corporate governance, professional insights, has revived the forum after a period of hiatus. She is bringing guest speakers to each meeting, and the forum will continue to contribute to professional insights, gather roundtables and comment on consultation papers.

‘Over time, we’d like more geographies and a wider scope of activity,’ says Johnson. ‘We need more views from Africa and Greater China. Having the right fit is the most important thing, though.’

Johnson says that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the governance and risk environment. ‘The situation is changing so fast, but it’s an opportunity – things that used to take years to do are now getting done in weeks and months. It’s a reminder to us all that we can move fast if we need to.’

One of Johnson’s goals is collaboration with other associations. ‘We’re in the process of drawing up several memoranda of understanding,’ she says. ‘Where we have natural synergies with an organisation we want to partner, to run roundtables together, and to learn from one another, so we can support our members globally with the best information possible.’

Accountancy Futures Academy

‘Accountancy is going to be a very different job in only a few years’ time,’ says Narayanan Vaidyanathan, ACCA’s head of business insights. ‘This forum is all about preparing our members for that.’

The Accountancy Futures Academy is smaller than many of the other forums, running three sessions a year with eight or nine members at any one time to explore trends affecting business, accountancy and finance.

Over the last year, the group has looked at digital-related work, blockchain and, of course, the impact of Covid-19 on the profession.

‘Our job is to bring together really experienced professionals, experiment in our discussions and help develop research that supports ACCA members,’ says Vaidyanathan.

The forum has members from a range of countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Cyprus and the UK. And members are from a range of backgrounds, too: CFOs and CEOs, academics, consultants, and representatives from the technology and energy sectors.

‘It’s easy to get lost in big-picture sustainability issues, but in areas such as climate action or social impact measurement we can be more effective’

ACCA’s global forums

There are 13 forums in all:

The Accountancy Futures Academy engages in cross-cutting work with other groups; most recently it has worked with the Technology forum.

‘Looking ahead, we’re trying to find a new chair for the group, and we want our forum members to get involved with representing us as ambassadors,’ says Vaidyanathan. ‘It’s likely the forum will undergo a little reshaping.’

Sustainability forum

‘This year has been tricky,’ says Jimmy Greer, head of sustainability at ACCA and the internal lead on the Sustainability Global Forum. ‘We started out gearing up for the COP 26 climate summit, but then coronavirus arrived.’

But their work wasn’t wasted, says Greer. ‘We are looking for areas where we can have a disproportionate impact. It’s easy to get lost in big-picture sustainability issues, but in areas such as climate action or social impact measurement we can be more effective.’

Pre-Covid-19 was a fertile time for sustainability-orientated groups. There was a lot of legislation on climate risk coming together and governments were becoming more active on the issue – to the point that it was being seen as more of a real risk and directors’ duty than a corporate social responsibility task.

Greer says that one of the positives of the pandemic for the group is that it has focused the conversation.

‘Coronavirus has peeled the lid off a range of social issues, so we are seeing more employee-related issues on companies’ and governments’ agendas, including pay, working conditions, mental health and air quality.’

Greer says that while it is sometimes unrealistic for companies to get to grips with everything that’s thrown at them, ‘now is a good time, and it’s ACCA’s job to support its members in all of these various organisations to work towards improving companies’ engagement on the issues’.

The forum has representatives in Canada, the US, Zimbabwe, Australia and Hong Kong SAR, among others, and feels its responsibility keenly.

‘A lot of our members are very longstanding, and were pioneers on these issues many years ago,’ Greer says. ‘They offer us so much expertise and insight into what is happening behind the scenes on global regulatory moves.

‘There’s more attention than ever before being paid to sustainability; we’re really aware that expectations of us are high.’