The 400-plus of you today here who are due to collect your certificates, will leave today’s function not as graduates, but as "Affiliates". I understand this term is unique to ACCA. As the practice demands it, you will have to go through a further 3 years of relevant working experience before you can join the ranks of about 9,500 "Members" of ACCA in the country. Even when you reach the status of "Member" there is still the "Fellow" status, which requires at least another 5 years of experience. So, today’s graduation is still the first step in many more for you to become what you truly can be, which are some of best accountants that this country will need.
This certification is certainly a proud one for your chosen profession. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is the largest, fastest growing global professional accountancy body internationally, with nearly 300,000 members and students in more than 180 countries. ACCA's commitment to quality, technical research, high standards and integrity has been evident since it was established in 1904.
Having been in Malaysia since 1936, ACCA is one of the oldest internationally recognized exams in the country. It is also one of the most sought-after professional certificates, with about 19,000 students in the country currently studying for it. This is a certificate that is recognized in more than 180 countries, and for some it has been the passport to an international career with some of the biggest accountancy firms in the world. You will also join the ranks of some of famous Malaysian ACCA members such as Azman Mokhtar of Khazanah and Dato?Abdul Wahid Omar of Telekom. Maybe some of you may pick up valuable working experience and branch out into an entrepreneurial adventure like another ACCA member, Tony Fernandes of Air Asia.
The immediate concern for many after today’s graduation is the prospect of finding a job. For this I hope you will look into ACCA’s Malaysia Employers?Network (AMEN) for assistance. AMEN is an informal network of more than 100 accredited employers who are able to train Affiliates and to provide you with relevant work experience. Examples of AMEN members include the Big 4 Accounting companies (Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG) and conglomerates such as UMW, Telekom, Sunway Holdings and Sime Darby. Demand for accountants in Malaysia remains strong. In the recent press coverage on unemployed graduates, accounting specialists are listed as one of the more employable graduates in the country.
The responsibility for accountants today is far greater than any time before the recent past. The impact of corporate scandals in the US and Europe, such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom and Parmalat, has shown the business world the importance of corporate governance. For any country that wants to be taken seriously by investors, the matter of corporate governance is of paramount importance. In 2002, as a direct result of the Enron scandal, the US lawmakers enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which raises the bar on corporate accounting compliance requirements (and punishments) to a much higher level. Of course this has led to a boom of sorts in the accountancy industry, with companies bidding up the hourly rates of accountants who are familiar with the Act.
In Malaysia, the Whistleblowing Act, and the Financial Sector Masterplan put in place the safeguards on the accuracy of the submissions by our companies. Moreover, the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) has also hired many accounting graduates to comb through submissions by companies to check for irregularities. These efforts are critical in developing a sound economy. The Government is very cautious when it comes to corporate and individual tax contributions, as direct taxation account for about 50% of Government revenue.
By placing such importance on corporate and individual declaration, this means accountants are taking on substantial responsibility. The underlying quality that you must is something that no number of certificates can give you, and that quality is Ethics. Ethics is the innate quality in someone to do the right thing, no matter what the pressures might be. This quality will, in the long run, separate the good leaders from the bad ones. Even as corporate employees, you can play an important role. The Whistleblowing Act protects employees who disclose wrong-doings in companies. Look to the example of the three women who were selected as Time magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2002: FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, WorldCom Vice President Cynthia Cooper, and Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins. These three women blew the whistle on companies despite the pressures from their bosses to do otherwise.
Another quality that hope has been imparted to you through your education with ACCA is that of life-long learning. You need to upgrade your skills at all stages of your career, to keep up with the changing nature of business. Corporate Professional Development (CPD) is a popular catch-phrase today, and for good reason. Professionals are responsible to make themselves relevant to job market. Never rest on your laurels and continue to learn. ACCA has sufficiently prepared you to wear many hats, from being a pure accountant or auditor to as varied as people managers and strategic advisors. Nevertheless, there will be many occasions during your career where you will have to gain additional knowledge to make informed decisions. Hence, your learning never ends. Bear in mind, young graduates, that your learning should not cease here. Will Durant, an American author and historian, could not have summed it up more accurately when he told us that education is simply a progressive discovery of our ignorance. What you have now achieved in ACCA, you will put into practice in the working world.
This is certainly a very happy occasion and I hope you will all succeed in your future undertakings. My thanks also for ACCA for inviting me to this event. Congratulations!