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IFAC's transformational journey and digital innovations

SAIPA CE Shahied Daniels shares insight with IFAC on the institute’s transformational journey and digital innovations

SAIPA has embarked on a transformational journey to integrate technological innovations in its operations as well as rethinking its professional qualification.

In a video series, SAIPA CEO Shahied Daniels and Professor Rashied Small, Executive at the SAIPA Center of Future Excellence, share SAIPA’s success and challenges in embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

Tenacity, renewal and resilience is the new normal

The level of complexity and the speed of change in the world has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has forced the accounting profession to adapt, to renew and to become much more resilient.

The progress that has been made over the past two years has been highlighted during a recent global support series for small- and medium-sized practices (SMPs) and small- and medium-sized entities (SMEs).

The series was hosted by the Edinburgh Group and several international bodies, including the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Certified Public Accountants of Ireland, the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), and the Federation of Mediterranean Certified Accountants.

Shahied Daniels, the Chief Executive of SAIPA and chair of the Edinburgh Group, remarked on the importance for the profession to remain relevant and ready to meet the demands of the fourth industrial revolution. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) is the order of the day, therefore SMPs need to be vigilant and adaptable to the ever-evolving world we are living in.

Global experts have over the three-day webinar shared practical solutions, offered advice and shared personal experience

Adapting to the changes

It is clear that around the globe businesses and practitioners experienced similar challenges. Everyone had to quickly adapt to the change from pen and paper to a digital world. Accountants had to, in some instances more forcefully, get their clients to adopt new ways of communicating through Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp.

Disrupted business models led to rapid digital transformation, cloud accounting and the necessity for integrated reporting.

Professional accountants will have to think more about the quality and the value of information that they report on. It is critical for future sustainability.
The pandemic has also ensured greater collaboration and it demonstrated the power of collaboration. “We need diversity in our thinking,” Daniels said.

The impact

It takes a certain kind of tenacity to work within the SMP environment and to work with SMEs. “We have become more than just accountants. We need to be trusted advisors and even psychologists”. The pandemic let loose a range of emotions ranging from anxiety, feelings of helplessness to stress and grief. A study by the World Economic Forum found that 56% of employees surveyed experienced to a large extent an increased anxiety about job security. Only 20% experienced no anxiety about job security. Around 55% of employees experienced increased stress due to changes in their work routine, compared to 19% who experienced no stress at all about the change. Half of the employees found it difficult to get a work-life balance compared to 22% who did not struggle with this. “As business people and advisors, we need to ensure the well-being of our people and our clients,” Daniels said.

The road ahead

South Africa has reportedly exited the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have failed, many have barely survived, and some have actually thrived. “We have to remain resilient because the Covid-19 pandemic is certainly not the last crisis that will demand agility and innovation”, he added. “We have the core skills and competencies to give assurance on financial information that is required for the future sustainability of our own businesses and that of SMEs”.

Great reasons to celebrate 40 years of SAIPA

This year, SAIPA celebrates its 40th Anniversary.

Certainly, we can all agree that, after four decades in the business of being in business, we are more than just a hashtag. Throughout our 40-year history, SAIPA has been a dynamic organisation, growing, adapting and evolving to serve members, the profession and the broader business, and the community.

We provide education to improve members’ technical expertise, business, personal effectiveness and leadership skills and to ensure these skills remain relevant and current. This in turn provides our members with employability and professional recognition. By virtue of their education and skills, SAIPA members influence the economy, businesses and markets.

Being #SAIPAproud means we are aware of where we came from, what we have achieved and our ability to create the future of accountancy. For 40 years members have gathered together to discuss matters of mutual interest, to contribute their experience and expertise to assist others and to learn from each other.

40 years ago, SAIPA was formed as a means to build accounting capacity for South Africa’s blossoming small business sector. For 40 years members have volunteered their time to give back to the profession, promote the benefits that the profession brings to the community, and collectively work with governments, regulators and standards-setters to ensure that the public interest and the profession’s interests are protected.

And for 40 years members have been at the heart of everything SAIPA does. Today, SAIPA is a force to be reckoned with. The Institute plays an important role in influencing global accountancy trends at every level. In addition, we make daily significant contributions locally, continentally, and internationally.

An national influencer

In South Africa itself, SAIPA is a national influencer. Here, we actively contribute to the development of business and financial legislation. We are still one of only two professional bodies that sit on the boards of IFAC and PAFA as macroeconomic enablers. Our initiatives effect lasting change in government, business, academia and society. Our programmes, like the National Accounting and Maths Olympiad, Project Achiever, and the University of the Western Cape Advanced Diploma in Public Finance, support future accounting capacity for companies, NPOs and the public service. In serving our community and their needs as Professional Accountants (SA), we commit no less passion and energy to our internal programmes and initiatives. We are particularly proud of our seamless transition to digital services and events in the face of COVID-19, while others have struggled to achieve a smooth digital transformation. Our CE Mr Daniels speaks consistently about how it is natural for our clients to see us as trusted business advisors and how important it is that, over and above our professional duties, we excel at this role. If you don’t yet know what our Centre of Business Advisory (CoBA) is, we encourage you to visit the SAIPA website and check it out. You will discover how to qualify as a Professional Business Advisor (SA) to help your client succeed both financially and operationally. In addition, our Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE) has designed a Competency Framework and monitors emerging trends to develop forward-thinking policies, practices and CPD content requirements. Its work ensures you remain relevant and future-ready in the face of disruptive 4IR technologies and AI-driven businesses. Does this sound like you will be wearing too many hats? Not at all. As automation becomes commonplace in the accounting and reporting process, it will free us to focus on becoming Chief Value Officers to our clients and employers.
In this role, we will add value by extracting meaningful insights from corporate data that will be critical to predictive strategic decision-making. We will also guide clients to build sustainable businesses and realise growth opportunities. Make no mistake, this is not science fiction fantasy. Organisations are quickly becoming more dependent on Professional Accountants (SA) as business enablers, and we will be expected to step up and take charge. So, we must embrace change and ensure we are constantly enhancing our knowledge through both CoBA and CoFE, both specifically established for this purpose. These examples are not even a fraction of SAIPA’s active involvement and contribution to the future of accountants. But they illustrate that what we do is making a difference every day, everywhere. To the world. To Africa. And to South Africa.

A local influencer

You should not be surprised that you, as a Professional Accountant (SA), are SAIPA’s greatest contribution to the world. You are both the embodiment of all the Institute stands for and the last mile in delivering the very best that accountancy has to offer. You carry our principles, practices and ethical commitment to your business circles, client base, professional network and society in general. And the world wants more from you. Without a doubt, you are the very essence of SAIPA’s ability to make a difference and you are needed now more than ever. Our work as a top PAO and an unbreakable community is far from over.

A reason to celebrate

For the past 40 years, making a difference has become what SAIPA does best and that is an amazing reason to celebrate this year. Join us for the whole of 2022 in remembering who we are, honouring what we have accomplished, and looking confidently to a future of our own exciting design. Here’s to 40 more years of outstanding achievements.

SAIPA’s virtual professional evaluation an online success story

“When COVID-19 motivated us to fully implement SAIPA’s online learning and assessment platform last year, our first concern was that candidates should not be intimidated by technical disruptions or a lack of digital skills,” says Professor Rashied Small, Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE) Executive at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA). To overcome this hurdle, the Institute undertook a vigorous process to prepare candidates for the online platform, including the introduction of weekly online practice assessments for its Project Achiever candidates to identify both technical issues and problems students encountered using the system well in advance of it going live. Project Achiever is a programme that prepares attendees for their PE and imparts additional professional competencies. “We are pleased to declare that the SAIPA’s online Professional Evaluation (PE) has been a great success with no technical glitches” says Karl Smith, Senior Manager: Education, Training and Member Support at SAIPA. Smith’s sentiment was bolstered by the successful four-hour admission assessment that SAIPA PE candidates took on Saturday, 4 December. The assessment is the final step in their journey to becoming a full SAIPA member and being awarded the designation of Professional Accountant (SA). Further to the extensive support for PE candidates prior to the assessment, he credits the success of the online evaluation to careful planning by his team, thorough prior testing of invigilator software and close collaboration with digital service providers and SAIPA’s Digital and Technology team.

Thorough design and preparation

Small says SAIPA considered, researched and executed a carefully laid out strategy for total digital transformation of the function of online assessments. “We made the decision in 2018 and implemented it gradually through a pilot programme of remote assessments for Project Achiever attendees,” he says. This allowed SAIPA to not only perfect the system but also the methodology to train new candidates to use it. Prior to the first lockdown and in the wake of successful testing, the Institute decided that all future PEs would be hosted online from July 2020. The transition went smoothly, and subsequent virtual PEs have been without incident. Training and practice sessions, held during the two weeks leading up to the assessment, ensure candidates are fully prepared on the day.

A fully Cloud-based solution

According to Thomas Nyamvura, Digital and Technology Officer at SAIPA, many technical issues were avoided by preferring Cloud-based solutions and focusing on user support. There is no need for a specially booked examination venue and candidates are even allowed to sit the evaluation in an internet cafe, giving relief to those with no connectivity. Browser-based invigilator software, also known as digital proctoring, monitors candidates throughout for behavioural patterns associated with examination or assessment fraud. “A public venue is not problematic as long as the candidate focuses on the test and does not perform any actions that imply any dishonest actions,” adds Nyamvura. Although SAIPA does not formally provide devices or data to candidates, Nyamvura says the Institute is seeking sponsors to assist students to source these where appropriate.

Planning and review

Smith points out that his team uses the motto “never say never” when planning a PE event. “We try to be prepared for every eventuality because we know that while technology offers outstanding utility, it can also be unpredictable and internet connectivity can be a problem in South Africa,” he adds. Risk management is a priority before any online session and Smith has a Plan B in case of blackouts or other unforeseen challenges. Candidates are also expected to log into the system well before the event and those that don’t are contacted by phone or email to make sure they have access and are offered technical support where needed. Once the PE is complete, Smith’s team holds a meeting to review the system’s performance and, if any technical issue were to occur, take action to prevent it in the future. Even so, a post-assessment survey is held with candidates to understand their experience. In addition, the platform utilised provides anonymous psychometric performance data that can be used to enhance future examination quality. “I’m proud of what a little foresight, planning and design-thinking has helped us accomplish in making online evaluations a real success story at SAIPA,” concludes Smith.

The latest skills Professional Accountants need to navigate the future

A Professional Accountant (SA) needs to continuously add to their already extensive set of skills, the latest of which being around infonomics and sustainability, urges Prof Rashied Small, Executive of the Centre of Future Excellence at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA). “Infonomics refers to the economic value businesses can achieve by turning raw corporate data into a rich platform for strategic decision-making that allows for sustainability,” he explains. “Infonomics enables accountants to advise business leaders on producing profits while simultaneously benefiting society, the environment and the greater economy.” As the Fourth Industrial Revolution frees professional accountants from mundane financial administration, this trend signals an Accountancy Revolution, which is the focus of this year’s virtual SAIPA Accounting iNdaba, scheduled for 2-3 November 2021. Experts speaking at the event will unpack a variety of topics within the theme of infonomics and sustainability, including – among others – how to assess the integrity and quality of data, ethical use of technology, integrated thinking for business sustainability, the dream-vs-reality status of cryptocurrency, understanding sustainable value creation, taxation in a digital economy, and cybersecurity in a cloud accounting environment. “We are grateful and proud that the SAIPA Accounting iNdaba is considered as an investment opportunity by several high-profile sponsors,” says Shahied Daniels, Chief Executive of SAIPA. “Standard Bank and Xero are the two platinum sponsors; Sage has taken up the gold sponsorship.” Commenting on partnering with SAIPA as a platinum sponsor for this year’s iNdaba, Mandisa Zwane, Head of Accounting Sector/Relationship Banking/Business Clients SA at Standard Bank notes that “We are acknowledging the strategic contribution accountants make to the economy and the positive changes the profession is experiencing. We would like to lend our voice to a critical conversation which has an impact on the sector to ensure we are driving the right strategic objectives of the sector with one of its key professional bodies.”

Colin Timmis

Country Manager at Xero South Africa, says their involvement in the event was motivated by the fact that the role of accountants has never been more important, with 40% of small and medium-sized business saying that working with an adviser meant they could keep employees on the payroll during the last year. “We are passionate about working with accounting bodies like SAIPA to push the sector forward. One way we’ve been supporting is by innovating new financial tools, from launching South Africa’s first digital bank feed that allows the automated flow of business transactions into accounting software, being able to snap receipts and upload the information from anywhere using Hubdoc, to taking all this information to seamlessly collate and eFile VAT returns to SARS,” Timmis adds.

Viresh Harduth

Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East, points out that the iNdaba’s theme dovetails with their vision of supporting accountants in moving beyond record-keeping and number-crunching, toward becoming digital transformation experts and data storytellers.

“Accountants form an integral part of our partner ecosystem, and we work closely with them to grow together and enable customer success. We aim to help create more successful entrepreneurs in the accounting space, and our accountant’s programme is an excellent springboard to accomplish this goal. This sponsorship offers us a great opportunity to not only educate the market about our offerings, but also to help grow the accounting profession and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs,” Harduth says.

For more information and to register for the SAIPA Accounting iNdaba, visit:


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