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STRAIGHT SHOOTING: Embracing Change

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One of my pet hates is the consistent pessimism I see across this beautiful country of ours. Whether it is inflation, interest rates, crime or load shedding, many in this country choose to take every opportunity to sit back and complain rather than rise to the challenge and assist in tackling the many issues we face. Unfortunately, many in our profession are not very different. I have had the pleasure of interacting with members across the country, and the consistent theme I encounter is that of pessimism brought about by the myriad of changes to legislation, standards and the business environment in which we operate.

Change is without doubt one of the most difficult journeys each one of us has to go through. It is without doubt the only constant in life, yet it remains the most difficult experience we encounter. I have seen many embrace the changes in the auditing and accounting environments, and either enhance or revamp their business and operating models to take advantage of the opportunities that the shift in the audit and accounting profession has brought about. On the other hand, I have seen professionals stand frozen in the headlights pointing fingers, criticising, and opting to leave the country and/or the profession.

As a profession, however, we have so much of which to be proud. The CA profession in this country has opted to deal with the challenges of skills shortages and transformation head on. Rather than sit back and complain, the profession has opted to create a variety of programmes and channels aimed at increasing the number of African and Coloured CAs(SA). The Thuthuka programme spearheaded by the Institute and driven by CAs(SA) (with the assistance of various donors) has seen the profession phenomenally progress the number of African CAs(SA) and the potential African CAs(SA) in the country. Our pipeline of learners and trainees is healthy and quickly approaching the stage where it will mirror the demographics of the country. We have actively engaged with government to assist with the varied challenges that we as a country face at our schools. The profession also continues to engage actively with all levels of government in helping shape the legislation that governs our business environment.

I am of the opinion that the qualification process that current and past CAs(SA) have gone through is one of the few professional qualifications that has equipped its holders with the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies to adapt to change as effectively as has the CA(SA). The ability of a CA(SA) is bedrocked in his/her innate ability to interpret and apply knowledge effectively in almost any circumstance. This is borne out by the high proportion of CAs(SA) that lead many companies, on the JSE, their boards and audit committees. The proportion of CAs(SA) that operate as successful entrepreneurs and business people is also staggeringly large. Further, the high regard that South African CAs have and continue to be held in, both locally and globally, also bears testament to this ability.

Granted, there are many challenges and negatives to the changes in the economic landscape. Regulation and specifically overregulation is one of the many challenges with which we will have to contend. In a world driven by transparency, corporate governance, social and economic responsibilities, I expect that the level of regulation will remain, if not increase. As a profession, our role is to remain ever vigilant and play an active role in advising and recommending what could be the optimal level of regulation. However, all that said, increased regulation presents various opportunities. Regardless of the requirement, I believe that our members are as, if not more, equipped than most to take up the challenge of assisting business and government to define, implement, monitor and review their business models in the light of changing legislation. The opportunities for those that embrace change and adapt are staggering.

As a professional, I carry my designation wherever I go. I am a CA(SA) and immensely proud of it as are most CAs(SA) with whom I interact. Yes, we have challenges, not only as a profession but as a country. Yes, there are probably some difficult business and career decisions most of us will have to make. Yet, the ability and business success of CAs(SA) in general has built and will continue to build the brand and ultimately the career opportunities of all holders of the designation. However, the pessimism many of us demonstrate will ultimately impact on the bearing and strength of our brand. A CA(SA) that constantly bemoans the state of the profession and the economy to his/her children takes away the allure of the profession to the next generation of CAs(SA). It is each of our responsibilities to build what the CA(SA) becomes, whether it be promoting the future CA(SA) through our successes and efforts, or through active contribution to and participation in the structures that promote the growth and transformation of future CAs(SA). As a profession, we have a responsibility to assist in building the infrastructure that supports our communities and economy, and now is the time for us to take hands and drive change across our stunning country. The total value of confident and optimistic chartered accountants to South Africa is surely inestimable.

Nazeer Wadee CA(SA) is Chief Operating Officer, SAICA.

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