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Eight countries, seven weeks, one profession

Author: Fiona Wilkinson

Published: 19 Dec 2019

The final two months of the year are always a tremendously busy time for any ICAEW President, and I’m glad to report that 2019 has treated me no differently.

Since mid-October, I have visited Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Brussels, Dubai, Mauritius and India – a fantastically dynamic mix of cultures and indeed climates. I’ve met with members and students, engaged with accountancy firms, businesses and public bodies, and developed relationships further with some of our partner professional bodies and academic institutions.

Hong Kong

I began with a visit to Hong Kong, where we now have over 2,900 members and continue to work closely with HKICPA. Our annual Gala Dinner never fails to impress and served once again to celebrate the achievements of our members and provide fantastic opportunities for networking. Three past female HKICPA presidents attended, along with their recently-appointed CEO, Margaret Chan – and our professional stories resonated greatly with each other.


A jam-packed itinerary in Malaysia then set the rhythm for the weeks ahead. Our Global Accounting Scholarship Award ceremony at Sunway College once again showcased an awe-inspiring cohort of young talent, with scholarships being awarded to 61 students who had achieved at least nine ‘A’ grades at the GCSE equivalent – including eleven who had achieved at least three ‘A’ grades at the A-Level equivalent. Outside the college stood a life-size cut-out of a Sunway graduate – Ng Yi Sze – who achieved the highest score in the world in last year’s ACA Professional Level exams.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ng and other members and students at our annual ‘Celebrating Excellence’ awards and graduation ceremony, later in Kuala Lumpur. This event was a huge success as ever, professionally run and I’m delighted to say was attended by two of our Council members in the region, Dato Gan and David Lim.

A members’ networking event, a Sunday afternoon life members’ tea in Penang and two separate engagement events at universities that anticipate joining our strategic credits programme – both of which included screenings of ‘Without Question’ – rounded off a highly enjoyable and productive trip.


I travelled directly from Malaysia to Singapore, where the first highlight was a student networking night – with an opportunity to meet current and potential future students, as well as some of our new members.

Our Singapore Annual Dinner was excellent and served as the perfect showcase to mark the tenth anniversary of our activities across South East Asia – with spectacular food and entertainment, and a wide array of guests from across finance and business.

This trip concluded with a ‘high tea’ with senior and retired members, which was very well received. These events have become more frequent in recent years and are an important part of recognising the lifelong professional contributions that so many of our members make.


In Vancouver, Canada, I was privileged to be appointed to the board of IFAC – a role which will allow me to bring ICAEW’s knowledge and insight to the most senior levels of the global accountancy profession, and to foster relationships with the chief executives and office holders of other world-leading professional accountancy bodies.


In Brussels, I delivered the keynote speech at our ‘Women in EU Finance’ panel event. This was a joint initiative with the City of London Corporation, and welcomed speakers from across Europe to share their perspectives on the contributions being made by women in the financial services sector. Events like this serve as an important forum for us to come together and share success stories, and to help us understand the challenges we still face.


As ever, our annual Middle East Honours Dinner in Dubai was notable for its spectacle, as we recognised excellence and particular achievements in business and finance across the region. Our keynote speaker was British journalist, Rachel Johnson, and during my own speech I focused on this being a time of change and disruption across business, and how our profession must face down the challenges and embrace the opportunities.


In Mauritius, I signed a memorandum of understanding with MIPA, re-affirming our two institutes' close collaboration for the future. The Chair of MIPA then attended our ACA Graduation Ceremony, at which I was proud to present 17 new graduates with their certificates, and the SOCAM Annual Dinner once again proved a highlight of the ICAEW calendar.


On to India, and in Mumbai we held a ‘Finance in a Digital World’ event, discussing technological change and the challenges for our profession. This doubled up as a new members’ event, awarding those new members who have joined us via our Pathways to Membership programme – which is becoming increasingly popular in India. One of our new members was Vankipuram Parthasarathy, CFO & CIO of Mahindra Group – proving that ICAEW membership can be of value whatever stage you’re at in your career.

 Later in Mumbai, I attended the ICAI International Conference, attended by over 1,000 delegates, and took part in a panel, ‘The accountancy profession meeting stakeholders’ expectations’. I spoke about the need to address the audit expectation gap and of some of the challenges for our profession in the UK, and was questioned about the use of ‘Inflo’ software in our ACA exams.

Other engagements

Across these trips, my numerous meetings with member firms, businesses, public bodies and academic institutions also served to open the door to new relationships, and to further cement some of our most valuable partnerships. Global interest in our qualifications, thought leadership work and corporate training films undoubtedly continues to build.

I’m also pleased to report that our celebrations to mark the centenary of our first female member, Mary Harris Smith, are continuing with momentum across the world. In Singapore, Canada and Dubai, I attended lunches with some of our female members and senior women from business, who shared inspiring stories about their journeys to the top of their professions. I’ve been struck by the level of enthusiasm with which members and others – both male and female – have engaged with this campaign, and I look forward to this continuing as we head towards the anniversary in May 2020.

I’d like to thank all of our dedicated and hard-working staff who continue to support ICAEW’s operations across the world and who have made these and other overseas visits so successful. I look forward to continue working with you all in 2020.