Accountants must change their mindset if the profession was to regain its reputation following global scandals, according to an industry body.
The profession was going through one of its most turbulent times, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) executive director Allen Blewitt said.
The region's accountants were “inextricably part of the global process of coping with the unprecedented damage to accountancy's reputation,” he told an ASEAN Federation of Accountants meeting in Bangkok this week.
In order to have a healthy future, accountants, and particularly those working in small and medium practices, needed to change their mindset, Mr Blewitt said.
They must begin leading change by being innovative, differentiating their services and skills, continuously improving their skills, investing in technology, and reinforcing a fundamental commitment to professional ethics.
“There can be no veneer of ethics,” he said.
There was no question that the profession's future would be more structured, more governed by predominantly global standards and under more scrutiny from various national and international oversight bodies, Mr Blewitt said.
He said the long-held traditions of accountants and other professions to self-regulate were changing rapidly.
“ACCA urges the profession to abandon its somewhat self-interested notion of self-regulation and accept a balanced approach to regulation and independent oversight,” he said.
Audit, at the heart of the profession, would be subjected to unprecedented scrutiny following the collapses of US utility Enron, US long-distance phone company WorldCom and Australian insurance company HIH, Mr Blewitt said.
Part of a recent spate of corporate collapses, Enron and HIH filed for bankruptcy in 2001, and WorldCom in 2002.
Mr Blewitt said auditors would have to expect to report both on the independence of their judgement and on a number of extra areas of corporate activity.