Evolution or Revolution? The future of the accounting profession, debated at the anniversary edition of the Congress of the Romanian Accounting Profession

Evolution or Revolution? Change is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Nowadays, the organisational challenge is not learning to accept change, but to identify the most effective way to make change happen.
On the 3rd and 4th of October, the Palace of Parliament hosted the anniversary edition of the Congress of the Romanian Accounting Profession, the most important professional-academic event organized by the Body of Expert and Licensed Accountants of Romania (CECCAR).

The 24th edition of the Congress of the Romanian Accounting Profession, with the theme #FutureReadyProfessionals – Evolution or Revolution? marked the 100th anniversary of the first Congress of the Romanian Accounting Profession.
The event brought together some of the most representative voices in the global accounting world, representatives of institutions, regulators, business, academia and experts from related fields.
Participants explored how the accounting profession is adapting to be prepared for the future, and sought answers to define how change is made. Is this transformation an evolution or a full-blown revolution?

In an ever-changing world, where technological, economic and social advances are occurring at such a rapid pace, only those who adapt will inherit the future. “What does the future hold for us? Evolution or revolution?
In the context of rapid globalization, growing expectations from all stakeholders and complex global challenges, it is essential to adapt, innovate and strengthen our skills and knowledge. We need to be prepared for the future, to be able to successfully navigate the dynamic landscape of the contemporary world and make a valuable contribution to the good of society. In the face of these challenges, CECCAR reaffirms its commitment to promote excellence, ethics and integrity and to contribute to creating a conducive framework for innovation and progress”, Elena-Ecaterina Chivu, President of the CECCAR Superior Council President, said at the opening of the event.

Representatives of national and international organizations have delivered messages in the opening of the event, talking about the major role of the accounting professionals for the evolution of the economy, of society: Cătălin-Daniel Fenechiu (Senate of Romania), Marius-Constantin Budăi (Chamber of Deputies), Mihai Precup (Secretary of State, Prime Minister’s Office), Attila György (Secretary of State, Ministry of Finance), George-Bogdan Ilea (Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice), Jakub Bejnarowicz (Regional Director for Europe, AICPA & CIMA), Professor Dorel Mihai Paraschiv PhD (Vice-chancellor, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies).

Robert-Aurelian Șova, Vice-president of the Superior Council of CECCAR, pointed out in the Congress that the evolution of accounting was related to the evolution of business models, of the company. “If we look at the past, there has always been a symbiotic relationship between accounting and the development of society, economics and trade. [...] Today we are talking about: smart economy, smart business, smart growth, but we are only talking about accounting. Why are we not talking about smart accounting? [...] It`s clear, the time comes when we need to focus on creating value and ensuring business security. No doubt compliance remains vital, because it produces the data, information for the decision-making system. But this must be just the foundation on which we must place those services that produce added value to our customers [...] Change doesn`t have to be a binary choice between evolution and revolution, but each type of change has its place according to the specific context. Speaking of tradition, accounting principles, ethics and integrity, they must evolve. Instead, when we talk about revolutionary technologies, they change paradigms, change cultures, change processes, and this is probably where we will have to adapt rapidly, radically and adapt to modern-day reality and to the future through a revolution”. Given the importance of information and business security in the age of digitization, Robert Sova proposed to IFAC vice president to create a working group on Forensic Accounting.

Jean Bouquot, vice-president of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), believes that there has been a revolution in accounting activity in recent decades, and this pace is accelerating now . According to IFAC’s vice-president, looking to the future, sustainability is about revolution, not evolution. In terms of digital transformation, Jean Bouquot stated that “we need to act fast and to develop the necessary skills and competences. When it comes to our profession, the COVID pandemic era has led to an evolution in terms of digitisation, and this kind of evolution will continue. In the coming years we will see accountants doing things differently. This change could be a revolution.”
Bouquot believes that in order to both attract and hold on to new generations of accounting professionals “it would be better to focus on smaller developments rather than a major revolution. Let’s consider, for example, the need to constantly adapt accounting education”.

Mark Vaessen, President of Accountancy Europe, referring to the challenge launched by the event’s theme, #FutureReadyProfessionals – Evolution or Revolution? pointed out the fact that, in the Netherlands, for example, where he comes from, at least in terms of business sustainability, he has noticed an evolution. Professionals in his country have voluntarily decided to make these changes and are now part of this process. However, when it comes to the pace of these changes, at the time of transition from a voluntary to a mandatory system, the president of Accountancy Europe believes that the accounting profession will face a revolution, but it is ready to face this challenge. “Is it evolution or revolution? I come from a country where the emphasis is on evolution, not revolution,” concluded Mark Vaessen.

Philippe Arraou, President of ETAF – European Tax Adviser Federation said: “Evolution or Revolution? The question of the day. My accountant mind has to find a balance between left and right”. He invited participants to try and find a balance between the two perspectives. Arraou pointed out the fact that, in principle, all these changes in the field of finance and accounting are evolutionary, because practitioners need time to adapt to changes and new experiences: “It is better than a revolution that can happen overnight”. Nonetheless, ETAF president believes that “a small revolution could be beneficial”, especially if finance and accounting professionals know how to take advantage of the changes so that they can become “pioneers” of these transformations. The key to the development of our profession is flexibility and adaptability. “We need to adapt our procedures and operations to meet the needs of our clients and to face all the challenges we encounter both today and in the future. Change happens anyway. It’s a certainty. There is no doubt about that. As for the topic of debate, evolution or revolution, we will finally have a change anyway,” concluded Arraou.

Florin Toma, professional accountant and former president of Accountancy Europe (2019-2020), said: “Now the dictionary defines revolution as the forced overthrow of a government or social order in favour of a new system or as a radical transformation in a particular field. In no way am I suggesting that we should overthrow any system. But shouldn’t we abandon some of our outdated practices and habits and paradigms in favour of a system that is resilient to future change?”. “We have two choices. Staying in our comfort zone, with the risk of becoming irrelevant, or taking on the role of pioneers in a new era of accounting. Educate yourselves continuously! [...] Embrace technology! [...] Invest in digital tools that will make your workflow more efficient! [...] Review your company ethics! Do an internal check to make sure your ethical principles are as solid as any other aspect of your business and reassess your business model. If something isn’t working, have the courage to change it. Be agile, adapt, innovate. So, evolution or revolution? Both. “, concluded Florin Toma.

In closing, the opinions expressed on the first day of the Congress have answered the question: Evolution or Revolution? This is: Evolution and Revolution! The 24th edition of the Congress of the Romanian Accounting Profession continued on Wednesday, October 4th, with debates addressing the three dimensions of change in the profession, in three panels with topical subjects: ESG: a new paradigm of value creation; Taxation fit for digital transformation and Forensic accounting for better governance.

The recording of the event is available on CECCAR TV.

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