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The only way is ethics: how Chartered Accountants can steer firms the right way

A Chartered Accountant’s training imbues them with values and ethics that help them to resist external pressure and to do the right thing at all times.

“As chartered accountants, we should always live by a set of core values that motivates us to do the right thing, and be vigilant and accountable always,” says Max Loh, Managing Partner for Asean and Singapore Managing with EY.

Ethical dilemmas 

This grounding becomes increasingly important given the ethical challenges facing a Chartered Accountant, as the person who must deliver the business results. If the business isn’t delivering what it hopes to achieve, then there might be pressure to make them look better than they are.

The situation is more complicated because of the subjectivity involved in preparing financial statements, adds Christabel Michel Banda, CEO of the Insurers Association of Zambia. “There is pressure to reflect positive results, so a CA is always under pressure to produce favourable results.

It is important for CAs to stick to the code of conduct and behave in an ethical manner.”

Ethical questions aren’t limited to presenting financial results. Nutan Wozencroft, now the chief financial officer with UNESCO, remembers how a previous organisation she worked for had been losing 10 per cent of its stock at its warehouse. That would normally be a red flag to a chartered accountant, but it was overlooked because the organisation felt it was still delivering its mandate.

Strong character

Tackling those situations calls for strong character as a business leader, she adds. “You need to be able to say no, you need to be able to ask tough questions and you need to be able to stand up to your boss or a colleague and you need to make sure you’re not just doing what you are told but that you are doing what is right,” says Laila Giwa, head of finance at Skullcandy.

Values and integrity

Chartered Accountants must uphold the values they learn during their training, says Joseph Ong, Managing Director of Singapore’s 1-Group. “We have a responsibility and integrity to upkeep…It’s important to have this inner compass to be true to this belief and be able to overcome the pressures from the other people who expect us to compromise on this integrity,” he says.

Coming into the accountancy profession means being prepared to ask tough questions and make difficult decisions, says John Chiwele, CFO at Zambian company Mopani Copper Mines. “The profession has a code of ethics which becomes a reference point for what you do,” he says.