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Investors missing from global financial reform process


03 May 2012


Euro & Finance

Investors' views locked out of debate, finds ACCA/Grant Thornton roundtables

Investors should be placed at the heart of global financial and accounting standards, say ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Grant Thornton in a new report. However, the pair warns that investors' views on shaping future standards are not being heard.

They also say that the piecemeal, fragmented way in which solutions to global economic uncertainty are proposed and the lack of focus on investors in the reform process prolong global economic fragility.

The report, 'Putting investors at the heart of the financial system', is based on a series of roundtables for investors and investor representatives held in markets around the world. The report proposes seven steps to improve matters.

'Investors should be the primary focus for global financial and accounting standards, yet their voices are not being clearly heard,' says Sue Almond, director of technical at ACCA. 'Investor opinion is not seen as a reference point against which to prioritise issues, nor does it drive an agenda for a continuous improvement in transparency and measures to meet the needs of shareholders.

'Investors don't always speak with one voice and the investor community opinion isn't necessarily homogenous, but this doesn't mean all voices should be ignored.

There are steps that can be taken to improve the position:

1. Setting an integrated reform agenda with investors' needs at its heart. Investors would like to see new and improved accounting, auditing, and corporate governance standards developed in a more integrated manner. Reform proposals need to be based on a solid understanding of investors' needs and priorities.

2. Continuing to develop globally consistent standards. Global consistency is essential for investors with global portfolios. Investors seek comparable information on financial statements and the application of audit and accounting standards.

3. Broadening the reports issued by companies. Integrated reporting is seen as representing an opportunity to fill some information gaps. Its closer alignment of risk management and performance could enhance investor confidence in management's ability to perform in future.

4. Spreading high standards of corporate governance. The adoption and enforcement of corporate governance frameworks and codes is patchy globally. Wider adoption is seen as valuable by investors. In some regions, improved corporate governance was seen as the highest priority for improving investor confidence.

5. Expanding assurance provision and auditors' reports. There is a desire for more information on the audit process and any issues identified, as well as information on the effectiveness of a company's management and corporate governance. Investors would be willing to pay for greater assurance if it provided more value.

6. Enabling greater investor participation in setting the reform agenda and developing new standards. Investors are keen to raise their profiles with standard setters and regulators to ensure their needs are prioritised when reforms to the financial reporting system are debated.

7. Sharing opinions to encourage further progress. Investors are keen to share opinions and ideas among themselves, to encourage the wider adoption of best practice. They are also supportive of greater dialogue with the auditing profession to increase understanding of the challenges that each party faces.

'The investor round-table discussions organised by ACCA and Grant Thornton provide a springboard for further debate,' says Steve Maslin, a partner at Grant Thornton. 'Investors are willing to explore new approaches to developing financial reporting reforms. They support the concept of a more integrated process that emphasises the interrelated nature of accounting, reporting, auditing and corporate governance standards and regulations. They fully endorse the prioritising of investor needs, ensuring that any proposals for reform begin first with a sound analysis and understanding of the challenges investors face and their most urgent priorities for improvement.

'ACCA and Grant Thornton will explore means of facilitating further debate, and continue their efforts to bring the views and interests of investors to the forefront of that debate. Policymakers, standard setters and professional bodies alike must put investors' needs at the heart of the agenda to enhance the accountancy profession.'


For more information, please contact:

Alana Sinnen, ACCA Newsroom

+ 44 (0) 207 059 5807

+44 (0) 7715 812120

Nick Cosgrove, ACCA Newsroom

+44 (0)20 7059 5989

+44 (0)7963 496144

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom

+44 (0)20 7059 5759

+44 (0)7725 498654

Notes to Editors

1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

2.  We support our 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.