Members must adapt to changing landscape
The high-level panel discussions at the annual conference of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) provided an ideal opportunity to explore themes and developments that have an impact on the broader business community.
Institute vice-president Susanna Chiu noted the need to understand the changing landscape and be ready to adapt as necessary. This may be especially important for the 70 per cent of members who are professional accountants in business, but everyone should be similarly aware of the proposed regulations, shifting attitudes and corporate priorities that will shape the next few years.
As moderator for the discussion on 'New drivers for business decisions and governance', Chiu encouraged speakers to consider three main areas. These were changes in market practices, the challenges presented by demographic trends, and human capital with special regard to talent retention.
'The key issue is that the business world is getting more borderless,' Chiu said. 'You used to just look at your own territory, but now everyone is thinking about Asian and global markets and having an impact on each other.'
The role of China in the world economy and the rise of consumerism in Asia are seen as critical factors. Both will have increasing influence on business structures and strategies, and on the deployment and management of human resources.
Increased wages and overheads are a pressing concern. With higher inflation, the pressure may lead to new sourcing trends that alter established trade patterns.
Major buyers may opt for closer control over third-party suppliers to boost efficiency and lower costs. This could usher in new types of co-operation with stakeholders as organisations look beyond their narrower interests. That, in turn, might create new frameworks for decision making and different models for governance.
'Now, training is focused on technical and regulatory issues,' Chiu said. 'We could be giving more attention to training members in business applications and implications, and how to ride on these trends.'
The panel, chaired by HKICPA vice-president Keith Pogson, addressed the subject of 'Coming to market: maintaining the lead in IPOs [initial public offerings]', topical given Hong Kong's top ranking as a centre for new listings.
Comments from panellists made clear the need for steady evolution in order to build on successes handling IPOs for international luxury goods and commodities companies. This was an essential next step to being seen as a genuine global player, not just a market for local and China-based entities.
'The stronger the reputation of the market and the performance of the companies, the more things will grow,' Pogson said. 'Hong Kong has access to a large and increasingly important capital base in Asia and demonstrates that again and again.'
An important challenge is to keep innovating. This means being ready to seize the initiative in areas such as renminbi IPOs, business trusts and real estate investment trusts.
'One thing that lets Hong Kong stand out is the depth of its talent pool,' Pogson said. 'But we need to develop certain skills around cross-border listings and reporting requirements in other jurisdictions.'