Congress Daily looks back at some of the more memorable sessions and people at the conference.
WCOA 2018 began with a dynamic opening ceremony, welcoming delegates traditionally, through an indigenous ‘Acknowledgement of Country’. Delegates got to share in the richness of Australian indigenous culture and were sent-off by IFAC president Rachel Grimes to begin a busy conference.
“The opening ceremony was fantastic. I was able to learn about people’s cultures, their traditions, their norms, their way of life. It was wonderful.” — Taofiki Abayomi Odubitan, Nigeria
Tuesday’s first major session with Professor Niall Ferguson set the tone for a congress concerned with purpose, best practice and the future of accountancy. Ferguson considered the odds of another global financial crisis and called delegates to heed history’s lessons.
“It was a great keynote session. I think for the accountancy profession we have to really know what’s going on with economics, we need to know where to put ourselves in the whole economic system.” — Wei Yuen Loh, Malaysia
Ayesha Khanna and AI
Dr Ayesha Khanna’s keynote presentation was a crowd favourite. Khanna debunked fears about AI technology, pointing to the crucial role AI plays in the profession, improving efficiency, supporting teams and preparing for the future.
“I felt Dr Khanna’s session was very forward-looking. It’s good to hear the endorsement, about how accountants should be working collaboratively.” — Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Malaysia
Indian filmmaker and former chartered accountant Shekhar Kapur delivered a thought-provoking session about “how to unleash the storyteller inside of you”. While the link between accountancy and storytelling may seem unclear to some, Kapur proved the crucial role that stories play in advancing a business, connecting a team and transforming the profession as a whole.
“It was great to be able to talk to Kapur afterwards and tell him that the institute he was once a member of now teaches drama, which changes corporate behaviour. His old institute is trying to use what he’s doing but in a different way, trying to shape how boards operate and the way professional advisors operate as well.” — Duncan Wiggetts, UK, an accountant at Kapur’s former firm
With “best practice” as WCOA’s Wednesday theme, former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting met delegates in the ICC Exhibition Hall. Delegates were able to take a break, and snap some photos with the cricketing legend.
“A highlight would be Ricky Ponting. I really liked that we got to play, and be part of something that is important to Australia. It was a new experience that I really enjoyed.” — Karina Jacqueline Tutacano Mayta, Peru
Keren Elazari and cyber security
How secure is your computer? Or your company’s? Keren Elazari, a former hacker turned cyber security expert, showed her audience cyber crime trends and how to avoid falling into online traps. WCOA’s audience found it particularly relevant because the profession is often the most targeted by cyber criminals, as they hold the key to their customers’ finances.
“We each have to become an IT security manager for our own home or office environment and take responsibility,” Elazari said.
WCOA 2018 was not just all work and no play. Thursday’s event allowed delegates to enjoy a night cruise around Sydney’s famous harbour. With iconic sites to see, including the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, and with food, drink and entertainment provided, the night was a perfect opportunity for delegates to relax and unwind after a busy week.
Ken Robinson on harnessing creativity
Delegates were left to reconsider their creative potential after best-selling author and renown TEDx speaker Sir Ken Robinson redefined the concept. Robinson said that despite creativity seeming a childlike quality, it is an asset that more businesses need to harness. “The fact is creativity is a function of intelligence. Some of the most creative people I know are mathematicians, scientists … you can be creative at anything at all. It’s about having original ideas that have value,” he said.
“[As accountants] We are not really creative. But the world is changing, and we need to be different in our thinking and be more relevant to the world as it is now.” – Johnny Olivieri & Abhilasha Kanthety, Australia
Generation Next, a first-time initiative by WCOA, has given more than 200 young accountants the opportunity to walk, talk and watch alongside some of the industry’s leading professionals.
Leader of Engagement and Innovation at CA ANZ and founder of the program, Olwyn Connolly, said the initiative is about “the real world”. She hopes it will provide Generation Next delegates with the “content that we hope would really make a difference to how they look at professional accountants and where their careers can go”.
Global risks, future shocks
One of the most anticipated sessions of the week was the shared panel that featured former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Moderated by renowned Australian journalist Tony Jones, panellists Yanis Varoufakis, Alison Martin, Keren Elazari and Ki-Moon discussed the 2018 Global Risks report, the threat of climate change and what being a global citizen really means in the 21st century.
Ki-Moon ended the session with a special message for the room of “world-class accountants”: “Make sure you hold your government, your creative leaders and world leaders accountable!”