WCOA 2018 daily wrap: Wednesday - WCOA Sydney 2018 | The Best Accounting Conference

International Convention Centre, Sydney Australia  |  5-8 November 2018

Day 3: Practice what we preach

All talk centred on what accountants must do to get it right – now and in the future, writes Daniella Scotti.

WCOA 2018 daily wrap: Wednesday

Former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting put WCOA’s day-three theme of “best practice” in sporting terms. “In cricket, it was always about trying to find ways to get better, to lead by example with everything that we did,” he said. “It was about setting new boundaries and trying to find ways to live up to those values every day.”

Despite long queues, WCOA delegates were able to spend some time with the cricketing legend. “It was a bit of fun, something to break up the day,” Ponting said. When delegates weren’t grabbing a photo with Ponting, however, they spent the day understanding more about the meaning of best practice – for them and their profession.

Artificial intelligence and blockchain technology were popular and relevant topics during morning and afternoon sessions.

Leading AI expert Dr Ayesha Khanna began the morning by speaking to a packed auditorium just two hours after landing in Sydney. This session turned into a must-attend event for delegates, with Khanna saying AI is a “huge opportunity to improve the system”, while noting it goes beyond the accounting world.

“If you’re an entertainer, if you’re a cook, if you’re a lawyer … you will run into the need for data, technology and AI,” she said.  

Khanna’s Q&A, facilitated by Holly Ransom, was popular – more than 25 questions were lodged before it commenced. Khanna left delegates with the challenge to “start knowing what is happening to your industry so you can be ahead of the curve”.

Brian Forde, Senior Lecturer for Bitcoin and Blockchain at the Sloan School of Management, spoke about the impact of digital currencies and blockchain. He alluded to the Gartner “hype cycle” by describing the Bitcoin trend as “going down the peak of inflated expectations into the trough of disillusionment”.

Contrary to trends, Forde remains optimistic about blockchain. He predicted “in a couple of years, everyone will say they would rather go without coffee than without blockchain”.

A panel discussion about “the innovation-led finance function” included CPA Canada Chief Executive Officer Joy Thomas, DBS Bank Managing Director Jacqueline Chan, Australia Post Group Financial Officer Janelle Hopkins and Cochlear Global Planning and Finance Transformation Controller Daniel Papallo.

The 1300-strong audience was asked a poll question: “What would you say is the No.1 challenge you and your finance team face?” The most popular answer was “building an innovative culture”, closely followed by “dealing with change”.

Chan said that it’s about “taking the lessons and moving on”. Papallo paraphrased Thomas Edison: “We have not failed. We’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas said professional accountants need to be agile and able to adapt quickly to changing operating environments. “Collectively, we must be future-focused, recognising that change will continue to disrupt business models and alter the future of work but also create new opportunities,” Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Hollywood and Bollywood filmmaker and scholar Shekhar Kapur emplored a room full of delegates to find their passion and unleash their inner storyteller.

WCOA 2018 daily wrap: Wednesday
Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur reveals his thoughts on great storytelling

Free keep cups, reusable bags and water bottles, such as those from sponsor A4S, have been hard to miss at the congress, displaying WCOA’s commitment to sustainability.

WCOA Executive Organising Committee Chair Olwyn Connolly said she hoped this conscious effort will “trigger a conversation or an opportunity to do more”, given it is the “best practice of the future”.

Day three ended on a high, with best-selling author and popular TEDx speaker Sir Ken Robinson mixing humour with wisdom. He said creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of organisations exposed to globalisation, increased competition, digital disruption and diversity.

He asked the roomful of delegates to raise their hand if they considered themselves “creative”, and very few did. “An awful lot of you gave yourself low ratings for creativity because there’s a common assumption that when you ask people if they’re creative, what they think you’ve asked them is, ‘are you artistic?’” he said. “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.”

As delegates headed to enjoy the evening’s Gala Event, most walked away with a greater insight into what “best practice” means in 2018.

Delegate Fanisa Lamola, Executive Director at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, said: “Like in [Khanna’s] artificial intelligence session, you can never say you have reached the climax of a practice – the more you work on it, the more you improve.”

Justin Ikechukwu Nwosu, an accountant for ICAN and lawyer from Nigeria, said: “We are a developing country. We are not there yet like the developed world, but we will get there.”

WCOA 2018 daily wrap: Wednesday

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