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Technology, an opportunity for the growth of accountancy profession - Sri Lanka celebrates SAFA Founders’ Day

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) and the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka (CMA Sri Lanka), recently commemorated the SAFA Founders Day which was held under the patronage of Executive Director - Knowledge, Operations & Technology of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) Ms. Sylvia Tsen, who spoke on the importance of technology and how it can help the accountancy profession grow further.
CA Sri Lanka and CMA Sri Lanka, which are member bodies of the South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) and have been working together to develop the accountancy profession in the country, jointly organised the event to commemorate the birth of SAFA which was established in 1984.

Delivering an overview of SAFA history, CMA Sri Lanka President and Past President of CA Sri Lanka and SAFA Prof. Lakshman R. Watawala said that SAFA was formed to serve the accounting profession in the South Asian region and to uphold its eminence in the world of accountancy. He said the accounting body is also an apex body of SAARC. “Even though the head office of SAFA is now in India, we have now formed the SAFA Foundation, and that headquarters is in Sri Lanka which is hosted by CA Sri Lanka. This is a big achievement for our country,” he said. Prof.  Watawala expressed his hope that the foundation will go onto play a major role in the region for the benefit of the profession.

The current membership of SAFA represents ten professional accountancy bodies in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. SAFA Founders Day was commemorated across all member countries. Several Past Presidents of SAFA, including Mr. Arjuna Herath and Mr. Indrajith Fernando, who are also Past Presidents of CA Sri Lanka were present at the event. They later shared their insights during a panel discussion on technological revolution and the impact it has on the profession along with Ms. Tsen, CA Sri Lanka’s President Mr. Jagath Perera and Vice President Mr. Manil Jayesinghe.

Panel discussion (From L to R) CA Sri Lanka President Mr. Jagath Perera, CA Sri Lanka & SAFA Past President Mr. Indrajith Fernando, Executive Director - Knowledge, Operations & Technology of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) Ms. Sylvia Tsen, CA Sri Lanka & SAFA Past President Mr. Arjuna Herath, and CA Sri Lanka Vice President Mr. Manil Jayesinghe.

In her speech, Ms. Tsen urged accountants in Sri Lanka to look at technology as an opportunity even though many accountants across the world feel threatened by it. She said that technology is here to stay similar to the calculator and other inventions, therefore it should be viewed as an opportunity instead of a challenge. “Gone are the days when you show up at work, produce a ledger paper and not have to think of what it all means. The reality is we have been living in this complex world for a very long time, and we never know what the future really holds, but we must be prepared for it. Technology can be seen as an opportunity, while many of us feel threatened by it, the reality is, it is here to stay, and so, we must learn how to use technology,” she told a houseful of Chartered Accountants and Management Accountants.

Ms. Tsen noted that IFAC no longer recognizes technology as an essential trend, but as yet another element accountants must work with. Speaking on cyber-crimes, the IFAC Executive Director said that despite the increasing risks, most companies still treat cyber-crimes as an IT related risk. “But, we at IFAC view cyber threats as a business risk and as individuals who understand systems and controls, accountants are well placed in taking the lead role in dealing with cyber threats,” she said.

Elaborating further, Ms. Tsen said that professional accountants can assist by looking at risk management procedures, and ensuring there is adequate business continuity, and by helping quantify risks and implement stricter controls. “We also should have a role in protecting data and systems. This is something we believe at IFAC,” she said. But she also urged the accounting professionals not to lose on other traditional skills and competencies such as ethics, professional judgement and the ability to connect information, despite the increasing focus on technology. “It’s not about losing your job but figuring out where in the cycle you will be and must be,” she added.

Speaking on the importance of SAFA, Mr. Perera said that the regional body represents some 300,000 accountants in the region, making it a strong power block within the accounting community. “Of this 300,000, CA Sri Lanka consists of around 6000 members. By number we may be small, but our representation and contribution to the development of the profession at regional and global level is large,” he added.

A section of the gathering at the SAFA Founders Day