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Monday 19 August 2019
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Charge-up the power of your connections

SHELLY MOHAMMED, head of ACCA Caribbean

The rise of social media means we are more connected now than ever before. According to Statista, a market and consumer data provider, estimates show by 2020 the number of smartphone users worldwide will reach 2.87 billion – up from 2.1 billion in 2016.

However what does it mean for us to be connected 24/7 365 days a year? Is it something positive or is it an irritation? How do you feel when you do not have your mobile phone at your side?

Of course, we all have a choice about how we want to use smart phones and the technology surrounding us. Constant connection can be incredibly helpful, yet it can make us feel like we have no down-time. Balance is key, and has resulted in mindfulness and technology detoxes becoming increasingly popular.

From a business perspective, technology allows disrupters to enter markets quickly, especially as consumer demand becomes ever-more digitally-based. These changes will encourage organisations to partner with others, including competitors, to survive and thrive, developing more rounded products and solutions for their customers.

For ACCA, connections are not just about the ubiquitous technology we use. It’s about how as a profession accountants can forge new connections and sustain existing ones. It’s about how we train the finance professionals of the future to better understand the power of their professional credentials – and how to make these connections mutually beneficial.

Connecting to change

Navigating change is now more important than ever. To be successful, individuals and businesses must be flexible, resilient and adaptable. We must be prepared and capable of shaping change, and not merely being shaped by it.

It’s often through the power of our connections that we can navigate change in a strategic way. Team-work, consultants, mentors, a helpful colleague offering advice – these are all the things that help us succeed.

Utilising our connections requires emotional intelligence and nurturing our networks in a way that is constructive and beneficial. After all connections for connections sake will never result in a deep and meaningful relationship.

However, connections are good for business and career development – they get you places and move the world forward and it is through our connections we create wider opportunities. For the accountancy profession, the connections it makes help to build trust by sharing expertise and offering advice.

A great example of this is how accountants can use connections to help to close the infrastructure gap.

The term "global infrastructure gap" identifies the difference between infrastructure investment needed and the resources available to meet that need. In 2018 alone, the investment gap grew by over $400bn and it is set to grow to a staggering $14 trillion by 2040 according to Analysis from the Global Infrastructure Hub and Oxford Economics 2018.

A recent report from ACCA and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) has called for accountants to work closely with governments to tackle the global infrastructure gap challenge.

Infrastructure is critical for economic and social development around the world. From the transportation networks that enable people and goods to move around safely and effectively, to the utility systems providing power and services essential to survival. These systems and processes rely heavily on investments and funding – as well as connections.

Respondents from the global survey identified three major barriers to meeting the infrastructure needs. Fifty two percent cited a lack of political leadership; 49 percent of respondents quoted a lack of finance funding; and 40 percent said it was down to planning and regulatory barriers.

In the Caribbean, specialist respondents pointed to isolated road and highway infrastructure and core public service infrastructure as key areas requiring intervention to reduce the service gap. The survey identified a lack of funding and political leadership in the region as barriers to infrastructure needs.

Solving the infrastructure puzzle is crucial to achieving a better, more sustainable future for all, as it tackles global issues such as inequality, poverty and climate change. Infrastructure is the foundation on which our social and economic well-being is built. All around the world – national, regional and local governments make decisions that serve the public and play a critical role in building and maintaining important infrastructure investments. Forces such as demographics, rising cyber threats, urbanisation and climate change are all increasing the global demand for quality infrastructure.’

The accountant is well-placed to tackle many of the major challenges here, especially when it comes to making stronger links between public-private partnerships (PPP’s) – a contractual agreement between a public sector entity and a private entity (or group) to provide a public asset or service. The relationship between the public and private sector in facilitating the delivery of infrastructure projects is vital and accountants play an important role in getting this relationship right.

Practitioners also have a huge role to play in tackling corruption in infrastructure projects. Globally, respondents were asked what they saw as the biggest barriers to meeting the infrastructure needs in their country. Answers showed significant variation – for example, corruption was seen as a serious challenge in South Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and here in the Caribbean, but not so much in North America.

Closing the infrastructure gaps demands the right skills and knowledge. The successful provision of public infrastructure requires governments to have the right professional team in place.

And yet, a clear message resounded from the international roundtable discussions: a key player is often missing from the infrastructure project table – the accountant. The accountant must be brought to the centre of the decision-making process on the selection, financing, building and operation of infrastructure – where the particular skills and perspective of the finance professional can mean the difference between success and failure.

Regardless of the sector in which you work, it’s time to think about the power of your own connections. You can even take a quiz on the ACCA website which helps identify how you prefer to connect. Whether it’s a handshake, an email or a formal introduction, the message is to just connect.

To read more on ACCA’s Infrastructure Gap report, visit https://www.accaglobal.com/ca/en/professional-insights/global-profession/infrastructure-gap.html

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