Fighting the good fight

The view from the president: David Stanford, FCMA, CGMA

As the new CIMA president, it’s my intention to engage with as many members as possible during my term of office. I look forward to meeting you, the students and members in our global community.

As part of this engagement, I plan to be at as many new member gatherings worldwide as I possibly can. I also plan that I – or another honorary officer – should be present at every face-to-face membership assessment session.

I am a people person, and we all know that ethics is about people doing the right thing. When I first joined CIMA, our Code of Conduct fitted on two sides of A4 paper. More recently, the repercussions of corporate accounting scandals, and CIMA’s membership in the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), have resulted in a much more detailed and global code.

It’s clearly not possible to memorise all the code or carry it around in your pocket. But that doesn’t make it any less important. The issue of ethics comes to the fore every day. I’ve recently been on a European cruise holiday, where I attended a seminar on the English language. One of the issues discussed was oxymorons, and an example given was “business ethics” – which got a laugh from the audience, but which really hurt me. I thought it was a dreadful notion to spread and to get a cheap laugh from.

Every day we face making different ethical decisions – if an overpayment is mistakenly made, for example, or to do the right and fair thing for your workforce.

Most management accountants will face a big ethical issue at some stage in their careers, and I am no exception. I recently made a decision solely on ethics when I chose to make a statement to support a business associate who had previously let me down. I put my personal feelings aside as I believed it was the right course of action.

At CIMA we take business ethics very seriously, and the lesson from this small example is that there is a need to educate the public that the majority of businesses do act very ethically.

The whole CGMA Competency Framework of technical, leadership, people, and business skills is underpinned by ethics, integrity, and professionalism. In fact, all that CIMA does and stands for is underpinned by ethics.

Trust is also a key component of the Global Management Accounting Principles, through stewardship of relationships and resources. I chaired the CIMA technical committee from 2012– 15 and was responsible for taking the principles forward to CIMA Council. I believe they have considerable importance in this area.

An issue that isn’t going away is corruption – the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. A total of 39% of senior executives in 62 countries who responded to the 2016 EY Global Fraud Survey considered bribery and corrupt practices to happen widely in business in their countries. This was an increase from 38% in the 2014 survey, with deterioration appearing more marked in developed markets than in emerging markets.

The introduction by IFAC of a new international ethics standard in its final pronouncement on non-compliance with laws and regulations (NOCLAR) is another recent development. It sets out a framework to guide professional accountants on what actions to take in the public interest when they become aware of a potential illegal act committed by a client or employer, including fraud and bribery. Professional accounting bodies globally are currently reviewing how to incorporate NOCLAR into their codes. This year, CIMA and the AICPA will be considering how best to include it in their codes, and I strongly believe the guidance will be of use to members and accountants globally.

Doing the right thing sometimes has a cost, but it is critically important to uphold the integrity of our profession – for management accountants today, for our futures, and for future generations.