Name : Lucia Real-Martin, Director, Emerging Markets
Position : Emerging Markets Director of ACCA
Please tell us briefly about yourself.
I am the Director of Emerging Markets for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). I have been working in the accounting and finance profession for 13 years with the last 7 years at ACCA. My background is in Economics and International business. Originally from Spain, I now live in Australia where I have spent the past 17 years with my family. Before that, I spent almost ten years in the UK. I have been working in international business and development for over 20 years now, and I am very passionate about the richness that comes with learning from each other, whether people, organizations, societies and economies. That is why I deeply believe in what we do at ACCA, bringing international skills to the accounting and finance profession within emerging markets. It is very important we ensure the right governance and financial systems are in place to ensure the highest level of technical, leadership and ethical skills so that economic prosperity can thrive and allow society to progress in all areas of development. I have the privilege to work in a number of emerging economies, such as, India, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey and Myanmar to name but a few. I see tremendous talent and ambition that needs to be fostered and provided with opportunities.
When did you first come to Myanmar and what was your impression?
The first time I visited Myanmar was in 2011. I attended an Asian Federation Accountancy (AFA) meeting which brought together professional accountants from all over Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). My initial impression was that there was a lot of interest in wanting to understand how to bring accounting and finance principles to Myanmar. I recall a Professional Development session regarding International Financial Reporting Standards knowledge on a Saturday afternoon. We were not sure how many would attend given it was a Saturday afternoon, but over 300 people turned up that day. I was really impressed with the interest as well as the enthusiasm of the attendees. Even a number of issues at hand back then, you could see and be inspired by the commitment of the Accounting and Finance Profession in Myanmar. I left that day feeling very positive and extremely keen to return. Back then, ACCA already had quite a number of students in Myanmar despite the fact we did not have an office located in the country. I was keen to ensure we could find a way to support all our students, members and local professionals so when I returned in 2013 developments were taking place. I can definitely see a very fast progression in Myanmar and within the accounting profession every time I visit. It’s amazing!
What are your duties and responsibilities?
As Director of Emerging markets, ACCA, my responsibilities include implementing ACCA’s strategy in Emerging markets. Every five years, ACCA’s strategy is reviewed. Currently we are working towards 2020 with my responsibilities focused developing the professional accountants emerging markets need. This means we need to be very close to each of the emerging economies to understand that skills and competencies that are required of accountants and finance professionals to provide them ensuring that we are also thinking of the future and how the profession will change in the face of technology, new business models, the changes in economic power and geopolitical challenges.
I work with regional and in-country teams focusing on emerging markets in Asia, Europe and Latin America. A large part of my role is to understand how ACCA can be of support to professionals locally then figure out what type of resources they may require. We work and collaborate with ACCA stakeholders who work with professional accountants, universities, employers, the local profession and government.
In 2014, ACCA opened an office in Myanmar to ensure greater support to our stakeholders and the profession as a whole. My role is to lead the implementation of our strategy and guide emerging markets to support the local profession.
ACCA is also operating in a number of other countries as well. What are the differences between working in Myanmar and in other countries?
Founded in 1904, ACCA wanted to bring about opportunities for everyone with the ability and ambition to become a professional accountant. We have developed significantly in the last 113 years, with more than 188,000 members and 480,000 candidates going through the ACCA qualification operating in more than 180 countries. ACCA has 100 offices which provide a supportive network should you wish to work and travel around the globe, providing access to job opportunities. Just last year, we celebrated our 80th anniversary in Singapore and Malaysia. We have many members, all at very different levels in their careers from students to senior positions and in many sectors, which gives you a sense of the breadth and depth of the ACCA qualification, and the life-long support and commitment that ACCA offers to its members.
In a country such as Myanmar, our presence is still in its early stage of development. We work closely with the local professional body MICPA, always wanting to play a supporting role in the development of the profession, focusing on capacity building and understanding how we can best make an impact. For example, ACCA always have been an advocate of global standards, as we believe accounting is the common language for business globally. Myanmar is adopting the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). One of the ways ACCA supports the local market is through training and certifications on IFRS.
ACCA also supports our Learning Partners (institutions teaching ACCA), by providing train the trainer events, building innovations in the ACCA qualification that they teach to ensure it is fit for the future, and providing teaching materials on and offline for tutors to use in their classes
ACCA qualifications continue to change as the business environment change along with the demand of employers. In past, the role of a professional accountant was to deal mainly with technical and accounting matters, looking, which is still valid today. However, today the professional accountant while still able to be an accounting specialist has many more opportunities to contribute to the future of its organization, with their knowledge of risk analysis, strategic planning, performance management etc…being part of the Executive that makes decisions for the future of the organization, not only reporting on its past.
Markets like Myanmar still need to ensure people are trained in the technical skills but also need additional skills such as leadership/strategy so they can participate in a regional and global economy.
What are the current projects that your team has been working?
We are working very closely with Union Auditor General Office, MICPA and other relevant stakeholders to support Myanmar Accountancy Sector Development and Capacity Building of Professionals in Myanmar.
Could you please explain job opportunities for ACCA students?
As Myanmar is moving forward, a lot of global companies are start coming in and exploring new business opportunities in Myanmar. So our ACCA students are being recognized by global accounting firms, MNCs and other big local corporations now in Myanmar. Both global companies and local companies always search ACCA qualified and partly-qualified (Finished ACCA Part I and II) people for their new business initiatives and business expansion.
How does ACCA help develop human resource capacity in Myanmar?
In Myanmar, we develop human resources as well as capability by working with the local professional body, Myanmar Institute of Certified Public Accountants MICPA. In 2013, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the local professional body to collaborate. Firstly, we need to understand what is needed eg IFRF training, strategic training, financial management training and so on. We do our best to provide what is required. We also provide a pathway which means local professionals who complete the local qualification such as CPA are able to learn ACCA and vice versa. Our vision is for ACCA to be the global professional body that complements the local profession to create and grow a strong local profession.
ACCA brings an international dimension with our curriculum focusing on the international reporting standard for strategic planning. We bring about a new way of learning, knowledge and are trained to apply knowledge in a real working atmosphere. We provide not only training but also lots of learning materials engaging with employers, the local profession and government for continued professional development. All professional accountants need to engage in continuous learning.
What is the target market segment for ACCA in Myanmar?
ACCA provide a qualification for anybody who would like to be a finance professional and a professional accountant. The ACCA qualification is a global qualification fit to operate in any local market. We never compete with the local professional bodies and have been in existence in Myanmar for some time now working very collaboratively with the profession. Anyone who has ability and ambition to become a professional in accounting and finance can join ACCA – it is a very flexible qualification that allows people with no knowledge to join and others who have gained some knowledge through their university degree or local professional qualification to join at different stages recognizing their knowledge.
What are the long term objectives of ACCA in Myanmar?
ACCA’s long term objectives in Myanmar focus on being a key contributor to the development of the accountancy and finance profession. We aim to partner with local professional bodies and the government in its plan to advance and modernize the accounting profession. We believe we are the right partner to provide not only capacity building and support but also provide current and innovative accounting knowledge.
What are the long term objectives of ACCA in Myanmar? ACCA’s long term objectives in Myanmar focus on being a key contributor to the development of the accountancy and finance profession. We aim to partner with local professional bodies and the government in its plan to advance and modernize the accounting profession. We believe we are the right partner to provide not only capacity building and support but also provide current and innovative accounting knowledge.
What is your opinion on Myanmar education Sector?
Students in Myanmar are talented and willing to learn. So they invest time and effort in their education Many locals speak English well so taking up a global standard qualification like ACCA, they do quite well. Professional accountants need to know not only the principle of accounting knowledge but also how to apply the knowledge. Employers tell us they want people who can not only do the job but problem solve as well. A qualification like ACCA provides this and can add value to a professionals career.
From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in the next 1-3 years?
I feel the biggest challenge will be to ensure enthusiastic candidates in Myanmar continue their journey. ACCA is not an easy qualification. It is one that starts with knowledge and progresses to the application of knowledge moving on to skill development before approaching the professional level and demonstrating decision making. The biggest challenge is to ensure the interest in accounting and finance continues at a higher level. This is where the accounting and finance profession is moving into the future, areas such as risk management, corporate governance and business ownership. People will need to persevere if they do not pass first time around. The journey to becoming a professional accountant is difficult. Students really need to persist and rely on ACCA for the right support.
MI: If you could change one major government policy, what would it be?
This is a very important time for Myanmar. In the last 3-4 years, Myanmar and the global community in Myanmar have invested a lot of hard work. In 2014, you can see record Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the market but it is now slowing down. I would like to encourage the Government of Myanmar to continue on its path to implement global standards. This will be not easy because the road to global transparency is a challenging one. ACCA is here to support that road to have the technical, leadership and ethical skills in the professionals Myanmar needs. We look forward to continue to partner and engage with the Myanmar government and profession and feel privileged to be able to contribute.