The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 is a “very ambitious project”, one which will need thousands of skilled finance professionals who can work across borders, agreed a panel of experts at an ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) session at the recent Malaysian Institute of Accountants conference held in Kuala Lumpur.

When asked “what is the one thing accountants need to do to ensure they are ready for the AEC?” PwC’s Mr Soo Hoo Khoon Yean said: “The obvious one is to upscale skills, but more importantly to have a change in mindset. Instead of looking at it as a glass half empty, we should be looking at the AEC as a glass half full. Today, it’s about our readiness to prepare to be mobile because your company or clients will move towards regionalisation. And we must be able to rise up to the challenge to contribute in tandem with their progress.”

Steve Heathcote, ACCA’s executive director of markets, said: “The ten member countries of the AEC have a total population of 626 million and a combined GDP of USD 2.4 trillion. The GDP for the region is expected to double by 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group. As such, this large-scale economic plan depends on capacity building. ACCA, with its partners across this wide region, all work to ensure the talent pipeline for accountants remains strong and well supplied.

“ACCA’s presence across the ASEAN region, with offices in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and with students and members in all other markets – Brunei, Laos, Philippines and Thailand – means that we can ensure this economic programme has the finance professionals it needs to make it a success.”

Heathcote also emphasised that partnerships and joint working are important, adding: “ACCA has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and has a close working relationship with national accounting bodies and regulators across ASEAN. This enables us not just to meet the intense demand for qualified finance professionals in this region, but also to anticipate it and deliver it with our partners. ACCA regularly participates in the ASEAN Federation of Accountants (AFA) council meetings to strategise how to build capacity and strengthen the finance profession across ASEAN to meet the demands of the AEC, and to achieve the wider economic ambitions and social development goals of the region.”