Andre Kilesse, a partner with BDO Belgium, became President of the Federation of European Accountants (FEE) in December 2012. As part of our series of guest blogs on CEO Insights, he shares here his thoughts on the role of FEE and what his hopes are for the future of the accounting profession in Europe and beyond.
My vision for the FEE, by Andre Kilesse
A Belgian President for the first time
Having worked in the industry for my entire career and as a BDO partner for many years, I was delighted to take on the role of President of the Federation of European Accountants recently. The FEE has just celebrated its 25th anniversary and represents 45 institutes of accountants and auditors in Europe - that’s 700,000 members in 33 countries. Previously, I was President of the Belgian Institute of Registered Auditors, as well as Vice President of FEE for the last 6 years, so I am very pleased to be able to play a continuing role in the development of the organisation as its first Belgian President. I’m also in good company, as my BDO Norway colleague Norunn Byrkjeland is a Board member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the FEE’s umbrella organisation.
My vision for the FEE
I strongly believe that the FEE’s key role is to express the voice of the profession and to be proactive in political debate by representing institutes in different countries. We aim to develop a common European standpoint on major topics that are vital both to the profession and the public interest – for example the future of audit. We also play an important reactive role, responding to consultation and EU Green papers, and seeking to coordinate European and international institutions on issues related to the profession in Europe.
The next two years will be crucial for the profession's future and it is my ambition as President to support our strategic focus on small and medium-sized practices throughout Europe. An essential part of our profession, I am particularly passionate about FEE’s key role in supporting them as they can face different problems to those experienced by larger accounting firms. Throughout my tenure, we will continue to pool and share the best practices applied by our members to help these SMPs. We’ll also make sure they continue to be heavily involved in our consultation and decision-making processes to ensure that we remain particularly attentive to their needs in everything we do.
Habitually, the work of FEE tends to be oriented towards our colleagues in private practice but, going forward, I would also like to further open up FEE’s working groups to our accounting colleagues in businesses, including financial managers.
Last but not least, there are several institutes from countries close to, but outside the European Union, as well as members of the Council of Europe, knocking on our door. I would like to grant them the attention they deserve as well, under the FEE remit.
The FEE agenda 2013
As I look ahead this year, there will undoubtedly be a wide range of issues where the FFE has a responsibility to represent the voice of our members. However, for me, there are four key areas where we should be focusing our efforts:
1. Audit reform
The European Commission launched a major public consultation in 2010 on the need to review the organisation and content of the audit function and the ensuing proposal went before the European Parliament at the end of November 2011. It includes a Regulation aimed at audits of public interest entities, including listed companies, banks and insurance providers, as well as a Directive for other entities.
This is clearly a hugely complex debate and, when the initial response is published during the first quarter of 2013, we therefore need to be prepared that it may result in unexpected or even contrary conclusions. For example, where market concentration is concerned, certain measures designed to open up markets could in fact have the opposite effect. Our role at the FEE will be to ensure that our members are supported as changes are implemented across the European industry.
2. The financial reporting model
Auditors and the audited alike are becoming dissatisfied with ‘conventional’ annual accounts. More non-financial information is required, for example on risk monitoring and environmental policies, and internal quality control systems. The idea of ‘integrated reporting’ is increasingly being put forward, and it merits further exploration. In this debate, I believe it’s important to make a clear distinction between public interest entities - listed companies, banks, insurance providers - and SMEs, because the stakeholders of these organisations do not have the same needs. SMEs need to retain a report system that is simple, accessible and not too costly, and the FEE would seek to assist them in this, where possible.
3. Anti-money laundering
Also on the table is a proposal to amend the anti-money laundering directive. This project is important if the economy is not only to be rid of, but at the same time protected from, all the criminal aspects that hamper its development. However, some proposals are causing debate in certain European Member States, such as the proposal calling for tax crime to be included in the list of underlying main infractions that lead to sanctions for money-laundering.
4. Supporting the development of the European economy
On 12 December last year, the European Commission published an ambitious action plan to modernise companies’ rights and reinforce the governance of enterprises. With objectives that include increasing transparency, encouraging shareholder involvement and improving the supervision of companies’ cross-border operations, it is another area that FEE wants to work on and can no doubt play an important role in.
So it’s clear that the year ahead will be filled with challenges and opportunities and I relish the chance to drive forward FEE’s strategy and activity to benefit our industry.