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AUTUMN 2018 | p.03











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by Mr Maurice Sleypen





Dear Esteemed Members,

When thinking about education and the Accountancy

profession, many questions come to mind. Is

today's education designed to meet the challenges

of the future? What should be the common body

of knowledge prescribed for career aspirations in

professional accountancy? Can we define the skills

of the future accountant? How should we embed

professional scepticism in the education process? Is

the importance of CPD recognised or is it seen as a


The accounting profession will face significant changes

in the coming years, and professional organisations,

their members, and educational institutions must

respond accordingly. The evolving smart and digital

technology, continued globalization of reporting and

disclosure standards, and new forms of regulation are

also major challenges for the profession.

The future accountants will use increasingly

sophisticated and smart technologies to enhance their

traditional ways of working, and these technologies

might even replace the traditional approach.

Globalisation will create more opportunities and

challenges to the accounting profession. It encourages

the free flow of money from one capital market to

another, enhances overseas outsourcing activities, as

well as stimulate exchange of professional & technical

skills. That said it will also compromise and curtail the

ability to resolve local problems.

Increased regulation, and the associated disclosure

rules, will have the greatest impact on the profession

for years to come.

and the outsourcing of accounting services, evolving

regulations vis a vis tax regulation, adopting new forms

of corporate reporting as well as integrated reporting


Adoption of technology and digital competence are the

key areas creating the skills gap in the profession. At

present, accountants lack knowledge in transformation

of new disclosure regulations, new forms of disclosures,

and awareness of the interconnectedness of financial

and non-financial reporting. Professional accountants

will need the skills to provide all-inclusive and holistic

corporate reporting, which is less about the numbers

and more about the narrative of the organisation.

It cannot be stressed enough, that the future of the

accounting profession in our rapidly changing society

will be determined not only by the profession's

adaptability and utilisation of the expanded

opportunities, but also by the intellectual vigour,

calibre, and skill of its members.

There is no simple response to the various questions

put forward, however it is an opportunity to think

about the future and the role of education. In order to

assist current and future professional accountants to

retain their competitive edge, our aim as an Institute is

to guide students and our members, the accountants

in the right path, to achieve the required knowledge

and skills in this ongoing educational journey.

William Spiteri Bailey


Therefore, one cannot help but ask, do our current

teaching methodologies prepare the young generations

adequately for the skillset, which the future workforce

will need?

Education in digital technology has now become

imperative. The future skills will focus, amongst others,

on cloud computing, the use of big data, globalisation

04 Autumn 2018


270 New Members join the Mia

The Malta Institute of Accountants welcomed 270

New Members in a special ceremony held at

Mediterranean Conference Centre on Thursday

October 25. The new members were formally

received into the Institute after graduating in

accountancy programmes by the University of Malta,


“The accounting profession in Malta is growing in

size and, more importantly, in stature,” said MIA

President William Spiteri Bailey in his address. “The

Institute is committed to keep raising the standards

of the profession and today we enjoy the respect of

other professionals both in Malta and abroad.”

The ceremony was attended by distinguished

international and local guests including ACCA

Global President Mr Leo Lee and Regional Head of

Policy Mr Nick Jeffrey, ICAEW Regional Director Dr

Martin Manuzi, FEMA Dean Prof. Frank Bezzina, and

former MIA President Mr Frederick Mifsud Bonnici.

High achievers in the three streams of study, were

presented with an award by the respective guests on

behalf of the University of Malta, ICAEW, and ACCA.

MIA CEO Maria Cauchi Delia said that the Institute

currently represents more than 3,000 accounting

professionals in Malta: “The Malta Institute of

Accountants is a force of change and development.

Through its work and strategic partnerships, the

accounting profession in Malta keeps ahead of the

curve in transformations affecting global business

and finance.”

During the New Members ceremony, the Kevin

Mahoney Award for Altruism was presented to

Malcom Custó by Ryan Mahoney, the son of the late

Kevin Mahoney, for his work with Puttinu Cares

Foundation. Now in its third year, the award gives

recognition to MIA members who demonstrate the

values of the Institute beyond their professional life.

Maltese students

celebrate ACA success

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England

and Wales (ICAEW) ACA graduation ceremony took

place recently. The ceremony celebrated the

success of 7 graduates and welcomed one in to

ICAEW membership.



MIA in touch with accounting professionals

Mazars Malta team Mr. William Spiteri Bailey

MIA Connect for Young Professionals

‘A Simple Hello Could Lead to a Million Things’

Visit to the Deloitte Malta centre in Mrieħel

The MIA Young Members Committee held its first event

targeting the young members of the Institute in October,

where the institute got closer to the young members of the

profession and heard their concerns and suggestions.



Marco Vassallo, Simon Xuereb and Jonathan Dingli have been appointed as Partners while

Adrienne McCarthy, Mark Curmi and Vanessa Borg have been appointed as Directors.

Marco Vassallo:

Marco joined KPMG in 1995 as a software

programmer and, has been a driver in the evolution of IT

Administration, IT Operations Management, IT Security

& IT Strategy. During his progression towards the role of

CIO, Marco planned and deployed numerous IT projects

locally and also lead a number of large-scale deployment

projects across other KPMG jurisdictions. Marco

spearheaded a number of IT due diligence projects and

lead the IT stream during the acquisition assignment of

one of the top software development companies in Malta,

followed by the establishment of their IT infrastructure

and the adoption of KPMG’s IT policies, procedures and

processes. Marco has now joined the advisory team

bringing to the table a new service offering to the market,

Custom Software Development via KPMG Software.

This tech company offers expertise within the software

development field across the whole project life cycle to

clients from across the globe.

Simon Xuereb:

Simon, a lawyer, specialised in International Taxation

and Law has led the ongoing development and broadening

06 Autumn 2018

Members are invited to inform the Institute about their appointments for due consideration, to be included in this section of the journal.


of KPMG in Malta’s Private Client and Global Mobility

Services offering and today leads a multi-disciplinary team

of professionals in this space. He is also actively involved in

the development of this service offering at a global level

for KPMG. He is a regular lecturer, examiner and supervisor

on various tax related courses in Malta and abroad and

has authored a number of papers in leading international


Jonathan Dingli:

Jonathan leads the Accounting Advisory Services

(AAS) unit, a unit he helped set up. Jonathan assists local

and international clients across various industries with

respect to IFRS advice and IFRS adoption, including first

time adoption of IFRS and transitioning to new standards.

During a term of office with the MIA technical department,

he wrote a number of technical pronouncements on the

application of IFRS to specific local circumstances and

was responsible for the drafting of GAPSE. He has been

specialising in IFRS since 2008; he has lectured on IFRS in

various countries, ran various IFRS courses for KPMG and

the MIA and has given presentations at various events and

conferences. He lectures on advanced financial reporting

in the Master in Accountancy post-graduate degree at the

University of Malta.

Adrienne McCarthy:

Adrienne manages the firm’s internal HR team,

focusing on attracting talented people to the firm

and implementing important employee engagement

strategies, which have played a key role in achieving

the firms growth strategies. Since joining, Adrienne has

led numerous projects in areas such as recruitment,

engagement, management development and talent

management. Adrienne is MSc qualified in Organisational

Psychology with a BBS in Business Studies and has over 20

years global HR experience, having worked in 5 continents

in a combination of HR consultancy and in-house HR

roles. Adrienne’s personal drive and vision has been and

continues to be about building a firm of talented people

who enjoy working cohesively to achieve the Extraordinary.

acquisitions of Banks and Financial Institutions, licencing of

new Credit and Financial Institutions, ongoing regulatory

advice and assistance, and, more recently assignments

related to the emerging fields of financial technology, Coin

Offerings and Virtual Currencies.

Mark represents the local practice at KPMG’s ECB

Office in Frankfurt and forms part of KPMG’s Global DLT

Working group.

Vanessa Borg:

Vanessa has taken up the role of Director, Strategy

Advisory having joined the organisation in September

2018. She has direct experience of the challenges based

by C-suite executives in growing their business and the

acumen to engage in board level discussions, supporting

them in their high level strategic decision making processes.

Vanessa has been engaged on a number of international

projects, as a Strategy Advisor within the Hospitality,

Manufacturing, Education, Tourism, Information

Technology, Communications, Retail, I-Gaming, Financial

Services and Public sectors.

She has been active within the international

management field for over 20 years, recently serving as

a Chief Executive Officer within the insurance industry.

During her tenure, the organisation transitioned back into

profitability. Besides being engaged to provide strategic

levels support, Vanessa has also assisted companies to

improve their operational business model, in areas such

as; planning, developing and implementing performance

management systems that feed into succession planning

and talent management, developing and assessing

standard operating procedures, Executive recruitment

and selection, coaching, employee engagement studies

and analyses, quality audits, setting up knowledge

management platforms, conducting training needs

analysis and delivering tailor made training programmes.

Mark Curmi:

Mark is the industry specialist leading the Banking,

Financial Institutions and VFA Advisory services arm of the

Malta practice. He holds a Bachelors’ degree in Banking,

with Honours in Management from the University of Malta,

and has in excess of twelve years of local and international

banking experience. Mark joined KPMG in 2014, to drive

the Banking Service offering across Audit, Tax and Advisory

within the firm.

His role within the firm is one of an industry

specialist, which has seen him at the forefront of some

major engagements, including advice with disposals and






Grant Thornton Malta is pleased to announce

the appointment of Daniel Gravino as Director

for Economic Advisory Services. Daniel has

joined the organisation in a newly created

position within the Transaction Advisory

Services division, as part of the firm’s efforts

to expand its service offering for its local and

foreign client base.

With extensive experience in economics and data

analysis Daniel has the skills necessary to address

pertinent issues facing business, government and

financial institutions. His work spans several sectors

including the public sector, financial services, real

estate, health, transport and telecoms. He holds

a Master of Science in Economics and Industrial

Organisation from the University of Warwick and an

MA in Economics from the University of Malta. Daniel

is also currently reading for a PhD in Economics from

Loughborough University.

Prior to joining Grant Thornton, Daniel was

a Director at the Office for Competition, Head

(Economic Research) at Malta Enterprise, and Senior

Economist at the Economic Policy Department,

Ministry for Finance. Daniel also occupied a number

of advisory and consultancy roles. He was a member

of the European Commission's Working Group

on the 'Methodology to assess Lisbon-related

structural reforms'; acted as advisor to the Office for

Competition on mergers and competition practices;

and served as consultant to the European Parliament

on matters related to corporate tax avoidance. He

is also a visiting assistant lecturer at the Economics

department of the University of Malta.

Thanks to Grant Thornton’s combination of

experienced people, sophisticated economic models,

and access to the right data, the firm offers its clients

an unbeatable problem-solving formula. On an

international level Grant Thornton International is

already broadly recognised as an undisputed leader

in economic and data analysis. By combining its local

team’s experience in economic advisory and access

to a 135-global office network, the Malta firm aims

to provide the most comprehensive economic and

financial analysis of countries, regions, industries and




In August 2018, Rosemary Amato took up the role of Director

within the Risk Advisory function at Deloitte Malta.


Rosemary joined Deloitte 21 years ago – having

previously occupied leadership roles in both the US

firm and the Netherlands firm. She also served as

the Managing Director of Deloitte’s Global Finance

organisation, where she occupied the role of

Controller for the EMEA region.

Throughout her years with Deloitte, Rosemary

specialised in client service in the Risk Advisory

practice across various industries – focusing mainly

on Security & Controls within ERP apps, Master

Data Management, IT audit, Internal Audit, GRC and

Regulatory compliance (particularly FDA and GMP).

Rosemary also held the role of Risk Advisory

Knowledge Management leader for two years,

where she focused on enabling a knowledge sharing

environment for the 12,000 Risk Advisory member

firm professionals located throughout the world.

08 Autumn 2018












The Accountancy profession continues to flourish

and grow. The increasing request from students

wanting to embark on Accountancy programmes

(such as the Master in Accountancy offered by the Faculty

of Economics, Management and Accountancy) is also largely

due to Malta’s good performing economy and the increasing

demand for more qualified accountants. However, like all

professional careers, it is subject and conditioned by a rapidly

changing world. As Plato put it: “The price good men pay

for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

We certainly cannot let this happen and we therefore need

to constantly think about the evolving profession. Indeed, to

put Plato’s dictum into our contextual reality, may I refer to

a study by Frey and Osborne (2013) entitled “The Future of

Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?”,

wherein accountants and auditors were reported to have

a 94% chance that computerisation will lead to job losses

within the next two decades for this group. Although this

piece of news may sound alarming or even depressing, there

is, from where I stand, light at the end of the tunnel if the

accountancy profession actively embraces change. Needless

to say, an accounting qualification today offers unparalleled

career opportunities and mobility, if only we ensure that

the evolution of the profession happens in line with the big

changes that are likely to occur. I will highlight a few ideas of

my own on how I see this important profession evolving:

First, top management today requires that accountants

contribute proactively to management decision-making and

business development, and not act merely as book-keepers

and regulatory overseers. They need to ‘make history’ with the

top management team and not merely ‘record history’, and

become critical players and partners in business management

and business development teams. There is a shift in focus

from financial accounting to management accounting – In

engaging CFOs, CEOs look as much for entrepreneurial flair,

commercial savvy and business understanding, as they do

for technical ability, competence in regulatory oversight and

understanding of financial management internal control.

Second, the advent of Business Intelligence, Big Data,

Artificial Intelligence and Fintech is a reality as we speak. Far

from being a threat, this is a huge opportunity and signals

exciting times ahead. It means that accountants are released

from mundane repetitive tasks that can be automated

and released to contribute more to intrapreneurial roles in

business development and optimisation.

Third, accountancy will not be simply a profession

dealing with numbers but accountants will be called to

safeguard good company ethics, set higher standards of

integrity, and to project the values of accuracy, honesty,

objectivity, transparency and reliability that stakeholders

expect in providing a service to them and to the greater good

of society.

Fourth, qualified accountants are nowadays occupying

more leadership roles in virtually every sector, from financial

services to banking, commerce and industry, NGOs,

institutions, charities and the public sector. This means that

the importance attached to people skills and leadership in

today’s organisations among accountants will become top

priority. In fact, many qualified accountants increasingly go on

to reach CEO positions – in the UK the FTSE 100 CEO tracker

reports that over half of Britain’s top bosses have a finance

background, while one in four CEOs of FTSE corporations are

qualified accountants.

Finally, we should see more accountants of the future

embracing a strong entrepreneurial spirit as we witness a

large number of qualified accountants end up opening their

own business earlier or later in their career.

These are only a few thoughts of how the accountancy

profession and the accountants’ repertoire of skills will

expand and change in the future. As the Faculty of Economics,

Management and Accountancy, University of Malta, we are

certainly doing our best to prepare our young graduates

in this direction. Our initiatives include industry outreach,

courses intended at brokering excellence, possibilities for

overseas visits and Erasmus exchanges, thereby offering our

students/graduates a truly holistic experience.

Indeed, the accountancy profession is not destined

to finish but it will certainly be transformed. Let us all work

together to ensure that the profession retains its critical

position in the life of tomorrow’s organisation.


Frey, C.B., & Osborne, M.A. (2013) “The Future of Employment:

How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?”, Technological

forecasting and social change, Vol. 114, pp. 254-280.

10 Autumn 2018












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Zaghfran Road, Attard ATD 9012,


Tel: +356 21345 760



Recent Changes in the Master in

Accountancy Course of the

University of Malta







As many accountants will be aware, the University

of Malta has been running a professional

accountancy course since 1978. Over the years, this

course has witnessed an ever increasing demand

by students, and it has proven to be very popular

among employers.

In my view, one main reason

for this is that, beyond covering the minimum

academic requirements for students to attain the

CPA warrant, it consistently included additional

features, such as a dissertation requirement in the

final year of the course, and the taking up earlier on

(at Bachelor of Commerce level) of another stream

besides accountancy – currently out of economics,

management, marketing, public policy, banking or

insurance - such inclusions providing students with

an opportunity to begin to specialise.

In addition to this, in 2012, the University

restructured its Bachelor of Accountancy (Hons)

course, upgrading it to a Master in Accountancy. A

previous article in this Journal (Autumn 2016: 52-54)

has already explained in detail the significant changes

this upgrade brought to this mainstream course in

the Maltese professional accountancy education.

Among other changes, the course introduced the

choice of one elective study unit - out of international

taxation, international financial reporting, public

sector financial reporting, financial instruments and

risk, project management and entrepreneurship and

small entity financial reporting – to provide an even

bigger opportunity to students to branch out into

more specialist areas. Furthermore, new modules

were introduced or strengthened: these included

modules in corporate governance, internal auditing,

IT auditing, financial services legislation and research


The result over the past six years has been

that of rendering the course even more in demand

(currently having about 100 postgraduates in each

year) despite its rigorous entry requirements: a 65%

minimum average pass in key study units at B Com


Further refinements to the Masters in

Accountancy have just been launched in the current

(2018/19) academic year.

The main ones are the following:

For students to have more time and to develop

more skill in selecting their dissertation theme, the

advanced research methodology course (Research

Issues in Accountancy) has been relocated from the

second semester to the first semester of the first year

of the course.

On the other hand, the elective study units

referred to above have been relocated from the first

to the final year, so as to enable students to have more

time to decide on their choice of specialist elective

topic. This change, together with the preceding

one, is also aimed at students possibly aligning their

choice of elective with their dissertation area.

A number of study units have been rearranged

in such a way as to bring more balance in study

workload throughout the four-semester course.

This involves both the timing of such units and their

examination. At the same time, the fourth (and final)

semester has been retained solely for the writing up

of the dissertation and for a contemporary issues

course, this enabling students also to meet and

discuss current issues with experts/specialists (e.g.

visiting professors, practitioners) in the accountancy

and related professions just prior to entering the

market as graduate accountants.

In the meantime, the Department has continued

to encourage the upgrading of the competencies of

12 Autumn 2018


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its academic staff, requiring all its full-timers to attain

have already graduated in other non-University

0037-BH22 Shireburn Indigo A5 Ad 2.indd 1 12/11/2018 11:06

both a Ph.D. in an area of accountancy and a CPA accountancy professional courses, but who have as

warrant. This, together with the input of around 50 yet missing Maltese Law and/or Maltese Taxation for

part-time specialist accounting practitioners, ensures them to attain their CPA warrant. Such applicants are

that the right balance between theory and practice required to sit for the relevant examinations.

continues to be inputted in the teaching of this Each of the electives referred to earlier is now also

professional course. Publications in peered-reviewed open for Maltese Certified Public Accountant warrant

journals by members of the academic staff are also on holders who want to attend for them to fulfil their

the increase, and it is planned that the Department Continued Professional Education requirements. In

will be in a position to open up also for Ph.D. courses this case participants are not required to sit for any

in accountancy within the next five years.

assessment but to attend regularly.

One finally notes that:

Accountant woman returners are being given (and

some have already taken) the opportunity to attend,

without subjecting themselves to any assessment,

two of the indicated advanced major accountancy

study units in the Master in Accountancy course

so that they may catch up with their Continuing

Professional Education hours missed during their

years of absence from accountancy-related work.

As from the academic year 2018/19, at the

request of both the Accountancy Board and the

Malta Institute of Accountants, the Department

of Accountancy has made available the relevant

Master in Accountancy study units for those who

Applications for any of the above are normally

done each summer and for the following academic

year. For further enquiries, one may also contact the

Department of Accountancy on 2340 3357/2700.



Is our workforce ready

for an age of acceleration?







I have a son aged fourteen. As he embarks on what is

to be the start of a long student journey that should equip

him with what is required to join the workforce, my biggest

concern remains his future employability. My concern

does not emanate from a common concern that robots

might replace human activity but rather from a more basic

concern: whether our current teaching methodologies

are preparing him and our young generations adequately

for the skillset which the workforce of the not-so-far

future will need.

The world in which we operate is going through rapid

change - one where transformation is a reality - accelerated

among other things by the onset of the new digital era. As

a parent and as an employer, I often wonder whether, as a

country, we are equipped enough for this transformation;

and whether our education system is agile enough in the

face of these accelerated changes. How prepared are this

and future generations, how prepared is the country’s

current and future workforce, how prepared are our

current and future leaders for the agility and flexibility that

will, without doubt, be required of them?

Individuals’ preferences, behaviour and interactions

are evolving, and the way in which organisations operate

is also transforming. This shift poses important questions

about the skills which will be required in future, our

assumptions about careers and employment, and the

extent to which Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine

learning and robotic process automation will enhance,

lessen or replace human activity. Now, more than ever,

our educators, employers and business leaders need

to collaborate, to anticipate, to plan and implement a

fully-fledged strategy that will enable Malta to build the

workforce of the future. And we must act fast, if we want

to remain relevant and competitive.

The change that we require needs to start at the very

heart of our education system – it needs to focus on the

country’s vision for education, the quality of teaching and

the agility to transform and remain sustainable.

The quality of teaching, a sustainable approach

To achieve the success that other countries have

achieved within education, we need to study and analyse

their success factors in depth. Finland, for instance, is

without doubt a pioneer and a world leader in this area.

For starters, the teaching profession in Finland is highly

valued, it follows a school system based on equality and

trains teachers through science-based programmes.

Teachers are free to choose their methodologies. Their

aim is to equip students with a ‘can do’ attitude, a creative

mindset, a problem-solving outlook and agility to adapt –

all factors that are somewhat distinct from our country’s

exam focused culture.

The speed at which the world is changing and the

digital era within which we are operating must be planned

and catered for. Teaching methodologies cannot stagnate

when everything else around us is changing. Not only must

teaching content change but too must methodologies –

moving away from an individualistic class-based approach

into a team project-based approach, moving away from a

one-man, one-solution mindset to solving complex issues

together, moving away from a hand-holding culture to a

research-based, collaborative culture.

Learning skills rather than subjects

While businesses today are in need of highlydeveloped

talent in a wide array of specialized areas,

employers and graduates often realize that there is a

mismatch between what qualifications prepare our

graduates for and the career-relevant skills that the

modern workplace demands. The solution lies in the next

level of innovation in learning to address this skills gap.

Traditionally, teachers primarily teach and have

taught school subjects. We now need to move away from

teaching subjects and towards a future where teachers

will increasingly teach comprehensive learning skills.

We need to move away from learning mechanically and

move into a space that our children, our young adults and

our more mature audiences are active learners and fully

engaged. This will make teaching and training problem

and phenomenon based, developing learners’ analytical,

problem-solving and thinking skills. It will lead to a much-

14 Autumn 2018



awaited shift towards cross-disciplinary learning concepts,

methodologies and programmes in a technology-driven

learning environment. This approach enables learners to

learn how to learn, to be constantly learning new things

- an approach that will generate an agile and flexible

workforce. This ‘adaptive learner’ methodology is indeed

the sustainable approach in the face of the impact of

emerging technologies and changing work patterns.

Embracing technology, not resisting it

Embracing the digital era and managing the human

interface with technology is critical to educators and

employers. Our learning methodologies need to

incorporate technology and employers need to assess

not only the opportunities, but also the challenges of

leveraging exciting new technologies like AI and machine

learning to deliver value for customers. The key to

success lies in retaining human insight, skill, creativity

and oversight, while exploiting the analytical power,

personalisation, customer convenience, speed and reach

that technology offers.

Our schools, university and our higher education

institutions must support this fundamental change

by investing in continuous development, in learning

and in research-based teacher education. Hypersonic

accelerations of technology and data should stimulate

innovative educators to create new pedagogical systems

that empower students with the skills today to lead


At the corporate level, transformation in learning is

upon us. It is rapidly shifting into, virtual learning blending

in with classroom learning. I have personally witnessed this

evolution of service offering in our Academy. C-suite clients

and corporates are no longer looking for training sessions.

They expect a service offering that blends the use of oneto-one

coaching, with the use of online learning platforms

and the more traditional face-to-face classroom learning.

Although they may initially reach out to us to foster the

growth and development of skills gaps based on their

specific needs and industry requirements, demand quickly

evolves into a need to co-create strategies and to assist

them with innovating their businesses through advanced

techniques such as design thinking. The form and shape of

learning is indeed shifting, and it is doing so continuously.

To conclude

“So, what should we tell our children? That to stay

ahead, you need to focus on your ability to continuously

adapt, engage with others in that process, and most

importantly retain your core sense of identity and values.

For students, it’s not just about acquiring knowledge,

but about how to learn. For the rest of us, we should

remember that intellectual complacency is not our friend

and that learning – not just new things but new ways of

thinking – is a life-long endeavour.” Blair Sheppard Global

Leader, Strategy and Leadership Development, PwC

I have purposely decided to focus this article on

learning and education across professions and not to

limit it to the accounting profession. I firmly believe

that the challenges and opportunities we are facing are

nation-wide and not profession-specific. They are indeed

a reflection of the megatrends and the pace of change

we are facing, indeed one which is accelerating. This

acceleration does not allow us time to sit back and wait

for events to unfold but it is a time to be prepared for

the future. In order to retain its competitive edge, Malta

must outline a nation-wide strategy that brings together

all stakeholders with the aim to be agile in the co-creation

of an education system that fully prepares the nation’s

workforce of the future.



Asonitou Sofia, 2015, The Evolution of Accounting Education

and the Development of Skills (Technological Educational Institute of


Azizul Islam, Muhammad,2017 , Future of Accounting Profession:

Three Major Changes and Implications for Teaching and Research

Mathews M.R. 2010, The way forward for accounting education?

A comment on Albrecht and Sack 'A Perilous Future'




16 Autumn 2018


Key trends shaping the transformation of the

accounting industry and its impact on the

profession education program

The global economy is changing at a very fast pace. This is bringing with it a number of changes and challenges

to the accounting profession, which must keep up with the pace of change. Accounting education, both at

universities and other higher education providers, must ensure that the newly qualified accountants develop

not only the technical expertise to help organisations sustain economic growth but they must supplement

this with highly developed personal skills and professional qualities.

Drivers for change

In its report, Professional accountants – the future: Drivers

of change and future skills (, 2016), ACCA

identified the main drivers for change that will impact the

accounting profession in the years to 2025 together with the

skills and competencies that will be required by professional

accountants in the future.

According to this report (, 2016, pg.

10), the drivers that will bring about major changes to the

accountancy profession are:

1. Regulation and governance

2. Digital technologies

3. Expectations on professional accountants

to look beyond the numbers

4. Globalization

Regulation and governance

In the coming years, increased regulation and stronger

governance are expected to have the greatest impact on the

accounting profession. We have seen in recent years how

well-known frauds and scandals have led to an exceptionally

huge increase in the demand for forensic accounting services.

It is expected that tax specialists will experience the greatest

challenges following intergovernmental tax action to limit

base erosion and profit-sharing (, 2016, pg.


Digital technologies

We are living in a world that is being driven by the quick

advancements in technology.

In their book, The Future of the Professions: How

Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts

(Susskind and Susskind, 2015), the authors forecast two

different futures for professions. First, professionals are

expected to use increasingly sophisticated technologies to

enhance their traditional ways of working. Second, intelligent

automated accounting systems (e.g. cloud-based accounting

systems) are being developed and these are expected to

displace the work of traditional professionals.

Blockchain and its related applications are expected to

make a huge change to the accounting profession. These

have the potential to enhance the accounting profession by

reducing the costs of maintaining and reconciling ledgers.

Accountants can gain clarity over the available resources and

obligations of their organisations (, 2017).

The large amount of data being collected, processed,

stored and communicated has transformed the way in

which business is being done. Big data and data analytics can

enhance the work that accountants do and the contributions

that they make to their organization. Expert use of analytics

will enhance financial reporting. Data analytics tools help

accounting professionals create more accurate and detailed

forecasts. These tools allow professionals to link financial and

non-financial performance and provide more comprehensive

reporting of their performance to shareholders and other

stakeholders (, 2017).


What will be expected of professional accountants?

Professional accountants will be required to look beyond the

numbers; they need to interpret and explain these numbers.

They will need to analyse a broader range of data, provide

forward-looking information and help organizations to

achieve their objectives. Professional accountants will need

to make professional judgements by acting with integrity and

exercising objectivity and professional skepticism.


More organisations are expanding across borders to

enhance further their long-term success. This creates more

opportunities and challenges to professional accountants

who have to develop the required interpersonal skills to work

successfully with people from different countries and culture.

Globalisation increases the importance of accountants

keeping abreast with global issues and adapting to any

changes that may occur. This issue of globalisation is foreseen

in the continuing harmonisation of accounting standards.

Impact on the professional education program

How will these changes affect accounting education?

Accounting graduates will need to have better developed

professional skills to succeed in the future ((

au, 2015)).








SINCE 2003.



In its 2016 report, ACCA has identified seven professional

quotients of success, i.e. seven future skills which professional

accountants of the future will need to develop:

“Technical skills and ethics: The skills and abilities

to perform activities consistently to a defined

standard while maintaining the highest standards of

integrity, independence and skepticism.

Intelligence: The ability to acquire and use

knowledge: thinking, reasoning and solving problems.

Creative: The ability to use existing knowledge

in a new situation, to make connections, explore

potential outcomes, and generate new ideas.

Digital: The awareness and application of existing

and emerging digital technologies, capabilities,

practices and strategies.

Emotional intelligence: The ability to identify

your own emotions and those of others, harness and

apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them.

Vision: The ability to anticipate future trends

accurately by extrapolating existing trends and facts,

and filling the gaps by thinking innovatively.

Experience: The ability and skills to understand

customer expectations, meet desired outcomes and

create value.” (, 2016, pg. 26)

Universities and higher education providers must ensure that

accounting graduates will possess these professional skills

and knowledge. Lecturers need to broaden their own skills in

order to assist students to apply these skills in the real world.

How can this be achieved?

In a study carried out recently, Shaping the Future of

Accounting in Business Education in Australia ((Cpaaustralia., 2015)), participants were asked to suggest strategies

for higher education providers to produce graduates who

possess the necessary skills and knowledge required for the


Some suggestions included:

To broaden the areas of studies, e.g. the need

to include study units on cloud computing, data

analytics, integrated reporting, digital technology;

To include work integrated learning initiatives

(internships) as part of the study program and use

related learning strategies (including integrated case


To involve organisations, firms and alumni more

in the classroom and even online;

To integrate the development of professional

skills across the whole curriculum;

To increase focus on the social, environmental

and ethical aspects of accounting.

The changing demands on the skill requirements for

accountants will reflect directly on the provision of education.

Recently, a number of accounting education providers have

introduced changes to their qualification to ensure that it

remains relevant and it develops professional accountants

with the skills and knowledge required. Integrated case

studies using real-world scenarios have been introduced

where the students are required to blend technical,

professional and ethics skills in evaluating the information

given and presenting their answer. Ethics modules have been

developed where the student needs to demonstrate that

he/she understands and can apply ethical and professional

behavior in real-world work situations.


The four drivers of change, regulation and governance,

digital technologies, expectations and globalisation, are

proving to be a major challenge to the accounting profession.

Accounting education providers must ensure that their

qualifications remain relevant: they must ensure that their

qualifications are equipping students with a unique blend of

professional skills and technical knowledge, which is required

in a rapidly changing business landscape.

REFERENCES: (2016). [online] Available at:


[Accessed 9 Oct. 2018]. (2017). Are You Ready? Data Analytics Is Reshaping the Work

of Accountants | CFO Innovation. [online] Available at: https://www.cfoinnovation.


[Accessed 10 Oct. 2018]. (2015). [online] Available at:


shaping-the-future-final-report.pdf?la=en [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018]. (2017). Blockchain and the future of accountancy. [online] Available


blockchain-and-the-accounting-perspective [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018]. (2017). The end of the accounting profession as we know it? | News |

ICAS. [online] Available at:

[Accessed 9 Oct. 2018]. (2017). Future of Accounting Profession: Three Major Changes and

Implications for Teaching and Research | IFAC. [online] Available at: https://www.ifac.


[Accessed 9 Oct. 2018]. (2013). [online] Available at:


181-Fouche-J-P/IJES-05-2-137-13-181-Fouche-J-P-Tt.pdf [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018].

Susskind, D. and Susskind, R. (2015). The Future of the Professions: How Technology

Will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Oxford University Press.

18 Autumn 2018

CRISC 5-day Review Course

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understand and articulate business risk, implement appropriate IS controls and develop effective

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government agencies require it.

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The Trainer

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With over 20 years of experience in the IT and Financial Services industry, Mark Fenech heads the

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domains, Mark’s skills extend across multiple disciplines required within IT Auditing, IT Risk

Management, Cybersecurity and other various IT Management Processes.


Book your place online, today. Once the minimum number of attendees is reached you will be

contacted to confirm your booking by effecting payment in full.










Technology has revolutionised the way we

learn and work. We already spend more time

attached to machines such as computers,

laptops and mobile phones than interacting

with human beings. Most of us feel lost without

inputting, sharing and receiving electronic data. We

are constantly searching for information and are

forever engaged in exchange of communication. We

expect immediate feedback and communicate ideas,

decisions and opinions in real time. All employment

sectors are deeply affected by this chain revolution.

Accountancy is no exception. The way accountants

work today is decidedly influenced by technology.

Reporting in accountancy is faster, more accurate,

contains substantial amounts of electronically

researched information and is becoming a more

reliable source for transparency, efficiency and

effectiveness of businesses all over the world.

There is clearly a chain effect to most operations

on places of work. Workers are becoming more

dependent on machines than on fellow colleagues.

At the same time employers lament that the skills

they look for in our young workers are insufficient

for the workplace. There is a widening gap between

the world of education and training, and the world

of employment. The claim from employers is that

relevancy of educational programmes does not

match the advancements in most work environments.

On the other hand, educational institutions argue

that because of shrinking resources their learning

environments lack the necessary infrastructure and

expertise to cope with developments in work places.

The truth is that no matter how many resources are

thrown into education and training for high-tech

work environments it is impossible to generate fully

prepared human capital.

In acknowledging these new realities, one would

have taken the first step towards work-based learning.

The field of accountancy is for instance known for

producing hands-on employees who can hit the

ground running. This is because the divide between

the world of education and training and employment

has been narrowed throughout the years and in

particular through a more professional approach by

the accountancy industry itself. The chain between a

learning and a working environment in accountancy

has not been broken.

Work-based learning is the future of education

and training. This implies that all learning designed

to make people employable must be based on two

overarching principles. The first is that qualifications

(or the evidence of what a person knows and is able

to do) must be industry driven. The second is that

we need more community lead curricula. The first

ensures preparedness, the second relevancy. The

link between learning outcomes and relevancy of

content to real work is the key to a sound education

and training environment. Young people need to

be attracted to learning environments that enable

them to endure a structured learning process in

formal settings. In fact, most learners leave school

earlier because a one size fits all approach in formal

education and training settings does not match

their mind-sets and the culture of learning in our

age of technology. Speed has truly penetrated into

20 Autumn 2018


a digital chain revolution

all spheres of our lives. Our attention span has been

severely dented by the immediacy of the acquisition

of information. Evidence of this is the way we flick

through a newspaper, scroll a document on internet,

watch television or listen to the radio. We impatiently

jump from one cluster of information, image and

sound to another in repeated behaviours which at

times are done unconsciously and unintentionally.

This same pattern of behaviour is reflected in the

way we learn and the way we work. Hence the need

that these two sectors work with each other in a

more structured and interchanging way. In this age of

technology educators and employers are increasingly

becoming shareholders (and not just stakeholders)

of the same process. A person learns while he

works and works while he learns. Technology has

built a new common ground which will make or

break working and learning environments. As a

result of this sequence of developments, educators

and employers in highly developed countries are

seeking partnerships more than ever before. These

are reflected on the one hand, in the increase of

apprenticeships and other forms of work-based

learning and on the other hand, in continuous

professional development programmes which are

now obligatory, after qualification.

In a world which is changing so fast, the

biggest error professions can make is to freeze

the development of their members or leave it

optional. Looking at the strength of the accountancy

profession, one of the key lessons to be learnt is that

being an accountant requires obligatory updating, retraining

and re-skilling. It is obvious that work in itself

is a learning experience much more than the formal

learning experience per se. However, formal learning

in educational institutions also has enormous added

value in that it enables learners to share experiences,

learn from each other, discover new methods of

enhancing their profession and becoming more


Businesses failure or success today largely hinges

on the ability to adapt, adopt and adjust to innovation

and sustainability. With the advancements of

technology, bridging the gaps between the world of

education and training and the world of employment

is not an option anymore. The accountancy

profession is a shining example of this trend and a

model on which other slow-developing disciplines

and professions should adopt to move towards

continued existence. Evidence shows that because

of technology thousands of jobs will be lost and

equally others created. The chain effect that workbased

learning creates is the adequate response to

these compelling developments. Moving away from

being stakeholders to becoming shareholders of each

other’s domain, educators and employers hold the

key to a country’s economic and social realisation, or


Malta has an educational system with strong

roots in academic and vocational education and

training. Public funding of education has been

increasing for many years. Learners who enrol at

University or at MCAST today have an open pathway

to a higher education qualification. This is particularly

important in a labour market where a degree is

the basic stepping stone towards a sustainable

career and a person’s quality of life. As a result of

technology, practically all jobs will sooner rather than

later become very professional.

Hence the importance of key competences

(in compulsory education) and a higher education

qualification as pre-requisites of employability; the

need for employers to engage more cogently in

education and training and, increased agility and

foresight in investing in the infrastructure of vocational

training by government and industry together.





It is all a matter of trust! For many years, accountants have been the foundation of business interactions; providing information

to managers, shareholders, and investors for decision-making. This responsibility imposes multiple duties on accountants,

one being to remain relevant and up-to-date with changes taking place in their professional environment.










Working in a Dynamic Environment

In the last couple of years, the accountancy world has

been characterised by an endless wave of changes in

accounting principles, standards and regulations. These

changes have placed a huge burden on accountants,

resulting in a challenge for professional maintenance

which, if not dealt with leads to outdated skills and

knowledge. One should also keep in mind that

accountants are not only concerned with changes taking

place in accounting standards, but also in any change that

takes place within their clients’ industry. This inevitably

imposes a duty on accountants to continuously update

their skills and knowledge, which requires commitment

from the accountants’ side, together with openmindedness

towards change.

Leaping the Hurdle of Professional Maintenance

With 90.7% of local accountants considering the duty to

maintain professional competence as a challenge in their

profession, there was a statistical significance indicating

that accountants need a proper professional maintenance

tool. Presuming that Continuing Professional Education

(CPE) fulfils its purpose in this regard, regulators adopted

CPE as a tool to equip practitioners for the dynamic

world out there. If CPE fulfils this purpose, the public

should benefit from peace of mind that accountants

are technically competent and up-to-date with changes

taking place in the profession. However, the question

arises; is CPE fulfilling this purpose?

The Undesired Reality

In reality, most accountants do not feel that the

mandatory CPE requirement is providing reasonable

assurance to the society that accountants are technically

competent. This lack of confidence in CPE among the

local accountancy profession can be blamed on the

common perception among practitioners that CPE has

become the hours one needs to secure his warrant,

rather than a means of professional development.

Although most professionals want CPE activities to confer

legitimacy on their learning, most of the practitioners

and their employers do not believe that compliance with

the current requirement could genuinely demonstrate

their competence. This issue relates to what is referred to

by most as the compliance mentality.

The main cause of this mentality was the shift

adopted by most regulators from voluntary to mandatory

CPE policies. The prevalent attitude among accountants

is that attendance at CPE sessions is happening just

for the sake of meeting the requirement. This shows

that in certain instances attendance at CPE activities is

not reflecting real competency, but rather regulatory

compliance. Besides this, accountants are highly sceptical

about the validity of course attendance certificates.

The majority believe that certificates of attendance

only indicate physical presence and not professional

development. Certificates of attendance are not a proof

that an individual has gained professional development

from a CPE activity; not even whether the individual has

even paid attention to the speaker.

Even though most practitioners blame the

mandatory nature of CPE as the cause for this mentality,

they still prefer and support mandatory policies. The

majority argue that without a mandatory requirement,

time and work pressures will suppress any motivation

for one to engage in CPE, which is the ultimate

drawback of a voluntary approach. Moreover, the

mandatory requirement strengthens the reputation of

22 Autumn 2018

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the accountancy profession, since it is one of the few

professions which has a compulsory CPE requirement.

So, what is to blame?

Measuring CPE

According to most accountants, it is the measurement

approach adopted by regulators to monitor CPE. How

can the learning that takes place in a classroom, on the

job, or through reading or studying, be measured? This

question is deemed by most CPE specialists as the reason

for CPE being considered as a complex concept for those

regulating it. Regulatory bodies in various professions

have long sought a measurement model which would

capture the benefit gained from CPE.

To date, regulatory and professional bodies have not

yet reached a consensus as to which approach is best

to measure CPE. The traditional approach used in most

jurisdictions; which is also the case in Malta, is the inputbased

approach which uses the number of hours as the

measurement unit. The other extreme which is adopted

by few jurisdictions is the output-based approach

whereby the regulator measures the level of professional

maintenance and development by means of assessment

after each CPE activity.

When presented with these options, most

practitioners agreed that a combination of both

approaches would provide a better way for regulators

to evaluate the effectiveness of CPE. An approach

which monitors CPE hours, while involving some form of

assessment, provides a better degree of assurance that

practitioners are gaining professional development from

CPE activities. The drawback of this approach lies in the

fact that only few people are ready to submit themselves

to regular assessment. Indeed, most practitioners are

aware that this is the ideal way of evaluating CPE, but they

are not willing to commit to further forms of assessment.

The Role of Employers

Apart from the measurement approach, accountants

feel that the perception held by their employer towards

professional maintenance and development can also act

as a motivator or a deterrent towards CPE. Fortunately,

most accounting firms are promoting a learning culture

among their personnel, with the aim of ensuring

proficient service to their clients. In fact, in Malta those

working with accountancy or audit firms, tend to find it

easier to meet the CPE requirement, when compared to

those working in the industry or as sole practitioners. The

difference among these employment categories relate

strongly to the employers’ support of CPE. Employers

in the industry are generally less interested in CPE since

their personnel need not be proficient in vast accounting

practices, other than their own specialised industry.

The Way Forward

It is all up to three key stakeholders; (i) regulatory bodies,

(ii) employers and (iii) accountants themselves.

In order to ensure that all CPE is of high quality,

regulators ought to impose more due diligence on

speakers of CPE activities. One should keep in mind that

although an individual may be an expert in a certain area

of accounting practice, it does not necessarily mean

that he/she is capable of effectively imparting his skills

to others. Secondly, online CPE should be given more

importance. For most practitioners, online CPE is an

attractive option which provides them with flexibility

that class-based activities lack. Finally, regulators should

encourage and incentivise employers to offer in-house

CPE or sponsor external CPE courses for their accounting

personnel. In line with this, employers should uphold a

learning culture which promotes continuous learning

and development. More value should be attached to this

activity, which may seem futile, but in reality, is adding

value to every organisation.

Lastly and most importantly is the approach adopted

by accountants themselves towards CPE. In order to

make CPE activities more interesting and interactive,

practitioners should be more participative. Through

discussions and questions, the speaker can delve

deeper in certain intricacies which may be of interest

to other practitioners attending the session. Moreover,

accountants should provide CPE service providers with

feedback and suggestions for improvement, together

with suggestions about new topics on which CPE

activities are rarely conducted. Being the ones facing the

industry, accountants are in the ideal position to identify

areas which require professional maintenance and


So, is CPE a necessary burden?

When accountants in the local industry were asked this

question, the majority held that CPE is a necessary

burden. This is an acknowledgement that CPE is

something accountants deem fundamental for their

professional status; however, due to certain instances,

such as hectic schedules and time constraints, it may also

be perceived as a burden.

24 Autumn 2018


The Complex World

of Financial Analysis

The financial world is a complex equation with hundreds of variables

that dictate what actions people will take in pursuit to generate

wealth from their savings. The majority of the world’s population

have little or no knowhow in managing their life savings, and thus

rely on the few who act as intermediaries between the savings of the

masses and the financial markets where wealth is generated.

Why do I need Math for Finance?

This is a very legitimate question, and I will walk you

through a real-life example and show how math

helps to answer key questions at each stage of


I will start with a simple hypothetical scenario

that I feel is not too far off from reality. Suppose you

find out that Apple Corp is releasing a new line of

consumer tech products that have been rumoured

to change the face of the tech industry in the years

to come. You’ve always been very attracted to their

products and with this news you are even more

excited than before. You also happen to have a small

but descent sum of money dormant in your bank

account and never really wrapped your head around

what to do with it.










Is this perhaps the right time to invest in Apple stock?

just around the corner, enticing

you to jump ship into the new

glitzy stock!

A quick look at stock price chart above shows

you that, had you invested money two years ago, you

would have bought 1 unit of stock at roughly $96 and

today it would be worth roughly $184. That’s more

than a 100% increase, meaning your money would

have more than doubled in just two years! Which

bank, secure as it may be, can come even close to

these kinds of return?

It seems like a no brainer: you like the company’s

strategy, returns have been exceptional, and the

alternatives pale in comparison. Unfortunately, at

this point, many would simply phone their broker (or

log in their online platform) and order some Apple

stock without digging deeper into what’s beneath

the hood. And this is fine, because it is your money

after all. It could turn out great and you triple your

savings in a few years. But if you are fund manager,

you are managing other people’s savings, and

your profession requires that you look under the

hood — and thoroughly — else you may be liable to

misappropriation and mishandling with long years

behind bars.

Any stock climbing up a mountain might find

the route a bit choppy and the amateur may run

into a number of disappointments. Mathematics

will not completely avoid these disappointments,

but it will tell you how likely these disappointments

are going to be and if they can be so severe as to

wipe away a substantial share of your original savings

even before you actually start seeing some positive

results. You might tell me “that’s absolutely fine for

me: I am a patient person and can take a few hits on

the way to success.” My answer, having studied the

psychology behind investing money, is very simple:

Never, ever underestimate your potential to make

quick, irrational decisions; especially if things are not

going your way for a long period of time and there

are some super attractive alternative investments


It is clear that we need more

information than simply looking

at prices and reading about the

company’s plans for the future.

The second big question (and

by far the most important

one) is this: What is my risk?

Even though there are long

and technical answers to that

question, I am going to try and give you the gist of

what one can do with some very simple mathematical

tools learned during a sound degree in finance.

Normal Distribtution with Mean 30 and Standard Deviation 10

We need some forecasting tools: something

that will tell me “The return on your investment can

be in the range of x to y % with this likelihood. The

most important piece of machinery that you will be

learning about in this course is our dear old Normal

Distribution, pictured below.

Apple Daily Return Probabilities

This famous bell shaped can be found everywhere:

biology, economics, finance, physics etc. It tells you,

in a nutshell, that numbers around the average are

the most likely and everything else is symmetrical

around it.

Applying the normal distribution to my analysis of

Apple Corp stock, I could have a road map telling how

likely or unlikely certain gains and losses are in the

future, based on past performance. Quite neat! Let’s

26 Autumn 2018


see if our returns on Apple Corp stock (notice that

I apply it on returns and not to prices) are roughly

shaped in this manner.

Using some Excel tricks that you will learn, you

can see that the chart above could be called a distant

cousin to the Normal Distribution (nothing will ever

be perfectly Normal in practice) and, for the sake

of this discussion, we can assume that our returns

follow a Bell-Shaped curve with the peak being close

to 0% daily returns (not a surprise here because in

practice you should not expect any money within

the very short period of a day). In practice there are

various statistical tests that one can do but they are

beyond the scope of this exercise.


So now that we have assumed that our Apple returns

follow a normal distribution with average daily

return of 0% we can start thinking about doing some

forecasting. Can we create a tool which accepts an

input and gives us an output for expected return?

The answer to this is “yes!” and the technique (that

you will also learn in class) is called Regression.

Before going into the details of what Regression

is, I would like to discuss this question with you: Since

Apple is a company that is part of the Tech industry,

is it reasonable to think that what happens in the

tech industry in general can have a major effect on

Apple’s fortunes as a company? Intuitively we might

think that the answer is “yes”. This is because every

company out there is affected by both internal affairs

(profitability, efficiency of personnel, technological

breakthroughs, scandals and conflict etc) and also

system-wide affairs (economy, inflation, tourism,

media relations etc). It is, therefore, fair to ask by

“how much” the Tech industry effects the fortunes

of Apple. The Regression tool that you will learn in

this course tackles exactly this problem. If some

conditions on your data are satisfied (errors look like

a bell-shaped graph etc) you can safely apply this tool

and get some forecasts on future data points to a

reasonable degree of accuracy.

I will use this technique here and try to find

the strength of the relationship between the Tech

industry and Apple. To do this, I will use the NASDAQ

index, which is the Index following the top Tech

companies in the US, and measure the strength of

the linear relationship between NASDAQ index and

Apple stock. In a nutshell, what regression does is it

attempts to fit a straight line (called line of Best Fit)

to a scatter plot formed between Apple Returns and

NASDAQ Index Returns, just like the chart below:

Focusing only on the last 2 years of daily data and

applying the in-built Excel Regression function I get

the following relationship:

Apple Returns =

NASDAQ Returns * 1.05 + 0.000414

Notice that this has the classical Y = mX + C Straight

Line format that you learnt at school. This is because we are

fitting a line. The 1.05 is the gradient and the 0.000414 is the

y-intercept. Notice also that since NASDAQ returns are my

“X-Variable”, they are being used to predict the “Y-Variable”,

in this case Apple Returns.

The interpretation is that 1% increase in NASDAQ

returns leads to 1.05% increase in the returns of

Apple. It is to be kept in mind that this discussion

is very basic, and in practice things are more

complicated. However, this example should be a

good taste of the type of analytical tools that will

be applied in a finance degree to take a “Scientific

Approach” to the decision-making problem of

Investment. The Above indicates that if we could

find a trend for NASDAQ returns (being an index it is

easier to find such a trend) we could then apply the

above formula to forecast Apple Corp returns in the

next day. In practice you would want to apply such an

analysis to at least monthly or quarterly data to have

more predictive power.




Nasdaq Moving Avarage

How do we find a trend? Another tool that you will

be learning is known as the “Moving Average”. As its

name implies, applying this technique is just a matter

of finding a sequence of averages to your data,

moving through time. This will give you an average

that moves through time, and thus gives you an

indication of the trend. I have used here something a

little bit more sophisticated known as the Exponential

Moving Average, also very simple to apply. This

method allows me to fit a trend for NASDAQ Prices

as in adjoining graph.

Notice that this is just a seven-month Snippet.

Using this MA method I can calculate that the next

price in the daily series is going to be $7,549, even

though the price is currently $7,568 at the time of

writing (I am using an index that tracks the NASDAQ

called ^IXIC). This is because our moving average is

picking up some negative trend that is developing as

it is considering not just the current price, but the

current trend. I repeat that this would be much more

insightful if it were monthly or quarterly data, but

for the basis of this discussion it will suffice. If I know

the next price, I know the next return. If price drops

to $7,549 tomorrow, that’s a predicted 0.3% drop in


Using our regression equation above we get that

the predicted return for Apple Corp. tomorrow is

1.05*-0.3% + 0.000414 = -0.00274 or -0.3% as well. I

am sure you appreciate that this could be simply due

to daily random movements in the market and not

an actual trend, and this is why the numbers would

make much more sense if taken quarterly, so aspects

like seasonality (effects of seasons) can be captured.

Another important point to mention is that all of

these predictions (even if done on a quarterly basis)

are not infallible and are only correct up to a certain

probability level which, as you will later on learn, is

known as “Level of Significance”.

Worst Case Scenario

One final question that any self-respecting

investor should ask is “What is the worst-case

scenario?” Obviously, the answer is “You lose

everything,” but not investing because of such an illinspired

answer would be like never getting outside

of the house because you could get hit by a bolt

of lightning. Luckily, there is a more sophisticated

answer to that question and it involves a very

important concept known as VaR or Value at Risk. This

tool simply seeks to answer the following question:

“What is my maximum loss from an investment,

in a particular period of time and with a particular

probability?” If you look at Apple’s history, there was

one day during the dot com bubble of 2000 where

the stock lost 75%! Can you imagine that? Waking up

one day and losing 75% of your investment? Luckily

this was a one-off and is very unlikely to happen

often. So what is a realistic expectation of loss? To

answer this question we need to learn a statistical

tool known as Standard Deviation. This number gives

you an indication of how your losses and returns are

dispersed around the mean (which in our case for

Apple was 0%) and it is vital to calculating the Value

at Risk. So, for the sake of argument, let us say I want

to know my worst case scenario for a 1 day loss with

95% probability. Luckily, we know that our returns

are roughly Normally Distributed and we can the

following VaR formula:

Using the in-built Standard Deviation Excel

function I get that the 1 day Standard Deviation for

Apple Corp. is 2.9%. Plugging these numbers in the

above formula (let us say we invest $1000) we get:

1-day 95% Variance = Amount * 1 day Stdev*1.645


- Amount is the amount of money invested

- 1 day stdev is the Standard deviation for daily returns

- 1.645 is a number closely related to the Normal

Distribution (derivation of wich is beyond the scope of

this discussion).

1 day 95% VaR = 1000 * 0.029 * 1.645 which is

approximately $50. This means that I am 95% sure

that my losses in 1 day will be a maximum of $50,

which is a far cry from the 75% loss that happened

on that faithful day during the Dot Com Bubble crash

of 2000!

28 Autumn 2018


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THE RELEVANCE of ethics to management

education in the accounting profession.






It is sometimes questioned whether professional

judgment and ethics can be taught. Prior to the

major corporate scandals involving auditors and

accountants, the education model for accountants

focussed mainly on teaching the technical elements

of accounting. We have slowly seen a shift in more

recent years of including the ethical and moral aspect

of the profession and ethics which are being included

and discussed in the educational programmes and

curriculums for accountants.

The goal of including ethics within the curriculum

is to help individuals acquire skills to deal effectively

with ethical challenges they may come across during

the course of their work and provide them with the

necessary tools and guidance when they encounter

ambiguous situations in practice. This cannot be

achieved by solely studying the code of ethics and

professional conduct, but rather a process whereby

individuals become more consciously involved in making

ethical decisions and this is brought by including it in the

educational system for accountants and also through

mentoring programmes during the professional career.

Accounting is a profession demanding expertise

and accountants have clients who depend on the said

expertise. At the same time, accounting has an ethical

dimension. An accountant has the responsibility to act

in the public interest and not solely to satisfy the needs

of the employing organisation or client. In carrying

out their responsibilities as professionals, accountants

should exercise professional skeptiscm and moral

judgment in all the activities. Education of ethics should

be the teaching of the subject to students carrying

out the various courses available for the accountancy

profession and also a continuous education during

the professional career. Ethics education is not a list

of dos and don’ts, as this can give the misconception

that anything is acceptable if it’s not specifically

forbidden. Ethics education is a journey of sensitisation

and development where one becomes more aware

of the ethical dimensions of matters and challenges

encountered. Enriching ethics in accounting education

will change the mind-set and will assist the accountants

develop skills to assist them with actioning such critical


Ethics education can provide insights into how to

adjudicate between conflicting principles and show

why certain courses of action are more desirable than

others. Ethics education, as defined by Langenderfer

and Rockness, is more than studying the code of

professional conduct, but rather a process whereby

individuals become more consciously involved in

making ethical decisions.

The objectives of Ethics education are to

• Relate accounting education to moral issues

in a business context

• Provide the members of the profession

with the tools to take decisions that have ethical


• Develop a sense of moral obligation and

social responsibility

• Develop the skills required to deal with ethical

conflicts or dilemmas

• Develop the skills to deal with the ambiguities

of the accounting profession

The IESBA Code of Ethics which is applicable to the

professional accountants specifies that a professional

accountant's responsibility is not exclusively to satisfy

the needs of an individual client or employer, however

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also to act in the public interest and that a professional

accountant shall comply with the fundamental


• Integrity

• Objectivity

• Professional Competence and Due Care

• Confidentiality

• Professional Behaviour

The above principles are the basis of ethics

education within the profession, they provide an ethical

framework, and therefore the professional judgment.

1. Integrity

Demonstrating integrity means being straightforward

and honest in all business and professional relationships.

Maintaining integrity requires that accountants do not

knowingly associate themselves with information that

they suspect is false or misleading.

2. Independence and Objectivity

Ethics and independence go hand in hand in the

accounting profession. Independence is one of the

pillars and a critical component within the profession

as it provides the trust to the stakeholders for making

unbiased decisions and recommendations that benefit

the client. To remain objective and independent, it is

also necessary to ensure that recommendations are not

subject to outside influence.

3. Confidentiality

The principle of confidentiality imposes an obligation

on all professional accountants to refrain certain

confidential information they are in possession of.

The principle of confidentiality is not only to keep

information confidential, but also to take all reasonable

steps to preserve confidentiality

4. Professional Competence

The maintenance of professional competence requires a

continuing awareness and an understanding of relevant

technical, professional and business development. As

technology, legislation, a professional accountant must

remain up to date.

5. Professional Behavior

Ethics require accounting professionals to comply with

the applicable laws and regulations, They shall conduct

themselves with courtesy and consideration towards all

with whom they come into contact when performing

their work.

These areas are of critical importance within

the accountancy profession. Knowledge of the said

principals and how to apply these in practice is therefore

fundamental. Providing the necessary examples and

having people with the relevant experience giving

guidance on the right behaviour and considerations

which should be made in ambiguous situations helps

develop a transparent approach to governance and

related matters.

Integrity is doing the right thing when

no one is watching.

IFAC made available a study Assessing and

Improving Professional Accountants’ Ethical Capability

published by Dr Cristina Neesham which outlines the

ethical challenges accountants are faced with and also

proposes recommendations. Interestingly, the study

identified inter alia:

Education and training needs: mandatory ethics

training; the development of case study banks for

experience-based complex ethical situations; the design

and delivery of multi-media based ethics training

programs; the intensification of associated soft skills

training (such as critical thinking, ethical reasoning,

communication, and conflict management); and the

publication of anonymized real cases of ethical breaches,

as well as best ethical practice, with evaluations of

ethical issues involved and alternative solutions; and

Advice and mentoring needs: increased availability

of professional advice services, maintaining expert

ethics hotlines; and coordinating national, state, or

local mentoring networks and peer-to-peer resolution


Teaching ethics to the accountancy profession

comes with a number of challenges mainly because

ethics principles are different to the technical topics

which make up the study courses. One needs to have

the right resources to be able to teach ethics as they

require the necessary skills and experience. Locally, the

accountancy profession has already integrated ethics

in the accounting classes which sets the right tone

and the foundation. It is critical that this is not a one

off process during the qualification phase, but that it is

part of the continued development of the professional

accountants as it provides them with a sense of ethical

and moral responsibility throughout their careers.

32 Autumn 2018


VAT treatment of


The EU Council has deemed the provisions in the

current EU VAT Directive (Directive 2006/112/

EC) as applicable to vouchers are not clear

or anywhere near substantial enough to ensure

consistent VAT treatment between Member States.

As a result, distortions could appear in the market

between Member States and as well as potential

instances of double taxation or tax avoidance. This

could be the consequence, for example, of the difficulty

in identifying which transaction in the voucher process

triggers a tax point that establishes when VAT become

due – the issuing of the voucher or when the voucher

is redeemed?

These shortcomings, coupled with other recent

developments – such as the updates relating to

electronically supplied services – prompted the Council

to consider introducing provisions for the common

treatment of vouchers across the EU. Consequently,

the Council adopted a Directive (Directive 2016/1065)

– the EU Vouchers Directive – which comes into force

on 1 January 2019 and thus applicable to vouchers

issued after 31 December 2018.

Needless to say, the underlying VAT principles will

apply to transaction involving vouchers. In fact, one can

say there should generally be no difference in ultimate

VAT charged on a given transaction – regardless if one

pays for that good or service using cash, credit cards

or vouchers.

It must be pointed out that the EU Vouchers

Directive excludes any form of payment instruments

as well as discounts without right to claim a good

or service, admission or transport tickets, payment

instructions nor postage stamps.

What is captured by this Directive?

Firstly, given that the treatment depends on the

characteristics of the given voucher, it is important to

define a voucher. In terms of the EU Vouchers Directive,

a voucher, be it of a physical form or an electronic form,

represents an obligation on the part of the vendor “to

accept it as consideration or part consideration for a

supply of goods or services and where the goods or

services to be supplied or the identities of their potential

suppliers are either indicated on the instrument itself

or in related documentation, including the terms and

conditions of use of such instrument”.

“Vouchers”, in this context, include gift cards and in

practice include simple book tokens, gift vouchers and

even electronic vouchers purchased from specialist


Furthermore, the EU Vouchers Directive

distinguishes between two types of vouchers – (i)

a Single Purpose Voucher and (ii) a Multi Purpose


Single Purpose Voucher (SPV)

For the purposes of the new EU regulations

on vouchers, an SPV is characterised by a certainty

regarding its value and subsequent VAT charge as

well as place of supply of the underlying transaction.

Consequently, the VAT treatment for this type of
















voucher is determined by referring to the said place

and nature of the supply. Therefore, the issuing of

an SPV (and any subsequent transfer) is a taxable

transaction in itself.

This is because the Vouchers Directive regards the

issuing of an SPV as being the supply of the goods or

services to which the single-purpose voucher relates.

The ensuing redemption is, then, not regarded as an

independent transaction and therefore attracts no

further VAT obligations.

An example of an SPV is a service provider selling

vouchers (either directly or via an agent) which carry

an entitlement to a defined good (example furniture

or clothes) that is to be supplied to the holder of that


Alternatively, if the voucher is issued by a taxable

person acting on behalf of another taxable person,

the first taxable person – the intermediary – is not

considered as acting in the underlying supply. Also,

the consideration received by a person not acting is

his own name on the transfer of the voucher is not

subject to VAT. The only VAT obligation attributable to

this intermediary is that of intermediary, distribution

and/or marketing services.

Multi Purpose Voucher (MPV)

In terms of the EU Vouchers Directive, what is not

an SPV shall be deemed to be an MPV. Hence an MPV

entitles the holder to receive goods or services where

these goods or services (or the territory in which such

goods/services are to be supplied and taxed) are not

sufficiently identified.

As a result, VAT cannot be determined with certainty

at the time the voucher is issued – as for example is

the case with prepaid credit vouchers which could be

used to purchase either a telecommunications service

(standard rated for VAT) or to pay for public transport

(where a reduced rate may apply).

Consequently, VAT can only be accounted for

when vouchers are redeemed and, therefore, when

the goods or services to which the voucher relates are

supplied. At this point, VAT is charged on the taxable

amount that is taken to be either;

a. if the redeemer knows how much was paid

for the voucher, that amount (net of any amount of

VAT due on the supply); or

b. if the redeemer does not know how much

was paid for the voucher, the face value (net of any

amount of VAT due on the supply), and proportionally

the same where the voucher is partly redeemed for

goods or services.

In the case of only partial use of an MPV, the value

considered as taxable is that of the consideration or

the monetary value, less the amount of VAT relating to

the goods or services supplied.

As with SPVs, the Directive contemplates the issue

relating to the distribution of the vouchers through a

chain of distributors before arriving in the hands of the

final consumer. Although the underlying transaction

is not to be taxed until the eventual supply of goods

or services takes place, the Directive once again

anticipates that the commercial distribution of an

MPV is, in itself, a supply of a taxable service which is

independent of the underlying supply.

Therefore, when an MPV changes hands in

a distribution chain, VAT will be due only on any

separate supply, for consideration, of intermediary /

distribution / promotion services incurred by the third

part distributor/s.

The Directive does not deal with non-redemption

of MPVs, where the issuer retains the consideration

paid for the MPV.

Applicability of vouchers to “utility tokens”

Certain tokens issued during token generating

events (including ICOs) grant holders the right to

redeem such tokens against goods/services at a future

date. Many times, at the point the tokens are granted,

it may not possible to determine the following:

• The type of goods/service to be utilised in

exchange for the tokens (specifically when the token

entitles the holder to redeem against various goods/

services); and/or

• The nature of the person to eventually

utilise the service (i.e. whether a taxable person or

otherwise); and/or

• The jurisdiction where the person utilising

the token will be established for VAT purposes.

On this basis, it is anticipated that most utility

tokens should probably be considered asMPVs for VAT



Member States have until 31 December 2018 to

transpose the directive into national legislation, with

the revised rules coming into effect for vouchers

issued after that date. Malta has transposed the

implementation of the directive into national legislation

by way of legal notice 348 of 2017. Furthermore, by

31 December 2022, the EU Commission is to prepare

an assessment report on the implementation of the

Vouchers Directive.

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Continuing Professional Education

Extract from the Malta Institute of Accountants CPE Regulations

Effective as from January 2017

Structured CPE

1. For an activity to qualify as structured CPE it needs to

meet the following three criteria:

Relevance: The CPE undertaken has to be relevant

to the individual’s circumstances and to the exercise

of the profession and increase his or her professional


Measurability: a defined number of hours (CPE units)

can be attributed to the activity; and

Verifiability: the learning can be objectively verified by a

competent source.

If any of these three criteria is missing the activity will fall

under Unstructured CPE.

Activities that qualify as Structured CPE are included in

the following paragraphs.

Minimum CPE requirements

1. The CPE Regulations identify Core competency areas

and Professional Development competency areas, which

Members are required to satisfy in order to achieve the

desired level of professional competence.

2. On an annual basis Members shall obtain at least:

Twenty-five (25) hours of structured CPE

Fifteen (15) hours of unstructured CPE

3. At least ten (10) hours of structured CPE must be carried

out in those areas qualifying as Core competencies.

4. .The balance of fifteen (15) hours of structured CPE

must be carried out in those areas qualifying as either

Core or Professional Development competencies. The

Institute is a firm believer in a holistic approach to CPE.

It recommends Members to undertake training on

Professional Development competencies, which training

will vary depending on the exigencies of one’s roles and


5. The number of hours credited towards the 25 hours

requirement will be calculated on an hourto-hour basis.

For activities that fall under paragraph 7.2, only the

lecturing time can be claimed as structured CPE; thus

registration time and any break times are to be deducted.

2. Courses, conferences, seminars and organised

technical discussion meetings provided by:

(a) The Malta Institute of Accountants;

(b) Other professional associations;

(c) In-house within firms or companies;

(d) Independent providers of such activities; and

(e) The University of Malta.

Independent providers of courses, conferences and

seminars normally seek accreditation for an event to

qualify as structured CPE from the Accountancy Board,

following the Board’s CPE Accreditation Rules which are

the subject of a separate publication. However, the fact

that accreditation is not sought by the course provider

would not disqualify an event from being regarded as

structured. If an activity is relevant, measurable and

verifiable, a Member may still claim the hours spent on

that activity as structured CPE.

External quality reviews imposed on a Member by the

Accountancy Board following a QAU inspection visit

cannot be claimed as structured CPE.

3. Participation on technical committees or panels set up

by the Malta Institute of Accountants or other professional

associations, the Accountancy Board, accounting and

audit firms or governmental entities but only if:

(a) The committee or panel can demonstrate a tangible

output, such as a new standard, technical release or

other form of guidance, as a result of its work; and

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(b) The Member can demonstrate that he or she has

contributed to that tangible output.

Participation on committees which fail to meet the above

criteria will fall under unstructured CPE.

4. Web-based learning activities only if:

(a) The activity is measurable. Normally, web-based

activities would have an assigned amount of hours

however, when this is not the case, the Member shall

reasonably assess the amount of time spent on such

activities; and

(b) The activity is verifiable, that is a certificate of

completion is issued upon completion of the online


Web-based learning activities that do not meet all of

the above criteria qualify as unstructured CPE.

5. Time spent on lecture preparation and lecturing only if:

(a) The Member is providing such an activity upon his

employer’s, the Institute’s, or the market’s demand and

the subject is relevant to the lecturer’s work;

(b) The knowledge gained increases the lecturer’s

technical or professional competence and achieves the

objectives of that form of CPE identified in Section 3 of

this document;

(c) The lecture must be supplemented with some form

of study material such as notes and/or presentations.

A Member may claim up to a maximum of thirteen (13)

hours of structured CPE spent on lecture preparation

and lecturing. Repeat lecturing of the same course

cannot be classified as structured CPE. One-to-one

lectures fall under unstructured CPE.

6. Reading for a relevant post-tertiary course only if the

level and depth of knowledge involved increases his or

her technical or professional competence and achieves

the objectives of CPE identified in Section 3 of this


Unstructured CPE

1. Self-managed activities of an informal nature which

are relevant, can be measurable but cannot be verified.

These include:

(a) Individual research including: viewing of videos,

television programmes and audio recordings

(b) Reading technical and professional journals, the

financial and business press and accessing relevant


(c) Activities that fall under paragraphs 7.2 – 7.6 but do

not fulfil the criteria to qualify as structured CPE.

Entitlement to an Exemption from CPE and Monitoring

of Exemptions

1. The Institute recognises circumstances where

Members are unable to fulfil their CPE requirements.

The following circumstances entitle the Member to an

exemption from CPE: maternity leave, serious illness,

pursuing full-time study, not in employment (neither

gainfully employed nor self-employed) and working

in a non-accountancy related position (not doing any

accountancy related work).

2. Members who are on maternity leave are entitled to a

reduction of 9 hours in their structured CPE requirements

in the year of confinement. The 9 hour CPE exemption

can be taken pro-rata over two years if maternity leave

extends from one year to the next.

3. For the other reasons, the Member is exempted in

whole or in part from any requirement to undertake

CPE depending on the period during which the Member

was out of the profession. In the case where a Member

was out of the profession for part of the year, a partial

exemption applies. In such case, CPE requirements

should be calculated on a pro-rata basis by taking into

account the months out of the profession and deduct

them from the mandatory requirements. This applies for

the total hours and the Core competency hours.

4. Members are required to self-assess the circumstances

giving rise to the CPE exemption and decide whether

such circumstances are a valid reason for an exemption.

Members are also required to self-assess the number of

hours of entitlement to a CPE exemption based on the


5. Members are required to declare their entitlement to

a CPE exemption and the reasons thereof at year-end in

their CPE return.

6. The Institute will carry out audits of CPE exemption

declarations to verify the relevance and validity of the

exemption. Thus, in all cases, Members should keep

documentary evidence in support of the exemption

in order to present it to the Institute, when requested.

38 Autumn 2018


Members are required to keep this documentary

evidence for a five-year period as this may be required as

part of the Institute’s monitoring process.

Re-entry into the profession following CPE Exemption

and Monitoring of Re-entry

1. When a Member’s circumstance changes such as he/

she will no longer be entitled for an exemption, it is the

onus of the Member to undertake action to satisfy the

requirements for reentry into the profession, as set out


The Re-entry into the profession regulations came into

force in 2012. The diagram below highlights the respective

actions required to re-enter back into the profession. For

transitional arrangement purposes year 1 is 2012.

Any hours spent on CPE activities during the period of a

CPE exemption will be reduced from the number of CPE

catch-up hours required to re-enter the profession.

4. Members who were exempt from CPE requirements

for five years or more are required to complete a refresher

course prior to re-entry as stated below:

A Member is required to attend the related final study

units over two semesters in two out of four of the following

subjects offered to professional-level accountancy

students by the University of Malta or equivalent courses

as approved by the Institute:

• Financial Accounting;

• Taxation;

• Management Accounting;

• Auditing.

Note: should the Member wish to practise in the field

of auditing, attendance to the auditing seminars is


Members are required to attend at least 80% of the study

units in the two subjects chosen (attendance at tutorials,

if any, is optional).

1 Calculation of pro-rata hours - take into account the months in which

you were not exercising the profession during the year. Example: - Re-entered

the profession on 15 April, therefore 3.5 months out of the profession

-Minimum hours per year: 25 hours (10 Core)

- 25 – (3.5 / 12 x 25) amounting to 18 hours (40% of which must be Core)

-Therefore the pro-rata hours for the year are 18 (7 of which must be Core)

5. Members are required to inform the Institute of their

re-entry into the profession at year end in their annual

CPE return.

2. Members who were exempt from CPE requirements

for a period of up to 2 years can re-enter the profession

and start practising immediately.

3. Members who were exempt from CPE requirements

for a period between two and five years are required to

go through a catch-up phase on CPE by undertaking the

required number of CPE hours. The catch-up depends

on the number of years in which the Member was out

of practice, as follows: a catch-up of 38 hours for those

exempted between 2 to 3 years, 50 hours for those

exempted between 3 to 4 years and 62 hours for those

exempted between 4 to 5 years. Half of the required

hours need to be completed before re-entering the


6. The Institute will carry out audits to verify whether

the Member who re-entered the profession met the

requirements for re-entry into the profession prior to

and/or following re-entry. Members who re-enter the

profession are therefore required to keep records and

evidence of action undertaken to satisfy the requirements

for re-entry into the profession. Members are required to

keep records and documentary evidence for a five-year

period as this may be required as part of the Institute’s

monitoring process.

The full CPE Regulations can be downloaded from :-


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Digitisation of processes in general across its

member states’ Public Administrations has been

on the main agenda at the European Union (EU)

level for the past two decades. Public Procurement processes

were not the exception. Indeed, the EU Commission has

been pushing its member states towards the digitisation

of Public Procurement. The drive behind this move aims to

make public spending more transparent first and foremost,

but also to increase the cross-border accessibility of Public

Procurement, provide a more evidence-oriented culture

with a strong audit trail of the processes, optimisation of the

procedures and integrate both with market conditions while

keeping abreast of technological advances. These processes

foster better Public Procurement governance, lessen the risk

of fraud and corruption and, ultimately, widen the market

and the economy in general. Digitisation of Procurement

is viewed as supporting economic growth, increasing job

opportunities while facilitating access to Public Procurement

to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In fact,

according to the EU Commission, Public Procurement

accounts for around 14% of the Gross Domestic Product

(GDP) in the EU with over 250, 000 public authorities

purchasing on behalf of their government in the three

procurement categories: services, works and supplies 1 .

E-procurement involves public buyers procuring

through electronic means, from the beginning to the end

of the whole procurement cycle. This involves, primarily,

publishing contract notices online via e-notification and

publishing all procurement documents for a Call for Tenders

online giving e-access to tender documents. Furthermore,

Economic Operators submit their offers electronically

known as e-submission. The opening of offers is carried out

on a pre-set established date and time, and is then instantly

published for public view. The evaluation is also carried out

electronically and finally the results and award notices are

also published electronically. E-procurement can significantly

simplify the way procurement is conducted, as well as

reduce waste and deliver better procurement outcomes

such as lower prices for a better quality by stimulating

greater competition across the Single Market and beyond.

Across the EU, public buyers who have already made the

transition to e-procurement commonly report savings

which may vary between 5 and 20%. Given the size of the

total procurement market in the EU, each 5% saved could

return around €100 billion to the public purse which can be

spent on other projects for the public. The planned rollout of

e-procurement in the EU includes also e-invoicing which is to

be in place by November 2019. The deadline for Member

States to roll out e-Submission is October 2018. Malta is way

ahead of the mandatory deadlines established by the EU for

the rollout of eProcurement.

In fact the Maltese Government has always been at

the forefront of implementing a digitisation strategy that

also brought a thorough reform of the Public Procurement

sphere across its Public Administration. The Department of

Contracts, as the sole central government authority, was the

main catalyst of this ambitious reform. As early as 2011, the

Maltese Public Administration started a radical rethinking

of the public procurement process through procurement

digitisation in preparation of the imminent publication of a

set of new EU procurement directives. Directives 2014/24/

EU on Public Procurement, 2014/25/EU on Procurement by

entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal

services sectors and 2014/23/EU on the award of concession

contracts were eventually published by the EU in 2014 and

transposed into Maltese legislation in October 2016.

42 Autumn 2018


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This perceived shift went beyond simply moving to

electronic Public Procurement procedures and tools. It

involved the re-evaluation of various pre-award and postaward

processes meant to simplify Public Procurement. It

also involved a massive effort towards the education about

such a shift. One of the most substantial investments toward

the success of this change were training initiatives involving

both the Public Administration procurers and the Economic

Operators. The shift towards electronic procurement never

intended to deliver a drastic change overnight but rather

to educate the people’s mindset, help them understand

the benefits of this change and most importantly induce

them to be proactive participants in this major milestone

for the Maltese Public Administration. Since the inception

of the ePPS, besides offering training opportunities to its

Government procurers, the Department of Contractshas

been delivering training sessions to Economic Operators,

in collaboration with the Institute for Public Services which

falls within the remit of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Economic Operators may register to these weekly sessions

to better familiarise themselves with Government’s

e-Procurement platform. These workshops have always and

are to date being held free of charge. So far, around 1400

Economic Operators have benefitted from this initiative.

The Maltese Electronic Public Procurement System

(ePPS) published its first open procedure in 2011. The ePPS

supports the whole procurement cycle from publication,

evaluation and award done completely through the same

portal. The introduction of the platform

mt revolutionised Public Procurement.

The ePPS was designed to support all the requirements

within the EU Directives and is enhanced whenever required

to keep up with changes both at EU level and locally. Since

the publishing of the new Public Procurement Regulations,

in October 2016, all public procurement in Malta estimated

at €5,000 excluding VAT, was legally bound to be published


Figure 1 - Number of registered Economic Operators

Since 2013, the ePPS has experienced a strong uptake

and steady participation by Economic Operators. As

graphically depicted in Figure 1, the number of economic

operators has been on a solid increase hitting the 6300

registrations mark in May 2018. This number includes both

Maltese and foreign economic operators.

The number of Calls for Tenders (CfTs) published

through the ePPS, since its inception, has also been on the

increase, even if the numerical values flactuate according to

EU Funding seasonality. Figure 2 portrays clearly the gradual

increase in the number of CfTs published through the ePPS

by the Maltese Government since January 2013. By August

of the current year, a total of 4100 CfTs have already been

published on the ePPS.

Figure 2 - Number of published CfTs

Future ePPS developments include the integration

and inclusion of various public procurement processes and

documentation, within one single procedure. Forms and

processes which are currently submitted or undertaken

in electronic format, will now be fully digitalised and

integrated in the main public procurement procedure

through which Economic Operators submit their offers.

Such enhancements include the submission of the

European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) as part

of the selection criteria, the requirements stemming from

the Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria and a National

Compliance Certificates Register, and the integration of

the e-CERTIS function, which is a guide to the different

documents and certificates required from companies

tendering for public contracts in any EU country,.

The ePPS can be described as a success story and Malta

established itself as a forerunner in this field. The success

story does not end here, though. The Department of

Contracts firmly believes that the progress in reforming this

field with the incessant support of the central Government,

will keep registering success for a better Public Procurement

experience for public procurers and economic operators


44 Autumn 2018


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Being a Professional Accountant working in Business

(PAIB) today is a very exciting and challenging career due to

the transformation that most businesses are undergoing as

a result of technological advances.

In today’s and tomorrow’s scenarios accountants are

increasingly being asked to provide information and analysis

to support decisions about all aspects of an organisation’s

business. Providing insights solely on financial performance

is no longer enough, more so because the financials only

tell a part of a performance story, and do not reveal what is

ultimately driving or destroying value across all areas of the

business. As a result, accountants in business MUST get

involved in the operations of the business organisation they

work for.

Digital and data transformation is taking over the way

businesses are run and transforming business models, while

reinventing customer value propositions has become a

prerogative of the finance function to improving operations

through end-to-end digitization of processes, connectivity,

automation, and real-time communication. Technology and

digitization enable PAIBs and their finance departments to

spend more time proactively helping their business to achieve

sustainable success.

All types of organizations are disrupting or being

disrupted. IBM’s latest global C-suite study1 shows that threequarters

of CFOs cite existential threats of some kind to their

enterprises’ current business models. Six in ten CFOs point

to more innovative competitors delivering more compelling

value propositions. Three in ten indicate new entrants are

taking market share, and approximately one in six point to

some combination of product commoditization eroding

margins, or online and mobile channel threats.

The half-life of knowledge, which represents the amount

of time that elapses before half of the knowledge one has

acquired is superseded, is rapidly reducing. This therefore

means that new skills and ways of thinking must be taught in

professional education and training, even though much of this

learning is predominantly acquired over time in an ongoing

learning process, supported by different work experiences.

Moving jobs has become very common and today’s graduate

accountants are expected to change over 15 jobs during their

career. This will help create better accountants for the good

of business.

The accountant in business needs to be outwardlooking

and have a broader perspective and mindset to be

entrepreneurial and commercial; an able critical thinker

and problem solver. Accountants will also increasingly need

to work with colleagues from diverse disciplines across the

business, so good communication skills for discussing with

such multi-disciplinary teams is essential.

As a result of all this changing landscape, the accountancy

profession and professional accountants will need to maintain

their relevance. Many of their core professional values, skills

and knowledge remain relevant although the context in

which they are applied is radically different. Uncertainty

and ambiguity require a different mindset and approach.

Accounting for the business rather than the balance sheet

IS the starting point for relevance. This is bringing a shift

from accounting for the financial performance of a business

to accounting more holistically for the business. Boards and

46 Autumn 2018

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management need their business accountants to provide

a fuller and more candid picture of value creation, and

accountants will need to continue to demonstrate their

professionalism in line with their Code of Ethics in all aspects

of their contribution to business.

Public expectations on business has never been greater

and society is demanding that businesses do well, not only

form a profitability point of view but also by doing good.

This means that strong values of integrity and trust need to

align with the value created for investors and shareholders

as unprecedented levels of transparency and regulation

are being introduced. Accountants in Business are now the

custodians of this. Emerging and significant sources of risk such

as climate change, cyber, fraud and corruption, and modern

slavery, demand greater transparency as more uncertainty

and complexity is added to decision making.

Over recent years, IFAC’s Professional Accountants in

Business Committee2 has been exploring the future for

professional accountants as business partners and value

enablers. The committee’s discussions were based on

members’ experiences of business and finance function

leadership. The accountancy profession can adapt to its

changing environment and ultimately transform towards

improved capacity and sustained relevance. Several roles

were identified that are growing in importance for professional

accountants as well as the ones that will remain cornerstones,

namely growth, germination, conservation, and creative

destruction areas.

The Growth areas that build on current areas of


Co-Pilot. As a member of the leadership team, the

accountant needs to think strategically to drive the growth and

development of the organization. This is achieved by inspiring

others, driving key values, developing overall vision, identifying

growth and value-creating opportunities, and executing major

change initiatives such as digital transformations.

Navigator. Steering the organization toward achieving

sustainable value creation and enabling integration and

connectivity across the organization to deliver objectives. This

is achieved by aligning strategy, managing risk, and connecting

the organization, that is, people, processes and systems, and

financial and non-financial information.

Brand Protector. Moving beyond stewardship of company

assets and financial performance to ensuring the protection of

all critical tangible and intangible assets. This involves fostering

business integrity and sound reputation through effective

governance, risk and control, stakeholder engagement, and

financial discipline, as well as ensuring decisions are based on

sound financial and sustainability criteria.

Influencer. Facilitating change by influencing people and

their actions. This is achieved by building strong relationships

across the business, and the ability to push ideas forward,

as well as supporting and motivating people and teams to

perform towards their objectives.

The Germination areas that are in their infancy but will

become a key part of the role in the future:

Storyteller. Enlightening internal and external

stakeholders on how the business is creating value over time,

and the opportunities and challenges it faces.

Technology and Digital Enabler. Enabling a data-driven

business that utilizes technology and automation, digital and

artificial intelligence, and data in ways that drive decisions and


The Conservation areas that will remain cornerstones:

Trusted Professional. The accountant must remain

professionally objective and sceptical, challenging the

organization and oneself when needed.

Analyst. Providing decision-relevant insight into

performance and decisions. In addition to traditional areas of

financial expertise, the insights provided need to also cover

various aspects of the business model, including data from

internal and external sources.

The Creative destruction that challenges the status quo:

Transaction and Process Expert. The accountant needs

to ensure efficient and effective end-to-end process and

work flows in and across the business. This needs to be done

through both manual processing and reconciliations, that is

data entry and reporting increasingly automated and unseen,

as well as by deploying technology such as robotic process

automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain to enable a

more effective and efficient finance function.

On a final note, the accountant in business should not fear

the issue of technology and the challenges this poses. The fear

that this will make accountants redundant is totally unfounded

and, on the contrary, technology should be embraced as it

makes the accountant ever more relevant in today’s world.

As aptly said by economist Philip Auerswald3, “Whenever

machines and tools substituted one type of human capability,

new human experiences and capabilities actually emerged”.

1. Source: IBM C-suite Study 2018

2. Source: Information for this part of the article was obtained, by kind

permission, from the working papers of the IFAC PAIB Committee

regarding the Future Fit Professional Accountant Profile.

3. Philip E. Auerswald is an American author, economist, and co-founder and

co-editor of Innovations. He currently leads the Global Entrepreneurship

Research Network, an initiative of the Kauffman Foundation.

48 Autumn 2018


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The role of Education

in Professional

Services Firms (PSFs)

and the accounting












With the visible shortage of dedicated qualified

talent in Malta’s labour supply, the importance

of ensuring an appropriate education journey

for the workforce of tomorrow is critical. In order to succeed,

a change in the skillset and competencies required today

is evident. It is necessary to shift from purely theoretical

frameworks and curriculum, to equipping tomorrow’s

workforce with the ability to be analytical, think critically,

and question and assess objectively, rather than accepting

the status quo. It is our duty to help the people who join the

profession to understand what their ultimate career goals

are and provide them with the right means, knowledge and

competencies to achieve them. It is only after providing

the required experience to develop these mandatory skills,

that we can effectively focus on building a resource pool

required to lead professional services firms into the future.

When graduates make the transition from the

classroom to the work place, they bring with them all they

have absorbed in their schooling and the readiness to apply

this knowledge to the real world. Yet, the reality that they

find is often far removed from what they have been taught.

The first years are actually the hardest for them to be able

to understand the dynamics of working in a professional

services firm, realise what they contribute and comprehend

how they can effectively grow.

Recent discussions and findings by the MIA Education

Committee, recognise that the current syllabus requires

adjusting to keep up with the realities of the profession

today. While it would be naïve to think that learning stops

the day somebody graduates from University or completes

their studies, it is clear that the present curriculum merits a

closer look. At a policy level it is necessary to ask whether

the curriculum is equipping our future workforce well

enough to be ready for the realities that we see emerging

in Malta.

Today we refer to lifelong learning and continuous

learning to encourage the workforce to remain agile and

adapt to the changing circumstances. I feel this begs the

question: at which point does education in the classroom

stop and what experience and skills must the profession

provide to allow this learning to continue? Essentially how

do the two work together to give the required all-round

experience needed to guarantee a successful outcome?

How do we equip our people to remain in charge of their

career and provide them with the right model for growth

in order to retain their skills and continue to build on them?

A career model that will retain the workforce of the

future must be one where continuous learning is ever

present. Those organisations that do not offer the ability

to be mentored or provide training programmes that allow

for personal development and growth are missing a key

component to help employees feel that they are growing

as individuals. It is imperative that in addition to learning on

the job, employees are able to develop personally through

rigorous training programmes and a clear journey designed

specifically for them.

In an age of innovation and automation, we see a

shift in the skillset required –methodical, repetitive tasks

are making way for the need for softer skills and a more

analytical mind-set. This is not something easily taught in

a classroom – nor is it something often inherent. Many

times, unless nurtured from an early age, such skills remain

undeveloped. How can the current education system

provide this skillset and how can professional services

firms compensate for this shortfall? How do we prepare

our people to deliver those difficult and challenging

presentations in a boardroom, to manage those demanding

clients, to challenge those ethical queries, to cope with the

ever-complex regulatory requirements and remain true to

the core values of the brand we represent?

There is no simple answer to these questions, but this

article is an opportunity to think about the future of work

and the role education plays. Organisations that are able

to provide this journey will ultimately succeed in engaging

and retaining their workforce within the realities of today’s

working world.

50 Autumn 2018











When we speak of talent in business, we think of

different skills people have which allow them to

successfully achieve their goals in a company. Through

our experience and constant interaction with different

employers in the current market, we see a clear shift in

the skills that were required in the past to the skills that

will be required in the future.

Company requirements are changing, especially for the

accountancy profession. We are seeing a transition in

company requirement from skills that are more technical

in nature to what we call “the human touch”. We observe

that, today, focusing on the technical accounting skills

only, is simply not enough for someone to succeed in an

accounting career. While technical knowledge is essential

and someone who does not like to crunch some numbers

is unlikely to make it in this field, technical expertise on

its own might not allow an accountant to advance and

achieve the career they were expecting.

With advances in technology, the accounting profession

is also going through many changes as some duties are

being taken over by automated systems while others are

being enhanced through technology. With this going on,

it is of utmost importance for the accountancy profession

to develop the right soft skills that cannot be automated

or replicated by a machine. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and

automation should not be seen as a threat, but as an

opportunity to make us more efficient. We should use

this to our advantage and identify where the human

touch is essential for a role to be performed successfully.

Before, accountants had to take care of the coding,

data entry and repetitive tasks related to accounting in

order to be able to analyse data, but today, technology

is allowing accountants to focus on more value-added

services. This means that enhancing the soft skills is now

more important than ever before.

Due to changing regulations, a big chunk of the

accountants’ time is being spent on compliance work.

This is leaving little time for them to give advice, which,

is ultimately what benefits clients the most. In a study

on accounting firms in Australia, conducted by a global

research company, IPSOS, it was found that 62% of

accountants’ time was spent working on compliance

and only 38% of the time was focused on giving

advice. Compliance should not inhibit or take over the

relationship accountants create with clients. Accountants

need to embrace developments in technology as a

resource that will assist in the compliance and data

analysis aspect of accountancy. This will leave time and

space for more strategic development, decision-making

and building lasting relationships. Human intelligence

will be very difficult to be replaced by a machine and,

although automation has surely eliminated certain roles

in this field, other, more meaningful, positions have been

created in the process; enhancing the profession for

accountants who have the right skillset in place.

Developing the right soft skills for this profession to

succeed is essential. Soft skills essential for the future of

talent in the accountancy profession do not focus only on

attention to detail and organisational skills, which were

the most sought-after skills up till recent years. Together

52 Autumn 2018



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tel: 2131 5001 email:


with these important criteria we need to see more of the


Communication – The accountant is no longer

that person who sits behind a computer working with

numbers. Being good with numbers is crucial, but more

important than that, is the ability to interpret these

numbers, provide insight to others and communicate

the figures in a way that is understandable to different

members of the company who are not necessarily


Communication also involves being confident enough

to chair a meeting and present the results to senior

management while giving meaningful advice which will

affect the future of the business.

Creativity – The accountancy profession cannot rely

on routine. With the impact of political, economic, sociocultural,

environmental and other external influences,

keeping up-to-date with changes taking place around

us is important. The accountant needs to be creative

in developing fresh ideas and finding new strategies to

resolve unique issues.

Adaptability – With accounting evolving in such a

fast-paced way, accountants need to be able to adapt

and show flexibility in their approach to succeed in

their profession. This means adapting to changing

environments, using new software and creating new

reporting strategies, amongst others.

Adaptability is also shown in the way accountants are

able to listen to others and understand the needs and

concerns of the clients, be it internal or external.

Leadership – Apart from leading teams, accountants

need to lead companies forward. As leaders, accountants

need to be accountable for their actions and have clearly

set goals. They need to be able to lead high-performance

teams as well as mentor and coach other members and

provide them with the help they need to improve on

their weaknesses.

Decision Making – Accounting provides insight

that enables management teams to take important

decisions for the future of a business. Being able to guide

companies in the right direction is key in accounting. Due

to the sensitivity of this role, being forthright when giving

advice is also essential.

When looking at accountants who managed to succeed in

this field, we see people who, apart from possessing these

soft skills, also demonstrate a general understanding of

other functions within the organisation. This includes a

good grasp of operations, marketing, communications

and human resources within the company. Accountants

and accounting managers will generally be dealing with

people coming from different backgrounds and working

within different departments. It is, therefore, crucial for

them to be able to relate and gain the trust and respect

of these individuals.

Talent is further developed through ongoing training.

Through our interaction with various companies we meet

professional accountants who can take a leap in their

career by developing and sharpening their soft skills. The

need to keep on learning in this continuously changing

profession is essential. Digital technologies are evolving,

and accountants need to be able to provide insight, not

only on the numbers themselves, but more importantly

on what these numbers mean to the company and the

implications they bring. Keeping up to date with both

the technical changes as well as developing the soft

skills further keeps accountants up to scratch with this

evolving market. Accountants who are ready to invest in

developing themselves will have a competitive advantage

in the future working environment.

54 Autumn 2018


People Skills

for Accountants

Professionals who work in the areas of Finance,

IT and Engineering will often admit that they

would rather work with numbers, systems

and processes than with people! At the same

time, the work reality of these type of professions

often requires them to interact with people on a

regular basis, especially when they are promoted to

managerial grades. This reality is frequently a source

of frustration for professionals such as accountants,

financial controllers, CFO’s etc. They often complain

that dealing with people proves to be a distraction

from their “real” work. It is this perception or attitude

that I believe needs to be challenged. Professionals

in these areas need to appreciate that relational and

intrapersonal skills are essential to their success.

Relational skills are particularly important for

“technically” oriented professionals who also must

deal with clients, team members or manage a

department. These roles often involve competencies

such as delivering presentations, leading team

meetings, carrying out interviews and performance

appraisals, managing conflicts, engaging in

negotiations, influencing and persuading, motivating

and coaching, to mention a few. To be truly effective

and successful in these core activities, the necessary

competencies reach far beyond the technical skills

directly related directly to the profession, such as

accounting. In fact, the skillset related to dealing

effectively with oneself and others has, over the

last two decades, been established as a type of

intelligence called Emotional and Social Intelligence.

This is a measurable and quantifiable construct with

a sound body of research that correlates high scores

on emotional intelligence with career success across

professions, particularly those requiring leadership


Self-Awareness: This is considered a foundation

skill for all other intrapersonal and interpersonal

skills. Self-awareness consists of a person having an

accurate understanding of his/her personality traits,

core values and strengths and weaknesses. It also

includes a personal appreciation of one’s typical

behavioural and emotional patterns, especially when

under pressure and stress. Developing an accurate

picture of ourselves enables us to predict and

understand our reactions and responses to situations

and other people around us. Self-awareness can be

developed from three main sources. The first source

is through the elicitation of candid feedback from

the people we work and live with. By asking them

how we come across to them and how they perceive

our behaviour, competencies and weaknesses

we can achieve a degree of insight and objective

understanding about ourselves. The second source

is through engaging in personal reflection. This

includes thinking about our thoughts, feelings and

behaviours, and how these impact our own state

of mind and that of the people around us. The third

source is by taking psychometric personality tests.

These offer a structured profile of our personality

traits, motivations, stressors, behaviours under

pressure, etc. Combined with coaching, this can be









What do these competencies consist of and how can

we learn, develop and improve them? The following

are a few examples of core intrapersonal (within the

person) and relational skills that play a key role in

the success of any professional who frequently deals

with people but whose main background, training

and focus is not people oriented.

a very valuable method for gaining deep insights into


Active Listening and Understanding: One of the

essential social skills that is often underestimated is

the ability to listen effectively. This includes paying



attention to what other people are telling us,

observing their non-verbal behaviours and noting

their emotions. It also involves the ability to make

sure we really understand what the other person

is saying by paraphrasing, summarising and asking

the right questions that clarify, probe and elicit

elaboration. Effective listening makes other people

feel validated and valued. It also reassures them that

we are taking them seriously and are really focusing

on what they have to say.

Empathy: This is primarily an attitude of

understanding the points of view, feelings, opinions

and perception of others. However, it is also a

skill in that our empathic attitude needs to be

communicated to the other person. This is done by

accurately reflecting both the gist of what the other

person is saying, as well as the emotions that we pick

up from them. Of course, this is only possible if we

can give the other person our undivided attention

and listen deeply. Empathy has a strong impact on

others by making them feel understood and heard,

and often diffuses intense feelings of anger and


Giving Feedback: Another critical skill for career

success is the ability to give feedback in a

constructive non-threatening way. When people

receive candid, honest and sensitively-given

feedback, they feel that they know where they stand

in relation to their performance. This understanding

can then help them change, refine or maintain their

behaviour accordingly. Constructive feedback is

an essential motivational tool that leaders need to

master. It involves reinforcing and acknowledging

good performance and behaviour as well as having

courageous conversations that point out areas for

improvement and development.

strong emotions and then learn how to express those

emotions appropriately.

Managing Conflict and Disagreement: Conflict and

disagreements are inevitable between people who

are working or living together. However, conflictridden

relationships can be a source of great distress

and frustration. The skill of resolving conflicts

between two people or within a group requires all

the skills mentioned so far. However, it also includes

the ability to help conflicting parties listen to each

other, find common ground, identify the real point

of divergence and come to a compromise, or a

synergised solution. People who feel it is safe to

disagree and engage in conflict without the fear of

it spiralling out of control and becoming personal,

are freer to express themselves and speak up. This

is critical for the growth and success of a business,

service or team as it allows new ideas can be proposed

more freely and creative systems or procedures to be

tried out and tested.

These are a few of the intrapersonal and relational

skills needed in leadership and when working with

people in general. They can be learned, practiced

and integrated into one’s behavioural repertoire

that becomes internalised and second nature to

us. This can be achieved through coaching, reading,

training and experimentation with new behaviours.

In the technical corporate world, the importance of

these competencies tends to be underestimated,

yet research repeatedly shows that they are critical

determinants of success and effectiveness in leading,

managing and dealing with people.

Assertiveness: This is a relational skill that strikes

that difficult balance between coming across as being

too forceful or too accommodating. Assertiveness is

important in responding to the multiple challenges

that present themselves to us in our work especially

when interacting with clients and colleagues. When

we communicate assertively people do not feel

intimidated or apprehensive as a result of their

interactions with us. They are also discouraged from

taking advantage and losing respect for us because

we are not overly accommodating. Assertiveness

is also a key Emotional Intelligence competency

as it requires, first, the ability to internally manage

56 Autumn 2018


Can Education benefit from

blockchain technology?








Uses of blockchain technology have been broadly

touted to be applied across a variety of day to day

activities, from financial services to transportation

to health. Blockchain has the potential to fundamentally

change the systems we are familiar with. Can it also be

applied to educational systems? If yes, what changes could

it potentially bring about?

While there are only a handful of organisations currently

utilising blockchain for educational purposes, educators,

students and professionals understand that education is

no longer provided in a brick and mortar environment.

We have moved away from the concept of having a period

in our lives dedicated to learning and another to working.

We now live in the age of continuous life-long learning

furthered by online courses, conferences and seminars as

well as workshops and bootcamps 1 .

We all have several certificates of attendance or

qualifications lying around at home. A common worry is

often that these may easily be lost. Obtaining a new copy

is not always as straightforward, particularly in cases where

an awarding institution ceases to exist.

The safe storage of educational records is one of the

main advantages with blockchain technology. Degree and

course certificates can be verified and securely kept by the

user who will be in control of the documentation without

the need of knocking on the institution’s door for such


A practical use of blockchain would apply to those

individuals who have had to flee their country due to a

natural disaster or war. Their certifications and records

kept within the blockchain would remain available and

verifiable where physical documents may be destroyed,

and there would be no need for institutions to initiate

resource-heavy processes to confirm their validity.

Within the educational system being either universities

as well as other education institutions, students need

to identify themselves with several parties, with each

containing information in isolated silos. This brings about

a large cyber security risk for the organisation which would

require significant investment in keeping information safe

and secure.

Using a blockchain platform, such information can be

safely shared amongst the different parties while the

owner remains in control of such sensitive information.

Institutions benefit too, as efforts and resources to curb

breaches are no longer needed.

A further issue in education today is the transfer of course

credits from one university to another. Credit transfers in

the EU depends on the co-operation agreements between

learning institutions, which are not always recognised by

the institutions themselves. Through the use of smart

contracts, such discrepancies can be avoided since once

the conditions coded within the smart contract are

fulfilled, course credits are automatically transferred.

Earlier on we mentioned the shift in learning patterns.

Continuous learning, makes the need for blockchain

technology even more pressing, allowing learning

experiences to be safely stored and the records easily

available. Moreover, training is instantaneously verifiable

on the blockchain which allows employers to spend less

time authenticating CVs.

Blockchain technology and, more specifically,

cryptocurrencies have the potential to eliminate barriers

faced by students whose country of origin disqualifies

58 Autumn 2018


A short but very difficult training program that helps people become much better at doing something in a short period of time.


them from opening bank accounts. This does not mean

that anti-money laundering procedures are not to be

adhered to, but it would completely change the prospects

of genuine individuals who seek higher education outside

their countries. Governments, too, can issue scholarships

at universities and monies could be released either to

the student or the institution itself based on predefined

criteria using smart contracts.

What advantages does it offer to educators?

Blockchain technology can help academics to publish their

research on an open platform while keeping track of not

only viewership but use of such research material. In the

same way, educators can have quick access to information

and research produced by other colleagues. Through

blockchain, teachers can be rewarded based on the actual

use of training or research materials provided, through

the creation of a specific coin(s), which coin(s) could be

attributed a monetary value.

Platforms are being created to provide educators with a

flexible educational hub. Through these hubs, educators

can directly connect, plan and confirm courses. Meanwhile,

students will be able to place requests for specific courses

to which teachers can reply directly. This can be anything

from a short introductory course to a complete program

of studies.

Another crucial theme for educators is Continuous

Professional Development (CPD), which is often

fragmented and rarely recorded in an adequate manner.

A blockchain system could collate information and record

attendance to CPD courses and other forms of learning

while teachers and other professionals would be able

to receive guidance from trusted providers. This would

create a further incentive to enhance, not only the quantity

of their CPD hours, but most importantly the quality.

Clearly, blockchain technology has application across the

whole education system. At the same time, however, the

reputation of the school, college or university will still play

an important part and students and educators need to go

beyond the trust that is provided by the technology.

The principal obstacle to the implementation of blockchain

technology not only in the educational system but in all

its applications is its scalability. Whilst there are several

benefits the technology does present areas of concern,

namely: GDPR loss of cryptocurrencies, as well as moneylaundering

issues, just to mention a few. Blockchain cannot

be considered in isolation and it requires a cultural shift in

the way we interact with technology before we can fully

embrace its potential and enjoy the benefits it brings to

the learning community.



Humour is universal, and it is considered the most creative

aspect of language. Humour is, therefore, one of the

most important topics in the study of communication.

The benefits of a healthy sense of humour has long been

recognized: our ability to laugh, feel joy and happiness

helps us appreciate the beauty in any loving relationship.

The sharing of humour and laughter, in fact, plays a

significant part in social bonding. Women are attracted

to men who make them laugh while men are attracted

to women who laugh at their humour (Martin, 2007).

It has also been shown that, in a long-term relationship,

women’s humour may be even more important for the

maintenance of a relationship.

The child in us

‘Falling in love’ is very often related to an uncontrollable

and crazy feeling. Similarly, creativity is also associated with

being free, crazy and uninhibited. Maintaining love means

maintaining this ‘falling in love’ syndrome throughout

your life. Both humour and creativity use spontaneity and

surprise to activate a smile and a feel-good factor. Both

sets of skills can bring out ‘the child in you’, which is one

of the keys for success in a relationship. An unexpected ‘I

love you’ note or a bunch of red roses, an impulsive hug,

a spontaneous kiss, a sudden invitation to swim with the

dolphins all contribute to a sincere and inspired smile. The

child in us triggers fun, relaxation and happiness. The child

in us also helps us use ‘self-deprecation’ in those moments

in which we need to be human. Being able to laugh and

share our imperfections and our embarrassing moments

can induce potential joy while also playing a significant part

in social bonding.Our quality of life is killed if we suffer from

a deficiency in humour dosage.

Stuttering, Creativity and Humour

What about humour and relationship to clients in the

therapeutic setting? In anything one does, passion is

essential. I, for example, ampassionate both in my work as a

speech language pathologist and fluency specialist, as well

as in my interest in humour research. It just happened that









both fields crossed paths, which led me to study attitude

changes towards communication when using creativity

and humour during intervention. Findings from the

research provided a framework for the ’Smart Intervention

Strategy (SIS)’ for school-age children who stutter (Agius,

2009; 2012; 2013; 2015) which includes components

of humour and creative expression through creative

thinking skills. Humour and creativity are frequently used

as effective catalysts for change. Simone might be a good

example. She had just graduated from Law School, and as

a person who stuttered, Simone perceived her condition

negatively. She wanted to apply for a job with a wellestablished,

renowned law firm in the United States. She

thought her chances were very slim. We worked on the

curriculum vitae and under the ‘languages section’ we

wrote ‘English Plus’ and ‘French Plus’. Obviously, the first

thing she was requested to clarify during the interview was

this ‘plus’ issue. With a smile, Simone confidently said that

she stuttered in English and that is a ‘plus’. Jokingly she

told them that she was sure that none of the interviewers

knew how to stutter as good as she did. Not only that,

but she also stuttered in French. The interviewers were

fascinated with the interesting information on stuttering,

on famous people who stutter and the different theories

on stuttering. They noticed that stuttering did not interfere

with Simone’s effective communication. She was smart,

creative, interesting, persuasive, caring and human.

Simone was recruited for the job and still works for this

‘celebrity lawyer’s firm’ in Los Angeles.

A new angle

Both creativity and humour were used to positively shift

Simone’s perception towards communication. Her selfworth

improved, and she was happier and more confident

in herself. The client-clinician relationship developed into

a very healthy and much essential therapeutic alliance:an

alliance based on respect and sincerity. When Simone

found her soul mate,I was honoured to be her ‘best man’

in their wedding.

Humour and creativity can provide a new insight about

a problem and allow for a wider degree of objectivity.

In creativity we say ‘ah-ha’ while in humour we use ‘haha’.

The therapeutic (creativity and humour) ‘ha-ah-ha’

techniques include activities leading to shifting perceptions

and activating the ‘real’ smile. By playing with words and

encouraging self- deprecation we can become capable of

taking ourselves lightly and our profession seriously (Agius,

2018). Humor can be used in a therapeutic relationship to

lubricate the therapy process. It builds solidarity, creates

a relaxed atmosphere and encourages communication

particularly on sensitive issues. Both humour and creativity

broaden perception and help us look at ourselves from a

new angle. The bottom line is that shared humour and

laughter plays a significant part in social bonding.

Key takeaways:

• Both humour and creativity use spontaneity and

surprise. They can bring out ‘the child in you’. This is

one of the keys for success in a relationship.

• Humour is as a catalyst for change.


Agius, J. (2009) School-Age Children who Stutter: Attitude Changes

following a Thinking Skills Program. The Journal of

Stuttering Therapy, Advocacy and Research, 3, 112-130.

Agius, J. (2012) The ‘Smart Intervention Strategy’ for School Age Children

who Stutter. Special Issue Logopedie: Speech Fluency, 2, 4-11.

Agius, J. (2013) Application: Fluency: Smart Intervention Strategy.

Category: Education, Language: English, Developer: Vioside,

Requirements: Compatible with iPad.

Agius, J. (2015) Fluency SIS: Smart Intervention Strategy. Procedia- Social

and Behavioural Sciences. 193, 7-12.

Agius, J. (2018) Shifting perceptions: Using creativity and humour in

fluency intervention. Forum Logopedyczne. 26, 49-61.

Martin, R. (2007) The Psychology of Humour. Academic Press.

60 Autumn 2018

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Generational Differences in the modern workplace

and how these can impact the bottom line

Generational differences can often lead to misunderstandings and

a lack of respect amongst co-workers. Over time, these disputes

can erode employee morale and even affect the bottom line.










Gen X - 1966-1979

Xennials - 1980-1986

Millenials - Gen Y - 1987-1996

Gen Z - 1997 - Later

Source: Business Leaders Malta

Generational differences often manifest themselves in

differences in behavior, responses and reactions. Millennial

communication styles for example, often cause tension with

older generations at work. One in three millennials think they

are good, efficient, communicators and prefer to focus on the

process required in order to achieve a desired outcome. From

the other perspective, many baby boomers and those from

Generation X consider themselves personal communicators

who are focused on building human connections and

relationships. These differences in styles of communication

command the respective generation’s approach to

communications in the place of work. For example, about a

third of millennials use social media and instant messaging to

communicate daily with colleagues and clients, compared to

circa 1 in 10 of baby boomers. Apart from communication styles,

Millennials are typically much more focused on their life/work

balance when compared to baby boomers and Generation X

who are known to be the cut-throat hard-workers. This could

also create much antagonism. When it comes to technological

knowledge Millennials are extremely well-versed and ahead of

their predecessors and this is an important asset when hiring

millennials. Due to rapid technological progress, for Millennials,

modern technology is an extension of themselves, and thus, it

is not just a hobby, but the way they live.

How could these generational differences affect the bottom


Miscommunication and misunderstandings generate mutual

feelings of disconnection and potential friction at the place of

work which in turn affects employee morale and motivation.

As a consequence less engagement eventually takes its toll on

employee productivity and performance. This domino affect or

chain reaction inevitably bites a chunk out of the bottom line.

How You Can Address and Overcome Differences?

Firstly, recognise that these differences exist and that they

account for many instances of miscommunication, perceived

disrespect or friction between coworkers. Many of the older

generations are offended by Millennials’ casual approach to

authority, while Millennials may not understand the older

generations’ adherence to rules and regulations. However,

if the generations take some time to understand each

other’s backgrounds and values, they will recognize the

role of generational differences in their office behavior. It

ultimately all boils down to open communication and mutual

understanding. Putting yourself in the other generations shoes

so as to understand their perspective and reasoning.

An effective way of promoting cross generational engagement

is through synchronized teambuilding and training workshops

which really gives the differing generations the opportunity to

step on the other side, immerse themselves and come out

with a new found perspective and appreciation.

Working with teams from different client companies, the

different cross cultural or generational differences have

become evident and as has the need for better and more long

lasting cross-generational engagement at the place of work.

64 Autumn 2018


Clown Doctors: Nature or Nurture?













Clown Doctors, employed professionals or volunteers,

are at work in paediatric hospitals in over 750 hospital clown

organisations around the world. They practice clown care:

Through their comic presence they bring children relief from the

anxiety, pain and boredom they experience when admitted to


Clown doctors are a special breed of character with a

unique personality and name, such as Dr Cupcake in pastel

icing colours, Dr DoReMi who has an unstoppable urge to

sing, Dr Buttons, Dr OoPsiE, etc. Each wears a personalized and

decorated white medical lab coat to make the white coats of

the medical staff less scary.

The clowns often carry a variety of props but essentially,

any object or toy that is found in a patient’s room can be a tool

to clown with, using some imagination or magic, trying to find

that “one door” they can open for a child. Finally, all wear a red

nose, “the smallest mask in the world”, signalling: Here comes


Dr Klown in Malta started in 2011 as a 100% volunteer

association, counting today 45 volunteers, of which more than

half are Klown Doctors.

Can one be educated to become a Klown Doctor?

The volunteer Klown Doctors have no professional background

as clowns (neither are they medical doctors). They all pass

through a whole year of training in skills like mime, puppet play,

singing, music and dancing, magic, etc. Improvisation is probably

the most important skill of all, as they have to adapt to a different

situation in every room they visit and to the health of the child.

And of course, to apply all these skills in a paediatric ward

requires specific training, for which we have to call on the help of

specialists from abroad.

We believe that people can develop into a clown. There’s only

one major condition: The potential needs to be there! It is clear

that it helps to be “a natural clown”. They learn faster, are more

expressive and feel usually more at ease with changing from their

normal behaviour into clown mode.

Hospital clowns are strongly oriented towards the sick

child rather than towards their own performance. Success is

not to play out a good act, but whether the child has enjoyed a

moment of distraction, has been able to be a child again in an

unpleasant environment.

Is being a hospital clown an educational experience?

To give a simple answer: Yes.

Becoming a hospital clown is a process of personal

development. The experience of visiting the wards is enriching.

One develops as well empathy skills as the ability to master one’s

own emotions. The constant need for improvising increases one’s

flexibility of thought and creativity. Seeing children experience

so much pain and how most of them manage to deal with it,

humbles one and makes one count his/her own blessings. This

positive personal development is in fact the only reward they get

for their work and dedication, besides the satisfaction of seeing

smiles on the kids’ faces.

But clowns are only human. The level of suffering and pain

that hospitalised children live with, silently and not so silently,

defies description. The clowns are not always successful, at

least not in the sense that most people would judge the work.

Sometimes they are unable to help because what’s going on

in the room is beyond the reach of these “magicians of the

soul”. They play soft tunes and leave. But most of the time they

succeed to spread smiles among the young patients and even

have them experience hilarious moments, forgetting all about

the sad environment they’re in, leaving them with only one

request: “Will you come back tomorrow? Please??”

66 Autumn 2018

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