I would like to begin by congratulating the new bureau secretaries recently appointed by the central government. The Institute has long had a very good working relationship with the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) and we look forward to continuing this with the new Secretary Christopher Hui Ching Yu.
One area we had been interacting with the FSTB recently on was the reporting deadline of 31 March for listed issuers with 31 December year-ends. I would like to thank the FSTB, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) for their support, including the guidance issued, in this regard.
Due to the hard work of the issuers’ finance teams, and their auditors, almost all of the 1,792 issuers published financial data, and the vast majority (1,399) published their preliminary results announcement with auditors’ agreement and a further 314 published results without auditors’ agreement. Indeed, just five did not report any financial data due to COVID-19.
We are now focusing on 31 March year-end issuers, with the HKEX having recently issued guidance that includes relief measures similar to those announced in February and March for these entities.
Although hard work is the usual practice during the reporting season, this year has required the preparers and practitioners to work in different manners to normal, due to travel restrictions and other difficulties.
In fact, the COVID-19 outbreak has really forced all of us – and particularly the accounting practices – to review our operation routines, move out of our own comfort zones and significantly change the usual ways of conducting our work. I’m impressed by how staff have been able to meet output deadlines over the last few months through no traveling, working from home and flexi-hours, greater adoption of cloud-based technologies, using new portals to exchange and share information, teleconferencing and more. This precious experience shows us that we can remodel and fine-tune our entire modes of operation when the pandemic is over.
“With an uncertain recovery process, the Institute remains committed to preparing for the future, and ensuring our members’ success.”
This will hopefully provide the imperative to address some of the long-standing concerns within the profession, particularly around long working hours, significant traveling and work-life balance – and to better prepare the profession for the future. Change isn’t easy, but when it has been forced upon us, we’ve responded. I hope there will be some lasting improvements from this crisis.
The government has announced two rounds of relief measures as part of its Anti-epidemic Fund, alongside those announced in the 2020/21 budget. Some of the new measures may be of interest to members, such as the Employment Support Scheme, the Enhancement to SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, and the Distance Business Programme. To help members find relevant details, the Institute has launched a new webpage, under the COVID-19 – CPA Information Centre, with links and other useful information on the schemes. The page will be updated as more of the schemes are implemented. Please do check it out.
Although Hong Kong has again recently been recording a low number of new daily COVID-19 cases, the disruption will continue globally over the next few months. As many of Hong Kong’s industries are engaged in cross-border businesses or are reliant on tourism, they too will remain disrupted. For the Institute, this continued disruption includes cancelling the June examination session, including for the Qualification Programme. While this may be of disappointment to some students and members, the well-being of all involved is our priority.
Helping our members is always the Institute’s top objective. Despite our reserves and cash positions having significantly dwindled – particularly due to the membership fee waivers for the last two years and the cancellation of the June examination session – the management is trying hard to contain costs and find ways to give further concessions to members. I look forward to discussing the proposals at Council in due course.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over three months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With an uncertain recovery process, the Institute remains committed to preparing for the future, and ensuring our members’ success. We have had a few days of very hot weather in late April, my mind turned to summer. Who knows what this summer holds, with no certainty that last year’s social disruption is behind us. Whatever happens, this summer is sure to be different to a typical one. The holidays, barbeques, hiking and trips to the beach with family and friends will be affected. But the outbreak has shown how accountants are resilient and have an ability to adjust, improve, and overcome.