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A random collection of news items I hope you will find interesting.
By Gundi Jeffrey, Managing Editor 

Deliberate market focus drives solid growth for Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton International Ltd. recently announced global revenues of USD 5.72 billion for the financial year ended 30 September 2019, up 5.1% over 2018. This result represents growth of 6.4% in constant currency terms.

According to the firm’s press release, the results were driven by: 

  • Investment in 13 strategic growth markets where Grant Thornton sees the highest potential for growth in the mid-market segment. Firms in these countries grew by 12.8% – double the global growth rate – and now account for USD 1bn of total global revenue. Growth in these markets was led by Brazil (+26.3%), Germany (+24.3%), India (+21.2%), Japan (+14.4%) and China (+9.9%).
  • Asia Pacific saw outstanding results from many firms, including those above, which drove growth of 10.7% across the region, nearly double the projected regional GDP growth for 2019.
  • Solid growth across all service lines with a particularly strong result from advisory (+8.6%), closely followed by tax (+5.9%) and assurance (+4.7%).
  • A global focus on growing mid-market businesses which are expected to continue to outperform the rest of the market.

Peter Bodin, CEO of Grant Thornton International Ltd, says: “Our robust 2019 global revenues are the result of a deliberate strategy, focused on quality and culture, which delivered sustainable growth for the network. While business optimism fell around the world in 2019, our firms’ focus on quality and helping clients navigate an increasingly uncertain world has delivered another record result for our network. Our investment in strategic growth markets is paying off. With these markets delivering double the growth rate of the rest of the network, we expect this investment to continue to pay dividends over the long-term.”

For more information, go to: https://www.grantthornton.global/en/press/press-releases-2019/deliberate-market-focus-drives-solid-growth-for-grant-thornton/.

Coronavirus opens door to company surveillance of workers

Amazon is piloting a system that sends real-time warnings to workers if they’re standing too close to each other, says an article in Politico magazine, published June 26 and written by Mohana Ravindranathrus. The article goes on to say that some major companies are testing technology to identify workers who have been in close contact with a coworker who tests positive for the coronavirus.

According to Ravindranathrus, employers are rushing to use digital tracking technology to reduce virus transmission in the workplace. But privacy experts worry that businesses will start using their newfound surveillance capabilities for purposes far beyond public health. The data could be used to evaluate workers' productivity, see which colleagues are holding meetings or even flag an employee who unexpectedly ducks out of the office during work hours.

PwC has been testing an app internally for the past six weeks that uses a smartphone’s Bluetooth signal to track workers’ movements without capturing real-time geolocation information. That’s similar to the “proximity technology tracking” technology Apple and Google is providing to local governments to build their own apps. PwC, which plans to roll out its app more broadly in the next two weeks, is requiring employees to download the technology as a condition of returning to the office, though it will allow most to continue working from home. 

For more on the pluses and minuses of the new technology, check in with Ravindranathrus at:

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/26/workplace-apps-tracking-coronavirus-could-test-privacy-boundaries-340525.

Will office buildings ever be the same?

On June29, Reuters published an article saying that the Empire State Building become a symbol of the struggle with the coronavirus. According to this article, “the once jam-packed 102 stories of the 1,454 ft (443m) skyscraper sit mostly empty in a city in shock from the country’s worst outbreak of COVID-19.”

Authors Imani Moise and Echo Wang write that, a week into New York’s second phase of post-lockdown re-opening, dozens of the companies with office space in one of the world’s most famous buildings are trying to figure out when, how – even whether – to come back. 

The same quandary is being played out across the United States, Canada and the world. Something so normal as working in a big office block has abruptly become almost unimaginable for many. The June 22 reopening allowed office buildings to invite tenants back, as long as maximum occupancy stayed below 50%. But most companies based in the building have opted to extend work-from-home arrangements.

Based on a tenant poll, management expected just 15% to 20% of the building’s usual 15,000 worker population to return at the second phase of reopening. Yet, even among those who plan to maintain a presence when the time comes, few expect to ever return to a workplace like the one they knew before coronavirus, according to Reuters interviews with several people who work or run companies there.

What are the tenants thinking? How might this play out? What will the future look like? This article gives some thought-provoking indications. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-empire-state-b/will-office-buildings-ever-be-the-same-empire-state-offers-clues-idUSKBN2401A1.

Continued Importance of High-Quality Financial Reporting for Investors in Light of COVID-19

In a speech given June 23, the SEC’s chief accountant Sagar Teotia noted that, in April, his office, the OCA, had issued a statement about the importance of high-quality financial reporting in during the time of COVID-19.  At that time, many public companies were in the midst of their first quarter financial reporting process, working through accounting and financial reporting issues related to the impact of, and uncertainties related to, COVID-19. “In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, because of the diligent efforts of so many, our financial reporting system has continued to serve its critical function of providing much-needed information to investors and our capital markets.  We recognize and appreciate the efforts of various participants in our financial reporting system (e.g., preparers, auditors, audit committee members) to provide high-quality information to investors.”

As many public companies now prepare for their next reporting cycle (e.g., second quarter financial reporting), we emphasize that the participants in the financial reporting system continue to play an important role in the functioning of our markets and in our collective national effort to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Teotia said.

He pointed out that “we have long recognized that our active coordination and engagement with public companies, auditors, audit committees, other regulators, standard setters, investors and others (both domestically and internationally), is fundamental to our efforts to promote high-quality financial reporting.

In his speech, Teotia specifically covered the following topics:

  • OCA’s Engagement and Work Related to High-Quality Financial Reporting.
  • Engagement with the FASB and the PCAOB.
  • Engagement with International Standard Setters and Other Regulators.
  • Engagement with and the Vital Role of Audit Committees.

Read all about it at: https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/teotia-financial-reporting-covid-19-2020-06-23.

UK Audit firms face inquiry over role in LCF minibond scandal

According to a June 23 article in The Times (UK), two of Britain’s biggest accounting firms are facing an investigation by the industry watchdog over their roles in the London Capital & Finance minibond scandal. The country’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is expected to announce that it will investigate audits carried out by PWC and EY, and by Oliver Clive & Co, a small, London-based firm. All three separately signed off the company’s financial statements in three different years without raising concerns about the LCF’s financial reporting practices.

The article, written by Luisa Clarence-Smith and Ben Martin, notes that the collapsed minibond business is at the centre of one of the biggest scandals to have hit investors in years. More than 11,600 savers who bought high-risk, unregulated minibonds issued by London Capital & Finance face losing an estimated 75% of the £237 million they invested after the company collapsed in January last year.

The business replaced its auditor three times in quick succession between 2015 and 2017, the years for the financial statements that will be examined by the Financial Reporting Council.

A source close to the investigations said that they would examine Oliver Clive & Co’s audit of London Capital & Finance’s accounts for the month to the end of April 2015; PWC’s audit for the year to the end of April 2016; and EY’s audit for the following financial year.

The watchdog declined to comment on the investigations. However, market sources suggested it was likely to consider areas including the audit of net assets and related-party transactions.

For details about what went on, go to: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/audit-firms-face-inquiry-over-role-in-lcf-minibond-scandal-pmz28b568.

How to Not Be Overwhelmed Right Now

Having trouble focusing or getting motivated? When you're extra stressed, try setting small goals. A June 24,2020 article in Inc., written by Gabrielle Bienas tells us how.

The article quotes management expert Daniel Pink, who believes that making a few adjustments to your routine and mindset will help maintain focus and clarity of mind. Here are three of his suggestions to achieve that objective:

1. Start with small wins. People are best inspired at work by making meaningful, day-to-day progress. Pink recommends finding the unique personal contribution you can make as an individual, rather than focusing on changing the whole world. Try to move toward your goal by just a few feet, one day at a time. 

2. Infuse your goals with purpose. These smaller goals should be still in service of some type of purpose, Pink says. Having a greater meaning is what distinguishes your daily accomplishments from busy work or leisure activities.

3. Lead by example. Leaders can help employees set purpose-driven goals with their own example, Pink says. Good leaders will focus on helping their team feel safe and as if they belong as a vital aim of the business, rather than a "nicety." Start by being more intentional about building community and psychological safety.

For a more detailed description of Pink’s advice, check out: https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/ADBQkqFg_mIQXvXOHg6mAHf0fx4?.intl=ca&.lang=en-CA.

Accountants Are in Greatest Demand in Today’s Job Market

This should come as no surprise. According to a June 18 blog on LinkedIn by Cesar Zulaica Pineyro, “accountants, project managers and supply chain managers help businesses run like well-oiled machines, playing a critical role in maintaining operations. These roles are all the more important as companies deal with unprecedented volatility and on-the-fly adjustments.”

Although certified public accountants are the sixth most in-demand job overall, they top the list of jobs with the fastest growing demand. That could be, says Pineyro, “because this tax season has been more unpredictable than most, and the fact that many businesses are seeing their finances strained.”

The author notes that, as COVID-19 lockdowns begin to lift, job seeking has surged back to pre-pandemic levels. And while hiring has only just started to recover, there’s still substantial and growing demand for a number of jobs.

Check out the numbers at: https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2020/most-in-demand-jobs.

Planning for the Post-COVID-19 Workforce

This very useful article, also published in June 2020 by Knowledge@Wharton>, analyzes four scenarios for the future of human capital in, with implications for companies operating in different industries as well as regions of the world. The scenarios are described as follows:

For a detailed description of how these different scenarios can play out and how to take advantage of the opportunities they offer, visit: https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/planning-post-covid-19-workforce-four-scenarios/.

Artificial Intelligence Meets Auditor Intelligence

A White Paper recently published jointly by CPA Canada and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, notes that COVID-19 and the resulting environment has changed how we work for the foreseeable future. According to The Data-Driven Audit:  How Automation and  AI are Changing the  Audit and the Role  of the Auditor, “It has heightened our increasing reliance on technology and tools and we believe it is now more important than ever to embrace automation and begin to think about AI and how we perform audits today and in the future.”

For many auditors, using automation and analytics is a first step in their digital journey toward an AI-enabled audit. Much like the digital advancements that preceded it, AI will perform repetitive tasks, provide greater insights and improve efficiencies and quality, allowing auditors to better use their skills, knowledge and professional judgment.

As digital progress continues, the questions increase. What role will an auditor play in a world dominated by AI? How will the audit of the future change? What are the limitations of AI? This publication aims to answer those questions.

In addition to exploring the benefits of an AI-enabled audit and how AI will evolve the audit and the role of the auditor, this publication also considers the change in mindset required to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities this evolution presents. Further, it provides a peek into the next step on the digital journey beyond the current state of AI, as well as the assurance-related opportunities that will directly result from these continued advancements.

To learn more, go to: https://www.aicpa.org/content/dam/aicpa/interestareas/frc/assuranceadvisoryservices/downloadabledocuments/the-data-driven-audit.pdf.

Effective Ways for Accounting Professionals to Respond to a Data Breach

According to an article I found very useful, published in AccountingWEB June 18,2020, the following is a partial list of events that may indicate a security breach in your IT systems:

  • Your passwords suddenly stop working
  • Suspicious programs show up when you run “Control Panel > Programs and Features.”
  • Your virus protection software has been deleted or disabled.
  • When browsing, you start seeing many unusual browser pop-ups, URLs you enter are redirected to different webpages, or your Home URL is automatically changed to one for another website.
  • You are suddenly missing files.
  • You experience constant or regular crashes because the system has become unstable.
  • Applications suddenly will not run or are missing.
  • Your computer is running terribly slow, and even though you have a lot of memory and disk space, it keeps churning away for no apparent reason.
  • You get locked out of your PC altogether because it says your password is invalid.
  • You may get the blue screen of death, meaning the computer will not boot up at al.l

After any of these types of breaches have occurred, advises the article, the best defense against your computer systems shutting you down or causing major business disruptions is a solid plan B and good, current backups. But even that can be problematic, depending on the amount of time passing between when your system was breached and the time the malware is executed. Hackers know that most individuals do not back up their systems regularly, in which case the malware may execute as soon as it downloads or the next time the system boots. Alternatively, the malware may not run for several weeks or months after it downloads so it will be on all backups to negate a simple recovery by reloading. In that scenario, the malware executes again after you’ve restored everything.

For a ton of advice on how to prevent and spot security breaches, as well as what to do about them, consult: https://www.accountingweb.com/practice/practice-excellence/effective-ways-for-accounting-professionals-to-respond-to-a-data-breach.

The Six Biggest Post-Lockdown Challenges for Businesses and Organizations

According to a June 17, 2020 article in INSEAD Knowledge (which is published by an organization of the same name that calls itself The Business School for the World), a new normal is taking shape, and the pressure for safeguarding human lives and supporting workers and morale is shifting from governments to businesses and organizations. The upshot is that organizations will effectively be competing on how well they respond and adapt to the pandemic.

There appear to be six post-lockdown issues that organizations are grappling with: design and risk mitigation, remote working, control, connection, time horizons and versatile leadership.

The upshot is that organizations will effectively be competing on how well they respond and adapt to the pandemic, says Charles Galunic, INSEAD Professor of Organizational Behaviour. “The government has done some of the big work, and now the responsibilities are moving quickly down to the organization to try to figure out how to resolve economic issues, supply chain issues, and also health and safety issues,”

 

Apart from the other five post-lockdown issues noted above that need to be addressed, the most important will be versatile leadership. According to Galunic, “Senior leaders understand that things like financial reporting and supply chains have to work, processes that they oversee but do not directly manage. However, they need to directly manage key processes related to the business strategy such as sense-making, mobilization, structural balancing, cultural and capability development.”

For this crisis, concludes the article, it’s ultimately vital that we have versatile leaders who can work across the frontstage and backstage. “Leaders who will do the best through this moment in history will be working across those two stages – being competent frontstage, with powerful moments of inspiration and hope, but also working hard in the backstage, making sure they understand what the reality is in those key strategic processes that they have to own and then making them better.” 

For detailed tips and advice, check out the article at: https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/the-six-biggest-post-lockdown-challenges-for-organisations-14416.

Accountants focused on client retention and survival, AccountantsWorld 2020 survey finds

In April 2020, AccountantsWorld launched a nationwide survey to gauge the business outlook for accounting firms and their clients. Almost 400 professionals in public accounting participated.  Owners or partners of accounting firms represented almost 90% of the entire responding audience; 65% of responders work in firms with five or fewer employees; 23% were in firms with six to 20; and 12% were from larger-staffed firms.

Accountants are concerned that up to 28% of their clients may not survive the current economic landscape, versus only 5% of their clients that they expect will see growth.  Accountants believe that more than half of their small and medium-sized clients will struggle to survive or will need to scale down their growth expectations, and barely 10% will emerge with minimal impact to their business.

More than half of all respondents expect that their firm’s financial performance will decline by the end of 2020, while less than 13% are expecting elevated performance. Interestingly, 36% expect performance to continue at its current pace for the remainder of the year.

An overwhelming majority of accountants are focused on helping their clients navigate and survive the new normal.  Many firms are looking for new ways to increase efficiencies, such as upgrading technology and/or cutting costs.  At this time, long-term growth is not a primary focus for most firms.

For the fine details, check out: https://accountantsworld.blog/2020/06/08/accountants-focused-on-client-retention-and-survival-accountantsworld-2020-survey-finds/.

Canadian Standard Setting During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

In early June, the Chairs of Canada’s Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, Accounting Standards Board and Public Sector Accounting Board released a statement updating CPA Canada members on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects in Canada and noting that they continue to be focused on ensuring that stakeholder needs are addressed.

“Recent decisions have focused on alleviating pressure as you navigate these challenging and uncertain times. We are also taking a measured approach to moving forward with new projects and decisions that affect you.

“Resources to support your work are being developed. Each board is working hard to develop resources to support stakeholders’ application of standards, with materials released such as:

Webinars on COVID-19’s implications on going concern assessments and application of public sector accounting standards; and Resources for publicly accountable entities, private enterprises, and not-for-profit organizations applying the CPA Canada Handbook – Accounting standards.  

Effective dates have been, and will continue to be, discussed. For example, the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB) deferred effective dates by one year for several accounting standards for private enterprises at its April 15, 2020 meeting. The Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) is set to make a final decision on the deferral of upcoming effective dates at its June 2020 meeting. The Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB) also continues to actively monitor the environment and reviewed effective dates of all recently approved standards at its April 20, 2020 meeting. It stands ready to take action should there be further developments.

Comment deadlines for documents are being carefully considered. We want to ensure stakeholders have sufficient time to consider proposals while ensuring projects continue to move forward. The recent releases of the Consultation Paper, Contributions – Revenue Recognition and Related Matters and the Exposure Draft, “Audits of Group Financial Statements (Including the Work of Component Auditors)” each provide stakeholders with an extended comment deadline. 

We continue to serve the public interest. Our board meeting schedules have adapted as well. Our previous all-day, in-person meetings are replaced with shorter duration but more frequent meetings, allowing us to maintain our commitment to setting standards in the public interest while remaining agile and responsive in this constantly changing environment.” 

For the complete statement and links to ongoing endeavors, please go to:  https://www.frascanada.ca/en/news-listings/june-2020-covid-19-statement.

UK Industry Taskforce Sets Out Early thinking on How to Overcome SME Covid-19-related Debt Challenge

On June 8,2020, a UK taskforce comprising more than 160 senior accounting practitioners from across UK-based financial and related professional services published its early-stage thinking on how the private sector can support the country’s SMEs to manage unsustainable debt built up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The interim update from TheCityUK Recapitalisation Group (RCG), chaired by TheCityUK Leadership Council Chairman Sir Adrian Montague and supported by EY UK, sets out the scale of the challenge, considers the sectors most likely to need support, explores how private sector capital could be mobilized and what gaps could remain for the public sector, and discusses the key challenges for any proposed solutions to ensure they work for businesses right across the UK.

At this stage, the RCG has not settled on any specific solutions, but it has set out potential options, alongside the critical policy and regulatory questions that need to be considered to make these viable. 

According to Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer, TheCityUK, “We are still some way from making our final recommendations, but our intention is to find solutions that will ultimately leave a legacy that drives economic growth in every part of the UK and long into the future. There is real determination that the industry plays its part, working alongside government, to overcome the economic challenges brought about by this pandemic.”

For more on the contemplations of this task force – and maybe getting ideas for other parts of the world – please consult: https://www.ey.com/en_uk/news/2020/06/industry-taskforce-sets-out-early-thinking-on-how-to-overcome-sme-covid-19-related-debt-challenge.

Building Process Maps: Template and Instructions

The AICPA’s Journal of Accountancy is making an offer that seems to good to pass up. It wants to give accountants a free template it calls Building Process Maps.

The importance of documenting the financial close process and finding opportunities for automation has never been more urgent, says a new s release from J of A. Workiva, in collaboration with themagazine, has developed a PowerPoint template that includes sample charts, instructions, a risk assessment questionnaire and bonus checklists that will help you map out your process. This comprehensive template walks you step-by-step through a process map, provides icons you can use and text you can customize. The end result can help in making detailed presentations and building a specific business case. The template provides illustrative information and is neither authoritative nor all-inclusive. 

Download your free template at https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/info/process-maps-template-instructions-workiva.html?utm_source=mnl:marketing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=workivatemplate&utm_content=cta-1&utm_medium=email&SubscriberID=132061398&utm_source=&Site=&LinkID=9332987&utm_campaign=&cid=email:::https%3a%2f%2fwww.journalofaccountancy.com%2finfo%2fprocess-maps-template-instructions-workiva.html%3futm_source%3dmnl%3amarketing%26utm_medium%3demail%26utm_campaign%3dworkivatemplate%26utm_content%3dcta-1:&SendID=287344&utm_content=.

COVID-19: How to Reopen and Keep Employees Safe

By Luke O’NeillFinancial Management magazine, June3, 2020

According to a recent article in Financial Management, the magazine published by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, as economies are reopening, businesses in Asia Pacific are offering the first lessons on how to keep employees safe. “Pausing business operations may have stretched companies in 2020, but reopening is proving challenging in its own right,” says author Luke O’Neill.

Public health leaders, governments and businesses are considering phased reopening as their countries pass peaks of COVID-19’s initial wave, but 44% of businesses polled in a Gartner survey were unsure how a return to work will play out.

US finance executives polled in PwC’s most recent COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey said they are prioritizing the following measures as their companies seek to reopen:

  • Change workplace safety measures and requirements, such as protective gloves and masks, sanitizing stations, hazmat suits and temperature checks (83%).
  • Reconfigure offices and worksites for physical distancing (73%).
  • Stagger employee shifts to reduce risk of exposure, for example, using split shifts (58%).
  • Make remote work a permanent option where possible (43%).
  • Evaluate contact-tracing and location-tracking tools (28%).
  • Provide hazard pay and benefits for on-site workers in affected areas (9%).

To learn about ideas and tools businesses can use as they reopen, go to: https://www.fm-magazine.com/news/2020/jun/how-to-reopen-and-keep-employees-safe-after-coronavirus.html?utm_source=mnl:cpald&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=10Jun2020.

Watch Out Now, This VPN Might be Trying to Steal Your Money

By Anthony Spadafora, TechRadar, June 7, 2020

According to TechRadar, which offers IT insights for business, Office 365 customers are being targeted by a massive phishing campaign that uses fake VPN update messages to steal login details.

Security experts have found that the campaign impersonates legitimate messages telling remote workers that they need to update their VPN configuration while working from home. 

The phishing emails used in the campaign are made to look as if they come from an organization's IT support department in an effort to lure employees into opening them. According to the email security firm Abnormal Security, so far 15,000 targets have received these convincing phishing emails.

VPN usage has soared with more employees working from home than ever before as a result of the pandemic which is why this and other recent phishing campaigns have been so effective. Employees rely on VPNs as a means to connect to their company servers and access sensitive data while working remotely.

This current campaign is widespread and numerous versions of this attack have been spotted. 

To avoid falling victim this campaign, users should enter their Office 365 credentials only on official login pages hosted by Microsoft on its microsoft.com, live.com or outlook.com domains.

For more information, check out https://www.techradar.com/news/fake-vpn-messages-used-to-lure-office-365-phishing-victims.

FASB Approves New Standards and a Proposed Effective Date Delay at Final Meeting of Chairman Russell G. Golden

At a June 10, 2020, meeting, the Financial Accounting Standards Board approved two upcoming Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs): one that improves financial reporting associated with accounting for convertible instruments and contracts in an entity’s own equity, and one that improves how not-for-profit organizations present and disclose contributed nonfinancial assets, also known as gifts-in-kind.

The FASB also voted to issue a proposed ASU that would delay the effective date for its standard improving financial reporting for insurance companies that issue long-duration contracts, such as life insurance, disability income, long-term care and annuities.

Under the first ASU, the accounting for convertible instruments will be simplified by removing major separation models required under current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Accordingly, more convertible instruments will be reported as a single liability or equity with no separate accounting for embedded conversion features. The FASB expects to issue the ASU during the 3rd quarter of 2020.

The ASU on Accounting for Contributed Nonfinancial Assets by Not-for-Profit Organizations will require a not-for-profit organization to present contributed nonfinancial assets as a separate line item in the statement of activities, apart from contributions of cash or other financial assets. The ASU will be effective for annual reporting periods beginning after June 15, 2021. It is also expected to be issued during the 3rd quarter of 2020.

Finally, the FASB voted to issue a proposed ASU that would grant insurance companies that issue long-duration contracts, such as life insurance and annuities, an additional year to implement Accounting Standards Update No. 2018-12, Financial Services—Insurance (Topic 944): Targeted Improvements to the Accounting for Long-Duration Contracts. Stakeholders will have 45 days to review and provide comment on the proposed ASU, which the FASB expects to issue in the coming weeks.

Russell Golden concluded the meeting, his last as FASB chairman, by thanking the colleagues and stakeholders who supported the FASB’s work during his term.

For a round-up of the full meeting, please go to:  https://www.fasb.org/cs/Satellite?c=FASBContent_C&cid=1176174724877&pagename=FASB%2FFASBContent_C%2FNewsPage.

Global economic crime rates remain high as customer fraud continues to rise
A news posting on the PwC Global page on in March notes that 47% of companies report experiencing fraud in the last two years, the second highest reported level in 20 years. “Customer fraud sees the biggest increase, up from 29% to 35%. Customers, hackers and vendors/suppliers are responsible for 39% of all incidents in the last two years.”

PwC’s bi-annual Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey examines more than 5,000 responses from 99 countries. It reports on the overall insights from companies who have experienced, on average, six incidents over the last two years. The report provides insights into the threat, cost of fraud and what companies need to do to develop stronger proactive responses.

According PwC, fraud and economic crime rates remain at record highs, affecting companies in more ways than ever. The survey reports that fraud committed by customers tops the list of all crimes experienced (at 35%), up from 29% in 2018. Businesses report that customer fraud and cybercrime are the most disruptive of all the crimes.

Antitrust, insider trading, tax fraud, money laundering and bribery and corruption are reported as being the top five costliest frauds in terms of direct losses – sometimes compounded by the significant cost of remediation.

Globally, all regions experienced customer fraud in the last two years, with the Middle East (47%, up from 27%) and North America (41%. up from 32%) seeing the biggest increases.

The report highlights the importance of prevention and how investing in the right skillset and technology can create an advantage. Nearly half of organizations responded to crime by implementing and enhancing controls, with 60% saying their organizations were better for it. But nearly half of respondents did not conduct an investigation at all. Barely one third reported the crime to their board, but of the organizations that did, 53% ended up in a better place.

“Fraud and economic crime is a never- ending battle. Getting to the root of the problem is key to preventing and dealing with future fraud. Whether it's through technology, new processes, skills and training, or a combination – the result is strengthening business as a whole against crime, which is ultimately good for the consumer too.” comments Kristin Rivera, PwC Global Forensics Leader.

For more on the survey, please go to: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/news-room/press-releases/2020/global-economic-crime-survey-2020.html.

Mounting Pressure Beginning to Drive Progress for Women in Senior Leadership

According to the latest Women in Business research from Grant Thornton International, the percentage of businesses globally with at least one woman in senior management has risen to 87%, an increase of 12% over the past year. Overall, women now hold 29% of senior leadership positions globally. While this is up only 10% over the past 15, half this increase (5%) has been achieved in the last 12 months alone.

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader, Grant Thornton International, believes that “these figures are incredibly encouraging and a strong indication that gender parity is starting to be taken seriously by businesses. External factors such as increasing organizational transparency, gender pay gap reporting and highly visible public dialogue like the #MeToo movement appear to be making businesses wake up to the change that is needed.”

While the number of women in senior leadership is increasing, less encouraging results show that gender parity at the head of the table is still a significant way off. When it comes to the role of CEO or managing director, only 15% of businesses globally have a woman leading the business.

According to Lagerberg, “despite the strong business case in favour of gender diversity, change at the top has been slow until now. Hopefully, the sharp increase in the representation of women in senior leadership we’re seeing this year is not purely a knee-jerk reaction to the current social climate and we’ll see similar progress in the coming years.

“If we want to continue seeing female representation trend upwards in senior positions, more deliberate action needs to be taken and leaders will play a critical role. Policies that address equal opportunity in career development, bias in recruitment and flexible working can’t just be a nice to have. To achieve meaningful progress, they must be adhered to, enforced and regularly revisited to assess their effectiveness. When that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, you begin creating a truly inclusive culture.”

For more information, contact Thor Bostelmann at thor.bostelmann@gti.gt.com.

5 Tips for Preventing Burnout During COVID-19By Malia Politzer, Financial Management magazine, May 31, 2020

For finance professionals working demanding jobs, the risk of burnout can be a challenge in the best of times, says this recent article written by Malia Politzer. “But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people now find themselves suddenly thrust into the position of having to balance their work obligations with new competing demands — home-schooling children or caring for sick relatives, for example — in a time of deep economic uncertainty and collective anxiety.”

All these additional stressors mean that for many, the risk of burnout is at an all-time high, according to J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D., a psychologist and the executive director of New York Behavioral Health. “It’s a difficult time for everyone, and social distancing has added another level of complexity,” he said. “People can’t go to the gym or to a yoga class. They’re missing those weekly dinners with family, or their AA group — all of the supports that involve leaving the house have been taken away, at a time that we need them most.”

Luckily, burnout is preventable, the article says. Here are some tips from the pros about how to protect your mental health in the midst of a global pandemic.

Create a routine. These are not normal times. Even so, recommends the article, create a routine that approximates your pre-COVID-19 schedule as much as possible. “Make sure that sleeping, eating and physical activity are as close to regular levels and timings as they were previously.”

Set realistic goals. The challenges people face when trying to integrate their work and home lives will be different for each person: Some may have trouble adapting to the technology that allows them to work remotely, while others may struggle with loneliness, marital conflict or caring for children. But one thing is universal: You probably aren’t going to be as productive as you were before the pandemic. Know this, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Monitor yourself for signs of burnout. Preventing burnout is far easier than dealing with its consequences — and that requires active self-awareness. Closely monitor yourself for symptoms, which can include feelings of exhaustion or fatigue, problems concentrating or being short-fused and easily triggered in ways that aren’t typical.

Cultivate self-care strategies. Self-awareness is critical to creating sustainable self-care and coping strategies. Someone prone to anxiety, for example, might do a 10-minute meditation or breathing exercises when they begin to feel triggered. Another person might be more prone to loneliness and need to create opportunities for social interaction.

Get help if you need it. Most people are feeling some form of stress or anxiety at the moment, and some may need professional support. Many therapists are available over the phone and Skype, and offer rates on a sliding scale.

For the full article, which is full of useful advice, please go to: https://www.fm-magazine.com/news/2020/jun/prevent-burnout-during-coronavirus-pandemic.html?utm_source=mnl:cpald&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=02Jun2020.