EFAA 2017 Council Meeting

7. November 2017 in Brussels

EFAA President Bodo Richardt welcomed together with IEC-IAB President Benoît Vanderstichelen and VP Bart van Coile member representatives in the IEC / IAB offices in Brussels for this annual gathering. He then explained the nature of the meeting as a strategic forum to help member organisations and EFAA determine how to best address emerging issues. It is also the place where members can best influence the strategy and direction of EFAA and explain their ideas and concerns. He then continued to explain why the following three sessions had been chosen for the program. Presentations can be requested from Paul Thompson.

Influencing Policy
EFAA President Bodo Richardt moderated a panel discussion comprising Amaia Betelu, Director at global communications firm Edelman, and Jean-Pierre Audy, former French MEP and SMP. Betelu shared insights from Edelman’s Trust Barometer including: technical experts are not well regarded by politicians; confidence in the quality of financial statements is strong; trust in individuals, especially peers, is robust; trust in international institutions is weak since people are sceptical or unaware who is funding them; and transparency fosters credibility. Asked how a small accounting organisation with limited resources would spend its resources wisely Betelu suggested a short brochure to educate and inform national governments on the importance of sound and consistent accounting and assurance across the EU. Betelu also stressed that high quality relevant research is influential. Advocacy is most effective when it consists of ongoing engagement aimed at informing and debating using a combination of emails, letters, and articles. In his following presentation Audy pointed out the importance of working for the interests of SMPs and SMEs both on a national and on an international level. He then suggested EFAA work with UEAPME, possibly hosting an annual SME event focused on pressing business and finance issues that might attract Commission finance. His closing recommendation was to initially establish and goal and then “fight, fight, fight” all the way through the normally long process, lobbying in parallel the Commission / MEPs in Brussels and national governments / authorities.

Non-Financial Information (NFI)
Richard Martin, Chair of EFAA’s Accounting Expert Group, shared findings from EFAA’s survey on the extent and nature of reporting of NFI by SMEs. EU rules  require only large companies to publish regular reports on the social and environmental impacts of their activities. However, the survey, which presently extends to 10 countries, reveals national authorities require SMEs in many member states to report on NFI. Requirements vary from one country to another resulting in a lack of harmonization. There is also the risk of trickle down where national authorities impose EU requirements intended for larger companies on SMEs. EFAA will share a final report with the Commission, MEPs, and national governments / authorities. There might be merit in EFAA advocating for greater consistency. Philippe Peuch-Lestrade  from the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) gave a keynote address on integrated thinking and reporting (<IR>) arguing it was as relevant and useful to SMEs as larger entities. Peuch-Lestrade suggested that SMEs might wish to produce a summary <IR> dashboard – for internal and, possibly, external reporting. EFAA could work with Accountancy Europe (ACE) to develop their ‘Core and More’ initiative for SMEs.

Digital Strategy
Martin de Bie, Chair of the Digital Working Group (DigiWG), moderated a session on EFAA’s digital strategy designed to help its members support their SMPs in the wake of rapid technological change. Belgian DigiWG member Noel De Rudder shared the findings from EFAA’s Member Organisation Micro Survey Results which lays the basis for EFAA’s digital strategy. Business Architect Davy Drees then gave a keynote address on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (see EFAA Digital below for further readings). On 25 May 2018, EFAA members and their members, and the clients and employers of their members, will need to ensure they are compliant with GDPR or else be liable to some heavy fines. More information can be obtained on the EU’s official GDPR website. EFAA plans to produce a GDPR alert publication, and possibly accompanying presentation for use by member organisations at events, for use to raise awareness of the why and how of the GDPR.