What current global crises really mean for Canadian CPAs
The past two years have amplified issues that existed in the supply chain in general (Dean Mitchell/Getty Images)
From supply chain interruptions to inflation, the crises of the past two and a half years have brought a multitude of challenges for Canadian CPAs—and these are all the more difficult to handle because of their interdependency and the compounding effect that is taking place.
“COVID started something that has turned into a tsunami in terms of economic and financial disruption,” says Davinder Valeri, CPA, director, strategy, risk and performance for CPA Canada. “At a time when the world was just starting to have conversations about recovery, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has slowed recovery, and is aggravating the existing supply chain disruptions while introducing the highest inflation rates we have seen since the 1980s.”
Here, industry experts provide an overview of some of the disruptive factors at play and their potential impact on the roles and responsibilities of CPAs.
THE SUPPLY CHAIN CONTINUES TO BE AT RISK
The past two years have amplified issues that existed in the supply chain in general, says Rosanna Lamanna, CPA, partner audit and accounting group at Fuller Landau LLP. “A lot of Canadian companies moved production and manufacturing offshore when the calculations seemed more economical. However, rising freight prices and longer lead times are impacting operations and production, resulting in setbacks and higher costs.”
CPAs have had to gain specific skill sets that address the ongoing supply chain challenges, she says. “Now is the time to revisit supply chain processes and focus on how to improve them and mitigate risks. Make use of system-generated data to perform cost-benefit analysis as options are considered going forward. CPAs have the necessary analytical skills to help management teams analyze and interpret the data to help with their decision-making. Leveraging technology to support and help make those decisions will be key.”
Among other actions, Lamanna and other experts recommend that CPAs do the following:
- Revise forecasting and budgeting more frequently—monthly or weekly.
- Bring in technologies that integrate supply chain management systems with financial forecasting and modelling.
- Couple cybersecurity and supply chains to shed light on areas that are not typically interconnected to determine their impact.
- Seek out alternative supply sources closer to home.
- Introduce specific risk factors in addition to the pandemic in reporting.
- Prepare detailed scenario planning to understand all potential implications.
Building supply chain resiliency and agility is a critical consideration for upper management, including CPAs, adds Jean-François Letarte, partner, procurement transformation and supply chain emerging technologies for KPMG LLP. “Not depending on a single scenario from a supply chain standpoint and, rather, developing the ability to pivot and quickly exercise alternatives as disruption unfolds has become the Holy Grail.”
MONEY LAUNDERING RISKS ARE EVOLVING
The risks of money laundering have risen globally since the pandemic began and may also have increased as a result of the recent flurry of activity around restrictions and prohibitions related to Russia. And all of this could have implications for CPAs, says Michele Wood-Tweel, FCPA, vice-president, regulatory affairs for CPA Canada.
“Generally, CPAs should be aware of evolving money laundering risks and those undertaking activities covered by the Proceeds of Crime Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) must be aware of them.”
While there have been directives for AML/ATF relating to North Korea and Iran, for example, the sweeping nature and breadth of the current measures regarding Russia is quite unique, Wood-Tweel explains. “Reporting entities under the PCMLTFA, including accountants and accounting firms, need to be aware that money laundering can occur because of restriction evasion efforts and be prepared to respond.”
CYBER THREATS ARE ON THE RISE
A recent KPMG report, Russia and Ukraine conflict: a boardroom lens, notes that the increased risk of cyber threats should be prompting tabletop exercises, a review of business continuity plans and assessment of third party/vendor vulnerabilities. It also advises CPAs to monitor regulatory and legislative developments impacting cybersecurity incident reporting and disclosures.
“Accountants should be asking clients about their cybersecurity and focusing on the steps they are taking to prevent an attack and the steps they need to take in the event of an attack,” says Jordan Gould, CPA, partner, audit and assurance, at Richter LLP. “If those clients are subject to an attack, what’s their plan to address it? Where is the disaster recovery piece? That should be part of a broader overall risk discussion. These days, we are seeing that more companies will have a plan A, B, C and even D—it all goes back to risk mitigation.”
INFLATION RISK IS A NEW THREAT
“As inflation settles in, further compounded by the events and accompanying market conditions brought about by the conflict in Ukraine, it is certainly top of mind for anyone overseeing budgets from a corporate reporting standpoint,” says Letarte.
“Additional disclosures will be required for companies reporting over the coming months, clarifying management’s assessment of the operating and financial exposures and their potential impact on the organization’s ability to weather the storm,” he adds. “CPAs need to stay on top of how to report the impact that both inflation and volatility has had so far, the exposure to downside risk and what measures they are taking to address the situation.”
“If we just had the pandemic to deal with, inflation would likely be short-lived once we opened again,” adds Gould. “Having the conflict layered on top of that exacerbates input availability issues, causing further price increases. CPAs will need to focus on the projections and cash flow management that were so critical during the early days of the pandemic and make sure they are anticipating and managing looming obstacles before they get too close.”
CPAs ARE EXPECTED TO PLAY A BROADER ROLE
Michael Paterson, CPA, national assurance leader at PwC Canada, says the current crises, coupled with climate change challenges and demographic shifts, have made it very challenging for businesses to source accounting talent at a time when demand is soaring.
Investment in people will become increasingly vital as accountants will be expected to play a more proactive role in providing input into designing and managing systems, processes and controls, particularly in areas where compliance and regulatory requirements are increasing in complexity.
“CFOs are looking at a different world than they were two years ago,” says Paterson. “They are now asking how they can enable their people with technology to spend more time on analyzing and managing broader business risks versus processing monthly numbers.”
CPAs can also play decision-making roles in societal issues, such as ESG, supply chain risk and inflation, as they prepare companies to deal with a lot of change and uncertainty, he says. “Clients need those accounting skills.”