This week, we have looked at how organisations communicate news to interested parties. For users to have confidence in the information produced, the people producing it must be technically competent and act in an ethical manner. Technical competence and ethics are essential skills because stakeholders rely on the information when making business decisions in relation to the organisation. These business decisions have financial consequences for those making them, so the stakes are high. All of our technical training involves an element of ethics right from your first exam through to your last. So it’s something that’s always at the forefront, and should be at the forefront, of any chartered accountant’s mind. Whenever you act you always have to think, am I acting appropriately?
Am I acting within my remit? If I were to take a step back and look at this independently would I be able to explain my actions? Am I able to sleep at night? These are all the sorts of questions you have to think about, in terms of ethics, to make sure you’re carrying out your roles and responsibilities as a chartered accountant appropriately.
I think ethics is a very important part of my job, in the sense, I want to make sure that we are maximising the money given to us for programme implementation, often I can give you examples about where ethics plays a role in– when you book a flight you’re always looking to get the most cost-effective flight to where you want to go. So, these are decisions often that left to you with a lot of guidance from Save the Children around what’s acceptable and what’s not. The reason why we’re the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the chartered bit means we have a royal charter, which means that we are here in order to serve the public interest, that’s our fundamental raison d’etre.
And therefore, within that, we have a code of ethics we all follow. We’ve got integrity, we’ve got objectivity, we’ve got the whole question of professional competence and due care. We’ve got the issue of confidentiality and we’ve got the question of professional behaviour. So those five elements within our code of ethics And all our members buy into that code, observe that code. We as an organisation ensure that they are following that code. And so, if you’re behaving in that sort of way, for the public benefit, then you are doing what you feel is right for society. From those comments, ethics can be summarised as doing the right thing.
There are some tests we can apply to help decide if a business decision is ethical. Is it truthful? Is it fair to everyone affected? Will it build goodwill for the organisation? Is it beneficial to all parties who have a vested interest in the outcome? What would the reaction be if the decision or action was published in the press? As we’ve just heard, ICAEW Chartered Accountants are expected to apply an ethical code across five fundamental principles. Here, confidentiality and integrity are explained in more detail. To me, confidentiality is being able to maintain confidence, sometimes in the face of extreme challenge. So, if you’re student, you might have a classmate who tells you that they are suffering from some sort of disease.
Now you have the information, obviously they’ve told you in confidence, whether you choose to share that or not is down to you. But the expectation is that, if you are a true friend to them, you will basically keep that information to yourself and support them as necessary. I think integrity has got two bits to it. I think one of the bits to it is about having a set of values. This is what I live by, this is what I’m buying into. And then I think the other element of integrity is about being consistent. So you’re actually consistently applying values so people know what they’re going to get when they come to you as a chartered accountant.
Your existing academic qualifications in the subjects you have studied are evidence of technical competence, but remember that employers are looking for evidence beyond exam-based achievements to demonstrate a wider skill set. For example, if you’ve undertaken work, or volunteering, you may have attended training to enable you to act effectively. This all contributes to your ability to gain technical competence as it demonstrates your motivation to learn and improve your knowledge on a continuous basis. For ethics, you probably have your own ethical code, even if you’ve not thought about it in detail or ever written down. Think of situations in your life where you have been in an ethical dilemma. You may have found someone else’s wallet or mobile phone.
You could have kept it for yourself, but the ethical decision was to try to return it to the original owner. Now complete your skills portfolio in relation to technical competence and ethics.