22 October 2020

Being a member of the International Accounting Standards Board

Darrel Scott, who has just completed his second term as a member of the International Accounting Standards Board (Board), discusses his experience on the Board with the man who has replaced him in the Africa seat: Bruce Mackenzie. Darrel has completed ten years of experience on the Board; Bruce brings a wealth of experience in technical accounting and in applying IFRS Standards.

Darrel and Bruce sat down recently to talk about their roles as Board members, Darrel reflecting on his decade of service and Bruce setting out his expectations for the next five years. Bruce is currently based in Mauritius, and will be relocating to London as soon as the coronavirus restrictions allow. For now, though, Bruce is working with his new colleagues online.

‘Starting a new job is challenging for anybody,’ Bruce says. ‘But being 10,000 kilometres away has proven to be quite interesting. However, the staff and other Board members at the IFRS Foundation have been great in the onboarding and the one thing I’ve come to realise in the couple of weeks I’ve been around is that the organisation works very effectively on a remote basis.’

Africa's voice

Darrel and Bruce have worked together on various projects over the years, including the implementation of the IFRS for SMEs Standard more than a decade ago, and on ensuring the Board considers the voice of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) when it sets IFRS Standards.

‘I truly believe Africa has an important role to play in standard-setting,’ Bruce says. ‘Over my years of travelling across the continent, you always meet people with a passion for what the Board is doing. As a global standard-setter, I think it’s important that Africa is being heard.’

Over the past eight months of the global pandemic, Board members have had to change their outreach. Darrel has been working remotely from South Africa; yet since the start of lockdown, he has managed to engage with more than 4,500 people who have an interest in the Board’s work.

‘We’ve had more than 30 outreach events, conferences and individual stakeholder meetings,’ Darrel says. ‘We’ve reached out to at least 25 countries across the continent. The [remote] format has allowed us to do outreach with Nigeria in the morning, present at a conference in Zimbabwe in the afternoon and meet regulators in Ethiopia the next morning—I think this has engaged more people with the ‘IFRS family’.’

Engaging with stakeholders

Indeed, Darrel says the outreach and engagement with a range of stakeholders has been the highlight of his time on the Board.

‘When I joined the organisation I had a very specific set of objectives in mind that I thought I needed to achieve. The surprise for me came not in the ‘what” but more in the ‘how’. The Foundation has a very robust outreach agenda that has led to an engaged and energised stakeholder base. And it’s a broad range of stakeholders: investors, lenders, preparers, regulators, auditors and others who really have an enduring interest in what we as a Foundation do in developing Standards. In normal times this meant that I travelled widely engaging with interested parties, not just in Africa but all around the world.’

Each Board member is involved in all projects, but Darrel has had a deep level of involvement with a number of standard-setting projects over the years, including the development of the new insurance contracts Standard, IFRS 17.

‘Over the course of the insurance project, we had more than 1,400 meetings with different stakeholders. We had four rounds of fieldwork where we got to talk to preparers about how they do things and why they do things in a particular way, what their systems constraints are, what their process is for designing a new product. And I found all that fascinating, to roll up my sleeves and really understand what’s happening on the ground.’

One of the things Bruce expresses most excitement about getting to do as a Board member is engaging with stakeholders, especially because he has experienced it from ‘the other side’ until now.

‘When I start looking at the things I’m looking forward to, one that interests me the most is the outreach the Board does. To me, this is one of the most important roles of a Board member. At the end of the day, we are a group of people sitting in a room voting for something and we need to ensure we can weigh up how important the impact is going to be. We all come to the table with expertise and understanding about the application of IFRS Standards but until we’ve done that outreach, until we understand the impact it’s having on everybody, I don’t think we can make those decisions properly.’

The journey to the Board

Joining the Board isn’t Bruce’s first experience with the IFRS Foundation. He’s been part of the SME Implementation Group, the Advisory Council and the IFRS Interpretations Committee.

‘Getting onto the Board for me was more of a journey than something that just happened. I’ve been involved in the technical field for many years. My first real experience of global standard-setting was as a member of the Interpretations Committee. I was fortunate to have served with an amazing group of people who challenged me in so many ways. This fuelled my passion to do standard-setting,’ Bruce says, adding that this experience also made him realise that standard-setting can’t be rushed.

‘You only really start appreciating standard-setting and how much goes into each paper, each Board meeting, when you get that opportunity to peek behind the curtain.’

You can watch the full conversation between Darrel Scott and Bruce Mackenzie below. We have also made the conversation available as a one-off podcast episode.

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