Zach Gast from the United States joined the International Accounting Standards Board (Board) at the beginning of August, filling one of the Americas seats. He’s had an unusual start at the IFRS Foundation, having to take on his role remotely because of the covid-19 pandemic. Here he talks about his first few weeks on the Board and what he’s looking forward to in his new job.
Because of the covid-19 situation, you have joined the Board remotely. What has this experience been like?
It’s certainly been the most unique start to a role I’ve had! Fortunately, the Foundation has the tools to facilitate meaningful interactions, otherwise the time difference and lack of face-to-face contact could have been a real challenge. I’ve been impressed at how many great conversations I’ve already had despite everything going on in the world. I do look forward to arriving in London, though, and meeting people in person when that’s safe and allowed.
Why were you interested in joining the Board?
I’ve been a user of financial reports prepared using both US accounting standards as well as IFRS Standards and really wanted to play a role in continuing to improve and sharpen international standards, which affect the larger universe of preparers and users. I’m also hoping to work towards deepening the information available to users through technology.
How will your previous experience in investment help you in your role?
In my previous work, I’ve specialised in understanding the key role that accounting plays in telling the story of how a company’s operations are performing. I’ve worked on the buy side, developing an understanding of how users collect a vast array of information, and as an independent research provider, which means that I’ve had the opportunity to see how hundreds of firms differ in their skill sets and approaches to financial statement analysis. I hope that breadth of experience can contribute to the Board’s outreach and feedback process.
You’ve only been a member of the Board for a short while, but what has been the best part so far?
Getting to meet the staff and other Board members has certainly been the highlight. It’s all been virtual, but the organisation’s professionalism and expertise shine through.
What role do you believe financial reporting plays in the global economy?
The global economy is really made up of the aggregate of investments being made and the results of those investments. Financial reporting facilitates the investment process by creating a common language. The clearer and more consistent that language is—and the more users believe they can trust the information they receive—the easier and less expensive it becomes to correctly allocate investments over time.
What do you see as disruptive forces in the world of accounting standards?
Information complexity is the absolute disruptor in the accounting world. Standards will need to recognise the exponential growth in information available and the challenges in harnessing that information within and alongside an assurance environment. I believe the lines will shift in financial reporting—they always do—and the Board can play a role in defining the balance between increased access to information and maintaining the quality of information provided.
What makes our mission of transparency, accountability and efficiency meaningful to you?
As standard-setters, we are serving a public good. The three elements of transparency, accountability and efficiency are essential to demonstrating that the Foundation’s staff are working toward that public goal with the interests of all of our stakeholders in mind.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A baseball player—and agent! I grew up in St. Louis, where baseball is by far the dominant sport played. Unfortunately, there’s a pitch called the curveball that ended any baseball dreams quite early.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m passionate about food and enjoy cooking quite a bit. I also enjoy cycling and swimming—I’m particularly looking forward to cycling around and outside of London.