The Deloitte Financial Reporting Plus Conference 2021

Accountancy Ireland Feature

The December issue of the Accountancy Ireland magazine featured an interview with John McCarroll, Partner, Audit & Assurance, where he reflected on the success of our Deloitte Financial Reporting Plus Conference 2021.

Accountancy Ireland issue December 1st, 2021

Held virtually once again this year on 10 November, the Deloitte Financial Reporting Plus conference is Ireland’s premier financial reporting event, designed specifically for C-suite and other senior executives.

In previous years, the Deloitte Financial Reporting Plus (DFRP) conference was about changes in accounting standards specifically and how to apply them. However, as companies have tried to navigate the pandemic, there has been change from many directions, on many topics, and at a pace not previously experienced. The DFRP conference reflected this. Not only did it cover the latest in financial reporting, it also focused on cutting edge insights around other areas such as cryptocurrency, data protection, climate change and the latest in corporate tax updates north and south of the border. “DFRP is a unique event that allows accounting professionals to stay fully informed on the key reporting topics under discussion in boardrooms and in the C-suite in just over an hour,” says Deloitte Audit and Assurance Partner John McCarroll, who is the Lead Partner for the event. “We decided to stay virtual this year, having moved to that format last year. Things were just too uncertain to hold a live event. The advantage of that is that you can reach out to a larger audience, and last year, we increased attendance to more than 1,000. We had over 1,200 this year.” There can be disadvantages too, of course. “People can get a little webinar weary,” McCarroll notes. “But we tried to make it a little bit different this year with our new specially designed platform.Instead of tuning in from their home offices or bedrooms, the Deloitte speakers who addressed the conference were together in one studio. The platform is specially designed for these types of events and is much more user friendly. You can have different stages, and attendees can ask questions, just like in a live event. It was a step up from last year.”

The conference kicked off with Deloitte Ireland CEO, Harry Goddard, sharing his perspectives on the impact of the pandemic and the increasing significance of the CFO and finance function in the past year. He expressed cautious optimism regarding the economy, noting the unprecedented levels of investment over the past 12 months with no sign of this abating and significant growth rates forecast into 2022 and beyond. He noted that this period of investment, transformation, and growth was set to continue in the post pandemic world. “One point touched on was the relationship between the CEO and the CFO,” McCarroll adds. “The role of the CFO and the finance function is very important at this time. Having the capacity to operate efficiently requires technology, data and talent. That’s very interesting in the context of the pandemic and what that will look like in the coming years.”

Very appropriately, given recent events at home and abroad, the first topic on the agenda was the climate. Michelle Byrne and David McCaffrey discussed the main trends in front-half disclosures, TCFD/ISSB developments, and their accounting impacts. “Climate is very much front of mind for everyone at the moment,” says McCarroll. “It’s evolving so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up. We certainly hear from our larger clients that you almost need to have a separate group of people focused on climate and sustainability-related reporting. And a whole raft of new directives and regulations are coming down the track along with the EU Green Deal and EU Taxonomy. Assurance is a vast area. The whole matter of greenwashing, where the reality often doesn’t live up to the claims, must be dealt with. The framework for assurance is going to continue to develop, and that will represent a new frontier for audit firms.”

Jack Lee then provided a highly informative overview of cryptocurrency and digital assets and discussed their accounting impacts. “This is not a fad,” McCarroll points out. “One of the more interesting pieces is blockchain technology. This has the potential to change the whole value chain by cutting out intermediaries. So it represents both an opportunity and a danger at the same time.” Cryptocurrencies are clearly on the rise as well. “There is atrend with central banks starting to look at digital currencies,” McCarroll notes. “The Bank of England produced a white paper recently on what they might look like. Crypto and digital currencies will be a big part of the world in ten years.”

In the critically important area of reporting standards, Dympna Cassidy and Megan Haldane discussed must-know IFRS developments for 2021 and beyond and covered key factors such as the reporting decisions and messages emerging from accounting enforcers IAASA, the Financial Reporting Council and ESMA. Grace Cartin examined the need to know FRSs for 2021 and beyond and the Financial Reporting Council’s plans to reflect IFRSs 9, 15, and 16 in FRS 102. Maeve Colton discussed the Streamline Energy and Carbon Reporting requirements (SECR), which now extend to large UK companies and LLPs.

Corporate tax has never been far from the headlines recently, and Emma Arlow and Aisléan Nicholson reviewed the latest corporate tax developments for Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively and looked at what CFOs need to consider for their 2021 reports. In addition, attendees heard about the potential impact of the move to the global minimum corporation tax rate of 15%. “It’s going to have an impact,” says McCarroll. “If you have deferred tax assets, what will the change mean? How will it all play out? That’s going to be very interesting.”

The event concluded with Donal Murray addressing the critically important topic of data protection and cybersecurity. He advised how data should be protected, how to identify key vulnerabilities in systems such as financial reporting systems, and how cyberattacks can be avoided. “An awful lot is going on in that space,” McCarroll notes. “We have seen the HSE, Centennial pipeline and other high-profile attacks. Our clients are telling us it’s a standing item at every board meeting. They are all doing training and dry runs on how to react in a wide variety of scenarios. For example, we did an exercise with a large manufacturing client on what might happen if they were subject to a ransomware breach, and the result was that they would have lorries stranded on motorways, and the whole business would stop. The focus is now on cyber resilience and having back-ups and alternative systems in place. The reality is that many organisations will be subject to a breach, and it will come down to their resilience and ability to continue to operate afterwards.”

Looking back on DFRP 2021, McCarroll says he hopes to return to a live format next year. “The interactive nature of this year’s event with the new platform worked very well, but I’m sure people would like to be able to attend in person,” he says. “That said, the event was a huge success, and people were able to engage with a range of speakers who are front-line experts in their fields and who are dealing with these hugely important issues on behalf of clients every day.”

The article first appeared in Accountancy Ireland on December 1st, 2021.

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