Ethics in accountancy

Nov 01, 2018
The Education Department, in conjunction with the Head of Ethics and Governance, will launch a series of videos about the importance of ethics in your education and the future of the profession.

WORDS BY NIALL FITZGERALD FCA

“In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. If they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” – Warren Buffett

This statement, which captures the importance of integrity, can also be extended to the importance and relevance of ethics in all things, especially the accountancy profession. 

The Head of Ethics and Governance and the Education Team at Chartered Accountants Ireland have produced a series of short videos that aim to educate students to the importance of ethics in the accountancy profession. The videos will present students with examples of ethical dilemmas they may encounter during their studies and exams, an overview of the Chartered Accountants Ireland Code of ethics and insights on how ethics will impact on their training and future careers. 

Ethics misconceptions

The first misconception with ethics is that it is something reserved only for the philosophical; most people, however, will have endured a difficult ethical dilemma. Stress, sleep deprivation, fear and concern over whether you have done or are doing the right thing does not strike only the most conscientious, but most of us at some moment in our life or career. Ethics is real. 

The second misconception is that ethics is something contained solely in a code. Ethics has a lot to do with the values we live and how we behave, which is more than a defined rule or hard-coded version of right and wrong. Our values develop from a very young age and continue to evolve throughout our lives. We are influenced by peers, friends, media, role models, religion and society. We mould, shape and reshape our values to evolve into conventionalist or principled individuals. To say that you have no values is to state that you are amoral, a virtue shared, according to sociologists, by new born babies and psychopaths. 

Every day ethics

The Royal Charter, which underpins the remit and existence of Chartered Accountants Ireland and members’ role in the accountancy profession, recognised the public benefit as one of the fundamental basis for there being a profession in the first place. The public, which includes the employers and stakeholders we serve, expect and will hold us, as professional accountants, accountable, for the decisions, judgements, actions and behaviour exhibited in performing our duties. Earning public trust is not to be taken lightly and will involve, regardless of your level of technical knowledge, meeting the public’s basic expectation for you to perform your duties in an ethical fashion. 

Ethics is understandably one of the important pillars of our profession and this is the basis for its inclusion across the entire syllabus in training to be a Chartered Accountant. There are ethical dimensions to any area of decision-making. While developing a strong professional ethical mind-set will earn you valuable marks in the exams, it will also prepare you for the real life ethical dilemmas you are likely to encounter over your professional career. The four short videos will be a very useful starting point to get you thinking about this important pillar of the profession as you continue your journey to becoming a qualified Chartered Accountant.