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Continuous learning and professional development must not falter in facing Covid-19

PKF International CEO James Hickey offers IAB readers an insightful comment on how the network is tackling business development and operations across its markets in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are marked difficulties in managing information flow in relation to coronavirus.

Firstly, each market is in a very different position in terms of the virus’s spread. Secondly, governments are dealing with it differently, and each market is managing localised regulatory tax and accounting requirements. Finally, positions are changing on a day-by-day basis.

However, for us at PKF International it really hits home our importance as an information hub. We are collecting information from across our member firms – particularly around what changes they are making to processes and workflow.

A number of our member firms already have all their staff working from home, but not all firms are in a position to do that just yet. Therefore, we are looking to share best practice and enable them to change their working practice so that they are able to continue to provide the necessary services to help their clients during these difficult and uncharted times.

We are looking to share that knowledge across multiple platforms. We have used LinkedIn to push out messages, SharePoint and even our website. Most importantly, we are providing forums to members to share their experiences – hopefully we can create some clarity from all the noise around us.

And what are our members asking us? Well, they really want to know what other member firms are doing to cope, particularly around systems that are being used to facilitate and empower remote working.

Firms that have spare people resources are reallocating them – again, this information and planning is being shared with other member firms. For example, we ran a call with our Italian compatriots about their recent experiences in the hope that many of us can learn from them.

Continuous learning and professional development are areas that cannot fall by the wayside, even if face-to-face is difficult at the moment, so we will look to launch an online programme as soon as possible. Funding is being diverted to building this platform.

Economic Impact

We know that these isolation periods could last many, many weeks, and the economic and social impact will be deeper and last longer. That means our member firms, their clients and we as a network will come through this changed.

For all of us there will be questions about relevancy in our chosen markets. In other words, are we still providing the right and appropriate service? For example, most networks focus on setting physical meetings to bring their members together. All ours are postponed, apart from our September Global Gathering, so ramping up our online presence and providing education for our members will be vital going forward.

We saw after the financial crash of 2008 that some businesses and sectors struggled. We expect some associations and networks to struggle. Those with a strong infrastructure, strong brand and value proposition will get through – we will probably look different, but survive and hopefully thrive. Strong support for our members at this time is undoubtedly crucial.

We have to realise that this situation is unique – and at a global level. We have to make sure we are not pulled along too much, and instead make strategic – rather than just quick – decisions.

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