Russell Bedford’s Chair and managing partner of Melbourne member firm, Bruce Saward, opened this year’s Russell Bedford APAC Regional Meeting with a welcome and introduction. Addressing more than 100 delegates, including Russell Bedford’s two new firms gained in the region in the past year, Bruce said: “Despite the pandemic, Russell Bedford has not stood still, and the network has continued to gain new members around the world, expanding our global network throughout the past 18 months.”

Bruce recognised and commended Russell Bedford members for their consistency and high standards of work while maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach, despite the immense challenges they faced in the past year. He said: “I expect that you are regarded by your clients and your staff as a real rock, as someone solid and reliable they can turn to; as wise counsel in the midst of unprecedented experiences.”

Russell Bedford’s CEO, Stephen Hamlet, led the first session of the day with practice updates from member firms around the APAC region. Delegates heard from new members in Nepal and South Korea, with an introduction to their practices, followed by practice updates from member firms in Sydney, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei.

Our first guest speaker of the meeting, Blockchain advisor, David Dang joined to discuss Blockchain and Crypto Assets – Challenges for taxation and the auditing process.

Taking us on a fascinating journey towards revealing the myths associated with blockchain and cryptocurrency, David discussed the merits of decentralised finance which creates an opportunity where everyone can programme money, everyone can participate, and everyone can create.

Erica Xiong led the next session which involved a panel discussion on Team management in the ‘new normal’. Joined by panellists Anintya Hapsari (Jakarta), Jeff Tulk (Melbourne), Mila Padernal (Metro Manila) and Mohammed Forkan Uddin (Dhaka), the group considered the pros and cons of a very different working environment to that of 18 months ago.

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Sharing the experience of Saward Dawson, Russell Bedford’s Melbourne member firm, Jeff Tulk said: “There is certainly an appetite for flexible working to continue. How we balance that desire to ensure we continue to deliver what’s best for the firm and our clients, is critical to the success of future working practices.”

He added: “Taking opportunities to get out to clients, for audit for example, is a way of maintaining this balance. Advances in technology has had huge time saving advantages; how we utilise such advances will determine how we maximise on the benefits long term.”

In conclusion, Jeff said: “Despite the many benefits of flexible or remote working, some groups don’t see it only as a positive, and I tend to agree that our younger generations may suffer from the lack of incidental engagement that occurs in a traditional office environment. So, this will somehow need addressing.”

APAC Director for Russell Bedford’s International Board and managing partner at Russell Bedford Hong Kong, James Ngai, opened day two of the meeting while welcoming his fellow board members and delegates from across the region.

James spoke positively of the new firms recruited in Asia and of the region’s performance and future outlook.

Minette van der Merwe, from Q-Square, opened with the first session of the day: New international auditing and quality management standards: Are you ready?

Minette shared recent updates including a suite of quality management standards, discussing ISQM1 and ISQM2 Engagement quality reviews as well as other important changes that are due to take effect in December 2022.

Up next was a panel discussion on Our APAC regional network: What next? led by James Ngai. Panellists included APAC regional board members, Mike Sweeney (Adelaide), Loh Kok Leong (Kuala Lumpur), Romona Zhao (Beijing) and Andrew Lim (Singapore).

Mike Sweeney, while speaking about tapping into cross-firm opportunities, said: “Working within our existing client bases throughout the APAC region presents a huge opening to leverage opportunities within existing client groups among member firms; effectively supporting client retention and generating more business for others.”

While discussing branding, Kok Leong said: “Culture and language in the APAC region is extremely diverse, which can provide both a challenge and opportunity in terms of collaborating in support of wider network brand development.”

Andrew Lim added: “Staffing issues are an ongoing problem; the problem is not only trying to attract quality employees, but retaining top-level employees is always a challenge.”

Closing the meeting, Stephen Hamlet led part two of the practice updates hearing from member firms in Adelaide, Beijing, Shanghai, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore.

Speaking about the meeting, Stephen Hamlet said: “We had another incredible turnout from the APAC region for this year’s regional meeting. It’s remarkably uplifting to hear from our firms about how they’re working to build their practices, while supporting each other through the journey.”

He added: “This is a region that’s bursting with energy and eagerness to continue growing, following our 49% revenue growth last year. You can see that from our members’ enthusiasm to work together, share ideas, and to refer and support each other’s clients as if they were their own. Our firms are a testament to our network, they exemplify our values in how they operate in their everyday work. These are the qualities that make our global network so very special.”

Bruce Saward added some encouraging words to members, saying: “I know that we have all learned to adapt and innovate and I think many of us will feel that we, and our practices, are stronger as a result. So congratulations on all that you have achieved – I’m assured that you have done a great deal towards inspiring and encouraging your clients and your staff.”