The 31st National Conference of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka was held recently. Themed 'The world sees opportunity in Sri Lanka' the conference was lauded by the participants including business leaders, Chairmen, CEOs, CFOs, Directors, General Managers, senior government officials, academics as well as consultants.
The conference was inaugurated by Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, the Chief Guest at the ceremony where the Keynote Speaker was Mohan Pieris, President's Counsel and Attorney General of Sri Lanka.
The ICA National Conference is one of the most sought-after events in the corporate calendar of the country and is the most attended conference in Sri Lanka. This year too, the conference turned out to be a resounding success with over 1000 participants including some of the leading personalities in the corporate and public sectors.
Commenting on the conference, Ashela Abewardhana, Controller - Commercial Division, Nestle Lanka PLC said "I found the theme to be very timely and relevant. The lineup of sessions, speakers and panellists were excellent. The inaugural technical session by the Governor of the Central Bank was really good… it set the pace for the rest of the technical sessions enlightening the participants on the national agenda in taking Sri Lanka to the next level. It is always good to be aware of the big picture so that we know where we fit in the national agenda."
Panel discussion following the inaugural technical session by the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal titled 'Sri Lanka - The Way Forward and the Role of Professionals.'
The two days of technical sessions featured an eminent panel of paper presenters, namely: Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Governor of the Central Bank; Prof. Nalin Kulatilaka, Wing Tat Lee Family Professor of Management and Professor of Finance at the School of Management of the Boston University; Arjuna L. Mahendran Managing Director of the HSBC Private Bank in Asia and former Board of Investment Chairman; Prof. P.C. Narayan, faculty member, Finance & Control Area of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB); Reyaz Mihular, Partner of KPMG Ford, Rhodes, Thornton & Co. and Head of the Advisory service line and Naomal Goonewardena, Attorney-at-Law and a partner of Nithya Partners. The paper presentations were further complemented by panel discussions with twenty local and foreign experts who utilized these sessions as a platform for fruitful deliberations.
"I must first congratulate ICASL in selecting this year's theme - the world sees opportunity in Sri Lanka. The speech by Professor G.L. Peiris at the inauguration gave a complete, high-level economic breakthrough that registered a great degree of optimism in the mindset of the audience. 'Sri Lanka the way forward - the role of professionals' by The Central Bank Governor was one session that I enjoyed very much. The presentation not only proved with educative statistics of opportunities that really exist in Sri Lanka, but also the sources or the sectors in which opportunities really exist. From the beginning to the end the very positive sentiments were thrown to the audience rousing enthusiasm. 'Attracting foreign direct investments - the opportunities for the Sri Lankan corporate' was another presentation that provoked a lot of discussion as to what equity investors really look for when investing in frontier markets and why Sri Lanka. The presentation also touched upon areas that need more attention such as amendments to the legal framework. 'Opportunities and challenges of the green economy' was somewhat different to other sessions, yet very interesting especially at a time where we talk about sustainability. The take home of the presentation was the need to recognize the role of corporate in a broader perspective. "The Business Sense of IFRS - Opportunities to Derive" was also a timely session and it would have been better if the presentation included a definitive date as to when Sri Lanka will be fully compliant with IFRS" according to Asoka Rupasinghe, Chief Financial Officer, Bank of Ceylon who also participated at this year's ICA National Conference.
Also commenting on the conference was Lalith Fernando, Group Financial Controller, Dialog Axiata PLC who said, "The presentation by Dr. Nalin Kulatilaka of Boston University, though not particularly accounting related turned out to be a very interesting session that enlightened us on "triple bottom line reporting" - the shift from shareholder reporting towards stakeholder reporting. I also found the presentation by Arjuna Mahendran to be appropriate and timely considering the forth coming budget review. This year's ICASL conference featured more local speakers or presenters which I think was a good choice given the theme and their knowledge and exposure to local operations. I would have preferred to see a session by a military officer who could have shared with us the military strategies; which are being applied often by corporates in crisis or change management. All in all it was great conference and we look forward to the next year's conference."
"The conference committee had done a splendid job in selecting the theme, speakers and panelists where diverse ideas and view points were exchanged infusing fruitful deliberations. The panel discussions were very interesting and engaging that I felt it could have continued for a longer time if not for the time limitation. With regard to the session by Arjuna Mahendran - 'Attracting Foreign Direct Investments - Opportunities for Sri Lankan Corporate'; I felt that the panel enthralled on fund management which was very interesting. A discussion directly concentrating on foreign direct investments, I felt, would have added more colour to the session and prevented it from deviating from the main theme of FDI and its significance. The last technical session on "Recent business failures and its impact on economic revival" by Naomal Goonewardena was a great session and I must congratulate ICASL for taking the initiative to discuss such topic in such detail for the first time at a public forum like that, following the collapse of the Ceylinco Group. It was a great learning experience for the participants which enlightened them as to how organizations could avoid such calamities in future and conduct operations in a more ethical and responsible manner" commented R. Jayalath, a participant at the conference.
Recognising the role of professional institutes in giving impetus to the country's development endeavour, this year's ICA National Conference was pitched as a business summit. The new format was widely received and stimulated interest of a larger audience.