Dean QIAN's Opening Remarks at CFO Forum & CGMA100 North Asia Management Accounting Leaders' Summit 2018


Your Excellency Ambassador Terry Branstad, Chairwoman Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, President Barry Melancon, distinguished guests, and friends:


It is our great honor to co-host at Tsinghua the CFO Forum and the CGMA100 North Asia Management Accounting Leaders’ Summit 2018 together with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. We greatly appreciate the participation in this event by Ambassador Branstad, Chairwoman Ellison-Taylor and President Melancon and many other distinguished guests. We are also witnessing the signing of the MOU between Tsinghua SEM and the Association on developing the MCFO/MPAcc Program through exchanges and cooperation to broaden students’ global horizon and to promote their career development.


About three years ago, we held the first CFO Forum at Tsinghua. At that Forum, we kicked off the MCFO/MPAcc Program, a double degree Master’s program by Tsinghua University and Singapore Management University. The objective of this innovative program is to cultivate financial and management leaders with a global vision and with strong financial and management accounting skills. The program received the formal approval from the Ministry of Education of China and the first class of high caliber students will begin their study this fall.


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Dean QIAN's Opening Remarks at CFO Forum & CGMA100 North Asia Management Accounting Leaders' Summit 2018


We are at the moment of transformation in business education. The shifts of global economic landscape and business practices due to economic globalization and technological innovations have led to the unprecedented challenges to business and accounting education. I just returned from the U.S. yesterday where I attended the AACSB annual conference, which was the largest annual gathering of business school deans around the world. I left the meetings with a strong feeling that profound transformation in business and accounting education is underway, in order to keep the pace of changes in business practices.


In several speeches at the conference, business executives and educators talked about the implications of artificial intelligence and other technologies on business practices. One of the most frequently mentioned industry in this context is auditing and financial analysis. Here is one quote from the session I attended, which was taken from a 2017 issue of The CPA Journal: “Over the next five to ten years, CPA firms are going to see change at a pace the profession has never seen before. With the rise of automation and computer technology, the mundane and compliance tasks that CPAs spend most their time doing now will be done almost instantaneously by machines.”


This is the business reality. Facing this unprecedented change in industry, business and accounting education has to change through innovation. We need to educate the talents who are not easily replaceable by machines. We anticipated this change a few years ago when we launched the joint program of MCFO/MPAcc. It can be viewed as one of our responses to this change. The program is not a traditional accounting program, instead, it combines managerial and financial accounting with leadership development, aiming to educate the next generation of business leaders with a global vision and the state-of-the-art technical skills in accounting and finance.


CFOs occupy one of the C-suite positions in modern corporations. Traditionally, the CFO’s role is mainly about accounting and finance. But it is no longer so. CFOs need to have broader knowledge on technological changes, big data, regulations and laws, global supply chains, investment in foreign territories and cultures, etc. Thus, one of the challenges CFOs confront with in future is the change of knowledge structure. As for our educational undertaking, we have to react to expand students’ global vision and creativity, with more focus on fostering inter-disciplinary talents.


Indeed, in today’s business world, the role of CFO demands a new set of skills and the relationship between CEO and CFO has kept evolving. Many of the former CFOs later became CEOs. For example, among the Chinese high tech corporations, Daniel Zhang,WEI Zhe of Alibaba and Charles Caoof Sina all became CEOs of their companies from the positions of CFO. Among the Fortune 500 companies and the listed companies in China’s securities markets, the number of CEOs with “CFO background” has been increasing significantly. We see a new trend in which managers should know accounting, learn and use financial figures from the perspectives of management and technology. Therefore, the theoretical as well as practical innovations in accounting tend to be an inevitable subject in accounting and business education. 


The joint MCFO/MPAcc Program will benefit from the strengths of two premier educational institutions-Tsinghua SEM and Singapore Management University. The accounting education at Tsinghua started in 1994, which was personally promoted by the dean of the school at the time, Mr. ZHU Rongji, who concurrently serving as Vice Premier and later as Premier of the State Council of China. Not only did he truly believe in accounting education being a key to management education, but also he trusted in learning the western accounting standard and practice for developing modern corporations in China. Tsinghua SEM was among the first business schools in China to teach students the western accounting standard, by using original accounting textbooks from the U.S. and Canada. Ever since then, most of our accounting courses have been taught in English.


SMU has a very strong and internationalized faculty in accounting and other areas of business education. Geographically, Singapore is located on the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative. We will make the international synergy into a full play, by deeply integrating educational resources of the two institutions and exploring the two markets of China and Southeast Asia at the same time.


Business schools such as Tsinghua SEM and SMU are where future business leaders are educated. Tsinghua SEM, SMU and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants have shared vision to provide the society with qualified and innovative talents and outstanding business leaders. This is not only in accordance with the goals of building our educational institutions into world-class universities, but also being conducive to meet the demands of economic and social development in China and over the world. We are confident that we could make the MCFO/MPAcc Program a cradle for future global CFOs and global business leaders.


At this forum, many distinguished business executives from prominent corporations and noted scholars from premier business schools will deliver keynote speeches and participate in roundtable discussions on topics of innovation, managerial accounting, and future of finance. Some of the speakers are our alumni, some are long-time as well as new friends of Tsinghua SEM, and others are the collaborators. The co-sponsorship of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and the attendance of Ambassador Branstad have made this event very special. Thank you again, Ambassador Branstad, Chairwoman Ellison-Taylor and President Melancon, for your enthusiastic support for the business and accounting education, and thank you for coming to Tsinghua SEM.


I wish the CFO Forum & CGMA100 North Asia Management Accounting Leaders’ Summit 2018 a successful and engaging event.


Thank you.