PwC setting up ‘training academy’ in Saudi Arabia

PwC, the UK-based professional services and accountancy network, has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce & Investment to set up a training academy in that country aimed at developing the skills of Saudi nationals.

In a statement, PwC said that among the focuses of the new academy will be introducing Saudi financial services professionals to the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS), a widely-recognised accounting standard used by companies in most – but, at least for now, not all – countries.

The IFRS was developed over the past 15 years by the London-based International Accounting Standards Board and the IFRS Foundation, in order to harmonise what, in 2001, when the effort first began, were numerous different ways of accounting for the various elements of the average company’s balance sheet.

The IFRS standard continues to be tweaked, and efforts to bring it together with such remaining outliers as the US GAAP system, for example, thus far have not yet resulted in  full “convergence”. However, the IFRS Standards Board says that by moving to the IFRS, Saudi Arabia, which is home to the Middle East’s largest stock market, will join some 119 jurisdictions that require IRFS standards for all or most of their publicly-accountable companies.

Signed in New York

The Saudi Arabia/PwC agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, was signed in New York on Thursday by Saudi Arabia’s minister of Commerce & Investment Majid Abdullah Al-Kassabi, who is also chairman of the Saudi Organisation for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA), and PricewaterhouseCoopers International chairman Bob Moritz.

In its statement, PwC said the academy will look to “support the economic and business objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 and help improve the financial technical acumen within the Kingdom”.

It said the programme will be offered to Saudi government employees, graduates from accounting schools and others. The curriculum is envisioned as including:

*  The application and adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

*  Background on the private sector’s operations, and the duties of chief financial officers

*  Testing and rehabilitating all currently-licensed accountants on the adoption of IFRS, to enable them to audit IFRS financial statements

Work is also planned to re-design SOCPA’s accounting exams, to bring them into line with the requirements of the IFRS.

Since 1979

PwC has been operating in Saudi Arabia since 1979, and currently maintains four offices in various of the Kingdom. These offices employ more than 1000 people, according to PwC, including more than 300 Saudi nationals who are led by 12 Saudi partners across the audit, tax and consulting areas.

Rami Nazer, partner and ME Government and Public Sector Leader at PwC, noted that Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Programme is aiming to generate more than 450,000 new private-sector jobs by 2020, and that PwC is looking forward to helping in that effort.

As reported,   Saudi Vision 2030 is a Saudi Arabian government plan aimed at helping the country to reduce its dependence on oil revenues by building its economy in other areas, including financial services.  The plan was formally announced on 25 April by deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In May, Kingdom officials revealed that work on a long-planned financial city, the so-called King Abdullah Financial District, was to be resumed.

The PwC statement quoted Dr Abdullah Al- Kassabi as saying that the agreement “reflects the [Commerce & Investment] Ministry’s commitment to Saudi Vision 2030, and to the needs of our citizens”.

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