IAPA International Conference 2016, Rio de Janeiro

The vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro was the setting for this year’s 2016 International Conference, the very first International Conference to be held in the Latin American region.  This event was held in conjunction with the Latin American regional meeting at the Sofitel Hotel, which boasted a breathtaking location right in the heart of the famous Copacabana beach, overlooking Sugar Loaf Mountain.

    

We were delighted to welcome so many guests from member firms from all over the world, and it was a wonderful opportunity for global members from all four regions to meet the Latin American firms and learn about the local economy.  This year the conference focus was primarily about the future of IAPA and leadership, emphasising both how members can cultivate their own practices with the right leadership skills, and how members want IAPA as an association to develop.  The latter being particularly relevant as IAPA’s business strategy had been under review over recent months.  With an afternoon of strategy discussions devoted to this topic, it was a crucial and valuable time for members to voice their opinions.    

    

Above:  Latin American Conference, Sunday 23 October

What better way to start the International Conference than a visit to the top of Rio’s best-known landmark, Sugar Loaf Mountain.  Stunning views of the mountainous coast and Rio’s archipelago gave everyone plenty of photo opportunities!   After an early evening Caipirinha up the mountain, the group returned to the hotel for the welcome dinner to continue valuable networking with fellow members.  With bars open in the surrounding areas playing live Bossa nova music, the introduction to Rio’s culture was happily absorbed.

      

Above:  Group photos up Sugar Loaf Mountain

It was then down to business on Monday morning as Stephen Hamlet, IAPA CEO, opened the conference with a powerful speech on the future of IAPA, followed by an overview of all IAPA has achieved over the last 12 months including the successful marketing initiatives, designed to help members generate new business.  Stephen was delighted to remind members that such a productive year, yielding a significant increase in worldwide publicity, led to IAPA being nominated as ‘Accountancy Association of the Year, Finalist’ for the 2016 International Accounting Bulletin Awards.

                

CEO, Stephen Hamlet      Guest speaker Andre Freire       Speed Networking

As is tradition, IAPA new member firms were presented to the group; however in Rio this was more unusual as we welcomed a very familiar face with a new firm, Stefan Herzer, Acconsis, Germany.  Norm Schulman and Ron Myers also presented Schulman Lobel, USA, highlighting their new office in Los Angeles in addition to their New York HQ.  The ever popular speed networking session gave delegates the opportunity to interact with fellow members and share knowledge and experience.  Guest speaker, Mr Andre Freire, EXEC Managing Partner, Brazil, then gave an engaging  presentation on leadership, including competencies needed for the 2020 leader and how to be prepared for what your clients want and the market needs.  Delegates were able to gain new ideas and insights to support the next generation of leaders who will nurture their firm’s international business strategies for the future. Using his own personal experiences, Mr Freire finished with a fascinating insight into ‘Hiring the first line of management for the 2016 Olympics Committee.’

Jan Huygens, IAPA Global Chairman, facilitated discussions in the afternoon on the development of IAPA’s new strategy.  With much to discuss, including the continuation of potential collaboration talks, this meeting was the culmination of many thoughts and considerations that have dominated IAPA events over the past 12 months.  With such passionate members, talks were stimulating and deliberations went well into the afternoon, continuing the following day.

        

Strategy discussions                                                                                New members' presentations

Networking is always a key feature of IAPA conferences and the day finished with an early evening walking tour of historic ‘Old Rio’, revealing the concealed, preserved and authentic highlights of downtown Rio.  A private dinner in the downtown Cais Restaurant enabled delegates and companions to sample local cuisine, enjoy the fabulous atmosphere, and admire flamboyant carnival costumes that Brazil is so famous for.

On Tuesday the strategy discussions re-commenced, which concluded with a list of action points to take forward.  IAPA’s Deals & Opportunities forum, chaired by Jan van Wijngaarden, JM Corporate Finance from the Netherlands, and Simon Blake, Price Bailey UK, proceeded on due diligence and valuation, allowing delegates time to review a case study and keep up to date with the latest global thinking.  This combination of technical expertise and sharing of best practice is what makes the IAPA forums such a success.  The formal AGM closed the conference’s official business, welcoming John Campbell as IAPA’s new Treasurer and Ramon Gonzalez as the new IAPA Latin American Chair.  The membership also voted in agreement with IAPA’s new strategy as presented in a formal document to members, and to continue collaboration discussions for a potential merger, subject to additional items to be negotiated and as discussed during the strategy session earlier that day.

              

Jan Huygens welcomes Ramon Gonzalez    The newly formed IAPA International Board

An authentic Brazilian steakhouse, known as a Churrascaria, was the venue for the last evening where delegates and companions enjoyed the delicious all-you-can-eat BBQ.  Guests left the venue replenished to continue at Rio Scenarium, one of Rio’s best loved nightspots with dancing to jazz-infused samba, choro and pagoda until the early hours.

The conference ended with a wonderful boat trip around Guanabara Bay where the remarkable scenery could be enjoyed from the water, including the sheer scale of the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city below.  The IAPA 2016 International conference was another great success, providing wonderful networking opportunities to strengthen relations with colleagues all around the world, as well as providing an important platform for members to discuss the way forward for the association, at a significant time for IAPA.