Table Speech

Roles of Certified Public Accountants During and After COVID-19

November 11, 2020

Mr. Kimitaka Mori
President of Mori Certified Public Accountant Office

 Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) have been providing support and consultations to ensure governmental assistance would reach those affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in a timely manner. Currently there are about 38,000 CPAs in Japan including apprentices, half of whom perform audits on listed companies. Out of nearly 3,500 listed companies, 2,700 companies close their books in March, making April, May and June the peak months aiming at Annual General Meetings (AGM) towards the end of June for employees of General Affairs and Accounting Departments and CPAs. COVID-19 has affected the audit procedures and schedules, especially during the State of Emergency lockdown earlier this year which coincided with the account settlement period. To respond to such an unprecedented situation, a Networking Group was established with members from the financial Ministries and Agency, business Associations, Stock Exchange as well as JICPA (Japanese Institute of CPAs). After careful discussions on how to meet the Government’s requests to avoid 3Cs (Closed spaces, Crowded places, and Close-contact settings) while ensuring financial soundness, we agreed on irregular and flexible schedules such as postponement of AGMs and extension of annual report filing deadlines.

 Audit firms have been promoting remote work and divide their staff members in three groups to work either from home, at the office or at auditee firms. This ‘new normal’ flexible working style has been made possible by companies embracing digitalization and submitting financial accounting documents in electronic data or PDF format. To further promote digital transformation (DX), we need to ensure cyber security of related data and systems as well as maximize the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to process massive amounts of data and improve operational efficiency.

 In some cases, auditors must conduct an on-site inspection of original documents or physical count of stock and inventory to verify a match to the accounting records. By tapping into advanced technologies like remote-control drones, auditors can minimize travelling. Blockchain technology also ensures heightened security and can test the reliability of electronically obtained evidence in the absence of the original physical source document.

 COVID-19 is a serious threat to humanity with severe economic and social repercussions. Yet we can try to turn this crisis into our advantage and rethink the vulnerabilities of the old economy and long-standing social customs. For example, personal signature stamps have been used for centuries in Japan to authenticate documents in every aspect of life such as signing contracts or approving proposals. COVID-19 made us redefine this outdated business custom and streamline our operational processes. Let us harness this crisis to create positive changes and initiate a set of long overdue reforms to build a more resilient and productive system going forward.

The Art of Handshaking

November 11, 2020

Mr. Kraft Joseph
Representative Director of Rorschach Advisory

 There are over 20 types of handshakes in the U.S.A. which convey different messages and reveal our innermost thoughts. “Kinesics” is the interpretation of nonverbal signals we use in our communication, like body language and facial expressions. Handshakes can be much more eloquent than words. Today, I will share major types of handshake and what they indicate together with how handshaking patterns between U.S. President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe has changed over time, which reflects deepening relations between the two countries.

 Let me start with 6 major handshakes. “Dead Fish” corresponds to an indifferent and passive handshake with no power, enthusiasm, interest or respect. It indicates negative emotions and reserved personality, as seen when British Prime Minister Theresa May or King Philippe of Belgium met President Trump for the first time in 2017. “Shug” combines “handshake” and “hug” that gives an intimate and warm impression of close companionship with a subtle masculine touch. Former President Barrack Obama preferred this style when greeting his friends and athletes. “Bone Crusher” is uncomfortable, aggressive and intimidating as it involves an excessively strong grip. This ‘white knuckle’ handshake between President Trump and French President Macron during their first meeting in 2017 attracted considerable media attention. In “Shake & Cover,” you place your left hand and cover the other person’s right hand. It can demonstrate a sense of superiority or a more positive feeling of empathy and companionship. Russian President Putin demonstrated his superiority by Shake & Cover when meeting former U.S. President Bush. “High Five” is a motivational and cheerful gesture of celebration and greeting where two people raise their arms and slap each other’s palms. “Fist Bump” evolved from “High Five” and conveys a strong feeling of solidarity and comradeship. While a clenched fist could be perceived as hostile, “Fist Bump” demonstrates strong trust and confidence, often used by young leaders like former President Obama, former British Prime Minister Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.

 Today, the strong personal bond between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump is a well-known fact. Interestingly enough, their feeling of trust and friendship can be traced back to 2017 from their behaviors and handshakes. In February 2017, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Abe to the White House with a Shug followed by a Shake & Cover expressing companionship. Once in the Oval Office, the two leaders engaged in a legendary 19-second handshake. They exchanged High Fives and Fist Bumps when they played golf together several times that demonstrated their intimate and trustful relationships.

 I believe handshaking and body language are useful tools to deep dive into the innermost thoughts of your counterpart and to build a constructive relationship both in diplomacy and international business.