Date posted: 27/03/2024 8 min read

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

A growing number of Australian and New Zealand chartered accountants are working for international standards setting boards in New York to help develop standards used by the global profession.

Quick take

  • Australian and New Zealand professionals are highly skilled and so are well placed to find work in the US.
  • Australian and New Zealand CAs are working on global standards in sustainability and banking.
  • Gaining global experience can push your career to the next level.

One evening late last year, Brett James FCA was on his way home from work when the bus he was travelling on was forced to make a detour. James, who works as chief of operations for the International Foundation for Ethics and Audit (IFEA) in New York, suddenly found himself in Times Square, where Jungkook, the main vocalist from top-selling South Korean boy band BTS, was playing a surprise concert.

“My bus detoured through Times Square which was an incredible delay, but we ended up with front row seats to a pop concert,” says James, adding, “In some ways it’s just an office job, but you have these random, little, magical moments that happen every so often and you think, ‘I can’t believe we’re standing in the middle of all this’.”

Chasing the dream

James initially took up a role with the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) in 2010, but two years ago joined IFEA, which houses the IAASB and the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). The chairs of the IAASB and IESBA are IFEA’s co-CEOs.

“I was really determined to have time overseas and, to be honest, London felt a little bit too well travelled,” says James of taking up residency in the Big Apple. “I looked up and down the Eastern Seaboard to see what I could find. I had worked for the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board [AUASB] in Australia, so I had some history with standard setting. It was a natural fit.”

From 2016 to 2018, James worked closely on the revision of International Auditing Standard (ISA) 540, Auditing Accounting Estimates and Related Disclosures, which is particularly important for banks and insurance companies. “We had representations from regulators all over the world wanting to influence what the standard should look like,” he says. “And, of course, we had representations from banks, the peak bodies of banks and all the accounting firms playing in.

“There aren’t many jobs where you have levers on those kinds of discussions,” he adds.

“At the end of the day, when all the input is received, it’s the staff’s job to take all that and put it on paper. You’re the one who has to actually write the paper that says, ‘We recommend the board do X and not Y’.”

At the moment, James’s focus is on operational structures that enable each board to develop and issue international standards. He is very familiar with the work of a fellow Aussie chartered accountant, Claire Grayston FCA, who moved to New York in 2022 with her husband (and intermittent visits from their three daughters), to take up a role with the IAASB.

Taking action on sustainability

Grayston is the co-lead for the development of the proposed International Standard on Sustainability Assurance (ISSA) 5000, General Requirements for Sustainability Assurance Engagements.

“The exposure draft has garnered a lot of attention worldwide, as it will provide a global baseline for sustainability assurance and meet the urgent need for consistent, robust assurance on sustainability reporting that is rapidly evolving,” she says.

Claire Grayston FCA

“It will provide a global baseline for sustainability assurance... It’s a very high profile and exciting project.”
Claire Grayston FCA, International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board

“So, it’s been fast-tracked and will be the first in a suite of future sustainability assurance standards,” she says, adding “It’s a very high profile and exciting project.”

Grayston says the IAASB had one of the broadest global outreach campaigns in its history, taking the draft to six continents. “We had eight round tables, extensive engagement with a broad range of stakeholder groups – from regulators, both non-accountants and accountants, investor groups, NGOs and professional bodies – and presented at countless events.

“I’m confident that stakeholders felt we listened to them and really heard their feedback, as we want to make sure that the standard is fit for purpose across all sustainability frameworks across the globe,” she adds.

While working for Deloitte in Perth early in her career, Grayston was seconded to the McCusker Inquiry, a Royal Commission into the collapse of Rothwells merchant bank in Western Australia. “I did fraud investigations for that inquiry and that led me to move away from audit at Deloitte and start a career in forensic accounting firstly with ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission] and later various investigations roles in London,” she says.

“Building on the scepticism I learned through forensic accounting, and the experience I’ve had in fraud prevention and investigation, was invaluable when I moved back to Australia and into standard setting with the AUASB. That very much centred on non-financial assurance – which, after a time in policy work for CPA Australia, is what I’m continuing to do now but at the global level.”

The IAASB cut three months from the timeline for ISSA 5000 earlier last year to coincide with fast-paced regulatory developments in Europe arising from the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). It intends to issue a final sustainability standard before the end of 2024, which is also when the IESBA’s final sustainability standards are expected.

“We’re working through the feedback and looking at what amendments we can make to the standard to make it the most useful and appropriate for robust assurance engagements on sustainability reporting. We’re very proud to be able to bring that to market as fast as possible,” Grayston says.

In the public interest

Jon Reid FCA is also having an impact at a global level. A dual Australian and US citizen, after seeing the job on LinkedIn Reid applied and was appointed principal for the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) in mid-2023. Reid and his family have now settled in Brooklyn.

“When you’re doing things at the international level it’s often the first time it’s being done, which then has flow-on effects to the various jurisdictions throughout the world,” he says. “Often, what you’re doing is groundbreaking work. This definitely adds an element of excitement and challenges, as you’re setting up and creating something new and impactful.”

Jon Reid FCA

“Often what you’re doing is groundbreaking work. This definitely adds an element of excitement and challenges.”
Jon Reid FCA, International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants

Reid says many of the roles he held previously in Australia – with ASIC, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board, for example – were built around public interest. “And my IESBA role has extended this to the global stage,” he says. “It’s a public interest role based on developing global standards, so as to promote good ethical behaviour. These standards help to build trust in the financial and non-financial information that businesses and organisations create, prepare and develop.”

At present, he is developing ethics standards to seek to ensure that sustainability reporting is more robust and underpinned by an ethical framework that will promote trustworthy, relevant reporting from a sustainability perspective. This work forms part of the IESBA’s recently launched public consultation on ethics and sustainability: Proposed International Ethics Standards for Sustainability Assurance (including International Independence Standards) (IESSA) and other revisions to the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) related to sustainability reporting and assurance.

“This job was really the logical next step in my career and I ultimately decided on it because of the additional challenges of the global aspect, and the diversity that it would bring,” he says.

A global mindset

Another member working for the IESBA is Malaysian-born New Zealander Carla Vijian CA. Vijian’s professional journey began with Audit New Zealand, and she subsequently joined the New Zealand Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. She also gained experience with Deloitte in Australia and London, before anchoring herself in New York in 2018.

“At that time, I noticed there was a position at the IESBA and I reached out to HR to enquire about it,” she says. The role resonated with her, given her prior involvement in national standard setting within New Zealand.

As principal, standards development and technical projects, Vijian says no two days are the same. “We are trailblazers in that we uphold the public interest by making sure we are addressing matters of concern or development within the profession,” she says.

“What that means is, day to day, you are in meetings, speaking to stakeholders, conducting research and very much in deep thinking mode and drafting solutions and standards. I’m very proud of who I work for and the job I do. I’m very proud of our work and the crucial role we play on a global stage.”

Vijian believes roles like hers will appeal to anyone with a thirst for exploration and cultural immersion. “You might find yourself staggering a bit if you’re not used to having to challenge your mindset to be open to looking at issues or problems from all perspectives,” she says.

While Vijian has lived in other vibrant cities, occasionally she finds herself surprised by the city that never sleeps. A couple of years ago, she met world record-holding long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge while he was in town for the New York City Marathon.

“I have a friend who is a runner and we were invited to a pre-race sponsored event. When you see celebrities like that, you do get reminded that you’re in New York,” she says. “At the same time, it’s become so normal that you don’t think too much about it.”

Know your standards-setting boards

What are the different International Standards-Setting Boards – and what is the remit of each one?


The International Foundation for Ethics and Audit (IFEA) is a nonprofit organisation that supports highquality international standard setting in ethics, audit, and assurance – all in the public interest. IFEA fulfills its mission through its two standardsetting boards: the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) and the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA).


The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) sets high-quality international standards for auditing, assurance and quality management that strengthen public confidence in the global profession.


The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) sets high-quality, international ethics (including independence) standards as a cornerstone to ethical behaviour in business and organisations. It seeks to build public trust in financial and non-financial information that is fundamental to the proper functioning and sustainability of organisations, financial markets and economies worldwide.

Taking a bite out of the Big AppleImage credit: Matteo Modica

Want to work in the US?

Both IAASB and IESBA anticipate increasing their staff size in the next few years and have open positions now, with more planned for 2024 and beyond. See

If you gain employment with a New York standards board, IFEA will support international recruits and their families with the visa process.

The E-3 classification applies only to nationals of Australia. You must be coming to the US solely to perform services in a specialty occupation.

To live and work in the US, New Zealanders need to apply for a non-immigrant work visa.

CAW support

Chartered accountants are benefiting from a new strategic alliance between the Association of Chartered Accountants in the US (ACAUS) and Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), currently chaired by CA ANZ CEO Ainslie van Onselen. The alliance provides CAs with access to the news, education and other resources currently offered across a range of different member institutes.

Find out more here.