The aim of the Chair of Accounting and Auditing is to equip HHL´s students with profound and multidisciplinary knowledge in the fields of accounting, especially international financial reporting (IFRS) and financial communication, combined with a sense for quality and professionalism, in order to prepare them for managerial positions in their future careers.
The Chair offers a variety of graduate courses which emphasize critical thinking and challenging the status quo. With regard to research and teaching, we closely collaborate with major companies and audit firms in Germany.
In order to incorporate our strategic objective the Chair founded the Society for Capital Market-Oriented Financial Reporting (GKR e.V.). Thereby, we aim at combining accounting and financial communication practice with state-of-the-art research.
The Chair offers introductory and elective courses in accounting and auditing. Furthermore, students may major in financial accounting, with the flexibility to explore fields of special interest. To impart profound knowledge about International Financial Accounting Standards (IFRS), to stress the differences to German GAAP, and to demonstrate the value relevance of financial communication are the main objectives of the academic program. Our courses incorporate and emphasize the dimensions of the RIC model, i.e. Reporting, Investor Relations, and Capital Markets.
The Chair of Accounting and Auditing pursues an active research program in the context of accounting according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and financial communication with respect to the RIC Model.
Digitalization has become a global mega trend that influences society at every level. This is all the more true for corporate communication. In the next years, listed European firms will be required to disclose their annual reports in XBRL and HTML formats, for financial years beginning on or after January 1, 2020. The European Securities and Market Authority (ESMA) has recently developed these requirements, to improve the transparency, accessibility, analysis, and comparability of financial statement information and thus enhance the information environment in the European capital markets. In his doctoral project, research associate Hendrik Pieper analyzes this ongoing transformation process of reporting in economic aspects.
In the context of the annual Investors’ Darling competition, the Chair of Accounting and Auditing examines the Investor Relations (IR) websites of the 160 German DAX companies. The analysts consider the cornerstones of non-verbal digital communication with investors, such as the “equity story”, investment highlights, and ad-hoc information. To this end, we have kick-started our research project on digital reporting in early 2017 and reviewed best practices in the field over the course of the year. Our findings have culminated in the development of a measurement tool for the quality of digital reporting as well as the publication of a position paper, Change before you have to – Über die Zukunft der Finanzberichterstattung in einer digitalen Welt, in the KoR IFRS column on Reporting and Investor Relations.
Research Professor Sebastian Hoffmann takes responsibility for the research area “Standard Setting and Enforcement”, which is concerned with the emergence of accounting standards (Standard Setting) and assuring a compliant application of these standards (Enforcement).
Projects in the realm of Standard Setting study the behavior of regulators (such as the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)), corporations and auditors in various national and international, contemporary and historical settings. The aim is to understand the institutional, organizational and procedural complexities of standard setting processes and their potential to be exploited for political purposes.The research on Enforcement focuses on institutional and operational issues in relation to the correct application of accounting standards. Current projects assess different enforcement regimes with regard to their effectiveness and efficiency. This research is of significant practical relevance because regulators struggle with the fact that a substantial number of (audited) financial statements are erroneous. This finding not only impacts on financial statement users’ decision-making but also on the stability of financial markets and economies more generally.
Companies’ long-term strategy and other prospective information provide valuable insights into how they see the future of their business model as well as its associated risks and chances. In Germany, DRS 20 provides a quasi-legal framework for strategy disclosure in annual reporting. Since firm strategies build on sensitive and valuable information, executives precisely trade off which and how much strategic information they would disclose. Indeed, investors and financial analysts require communication on strategies and their degree of execution. On the other hand, competitors or hostile acquirers can exploit such knowledge about the firm to its disadvantage.
As of today, research has generated few insights about the measurement, determinants, and value relevance of strategy disclosure, especially voluntarily disclosed information.
In her dissertation project, research associate Sophie Winter evaluates the quality of voluntary strategy disclosure of capital-market oriented German companies and studies the determinants and capital market effects that are associated with this disclosure.
Using a self-constructed scoring model to analyze the voluntary strategy disclosure quality, the Chair of Accounting and Auditing has been examining the strategy reporting of capital market-oriented companies since 2014. It should be emphasized that the strategy reporting of the companies considered is deficient and offers a great potential for improvement.
Some research results have already been published in the journal KoR IFRS:
Zülch, H./Winter, S. (2018): What‘s next? – Status Quo der Strategieberichterstattung von HDAX-Unternehmen, in: Kapitalmarktorientierte Rechnungslegung 2018, S. 416-417.
Zülch, H./Winter, S. (2017): Everything except strategy – Wege zu einer effektiven Strategieberichterstattung, in: Kapitalmarktorientierte Rechnungslegung 2017, S. 426-433.
Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) is gaining increasing economic relevance and political support. Banks, analysts and other members of the financial community today no longer base their investment decision on financial indicators alone. Increasingly, ESG-metrics are considered in the evaluation process. Consequently, regulators are rediscovering disclosure on companies’ ecological, social and governance (ESG) performance as a means to bridge information asymmetries between corporations and their financial stakeholders and enable a sustainable allocation of resources.
Research associates Saskia Erben and Carl Weuster examine various aspects of ESG disclosure for the capital market, such as the status quo of ESG reporting in German firms, the value relevance of ESG information to financial analysts and investors and the relation between regulation and reporting quality.
Our inquiries have culminated in the research paper Social Disclosure and the Socially Responsible Investment Process: A Literature Review, which has been accepted for presentation at the 41st Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association (EAA) in early 2018.
More than financial reporting – research in the field of financial communication at the Chair of Accounting and Auditing means both qualitative and quantitative studies on reporting and investor relations (IR) activities. According to the RIC framework (Reporting, Investor Relations, and Capital Markets), we consequently link financial information to the capital markets’ developments related to equity investments, expressed by investors and financial analysts.
Research associate Philipp Ottenstein examines the determinants and capital market relevance of financial information in Europe, disseminated by corporate reporting and IR. In this area, a major research topic is the information environment on accounting earnings that analysts have when they project future firm parameters.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are highly relevant inorganic growth strategies for companies – especially for those active in saturated markets or industries. After a rapid end in the wake of the financial and economic crises of 2009, commentators have noted a recent surge in the M&A activity since 2014. However, the economic benefits for acquirers in this “seventh M&A wave” remain disputable: despite an ever-growing nexus of advisory from investment banking and consulting industries, the literature tends to show that a majority of M&A transactions do not succeed financially.
Research associate Sébastien Jost will investigates the determinants of M&A transactions performance and the role of the due diligence process.
On average, the DAX30 companies refer to the coronavirus 95 times in their 2020 half-yearly reports. Key terms such as “corona”, “covid”, “pandemic” or “lockdown” are mentioned 1.7 times on each page on average. This is shown in a study published by HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management (Chair of Accounting and Auditing) and Vienna-based reporting agency nexxar. “The corona pandemic and its impact on the economic development of companies is currently the dominant reporting topic”, says Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch of HHL.
However, the study also shows that the companies in the German leading index assign quite different weight to the topic. For example, the pandemic is most prominent in the half-yearly reports of Deutsche Bank AG and Volkswagen AG, each with over 200 references. In contrast, the half-yearly report of Deutsche Wohnen SE contains just 12 references over some 50 pages. “Corona’s presence in terms of content apparently also depends on how much the respective companies are affected by the pandemic and how much the environment and business model have changed,” says Dr. Eloy Barrantes, Managing Director of nexxar. The real estate group Deutsche Wohnen SE, for example, states in its half-yearly report 2020 that the consequences of the Corona pandemic have hardly had any significant impact on the financial position and results of operations so far. The business model has also remained essentially unchanged. An interesting insight is also provided by the different verbal terms. The – rather abstract – phenomenon “pandemic” (34.0 references per report) or even the term “Covid” (31.1 references per report) are mentioned much more frequently than the specific restrictions imposed by the “lockdown”, with an average of only 2.9 references per report. “For companies, it is important to deal with concrete opportunities and risks arising from the pandemic in their daily business, as they have been caused by the lockdowns in numerous countries. This must also be clearly reflected in external communication,” says Zülch.
Companies benefit from a leap of faith
So far, most DAX30 companies seem to have handled financial communication regarding Corona well. This is shown by a perception study conducted by HHL Leipzig together with manager magazin between the end of April and June 2020. “The capital market is still satisfied with the reporting on the effects of the pandemic. The companies listed on the DAX, MDAX and SDAX enjoy a leap of faith that must be honored with the annual reports – if not before”, said Professor Zülch. “In most cases, DAX companies describe and even quantify the effects on the economic development comprehensively. However, only rarely, strategic adjustments due to a pandemic, or non-financial aspects of the pandemic for the business model are discussed.”
Annual reports must bring clarity
According to the study, the annual reports to be published in spring 2021 are essential here. In the annual report, the effects of the pandemic in the 2020 financial year will be described for the first time in detail. What impact did Corona have on the workforce? Have investments been postponed? What are the risks of another lockdown? What are the economic scenarios for the future?
Particularly in times of uncertainty, experience shows that companies tend to lack transparency, for example by refraining from providing quantitative guidance and concrete targets. “However, transparency is key,” says Zülch: “If companies can describe the consequences of Corona in clear language and draw reasonable conclusions, they are usually rewarded by the capital market in the long term.”
Contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (email@example.com)
STUDY BY KIRCHHOFF CONSULT AND HHL SHOWS: AUSTRIAN COMPANIES HAVE TO CATCH UP IN CORONA-RELATED FINANCIAL COMMUNICATION
HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, in cooperation with Kirchhoff Consult AG, has investigated how listed companies of Austria’s stock index with the highest transparency standard – ATX Prime – have managed their financial communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The result of the study reveals that the expectations towards listed Austrian companies are not met. In the newly developed assessment system consisting of four categories, the 38 examined companies only achieved an average score of 32%. In comparison, Germany’s DAX companies achieved an average score of 61%. This illustrates the significance of the catch-up need concerning Corona-related financial communication in Austria. In particular, there is room for improvement in discussing the financial impact of the pandemic and the outlook for the further course of business. Austria’s front-runner Wienerberger AG would only rank 11th in the ranking of German DAX160 companies, while the second-ranked Zumtobel Group AG would only rank 33rd. Among Germany’s DAX stocks, Deutsche Bank AG and Indus Holding AG are the best performers. In a dedicated chapter, the study provides practical recommendations for high-quality and transparent financial reporting on the corona pandemic in the current 2020 financial year and beyond.
“The financial community must always be given the most realistic picture possible of the current and future business situation of the listed company. After all, transparency creates trust and that is a company’s greatest asset – especially in times of crisis,” emphasizes Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch of Leipzig Business School HHL, who co-authored the study.
Jens Hecht, Managing Partner at Kirchhoff Consult adds: “During the ongoing uncertainty caused by the corona pandemic, it is better to communicate less accurately than not at all. The study therefore also contains some recommendations on how companies in Austria and Germany can improve their ongoing capital market communication and financial reporting in the 2020/21 season”.
The quality of financial communication of Austrian ATX Prime companies fluctuates and has room for improvement. In the national ranking, 12 of the 38 Austrian companies achieve a score of more than 50%, whereas more than 60% of the examined companies only achieve a score between 50% and 1%.
Some listed companies, including Wienerberger AG, Zumtobel Group AG, Voestalpine AG and Raiffeisen Bank International, stand out clearly from the crowd and achieve a score of more than 75% each. Wienerberger AG, the top performer, was considered the reference point in Austria and marks the benchmark at 100%. Nevertheless, this result is only a good 9 out of 16 possible points, which would put the company only 11th in the ranking of German DAX160 companies. The second-ranked company in Austria, Zumtobel Group AG, would be in 33rd place.
Financial implications of COVID-19 and forecast remain largely unexplained
For the study, the 38 companies listed in the ATX Prime index at the beginning of July 2020 formed the sample. In order to assess the quality of their capital market communication, key questions from the four categories “Management”, “Financials”, “Non-Financials” and “Prospects” were analyzed. The focus was on the first hot phase of the pandemic in March and April 2020, and on the question whether financial communication was timely, considering the crisis situation. This included reporting on the 1st quarter of 2020.
It became apparent that communication on the financial impact of the pandemic on the company’s net assets, financial position and results of operations was particularly weak. In terms of the quality of the forecasts, which provide an outlook on the expected course of business, the ATX Prime companies even reach only half the score of the DAX-listed companies from Germany. According to the analysis, the market demand for high-quality forecasts will increase in the near future. As the consequences of the Corona pandemic can now be better estimated than in spring 2020, the expectations of investors and analysts that their outlook will again be underpinned by tangible figures are also increasing. In future, it will no longer be sufficient to stop giving guidance or to make purely qualitative forecasts.
On the search for the „Effective Financial Crisis Communicator | Austria”
In the past four years, Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch from HHL has already examined and evaluated the quality of financial communication for the Austrian Financial Communication Award (AFCA). The basis was the “RIC Model” developed by Zülch at the Chair of Accounting and Auditing in Leipzig. The analysis reveals weaknesses in the areas of reporting and investor relations. “A lack of transparency is particularly harmful because it damages trust. Therefore, this was a major focus of our analysis. For this purpose, we developed a new, Corona-specific methodology that allows comparability with German companies in times of the corona pandemic. Our goal is to identify those companies on the Austrian market that stand out from the crowd as so-called “Effective Financial Crisis Communicators in Austria”,” says Prof. Dr. Zülch.
These DAX companies best meet the expectations of the capital market
Germany’s listed companies have mastered the challenges of transparent and high-quality financial reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic much better. The best performer is Deutsche Bank AG, achieving 12 of the possible 16 points. The second place goes to Indus Holding AG with 11.5 points. Third place is shared by the companies Puma SE, Qiagen N.V. and Hapag-Lloyd AG with 10.5 points each.
Study: Effective Financial Crisis Communicator | Austria (in German):
HHL/KirchhoffConsult: Wie meistern Österreichs ATX Prime-Unternehmen die Corona-Krise im Vergleich zum DAX? Studie Kapitalmarktkommunikation 2020. – Leipzig, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, 2020
Contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The start of the 2020/21 Bundesliga season brings with it many hopes. On the part of the fans, the desire for normality is becoming ever louder. For their part, the clubs are striving to enter a “competitive mode” by means of spectators and to get away from anonymous and unmotivating ghost games. At the same time, the spectator income, the so-called ticketing, is a not to be underestimated part of the sales in the profit and loss accounts of professional clubs. With spectators you can not only score points financially, but also in sports. Is this really the case and what does it mean for the upcoming Bundesliga season?
There is a high level of tension in the Bundesliga due to the critical financial situation of many professional football clubs in the highest German leagues. The viability of the clubs is in question. An important finding of the pandemic is that risk identification and risk assessment will play a significant role for professional clubs in the future. So how can such a risk assessment be carried out in advance? And: What models are available?
The Coronavirus has shocked the world, affects our health and social lives. Not least, its impact on the economy is dramatic. Even for the prime football leagues, the effective lockdown in many European countries has shaken up the business outlook. The decision to stop the 1. and 2. Bundesliga has blurred the sight into the future of the League. Therefore, this study aims at contributing to the question how robust the German Bundesliga clubs are—in both financial and management dimensions.
Here, we provide you with an overview to help the reader to understand “how to read” this study which reflects the information as of May 14th, 2020.
First, we understand our study as a stimulation for discussion in order to support German Football on its way to becoming the best in the world.
We would like to make our contribution with concrete recommendations.
During our research, we first considered the market of a professional German Football club and benchmarked the German Bundesliga to the other European top leagues.
In the next step, we analyzed the financial situation of all clubs in order to understand the challenges the clubs are currently facing. We put a special emphasis on the indicators of financial liquidity and solvency since these are the critical factors when aiming for financial robustness.
However, we believe that it is not sufficient to solely base the club´s future robustness on a financial basis. Thus, we looked in three additional dimensions, which there are management quality, player talent development, and of course sporting success. By doing so, we develop a differentiated scoring model that takes all these dimensions into account and results in one overall robustness score for each club. In order to relatively compare the scores of all clubs, we display the results in a ranking table, that is familiar for football fans.
The underlying scoring system of our study is based on publicly available data, which is mainly comprised by annual reports of football clubs. Additionally, we gave every club the chance to participate in our study and provide us with the latest data by asking for support via emails, that all clubs received twice. 9 clubs leveraged the opportunity and supported us with personal interviews and additional data.
We hope that this study will be seen as an invitation to discuss the robustness of German football. We would be pleased if our recommendations were to support the decision-makers. We wish you many new insights when reading our study!
Executive Summary: The German Bundesliga Clubs and Their Future
The extensive research slide set is available upon request. Please contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (email@example.com)
Managing a football club has become much more complex in recent years as they have turned into football companies and a growing number of stakeholders have entered the industry. The clubs’ capabilities to handle the increased complexity – but also with the effects of the current pandemic – vary, turning management quality into a crucial competitive (dis-)advantage. This new edition of the FoMa Q-Score ranking presented here builds on the framework established by ZÜLCH & PALME, 2017, which comprehensively assesses management quality along four dimensions, namely Sporting Success, Financial Performance, Fan Welfare Maximization and Leadership & Governance, in order to perform a longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis of the German and French professional football clubs’ management quality. In fact, filled with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs), these enriched dimensions intend to objectively quantify the relevant success factors. Ultimately, the performance in all dimensions, referred to as FoMa Q-Score, indicates a club’s management quality. Responsible Clubmanagers concerned can make use of our findings and derive specific actions to benchmark their club’s setups in order to make up ground or defend their competitive positions.
We gratefully acknowledge the valuable and constructive comments of our interview partners, namely high-level representatives of distinguished German football clubs (Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Bayern München, Hamburger SV and RB Leipzig), media representatives (11 Freunde, FINANCE), and external stakeholders and parties (Group Lagardère, Puma, Odgers Berndtson), as well as the members of the Sports Management Strategic Interest Group (SIG) of the European Academy of Management Conference. An earlier version of the FoMa-Q score was also recently published in the journal “Sports, Business and Management” (2020, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 567-598).
Contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Managing a football club has become much more complex in recent years as they have turned into football companies and a growing number of stakeholders have entered the industry. The clubs’ capabilities to handle the increased complexity vary, turning management quality into a crucial competitive (dis-)advantage. This new edition of the FoMa Q-Score ranking builds on the framework established by ZÜLCH & PALME, 2017, which comprehensively assesses management quality along four dimensions, namely Sporting Success, Financial Performance, Fan Welfare Maximization and Leadership & Governance, in order to perform a longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis of the German and French professional football clubs’ management quality. In fact, filled with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs), these dimensions intend to objectively quantify the relevant success factors. Ultimately, the performance in all dimensions, referred to as FoMa Q-Score, indicates a club’s management quality. Football managers concerned can make use of our findings and derive specific actions to benchmark their club’s setups in order to make up ground or defend their competitive positions.
We gratefully acknowledge the valuable and constructive comments of our interview partners, namely high-level representatives of distinguished German football clubs (Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Bayern München, Hamburger SV and RB Leipzig), media representatives (11 Freunde, FINANCE), and external stakeholders and parties (Group Lagardère, Puma, Odgers Berndtson), as well as the members of the Sports Management Strategic Interest Group (SIG) of the European Academy of Management Conference, where we presented the paper in June 2019.
Contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (email@example.com)
German football is a role model all over the world. Not only the success of the national team, which has now manifested itself in four world championship titles, is part of this success story. The way it deals with its most important stakeholder group, the supporters, is particularly unique. The supporters’ well-being is one of the most important assets that the Bundesliga brand represents worldwide. However, the current developments in European football in particular are alarming. Those who cannot keep up with the high transfer fees will probably not be competitive in the long term, so that the call for the Bundesliga to be opened up to strategic investors is becoming ever louder – even or especially during the Corona crisis. But how does this fit together: Fanwelfare and strategic investors? The so-called 50+1 rule in German football created and still creates a balance. This article approaches the question raised by presenting for the first time an opinion on the German special path of the 50+1 rule. Based on this opinion and against the background of current developments, recommendations for action will be developed which may be part of the future discussion on the 50+1 rule in Germany.
(The study was published in German.)
Contact: Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Corporate Accountability in Professional Football –
Rethinking Corporate Responsibility and Communicating Successfully
The consequences of the corona pandemic sparked a lively discussion about the financial stability of the German Bundesliga and its sustainable management. In particular, the lack of transparency and credibility was the focus of the discussion. In the course of the reorientation of professional football, the present contribution would like to give the impetus to emphasize the non-financial aspects, which have often been neglected so far. It is about the chance to become aware of corporate responsibility and to actively manage it. This not only concerns economic aspects, but also social, societal and ecological aspects. The study respectively article is thus an appeal to rethink the corporate responsibility of Bundesliga clubs and to make it clear that long-term success means sustainable business. This is where the “Corporate Accountability Cycle” framework, originally developed for the corporate context, comes in and illustrates how clubs can effectively manage and communicate their corporate responsibility. Non-financial reporting is not an end in itself, but the result of a functioning corporate accountability management system. The framework consists of nine specific steps that provide a first practical guide to corporate responsibility reporting in professional football as an important starting point to run the change.
The Center for Financial Reporting & Consolidation (CFRC) is assigned to the Chair of Accounting and Auditing. It began its activities in July 2009.
The aim of the CFRC is to provide high quality research and consulting services to help companies, investors, banks and analysts manage the challenging environment of international accounting (IFRS) and corporate valuation. Bringing together accounting and valuation experts from both academia and corporate practice, the CFRC aims at promoting understanding and knowledge of IFRS reporting, consolidation and valuation. The CFRC thus combines consulting services with academic input based on scientific expertise in the area of international financial reporting and consolidation.
The research activities of the Center for Financial Reporting and Consolidation (CFRC) focus on IFRS accounting, consolidation and valuation questions as well as on current topics in corporate practice. The Center’s research is based on profound academic knowledge and the results excel in high relevance in practice. Besides current topics in the areas of international accounting, consolidation and valuation, the following fields are of particular relevance to the Center’s activities:
Financial reporting, consolidation and valuation according to IFRS have evolved into a complex subject area that requires a high level of expertise. These topics have become even more demanding due to the high pace with which the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has published additional standards or revised existing ones. The purpose of the Center for Financial Reporting and Consolidation (CFRC) is to promote HHL’s involvement in consulting challenges regarding current issues in these demanding areas. The CFRC’s consulting services are based on academic input and scientific expertise in international financial reporting, consolidation and valuation. Contributions from experienced accounting and consolidation practitioners as well as valuation experts are a main part of the solutions the Center offers and round up our consulting approach.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
T: +49 341-9851-701
HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Jahnallee 59, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Accounting, financial reporting and auditing are among the business disciplines that interact most significantly with business practice: On the one hand corporations develop new accounting practices, reporting and management tools and procedures that require scientific analysis. On the other hand they depend on theoretically derived state-of-the-art research results in order to be competitive.
This is why the Chair is heavily engaged in exchanging knowledge with corporate practice. By giving lectures in companies, inviting practitioners for special lectures, conducting field projects and actively participating in the work of corporate and scientific societies the Chair is transferring its expertise and research results into practice while identifying new research questions simultaneously.
The Society for Capital Market-Oriented Financial Reporting (abbr. GKR, Gesellschaft für kapitalmarktorientierte Rechnungslegung) deals with highly topical issues in financial reporting and auditing. It aims at encouraging discussions between scientists and practitioners, both within Leipzig and beyond.
GKR is backed by the theoretical expertise of HHL’s Chair of Accounting and Auditing, Prof. Dr. Henning Zülch, and the practical experience of numerous firms in industry, consulting and auditing. Also, well-recognized media partners are supporting the society’s aims.
Topicality, flexibility and excellence – these are the words that characterize GKR’s efforts. Current developments in accounting, financial reporting, auditing and corporate governance are discussed in a timely manner. The society’s members may suggest specific topics and GKR will thoroughly select adequate lecturers and speakers who possess an outstanding record in theory and practice.