ACCOUNTANTS MUST prove their value to the public or risk the industry losing trust and credibility, according to a report conducted by ACCA.
The paper, entitled Closing the Gap, found that there is a disparity between the proportion of accountants who believe the public trust them and the actual level of public trust in accountants; 73% compared to just 55%, respectively.
About 250 accountants and 1,500 members of the public took part in the survey, which recommends that the profession should "engage in discussion with stakeholders and the public at large about what it means to be an accountant" in order to restore public trust in the industry.
Other measures put forward included:
• Talking about audit – what it is and what it is not – as it has recently come in for a lot of criticism
• Taking the initiative and explaining how accountants add value
• Addressing real concerns about ethical issues and conflicts of interest
• Developing the ‘soft skills' needed to do this engagement and build trust with people.
The results also show accountancy lags behind doctors, nurses, architects and engineers in the public perception stakes, but is held in higher regard than bankers, politicians and lawyers.
However, the financial crisis has had little impact on opinion, with only 13% of public respondents feeling their estimation of accountants had dropped over the last five years, despite 70% of practitioners agreeing the industry is partly to blame for the recession.
The report found that, while scandals such as Enron had created "a legacy of mistrust", that sentiment was likely to be linked to old-fashioned stereotypes.
Helen Brand (pictured), chief executive of ACCA, expressed concern over the results.
She said: "It is important that the general public recognises the integral role of the profession in economic growth and recovery.
"Part of this recognition will come from an understanding of what accountancy today truly means, and the industry as a whole must work together to help this transformation of opinion."
Richard Sexton, executive board member for reputation and policy at PwC, added: "As accountants, it is important that we come out of the shadows as a profession. Although there will be some challenging conversations, it is important that we get better at explaining what we do, how we do it, and how we generate value."
Who is Helen Brand referring to? Qualified accountants or all the accountants? Till the time non-qualifieds are not stopped from practicing, this gap will remain.
Posted by: Storm trooper, 04 Sep 2012 | 05:43
How do accountants generate value?
Posted by: Rodger , 04 Sep 2012 | 08:58
I agree with the previous comment. It really is about time the government of the day legislate that all practicing accountants be fully qualified to do so. For example, unqualified doctors can't so why can unqualified accountants? Also bearing in mind the great importance of getting things right, backed up by a strict and strong code of ethics, integrity, responsibility and competence. There is far too much at stake to allow this very unsatisfactory state of affairs to continue. The main accounting bodies should exert pressure on government to make this a priority - there are a number of qualified accountants who are MPs so we should perhaps look to them to bring on this pressure.
Posted by: Ken Stones FCCA FCMI, 05 Sep 2012 | 10:58
Whilst many accountants and auditors conduct off-shore and balance book shenanigans on behalf of their clients, accountants should be held in low esteem.
Helping to destroy a countries tax revenues is not something to be proud of no matter how much it may increase profits for a client.
If the accountant profession put pressure on the IASB to change rules in order to increase transparency and break down corporate accounts into a country-by-country reporting basis, then maybe perceptions will start to change for the better. I would not hold my breath though, as it is unlikely that the profession would bite the hand that feeds them, no matter how much it may actually do some public good.
Posted by: Horus, 05 Sep 2012 | 21:27
As the author of the ACCA report, allow me to offer a couple of points.
This was a global survey covering the US, UK, Poland, UAE, South Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong. It included qualified and non-qualified accountants, from private practice as well as industry and commerce.
One finding you will think interesting is this: "Nearly seven in ten (68%) said that accountants who are not professionally qualified pose a significant risk to the overall trustworthiness of the profession." By the way, qualified AND non-qualified accountants broadly shared that view.
As for how accountants can add value, I was pleased to be a judge in the British Accountancy Awards this week - and saw plenty of examples of how accountants did exactly that.
You can find the full ACCA report here: http://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-technical/human-capital/tech-tp-ctvg.pdf
Posted by: Andrew Sawers, 14 Sep 2012 | 12:06
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