In his first public pronouncements as the
ICAEW ’s newly appointed
chief executive, Michael Izza suggested that he is happy with the present
overall strategy and direction of the institute.
Let’s hope that he was being polite to his predecessors and guarded with the
At 45, Izza represents a younger generation of chartered accountants and a high
point for the Institute.
He was drawn into the profession during the heyday in the 1980s when the rise
of the institute seemed unstoppable.
Remember the days when one-in-ten graduates in the UK was training to be a
A lot has changed since Izza puts his name to a training contract. And the
ICAEW has struggled to adapt to those challenges.
Muddling along will no longer be enough to stave off long-term decline in
numbers, reputation and influence. The ICAEW needs a radical response to ensure
its survival as one of the leading professional bodies in the world.
Away from the sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere of Moorgate Place, most
members want the institute to pursue three interrelated strategies.
First, they want international presence, second they want to dump the idea of
merger and, finally, they want a radical organisational shake up. Everyone
recognises we compete in a global market and the ICAEW must work harder in
Europe and further afield.
The focus of this has to be the strengths of the ACA qualification repackaged
and repurposed for local markets. And this has to be about quality as well as
Izza must consign all merger plans to the ICAEW recycling bin. All through
his professional life he has seen his fellow members reject merger plan after
merger plan. It may be infuriating, but it is a fact.
Mergers may make sense to the leadership, but the grassroots don’t buy in to
It’s time to stop. Co-operation and co-existence as well as healthy
is the only way ahead.
One advantage Izza has is that as chief operating officer he should know the
way the institute works. To compete effectively and to stand up for members’
disparate interests, the ICAEW needs a complete overhaul.
The relationship between volunteer and staff needs to be rebalanced,
reordered and clarified. Volunteers should be non-executive and advisory.
Initiatives (often from long-forgotten presidents), procedures and structures
have been laid topsy-turvy over one another like reams of once fashionable
wallpaper. These all need to be stripped away.
The professionals inside the institute need to be freed from bureaucracy and
interminable reporting. Instead, they must be empowered, set clear objectives
and told to get on with it.
It is a tough job to run a professional body as disparate as the ICAEW, but
Izza has to decide soon whether he wants to manage decline or renewal.
Peter Williams is a chartered accountant and freelance journalist
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