Merger soap opera to roll on

On a dramatic day at both Guildhall and Chartered Accountants’ Hall, where
both institutes’ votes were revealed simultaneously, the ICAEW fell agonisingly
short of the two-thirds majority required to push the merger through.

The announcement of the results by ICAEW president Ian Morris to the one
hundred or so members who turned up to say their piece, and witness the dramatic
outcome in the flesh, left many aghast.

By reading out the number of votes both for and against, before revealing the
actual percentages, Morris left everyone in Moorgate flexing their grey matter
with some mental calculations.

But when he made it clear that ICAEW had failed to claim enough votes by the
narrowest of margins, the audience collectively made a sharp intake of breath.

Anstee took the stand, and bullishly claimed that, with over 56,000 members
who partook in the vote and 65.7% in favour of the merger, the institute had
effectively been given a mandate to continue to push for closer ties with CIPFA
and consolidation within the industry.

In truth, Anstee was well placed to make this point. The frustration of not
making the required majority will fuel attempts to bring together the ICAEW with
the public-focused institute in all but name.

Speaking after the numbers were announced, CIPFA president Diane Colley said:
‘Clearly it is very frustrating that after all the hard work, we should fall
short by such a narrow margin.

Colley thanked CIPFA members: ‘We have shown yet again that CIPFA members are
prepared to rise above self-interest and think about the interests of the
profession and the public,’ she said.

Her views were echoed by Ashtead-based Roy Foster, a chartered accountant who
viewed the events in Moorgate with dismay. ‘Fundamentally, [ICAEW] members need
to consider what’s best for the profession rather than as individuals.’

Bruce Lawson, who has campaigned tirelessly against the merger, said that the
result proved that chartered accountants have decided that bringing on board
10,000 public sector accountants was ‘not worth the dilution of the gold
standard’. He also believes that the super institute’s increased weight in the
eyes of the government would have been ‘marginal at best’.

Yet there is still so much more to come from this long running, and sometimes
bad-tempered saga.

Firstly, ACCA has made it clear that the Consultative Committee of
Accountancy Bodies should be the tool for institutes to use when the profession
has consensus on important issues.

The merger failure heads off, for the moment, fears that the ICAEW would move
away from CCAB and go its own way to became a stronger, larger entity.

Now ICAS has made it clear that it expects any talk of an ‘Institute of
Chartered Accountants’ to promptly stop.

And then last but not least, former ICAEW and CIPFA merger buddy CIMA still
waits in the wings for them both to make it an offer to good to refuse. In the
meantime, it believes its own strategy is strong and will continue to expand its
own offering.

Watch this space.

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