ACCA: conciliation and expansion

The world of accountancy has never been so exciting. The prospect of a merger
has intensified traditional rivalries between the six main accountancy bodies,
leading to several bad tempered and rather public exchanges.

But while relations between some are at an all-time low, ACCA has kept out of
the melee and the election of president Christopher Forster suggests much of its
focus will be overseas this year.

Forster, elected in May, is well known among the institutes, having joined
the ACCA council six years ago. As president, he has already sought to make his
mark, after reportedly acting as a peace broker in a row between the ICAEW and
its Scottish counterpart ICAS.

The English institute threatened to remove its substantial funding and
political muscle from the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies in
retaliation for criticism over its proposed merger with CIPFA.

Forster, it appears, has attempted to calm relations and at a recent meeting
of the six presidents he won a commitment from all to stay with the CCAB and
pursue a common agenda.

But as the other institutes focus on domestic matters, Forster has already
made it clear that his ACCA agenda will centre on Europe, the association’s
expansion overseas and the ongoing international regulation of the profession.

Around 52% of the ACCA’s members are now overseas, and on taking up his
appointment he indulged in some posturing of his own, pointing out the
association’s record in global growth ‘at a time when other accounting bodies
are turning to mergers to try and stem their falling numbers’.

The association is already pushing heavily into China, signing an agreement
with a university in Beijing this year to allow Chinese accountancy students to
join the ACCA professional exam scheme. Its figures for 2004 show 67,800 new
student registrations – a 30% growth in student numbers in the Middle East and
15% in central and Eastern Europe. Forster has made it clear that he expects the
association to match that growth in 2005.

The new president is also expected to push his background in the financial
services sector to boost its 13,000 membership base in this area.

The 46-year-old is currently director of risk management at Hermes Pension
Management, one of the UK’s largest pension fund managers with a portfolio
valued at around £51bn.

He specialises in compliance and risk and is also a former vice-president of
Chase Manhattan Bank and a senior auditor at the Jardine Matheson group.

With the association’s increasing global identity in mind, plus the onset of
new regulation and international financial reporting standards, Forster claims
he will also be working with chief executive Allen Blewitt to increase its
influence and lobby with the EU.

‘We are working extensively on our members’ behalf to maintain positive and
constructive working relationships with government and regulators,’ he said.

It’s a challenging agenda for Forster, as the association attempts to surge
ahead in the international market. But should he choose to become the full-time
referee among the other accountancy bodies he may find his time severely

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