Wyman thus became something of an ambassador for UK accounting. He gained worldwide respect for preaching a considered response to scandals, arguing exemption for UK auditors from the US Sarbanes Oxley Act, and lobbying for limitation of audit liability with the UK government. Nevertheless Illingworth is not daunted by the fame of his predecessor.
He believes Wyman did an excellent job and says he is proud to take over the reins from such an illustrious figure. ‘It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. I’m honoured to take the flame forward,’ he says.
Illingworth offers the institute 35 years’ experience of accountancy in practice. He started with KPMG in 1968 as a Cambridge graduate and became partner at its Manchester office in 1975. He has been involved in the district society for around 20 years, some of which as president of the Manchester district society.
‘Because of my background in Manchester, I bring a combination of knowledge about issues in the regions and about practising in a large firm,’ he says.
At the top of Illingworth’s agenda for his presidency is to improve the accountancy ‘brand’. He intends to achieve this by focussing on three areas: getting the message across about international accounting standards, shaping Sarbanes-Oxley and putting it on the European agenda, and promoting the institute’s qualifications.
He’s got his work cut out for him. Illingworth believes Sir David Tweedie is on track as far as the development of a single set of international accounting standards, but there is still a ‘lot of work’ to be done in rewriting some largely US standards into ‘good and robust’ international standards.
UK-listed companies must start using these new rules by 2005, but many accountants are still oblivious as to how this will impact on their work.
‘We need to ensure members are prepared for it,’ Illingworth says. He points out that the institute’s ACA exams from this August will all be based on international standards, which he believes will bring essential knowledge into the majority of firms.
In addition, Illingworth plans to continue lobbying government on limiting audit liability and finalising the rewriting of the UK’s archaic company law.
He further believes the institute should take a ‘greater role in preparing people for business’. The institute is looking to develop specialist training in areas such as corporate finance.
Illingworth’s agenda is bound to leave little time for his two grandchildren. But he believes this is compensated by the pleasure of getting the chance to give something back to the industry and to improve the institute’s brand.