Leader – Annual ritual: why bother?

One of the oddest things about the annual meetings of accountancy bodies is that they attract so few social anthropologists. They certainly do not attract many accountants. But then why should members bother to attend events which owe so much to ritual and so little to the real business of running the institutes?

It is easy to assume the answer is simply to change the order of ceremony. The ritual exchange of chains of office is certainly undignified and, at times, ludicrous. Why take time off work just to hear the outgoing president praise his successor and vice versa? Of course, there are other attractions, including the equally ritual attack on the council by the institute dissident. But the generally poor turnout means such sallies are easily deflected by the block vote.

In fact, agms are not about deciding the direction of the institute at all. Their main role is to give hard-working volunteers a public pat on the back and to allow those with a grievance to sound off. The underlying problem is that too few bodies have any real dialogue with their members, least of all about what they exist to do. Are they membership bodies, campaigning for members? interests, or professional regulators?

Sadly, this is an issue about which too few members seem to care. But without more active concern from accountants about their institutes, the ritual of the agm will never be replaced with anything like real communication.

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