PracticeAccounting FirmsBrown backs ‘badge of quality’ for accountants

Brown backs 'badge of quality' for accountants

Plans that could see special endorsements for accountants who advise SMEs on funding have been backed by chancellor Gordon Brown.

Link: Advice in short supply for SMEs

The new scheme will award accountants offering SMEs advice a kitemark-style badge of quality.

‘The ability to access finance is a vital ingredient in business success, and I welcome the report of the Government Accounts Working Group (GAWG). The challenge now is for the accounting industry, business advisers and the government to take forward the group’s recommendations,’ said Brown.

The proposals made by the GAWG came after research suggested there was a failure to marry lenders with those seeking finance. Of the UK’s four million SMEs, 66% claimed that they face difficulties accessing quality advice.

Under the proposals, organisations such as Business Link and high street banks would use a list of self-accredited accountants to make referrals to small businesses ð a boon for accountants.

The initiative will be seen as a victory for the ICAEW and ACCA, which sit on the working group created in the 2003 budget.

Clive Lewis, head of SME issues at the ICAEW, said: ‘This shows that the government recognises the key role our members play in advising SMEs on suitable finance.’

Robin Jarvis, head of small business at ACCA said: ‘Accountants are traditionally the first-choice advisers of most SMEs. Funding is a perennially difficult issue and this scheme should support them where they need it most.’

But doubts have been raised about the value of a self-accreditation scheme requiring no extra examinations. Kim Benjamin, editor of smallbusiness.co.uk, a resource portal for new businesses, said: ‘That is not so helpful to businesses because when SMEs see something like this they think it’s genuine, but they might not be referred to the best-placed person to help.’

But she welcomed the underlying principle of identifiers for accountants who specialise in funding advice. ‘There’s definitely a need for something like this because we have many queries where people do not know where to go. Many are wary of approaching a bank manager and recent surveys have shown accountants to be SMEs most trusted advisers,’ she added.

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