Half of UK accountants have still not received training in international accounting standards, as complacency threatens to undermine UK conversion to IAS.
With just months to go until UK companies must produce comparative accounts using the new standards, research by Accountancy Age/Robert Half Finance and Accounting found that around 50% of accountants had still not received any IAS training.
As a sign that widespread complacency towards IAS was at the root of the problem, 20% believed IAS was not relevant to their job. The results show that, while accountants may still be confused about IAS, even those that realised it would effect them are not getting the training they need.
Mark Vaessen, head of IAS advisory services at KPMG, said: ‘Training is the single biggest challenge for everyone, both for the accounting firms and our clients. If someone has not done the training, they better make sure that they get the training in place.’
While the IAS deadline for listed European Union companies falls in 2005, companies must produce IAS figures for comparative purposes from 2004.
The Financial Services Authority has also said that it will require companies to disclose where they are in their preparations for IAS next year.
Vaessen said that some companies were already in danger of falling behind.
He estimated that it would take a minimum of about nine months to properly prepare for IAS.
‘The regulators also want to push companies on the training issue.
It’s not going away, you must compare your IAS numbers for 2004. It’s going to take a lot of organisation,’ said Vaessen.
When asked about their company’s preparations for IAS, the most common answer to Accountancy Age’s survey (34%) was ‘I am not aware we are doing anything’.
PricewaterhouseCoopers said that the findings mirrored its own findings at IAS seminars. It found that less than 10% of its clients had read the IAS conversion document. After IAS was explained, two thirds said there were bigger differences between IAS and UK standards than previously thought.
The lack of preparation has raised fears that the changeover will undermine analyst and shareholder confidence with companies not communicating changes to their profit and loss figures adequately enough.
Peter Holgate, senior technical partner at PwC, said: ‘If you leave it till the last minute, then it won’t be a very good quality job.’
It could be the listed smaller to medium-sized firms that have the most to fear from IAS. ‘Big companies have got more skilled accountants internally,’ said Holgate.
The Accountancy Age survey was released as research from the Audit Committee Institute (ACI), sponsored by KPMG, found that more than half (52%) of audit committee members consider audit committees to be uninformed and ill prepared for the issues surrounding conversion to international standards. MOST WOMEN MISS OUT Female accountants are missing out on more than just pay in the equality stakes with their male peers. The latest salary survey from Accountancy Age/Robert Half Finance and Accounting of more than a thousand accountants showed females are also less likely to enjoy perks like company cars. About 23% of male respondents drive a company car compared with just 11% of women. Female accountants will also find it more difficult to compete with their male counterparts’ wheels even if they try to finance it by themselves. Women were more than twice as like to be stuck in the lowest income bracket of the profession, earning under £25,000 a year. Top female CFOs, like Judy Boynton (above), who recently became the first woman in history to get a seat on the main executive board of Royal Dutch/Shell group, are very much an exception.