Big firms snub English ICA

Leading accountancy firms are in discussions over abandoning the English ICA in favour of rival training bodies in a move that could spell the end of the road for the institute’s qualification.

Growing fears that proposed changes to the institute?s training scheme will be blocked prompted senior managers at Big Five and mid-tier firms to invite CIMA, ACCA, the Scots ICA and the Chartered Institute of Taxation to present details of their qualifications at a meeting two weeks ago.

The firms want to see the institute introduce optional papers, known as electives, into its examination system but fear the proposal will be rejected when members vote on it at next month’s agm. They argue electives are essential for training accountants in today’s specialised environment.

If the firms carry out their threat, it would be a mortal blow to the English ICA. It currently trains 4,200 new students a year, but the Big Five alone account for 60% of those trainees.

At the meeting a fortnight ago, the institute set out its plans but, according to one attendee, ‘it seemed as though the group wanted to know more about alternative bodies’.

Ted Awty, KPMG?s head of audit, said the firm would seriously reconsider the way it trained its graduates should the English ICA reject electives.

Scots ICA training director Mark Allison said he had been invited to talk to several firms in recent weeks.

The introduction of electives – which are included in the second of the proposed three-stage examination system – forms part of a radical overhaul of the institute’s examinations.

Sole practitioner John Cook is proposing a motion opposing the inclusion of electives in the reforms, arguing that the strength of the qualification lies in the rigour of a common set of examinations.

Chairman of the institute’s education and training directorate Peter Wyman said rejecting electives could destroy the qualification as firms would look to better-value and more relevant qualifications.

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