Vote sparks ICAEW exodus

The English ICA faced the prospect of a lingering death this week after members narrowly blocked the introduction of optional papers into its exam syllabus.

With the Big Five alone providing 60% of institute trainees, leading firms are now expected to convene a top-level summit to decide whether or not to stop using the institute to train their students. KPMG described the vote as ‘very disappointing’.

Thousands of future institute members could now be lost to rival training bodies as leading accountancy firms gear up to carry out their threat to withdraw their trainees from the institute.

The firms had argued that optional papers, or ‘electives’, were a vital part the institute’s training reforms. Some have already been discussing plans to train students through the Scots ICA or ACCA.

English ICA education officials began a desperate series of talks aimed at finding a compromise to keep major firms on board.

Tuesday’s vote at the institute’s agm saw electives defeated by 8,117 votes to 8,002. The defeat was also a snub for the institute’s elective-supporting council.

Salt was rubbed into the wounds as it emerged that only one in seven of the institute’s members bothered to vote.

New president, Dame Sheila Masters, who was yesterday due to be given her chains of office, now faces a tough job dealing with the fallout.

In a recent interview with Accountancy Age, she scotched suggestions that the Big Five’s threats to abandon the institute were merely posturing.

She pointed out it would be relatively easy for firms to migrate to the Scots ICA, which has signalled its intention to introduce electives.

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