Survey shows accountancy’s ethnic split

ACCA’s Small Practices in Profile survey concludes small, ethnic minority practices are vital in providing opportunities to enter the accountancy profession for people from minority groups.

Authored by Professor Monder Ram of De Montfort University and Dr Sara Carter of the University of Strathclyde, the report says it would be ‘inappropriate to over-generalise’.

‘Nonetheless, it appears that discrimination is a factor that continues to shape the employment choices of existing and aspiring ethnic minority accountants.’

The news will come as a shock to a profession traditionally viewed as popular among ethnic minority groups and could prompt a rethink of employment policies among many firms.

One accountant interviewed said he ‘faced the same problem as the majority of people in ethnic minority community. They can’t [get in] because the decision is based on colour not on calibre’.

He added: ‘I didn’t have right accent and was told that I would have been all right working in the back office.’

Comparing profiles of white and ethnic minority-owned practices, the survey received 1,500 responses and interviewed 20 people from ethnic minorities. Accountants from minorities were more likely to be in smaller scale practices and less likely to be seeking to ‘grow substantially’.

The report makes clear how important ethnic minority accountants in practice are as a business resource to clients from minority groups.MOP

‘However, the interviews shed light on the nature of this relationship,’ the report concludes.

‘It is clear that ethnicity is important in gaining access into co-ethnic firms, and is helpful to the generation of trust between client and accountant.’

The report, however, did reveal potential commercial problems for the small practices which tended to rely on small clients with relatively low levels of turnover.

Small practices experience problems breaking away from this market to tap into more mainstream clients.

‘As the experience of some of the respondents who tried this indicated, it is extremely difficult to gain access into the appropriate kind of networks necessary to effect such a market transition,’ said the report.

The rise in the audit threshold was also examined by the research which found that the strongest short and long-term effects of the threshold, which recently rose to £1m was the way it might ‘limit audit training opportunities’.

Firms questioned during the investigation they expected their biggest areas of business growth would be preparing accounts, representing clients and management consultancy.

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