ICA Conference:Skills are ‘outdated’

Chartered accountants risk losing their influence in UK businessan. unless they take on new roles and responsibilities, English ICA members were warned on Tuesday.

Speaking at the institute’s annual conference in London, Woolwich plc chairman Sir Brian Jenkins expressed concern that the conventional skills and outlets of chartered accountants were becoming outdated.

He warned the 600 delegates that many company boards were being restructured to include more general business experts, rather than specialists in particular areas.

He said: ‘We must avoid a future where the chartered accountant is just a specialist to be called in when needed.’

Jenkins advised members to keep their eyes on new areas, particularly relating to the management of information. He said the mastering of information had become the key to influence in the modern world.

‘Increasingly, the information about a transaction is more valuable than the transaction itself,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of information is a natural habitat for chartered accountants.’

Jenkins, institute president between 1985 and 1986, said chartered accountants should seek more involvement in growing areas such as risk management as well as presenting information to analysts, shareholders and other stakeholders. Capital management was another increasingly important area where accountants should get involved.

In a further warning, he told delegates that chartered accountants should ensure they are fully involved in new developments in presenting financial information, particularly given the massive growth in Internet use in recent years, growth that will only accelerate.

Jenkins said the annual report of the 21st century may be neither annual nor a report, but a frequently updated interactive site on the Internet.

‘There is a growing emphasis among shareholders and analysts on future prospects rather than past performance,’ he said.

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