Profession fit for the 21st century

It may be true that the professions command less automatic respect than in former years, but it is only right that respect is earned, not taken as given. This is a healthy trend.

People respect high-level skills, which is why our reputation continues to be our main asset. Through the Review Board and the effectiveness of our regulatory and disciplinary process, we want to keep the public’s confidence that chartered accountants will deal with their financial and business affairs skillfully and fairly.

We know we have to maintain high technical and ethical standards, while attracting and retaining high-quality people in an era of increasing career opportunities. As the OFT enquiry confirmed, the accountancy profession is subject to fiercely competitive market pressures and cannot afford the luxury of holding onto 19th century practices.

But there is plenty of cause for optimism about what the future holds.

In the same way that changes in technology and industry brought new challenges for the professions in the 19th century, internationalisation of economic activity, globalisation and IT are enhancing the role of chartered accountants today. International Accounting Standards are a case in point.

With the globalisation of business, there is a need to ensure uniform accounting practice across markets. We have been at the forefront of international negotiations to ensure these standards are implemented effectively.

In developing our new ACA qualification, we knew chartered accountants must be capable of providing strategic business advice, as well as being able to balance the books. We are proud to have delivered a qualification that serves as an excellent springboard to a wide range of careers, without losing sight of the financial acumen that is the profession’s unique selling point.

The quality of graduates choosing to study the ACA is high. And with a majority of FTSE 100 finance directors as members, as well as general practitioners in almost every high street in the country, we are uniquely placed to be the leading advisers to UK plc. By championing enterprise and safeguarding the public interest, and being seen to do so, chartered accountants show that our profession has already made itself fit for the 21st century.

– John Collier is secretary general for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.

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