PracticeAccounting FirmsToo many working bodies

Too many working bodies

Do we really need six separate accountancy bodies to look after our and the public's interests? The UK has more than its fair share and this is clearly not the way we would design things from a clean sheet. What is going on?

What are these bodies for? Their chief executives would give some high-blown purposes using words like ‘the public interest’, ‘the highest standards’ and ‘best practices’.

These are important, of course, but what is foremost in the paying member’s mind is the enhancement of his employment prospects. The good works are the means rather than the end. Accountants are well paid because they are highly respected.

So are they just trade unions? Well no, but we do run a very effective closed shop. The fact that CAs get 10% more salary than similarly qualified ACCAs and CIMAs shows how good the chartered bodies have been over the last 30 years at this aspect of their work.

I am perplexed by talk of the benefits of competition between the bodies.

Indeed, I could see that one big body would have greater resources for carrying out the public interest activities more comprehensively. So should there be mergers?

Cost savings should be achievable from the elimination of up to five secretariats. But for CAs this would be turkeys voting for Christmas.

International issues might intervene. European integration is likely to throw up other merger possibilities and change the nature of the ‘competition’. Global issues might have an impact as the IASB gets to grips with the USA vs Rest of the World issues.

ACCA, in particular, is already following a strategy of global expansion that is beginning to make it look more like a competitor for IFAC than for the ICAEW.

But at the end of the day, I doubt much will change. They do an important job pretty well. It could be done more cheaply, but the cost is not a huge chunk out of our salaries.

They do no real harm in their current form and it may be that, like the monarchy, they are idiosyncratic institutions of which we are rather fond.

  • Neil Chisman, non-exec at a number of listed companies.

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