If at first you don’t succeed…

Remember Cognitor? There’s no reason why you should. I know plenty of people
who want to forget about it. Most of them are high-ranking chartered
But I’ve always found it hard to resist dredging up the past, so here
it goes.

Cognitor was a rather short-lived global accountancy qualification, launched
five or so years ago, and designed as a rival to the ubiquitous MBA. It failed
ignominiously, not least because of its ludicrous name, though a revolt by the
members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants played no
small part either.

Now we have fresh efforts by chartered accountancy bodies worldwide to forge
closer links. There is plenty of muscle involved. The institutes taking part in
the Global Accounting Alliance, including the ICAEW, ICAS and their Irish
equivalent, account for more than 700,000 financial professionals from Europe,
Asia and the US.
Together they pledge to ‘promote quality professional services, global
membership support, share information and collaborate on important international

If you judge the body by its aims, it has the potential to be a formidable
presence in the world’s leading capital markets ­ especially as the AICPA is on
board too.

But judge it by the history of global alliances and you have to question just
how successful it will be.

Even if you put Cognitor to one side (please do, I can hear some readers
urging) there are more previous efforts to consider. Not least CAGE, the
Accountants Group of Executives. Launched in 1994, it is the seed from which the
alliance has grown. If you have never heard of it, that tells you all you need
to know about the difference in approach that the GAA needs to take.

Hopefully lessons have been learned. Many of the institutes involved have
spent the past few years attempting to unify much of their qualifications by
2007. That will have demonstrated whether they can work successfully together.

At least six months of intense behind the scenes work has gone into the
alliance, though in reality it is a courtship that has lasted more than two
decades. So let’s be positive.

The Global Accounting Alliance could mark a turning point in how accountants
are represented globally. And unlike a formal domestic merger, there is no need
to put it to a member vote.

Damian Wild is group editor in chief of Accountancy Age

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