Pulling their punches

Rightly or wrongly, there is undoubtedly a feeling among many chartered
accountants – a majority judging by the recent Accountancy Age poll –
that membership of an institute no longer carries the prestige that it once did.
That, somehow, the profession has fallen from grace and has become something of
an irrelevance – and, just as worrying, is increasingly viewed as irrelevant in
the wider business community.

As the world economy grows and becomes ever more complex, the scope for
accountants to thrive and prosper expands. For many, however, the truth is that
the ordinary practitioner has not been well served in taking advantage of the
new opportunities. Whatever the achievements in regulation, our leaders have
simply not been up to the task in promoting their members’ commercial interests.

Worryingly, they have stood by, leaving new areas of potential growth to
other organisations such as the Insolvency Practitioners Association. They have
quietly looked on as the big firms have built their own brand identity where
chartered accountancy seems to play only a bit part. The growing perception is
that they do not seem to carry the clout of bodies such as the Institute of
Directors when it comes to lobbying in their members’ interest.

Until all this changes, and they start really banging the drum for the
commercial interests of the profession, there will be large and growing numbers
of members who will question their own relevance.

So what do the members really want from their professional body?

First and foremost, they want a strong brand that will give our qualification
the status that it deserves. This will help with career progression and give
practising firms the high ground when competing in the open market against other
specialist suppliers. Unfortunately, little time and effort seems to be devoted
to this continuing initiative

We need a much stronger and more influential lobbying organisation that is
better able to represent members’ interests with government and third-party

We also need an institute that is influential both in the home market and
overseas, especially in emerging markets such as China, India and central

More of the membership need to be drawn into the ‘family’, but this can only
result from pride in the institute’s activities and an ability to influence
decisions. The message to the ICAEW must be that its primary aim should be to
deliver what the members really need, or risk losing their support.

Phil Shohet is director of Kato Consultancy

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