PracticeAccounting FirmsICAEW: Who’s in charge now?

ICAEW: Who's in charge now?

There's no ignoring the fact that, to the likes of business leaders, ministers and the public at large, the ICAEW is seen as the de facto leader of UK accountants.

Other institutes might argue – rightly in some cases – that it is tradition, not merit, that makes it thus, but it is a situation that is unlikely to change anytime soon – despite the end of Peter Wyman’s presidential year.

Those institutes will have had no quarrel over the last 12 months, however.

Accountancy Age has heaped praise on Wyman for his role in keeping the response to the recent accountancy scandals measured. It would be no exaggeration to say that, without his counsel to ministers and regulators, UK accountants could now be facing mandatory rotation of audit firms, strict limits on the services they could provide and a vastly diminished global perception of their worth.

So who could replace him? It seems – perhaps more by luck than judgement – there will be three people.

In the years leading up to his presidency, Wyman helped drive internal reform at the ICAEW, not least in making changes to the institute’s education and training scheme. Once he became president, he continued to act as a promoter for the chartered accountancy cause. And, as scandal hit, he assumed the role of champion of UK accountants, whatever their badge, at home and abroad.

With this week’s appointment of Eric Anstee as the ICAEW’s first chief executive, the body has recognised it needs a constant influence on policy – not just presidents passing through a rotating door.

Just days before, new president David Illingworth had set out his stall, showing that his interests range far and wide. Then there’s Wyman himself, asked by ministers to take on a global lobbying role for the UK.

It all sounds fine on the surface. But these are three strong characters and their roles will overlap. Anstee’s remit will include representing members’ views to Whitehall and the media. Illingworth will want to play a role there too – having identified persuading ministers to bring forward a bill on company law as a ‘priority’.

With Wyman lobbying too, the risk of competition between them is a very real one. To be a success it will require close monitoring by the ICAEW.

It will have to be watched extremely carefully from beyond Moorgate Place too if other institutes want to ensure their voices are heard.

Email your views to comment@accountancyage.com.

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