Merger? Easy as giving up fags

The question on many people’s lips was: ‘If they can do it, couldn’t we too?’ As recent events have shown, the question was a pertinent one.

Merger proposals between CIMA, CIPFA and the ICAEW must have prompted similar thoughts among the UK’s 1,800 licensed insolvency practitioners, who are currently divided among no less than eight regulators.

Their question is: ‘If the institutes can put aside their differences, then why shouldn’t the insolvency profession make the same leap?’

It is a question that deserves an answer. A survey earlier this year by R3, the business recovery association, found general concern over the inefficiency, inconsistency and the cost of the current system, with 79% supporting a single regulator.

The Insolvency Practitioners Association, the only regulator whose membership comprised solely of insolvency practitioners, backs such a plan in theory.

So what’s the problem? According to Maurice Moses, president of the IPA, it’s the government.

‘One has to work with the art of the possible and we all appreciate government has its own priorities,’ he says. ‘If government says we have time to consider a single regulator, we will support the initiative.’

A consultation on regulation launched this month by the insolvency service opted to ignore the ‘regulator soup’ question. Some might say that makes it a futile gesture, akin to banning smoking at the bar. The insolvency service says it is ‘unclear what benefits would arise from a single regulator’.

Others take the line ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. According to Moses: ‘It’s not as if there are enormous deficiencies in the existing system making it urgent.’

That may be so. On the other hand, the Insolvency Practices Council has said the ever more fragmented system of regulation ‘cannot be good for the public interest and perception of the insolvency profession’.

Maybe it’s time for the profession to take a deep breath – and push for a merger.

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