More NewsA merger of unequals?

A merger of unequals?

With less than two weeks of campaigning and voting left, both sides in the ICAEW/CIPFA merger battle know that it will go down to the wire.

And as the Accountancy Age letters page demonstrates, the leaders of
the ‘for’ and ‘against’ campaigns will continue until the last to marshal their
forces. After all, the key to this election will be winning over those who are
either still undecided or apathetic enough not to bother to vote.

Though the result will excite, in most respects this has been a disappointing
campaign. When a three-way merger was on the cards, the stage was set for a
debate whose outcome would shape the accountancy profession for the foreseeable
future.

Once CIMA withdrew, fearing it might disappear within a super-institute, it
became a two-way merger of unequals. The ICAEW is a large organisation, whose
reputation and history will ensure its influence in UK plc continues even as
student numbers stall. In CIPFA it has found a partner that is small, but with
influence in the public sector that belies its membership base.

The other disappointing aspect of this campaign has been the lack of a
coherent ‘no’ lobby. Admittedly however, some of those who are opposing the
merger have made admirable use of technology and it would be unwise to discount
the degree of influence they wield.

That’s why the outcome will remain uncertain until the last moment at the
institutes’ special general meetings in London on 25 October.

But none of this should cloud the overwhelming logic that lies behind the
merger. Indeed, it is the very inequality of the ICAEW and CIPFA that means this
is a merger that makes sense. The two bodies can be complementary, provided
CIPFA does not disappear on floor six and a half of Moorgate Place.

Accountancy Age has long argued for rationalisation of the six
members of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies to ensure the
profession’s voice continues to be heard at the highest level. This is the right
place to start, though we would prefer to be endorsing a three-way merger with
CIMA.

A combined ICAEW and CIPFA will strengthen accountancy’s voice at the top
table of government, though it’s hard to see what impact it would have in the
City. It should bring economies of scale in research and member support. But,
crucially, it will make further rationalisation easier, which can only be a good
thing.

This is a merger that should happen. Whether the institutes can command the
two-thirds majority they need in the coming days remains to be seen.

Have your say: email
comment@accountancyage.com

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