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Leader: Will younger generation push for a UK institute?

ON AN ISLAND with five chartered accountancy organisations, plus a slew of insolvency licensing bodies, the British accountancy profession is a fragmented one.

Even the CCAB, the get-together moniker for the ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA (and the CAI), lost CIMA a few years back in a spat over funding of the Financial Reporting Council.
Perhaps the move by the Australian and New Zealand chartered accountants’ bodies to merge is one that should make them sit up and take note. Their cooperation across a number of areas has seen them naturally move closer together. As a sidenote, it should be noted that the ICAEW and CIPFA have looked to work more closely following their merger failure.

Unfortunately, on the whole, it seems that the British bodies are more interested in promoting their differences. Instead, the focus should be on their similarities. They all provide high-quality qualifications that allow their members to propel themselves forward in either: practice; business; public sector; or third sector.

On the key issues their views generally converge, which is why it’s a shame that the CCAB hasn’t been used more to promote the profession during what have been times of harsh words from the outside. The navel-gazing has been more, well, separate navels…

And financially there must be a compelling argument for bringing together the bodies.

Unfortunately the personal fiefdoms at risk, and taking responsibility for decades-long brands disappearing, seem to be among the key reasons why it won’t happen. Wrangling over ‘levels’ of qualifications within one institute would sure be a painful process to go through, alongside the financial impact of such a deal – pensions deficit anyone? And we mustn’t forget that not enough members of the big institutes have voted a merger through in the past.

But will older members’ intransigence on the topic be replaced by a willingness to look at the cold hard logic of an Institute of UK Chartered Accountants by a younger generation?

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, it will happen. It’s progress.

Kevin Reed is editor of both Accountancy Age and Financial Director

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