ICAEW conference looks to restore faith in business


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Tough talking is expected at this year' s annual ICAEW conference

as accountants seek to rebuild faith in British business

The business world has suffered a battering on all fronts over the last 18 months. First, a prolonged spate of corporate scandals on both sides of the Atlantic - with accountants both in business and in practice finding themselves under an uncomfortable spotlight. Then a long period in the economic doldrums from which the business world has yet to escape.

With confidence in capital markets teetering from one low to another, speakers at the ICAEW' s annual conference, have tough issues to discuss, especially given the central role chartered accountants play in the business world.

Chartered accountants dominate British boardrooms. An survey last December, for example, found that 23 of the FTSE 100 chief execs are qualified accountants - the largest single professional group - and 11 are members of the ICAEW.

The reputation of accountants, more than any other professional group, has taken a dive as a result of last year' s scandals. Issues concerning ways of restoring faith in the capital markets, and the business world generally, are therefore of particular interest to chartered accountants, whether they work in business or practice.

Topics discussed at the conference will therefore include corporate governance, the changing role of the FD and the FD' s role in buying accountancy services.

Delegates will also receive updates on new accounting standards and regulatory developments that chartered accountants will have to get to grips with over the next year.

Hard-hitting broadcaster John Humphrys will host the event

When and where?

Tuesday, 8 July at the QEII Centre in London. There will be a President' s Dinner on the preceding evening at the Savoy Hotel.

How do I book?

Call 0800 783 5000 or book online at www.accountancy2003.co.uk

Host Humphrys to quiz finance directors

The conference will be hosted by John Humphrys, best known for his role as a tenacious interviewer on BBC Radio 4' s Today programme, which he has been presenting since 1987.

He will open the conference with a broadcaster' s perspective on the accountancy profession, introduce the speakers and, in a special session, quiz a panel of leading FDs on their changing roles, including their roles as purchasers of accountancy services.

Higgs to speak out on non-executives

Derek Higgs' review of the role of non-executive directors, released in January, put forward a number of radical changes to corporate governance rules, including a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive and better training for non-execs. He also suggested that non-execs should develop a closer relationship with shareholders.

The business world initially welcomed it. But an increasing number of business leaders are starting to voice criticisms.

It will be interesting to see how Higgs, also a member of the FRC, addresses these concerns when he speaks on the subject of corporate governance at the conference.

Shadow chancellor to tackle capital markets

Michael Howard MP has a long and distinguished career in both the law and government.

He will be using the conference as a chance to give his views on how the profession can set about restoring confidence in capital markets.

Other speakers

David Illingworth, who will then be ICAEW president, will give an opening address. The SEC will be sending a senior representative from the new regime to discuss the US approach to regulating the accountancy profession, and to talk about the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The European Commission point of view will be set out by the director general for Internal Markets, Alexander Schaub. Other speakers include leading business journalist and regular Accountancy columnist Robert Bruce, also a regular contributer to the Financial Times.

Also speaking will be Mary Keegan, chairman of the UK Accounting Standards Board, and Thomas E Jones, vice-chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board.

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