Institute consolidation - Maintaining our position as a world-leading professional body

ICAEW chief executive Eric Anstee says the accountancy profession will be stronger if it stands collectively on the challenges it faces.

I am proud of the fact that the ICAEW is the largest of the professional accounting bodies not just in the UK but Europe. Our institute represents 127,000 members advising and running businesses across the full breadth of the UK economy as well as the major capital markets.

Last year, following a major strategic review, we announced our intention to try and consolidate the UK profession. Why?

Because despite goodwill between individual bodies on many issues, current relationships between the major institutes tend to emphasise competition rather than partnership. As a result the profession as a whole has great difficulty in speaking with one voice.

It needs to be able to do so at the national level where the cost of doing business has risen dramatically in recent years. As industry and regulation are increasingly driven at the global level it is essential that we are also capable of speaking with autonomy on the world stage.

Government and industry need a single body with which it can do business. We want to make this happen.

The challenge, however, is significant. The history of the profession is littered with failed attempts to amalgamate. An objective analysis of these failures suggests that members have rejected consolidation not through want of a strong business case but because of a perceived dilution of brand.

Let me dispel a myth here. Industry consolidation need not mean a watering down of values or a loss of heritage. Each of the six UK accounting bodies has built up distinct strengths over time. These need to be accommodated in any process of integration.

What we are proposing with CIPFA is operational alignment with separate qualifications and titles preserved as a strength of the combined body.

Members and future members will continue to take separate qualifications while enjoying equal membership of the enlarged institute.

Pooling resources and saving costs

What will change is the level of representation and support available to you. By coming together with CIPFA we will have a combined income in excess of £90m.

The additional resource will be used to help maintain the reputation and standing of all members. It will also help the institute maintain its position as a world leading professional body by providing us with the resource to deliver on our strategy more quickly.

In particular integration will provide us with expertise across the public services to add to our existing strengths in business and practice; year-on-year cost savings of £4m after two years; increased influence with government and standard-setters nationally and internationally, together with more resource with which to provide representation and support to members.

In short, what we are arguing for is a pooling of resources to provide the critical mass to punch weight in an increasingly global arena on issues such as regulatory reform, tax simplification, burdens on business and the need for high quality financial information.

No matter how compelling our individual claims to strength the fact remains we are stronger if we stand collectively on the issues and challenges facing the modern profession.

Certainly it would be easier to take the path of least resistance. As somebody who cares passionately about the profession I believe we must be bolder than this if we are to maintain our reputation and standing over time.

That is why I urge you to read the final proposal document we have sent you as well as the articles contained in this special edition of Accountancy and then vote in favour of integration. Above all, please take the opportunity to vote.

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