Number of accountants hits record 530,000

Year-on-year growth in membership figures at the accountancy bodies has hit a five-year high, while the total fee income of the audit firms which audit public interest entities (PIEs) has increased, although there has been a notable decrease in the fee income for non-audit work, according to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC)

The regulator’s report on the six UK chartered accountancy bodies, the Association of International Accountants (AIA) and the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) shows there are now more than 530,000 members worldwide, an increase of 16,706 from 2017. The compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2017 is 2.4% in the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) and 3.2% worldwide.

ICAEW continues to have the largest number of members; however, CAI and ACCA showed the strongest growth at a compound annual rate (between 2013 and 2017) of 4.3% and 4.1% respectively. Membership numbers of AIA and CIPFA have declined over this period.

There are nearly 164,000 students in the UK and ROI and nearly 590,000 worldwide. The total number of students in the UK and ROI has decreased by 0.4% from 2016 to 2017 compared with an increase of 0.7% in 2015/16. Only ICAEW, CAI and ICAS have seen an increase in student numbers between 2016 and 2017.

All bodies experienced increases in the numbers of students worldwide from 2016 to 2017. Overall, worldwide student numbers increased by 2.4% from 2016 to 2017 with a compound annual growth of 2.7% between 2013 and 2017. ACCA accounts for approximately 70% of the total worldwide student membership.

Across the accountancy bodies, 75% of members are between the ages of 25 and 54 with most memebers (30%) being 35-44 years of age. CIPFA has the largest percentage of members over the age of 65 (25%) and there has been an increase overall in the number of members aged 45 and over between 2013 (47%) and 2017 (49%).

ICAEW, CAI and ICAS have the highest percentage of students aged 34 or under at 96%, 86% and 93% respectively and in 2017 38% of students from the seven accountancy bodies were under the age of 25 compared with 30% in 2013.   

The FRC’s data shows the number of registered audit firms continues to decline. The total number of registered audit firms was 5,660 as at 31 December 2017, a fall of nearly 19% since 31 December 2013, and a further drop from the 6,010 registered the previous year. 

Overall there has been an increase in ‘total fee income’; however, the rate of growth has fallen compared to 2015/16. The percentage increase in total fee income for the Big Four audit firms was 6% compared with an increase of 4.2% for firms outside the Big Four that were included in the FRC’s analysis.

Audit fee income for Big Four firms increased by 5.7% from 2016 to 2017 compared to 2.7% from 2015 to 2016. Audit fee income for audit firms outside the Big Four increased by 5.4% from 2016 to 2017 compared to 4.3% from 2015 to 2016.

Fees for non-audit work to audit clients for Big four and non-Big Four firms reduced by 8.9% and 8.7% respectively.

This year’s report, the 16th the FRC has produced, has focused on the profession’s track record on diversity and inclusion. Previous reports included information on the age and gender of the members and students of the accountancy bodies and on the number of female partners at each of the audit firms. For this year’s report the FRC requested data, collected voluntarily, on seven additional diversity indicators: ethnicity, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation, school type attended, first generation to attend university and caring responsibilities.

The results show that the accountancy bodies currently used four of the seven additional diversity indicators to record student data. The other three indicators, religion/belief, sexual orientation and caring responsibilities, are not currently being recorded at any of the bodies.

Of the Big Four firms, PwC and EY have the largest percentage of female partners (19%), with KPMG and Deloitte reporting 17%. KPMG and EY have 8% BAME representation at partner level, PwC 5% and Deloitte 3%.

Melanie Hind, executive director of audit and actuarial regulation at the FRC said: ‘The benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce are well documented. The FRC is planning an event on diversity later in the year at which we will discuss with, and encourage the bodies and firms, to continue collecting diversity data and look at how to attract and develop talent from a wider cross section of society.’

Key facts and trends in the accountancy profession is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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