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Letters: Building bridges, not mending them

26 Mar 08

I do not believe nearly enough training or support is geared to those of us 'out in the cold'

by Ian D Gordon

In response to John Downie’s letter (CA Magazine February 2008), I appreciate and share his preoccupation with maintaining professional standards in a non-professional environment. I have spent a great deal of time researching and establishing standards and training qualified and non-qualified accountants in practices relating to business modeling and planning.

As I said in my December letter, I do not believe nearly enough training or support is geared to those of us “out in the cold”. Although the issues raised by Mr Downie move away from the “perception” and “creativity” arguments I advanced then, I believe they are part of that malaise, and should be addressed by ICAS in the same way:

1. Much more emphasis should be given in CA training, initial and continuing, to practices used by businessmen and accountants, people who are not already using both sides of their brains on audit and tax issues.

2. It is of paramount importance to change the beancounter perception to that of a dynamic, pro-active businessman.

3. In the long-term, it is all about who we really want to be. Take the analogy of the engineer. Does he want to be seen as a builder of bridges or as the maintenance man who certifies their safety? Both important – but if we are to realise the potential of our profession, we must be mainly builders.

That’s just one opinion. Come on CAs, this is an important issue. What are your views?

Ian D Gordon, CA Bonita Springs, Florida

ICAS Chief Executive, Anton Colella replies: Mr Gordon’s letter raises important points. These are issues which informed the Clearly Ahead strategy – how do we continuously improve support to members in business, reinforce professionalism and promote CAs as business leaders?

None of our members can be described as beancounters. The complexity of modern business means that auditors and tax advisers take a wider view of client’s affairs than ever and operate in increasingly diverse and sophisticated firms. However, the point is well made that accountants face a challenge to alter the unfair public perceptions of boring and task-led number-crunchers.

I believe that what we do at ICAS is geared to developing business leaders. CA training is continually evaluated and updated to reflect the needs of the markets that CAs serve. Our Training Outside Public Practice scheme has been popular with employers such as BP and Deutsche Bank. The continuing development opportunities for members in business are a vital part of the support that we can offer – our members’ services team is overhauling our offering to ensure all business courses pass the “relevance” test. We will be introducing new ways for members to take part in development opportunities to fit more readily their lifestyle, work patterns and locations.

The reinforcement of professionalism is a core aim of ICAS. It was the theme of the President’s speech at the new members' graduation in 2007 and it is reflected throughout our strategy and objectives. Our Principles not Rules project has been a highly successful argument for professionalism. Our research based on public perceptions of the accountancy profession, Bean Counters or Business Leaders? suggested a number of actions that we will take in coming years to hopefully tackle stereotypical views of professional accountants.

One of the best ways we can show that CAs are dynamic and proactive businesspeople is by successfully telling the story of our membership.

The redesigned CA Magazine is the first of many ways of achieving that goal.

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