The Ability to Adapt to Change, a Hallmark of our Profession
2008 takes off as 2007 concluded: whatever may happen in the broader economy the pace of change in the accounting profession continues unabated. This dynamism, far from being a challenge to the profession and to ICAI, is actually a source of strength. Our ability to respond to broader societal and economic change has been a hallmark of the profession and, if we are to continue to thrive, we must continue to adapt.
The adoption of both international financial reporting and auditing standards in the last coupe of years is as big a challenge as we’ve faced. Coming so soon after the regulatory upheaval of the late nineties and early noughties only made the challenge all the greater. Yet, as a profession, we have come through the change relatively unscathed. Of course, the changeover has given rise to new issues – for example how the new standards are impacting upon the SME.
ICAI enters the New Year in a position of considerable strength. Importantly, our financial position is strong to the point that we have been able to offer members a real decrease in the annual subscriptions. You don’t need to be too long a member to remember when the opposite was once the case. Last year saw us move into new offices in Belfast and work on our new Dublin office and training centre continues apace and remains on course for completion in mid-2009.
The regulatory environment we operate in is stable and, in both the Republic of Ireland and the UK, is among the most advanced globally. As an Institute, our own decision to establish a separate regulatory entity, the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board, is being looked on with interest internationally and maintains our reputation as a thought-leader in this area. Strategically, too, I believe we are strong. The decision by my predecessors to establish a high profile Strategic Review Group in 2004 has provided us at Council, and Pat Costello as Chief Executive, with clarity as regards our long terms goals.
One example of this is the decision at an SGM last month to establish a suite of 13 post qualification diplomas, certificates and masters programmes. The thinking here is not to challenge the pre-eminent status of the CA qualification but to build on it by recognising that members are now working in a wider series of roles that require increasingly specialised skills subsets, be they ‘soft’ or ‘hard’. Viewed beside our extensive CPD programme for 2008 we can honestly say that we are catering for our members’ learning requirements from qualification to retirement.
One of the intended consequences of establishing CARB as an operationally separate entity has been to allow ICAI committees and executives focus more keenly on representational issues. In addition to the work done in auditing, accounting and corporate governance we have, in recent years, added the field of tax representation to our bow.
We also hope this year to be able to support members working in financial services with a dedicated resource.
Rather than being practice-focused as some members believe, I know from my own time representing ICAI and the Irish profession on the Financial Reporting Council, that this technical work offers critical support for members in business, particularly those working in the financial area.
Again this is work that does not stop. 2008 will see the implementation of the most recent auditing directive by way of transposition into UK and Irish law. ICAI will assist in this process.
We hope, also, to see progress on long-standing issues like auditor liability which will be the subject of a recommendation from the European Commission in the first half of this year. Likewise we are hopeful that this year will also see progress in affording statutory definition to the use of the term ‘accountant’, an issue that we first raised during the passage of the Companies Act, 2003.
2008 should also see publication of the long awaited new Companies Bill which will see the majority company type – the private company – elevated to the primary legal entity in statute. ICAI will obviously be monitoring this process closely. It will be a busy year.