The Professional Oversight Board's recent survey, Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession, shows that domestic member numbers for the ICAEW grew by a mere 350 over the last 12 months or 0.3%.
However, ACCA membership rose from 56,837 to 59,059 over the same period, and CIMA grew from 51,386 to 53,697; growth rates of 3.9% and 4.4% respectively.
ACCA also trounces the ICAEW in terms of its age profile, with 70% of members under 45 years old, whilst the ICAEW and ICAS both have around 50% over 45 years old.
As we know, the ICAEW preferred method of addressing this stagnation in membership has been that of merging with other bodies. This method, because it dilutes the brand value of the qualification, was rejected by the membership last year.
However, I have been discussing with Dr Jeff Wooller (founder of the Ginger Group - not ICAEW approved) another solution.
We believe that we need to offer a solution which addresses both the needs of the market, and maintains the brand image of the ACA and FCA qualifications.
The ICAEW needs to offer the market what it wants, namely a tiered membership pitched at different levels. We should offer two additional qualifications, each with its own set of designatory letters:
- An accounting technician qualification, which would be very popular overseas and rival the CAT qualification of ACCA.
- A non practising qualification, at a higher level than technician, for those who do not wish to endure a training contract. This again would be very popular overseas, and would compete directly with the CAT of the ACCA. It would also be a cheaper and more practical alternative than MBA courses.
However, we would first need to find out from leading ICAEW members, in business rather than in practice, what they would want from such qualifications. We believe that the ICAEW Faculties would be ideal vehicles for such research.
It will be interesting to see the reactions from the ICAEW competitors to our proposal, an attack would indicate that we have a winning proposal.