Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Numbers Game

It was reported last week that domestic ICAEW member numbers have all but stood still over the last year.

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.
Thus the ICAEW could compete in the entire market place, without losing the brand value of its existing qualifications. Future growth rates in the ACCA and CIMA may plummet and the ICAEW would have a global qualification to rival the MBA.

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.


  1. The minute growth in domestic members is a sign of the high exacting standards that ICAEW members must achieve to pass the ICAEW exams.

    By restricting new member entry to only the “upper echelon” of students the Chartered brand quality is maintained and even enhanced.

    ICAEW is the elite accounting body as it contains the elite of all accountants, and should always maintain its high standards.

  2. I agree with this and always have done. The problem is in getting the ICAEW Council to agree it. Why do they consistently want to dilute the quality with mergers?

    With our new proposals we would take numbers away from ACCA and CIMA in possibly significant numbers and then even the Council might be happy!

  3. Jeff Woller

    There is no point taking numbers from CIMA and ACCA as these individuals will not be able to pass the exacting high standards of the ICAEW and become chartered.

    If you simply want sub tiers of non chartered members (as proposed) then simply take over CIPFA, ACCA, CIMA but maintain separate designatory letters (which is what Anstee was proposing anyway).

  4. What I am proposing is a qualification pitched at the same level as ACCA/CIMA without the requirement to enter into a training contract.

    Anstee was going to make them all into chartered accountants which is why it got booted out. If it had been possible to take them over without upgrading them that would have been great.

    The latest allegations are that he was also willing to upgrade IFA members to chartered if they would then agree to be taken over.

    Anstree was quite happy to see the members not having a vote in who he decided to take over.

  5. I doubt there would be many takers for your proposal.

    Why would a person want to become a student at IACEW to take perceived inferior tier exams and remain second-class members.

    These people can join ACCA and CIMA and where they will be first class members of that institute. If they really want to be Chartered Accountants they can join ICAEW after five years and be first class members there too.

  6. Thirty years ago when I started advertising 'No Pass No Fees' courses for the ICAEW, people doubted there would be many takers for my proposal. I am now semi-retired in Monte Carlo.

    Who knows whether it is better to be a second-class member of the top-ranking organisation or a first-class member of a second-rate organisation?

    My own organisation the Institute of Professional Financial Managers has over 1,000 students in Eastern Europe. If I were in charge at the ICAEW I could make it one million and then there is China!