Wednesday, October 26, 2005

29% Is No Mandate For Merger

Yesterday's ICAEW merger vote saw a mere 29% of the membership backing the merger proposal.

This is very clearly a resounding "No".

Yet an article in the FT today notes that:

"Mr Anstee said the two-thirds voting threshold had allowed 'the minority to hold back the majority' and it was 'not beyond the bounds of possibility' the institute would ask its 127,000 members to amend the constitution to lower the barrier."

In other words, having been wholeheartedly rebuffed by the membership, the ICAEW executive are going to ignore the membership.

I have repeatedly warned that their promise to run a dual qualification system, if the merger had been accepted, would have been broken.

It seems that changing the rules of the game, to suit the political imperative of the executive, is now on the cards.

The battle may well have been won, but the war is not over.

It is now time for the membership to wrest control of the Institute from the hands of the current executive, and cut the size of Council.


  1. Had the merger vote been yes - Eric would have splashed £n millions on his next quest to take over the professional world bit by bit.

    Get a grip. As a first step - Get rid of Eric NOW. Almost anyone could do better (wrong :name choice [ICAS, Aus, NZ, India upset], designatory letters [already taken], PR Agency [even if one was needed]). He is overpaid by any standards and yet he spends without reason or judgment.

    He has no merit in the view of many and probably most (certainly many) of those who voted 'Yes' will regard him as an incompetent fool of the first water - had he not been so useless, with his opponents shackled he must have won.

  2. See AccMan Pro today 25/10. The man makes some goods points but does he see ICAS failing?

    Who, apart from CIPFA with a different specialism, even really want to merge with ICAEW?

    Do you think Blair, Brown and others give a damn what we say whether individually or collectively?

    Co-operate properly for years - if that proves successful so would a total merger - but that is a foolish wish with no chance.

    Also, it is a major mistake to assume that all qualifications are of a similar standard. Have a major survey (forget due dilligence - don't look at the width - feel the quality).

  3. Ken's argument doesn't stack up. If ICAEW had got it's 2/3 majority, then it would be a straight win - regardless of margin. The fact that 29% of all members said 'yes' should be seen as an indictment of an apathetic 56% membership that doesn't understand self-interest does NOT stop the minute they bag the qualifying certificate.

    That tells me either ICAEW has got it tactically wrong, or, 56% of members don't give a damn. But then that's the trouble with stats. <::>

    I take the points about differernt standards of qualification - but how can anyone say that one qualification is better or worse than another without sowing the seeds of doubt in people's minds as to the true worth of qualification? I know many brilliant ACCA and CIMA types that put the practicing CA to shame when it comes to thought leadership.

    The 'badge of gold' argument is a divisive issue for a PROFESSION in decline - not just one segment.

    My point is not whether Anstee's tactics are correct - I believe most would agree they've not been up to snuff. But his vision is correct. If that means the Institute needs an 'iron man' capable of policy execution, then so be it. If it means Anstee goes, the same applies. But regardless of the individual tactical problems - of which the £1.4 million is unquestionably tactical - no-one can skirt around the reality. The PROFESSION as a whole is losing its grip on any influence it might have with government, because it is divided. That's a strategic issue. Continued in-fighting over these issues takes everyone's eye off the real ball.

    We can all go on about quality until the cows come home, but it seems a bit disingenuous to be continuing that argument when you've got a profession riven with dissent and where the Big Four seem to almost permamently be in the regulatory equivalent of the headmasters' study for a spanking.

    I admire and repsect Ken's position. I believe he raises important issues that need putting to bed. I believe they need dealing with urgently so the profession can move forward.

    In the long term, if it is to survive and thrive, then there is no way to avoid merging. The competition alone from unqualifieds alone should be enough to make that a must-do priority.

    And if that doesn't do it for you then the range of easy to use online book-keeping services - the bread and butter of compliance - will disappear. And then where will you be?

  4. Ken,

    Any joy with the 250 member signatures to call your meeting?

    Whatever is or isn't happening at the moment - Eric and Ian (big brothers) will be watching so keep them guessing and don't respond - no!

  5. oops - a case of mind in front of fingers. At the end, I mean to say the online services will disintermediate the bread and butter compliance work.

  6. The closeness of the vote will undoubtedly be a wake up call to all those that didn't vote. I can't agree with their apathy but reckon if the vote was held again, there would be a bigger turn out and a more damning rejection of the merger.

    I can't believe the top guy won't fall on his sword - spending £1.4m and failing in your strategy and vision makes the situation untenable, regardless of the believed merits. To say that the rules of engagement need changing after the event smacks of complete arrogance and disrespect.

    If you need 250 votes to call for a special meeting, I'm sure you'll get them no problems.

  7. Mr Howlett,

    I for one can certainly say testify to a major difference in quality. Where students outnumber members that will lead to a downfall in standards because there is a moral obligation to admit the vast majority.

    Many members of other institutes will have doctorates, MBAs etc. Many low paid workers with mundane jobs will be cleverer than you or I.

    Where others can pass their examinations one at a time that does not confer professional status in the eyes of all.

    The question was asked who, other than CIPFA, now wants to merge with ICAEW.

    Which of the other institutes want to merge with any other of their number?

    As was said you make some good points but you are not a prophet and you don't have your feet on terra firma.

    The current result is very similar to that of 1990 despite this campaign was conducted less fairly.

    Kamran also, amongst others, has a way with words and I hope he will reply at length.

  8. Thanks for your post Dennis,

    Bottom line, as far as I am concerned, is this:

    1 We should merge with ICAS, like with like

    2 Causing a rift with ICAS, and putting their noses out of joint, over the name issue was just plain stupid; and indicative of poor management/leadership by the ICAEW executive

    3 When CIMA pulled out, ICAEW should have paused and consulted with the membership; instead of trying to steam roller the merger through

    4 Bringing in the big 4 to endorse the merger and, dare I say it, bully their staff into voting in favour backfired

    5 Let us make peace with ICAS, with a view to engaging with them

    6 The executive should take note that only 29% voted in favour (stats are wonderful aren't they:))

    7 We must put our house into order internally; eg cut Council down to 12 members, reveiew the size and number of committees that exist in the corridors of Moorgate.

    8 Why did we engage a pr firm that had to leave its own professional body, in order to avoid being thrown out of it; it has also been the subject of an Early Day Motion?

    Again another example of dreadful decision making by the executive

    9 The executive needs to engage with the membership...I wrote approx 8 times to the ICAEW, did I get a response?

    There are lessons to be learned here.

    I have not run a spell check, so if there are errors...forgive me:)


  9. Ken,

    ICAEW certainly have too many staff by one - even though he may be fired with enthusiasm.

    I read ICAEW employ 500 but ICAS need 140. If true - something is badly wrong, is it not?

    As someone said "ICAEW can shrink and thrive" and time bombs are easily dealt with when the timing is known so far ahead.

  10. ICAS have an SGM Friday, 28/10/05. Does anyone know if the outcome of any resolution may affect ICAEW?

  11. Media Strategy still boast ICAEW as their client.

  12. When will the ICAEW minority learn that neither the ICAS council nor members want them. They voted against a merger with ICAEW in 1988 and yesterday in a letter to members, Mike Hawthorn, president, wrote: "I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that Icas has a healthy future as an independent institute."

  13. "29% is no mandate for a merger"

    The only statistic that counts is the actual votes cast, and of course the majority were in favour of a merger - a fact that's in danger of being lost on this site.

    I think it is reasonable to assume that those members who felt strongly either way would have voted - therefore the rest probably had no particular preference either way.

    Therefore those of you who are against a merger are clearly in a minority!

  14. In another sense ACCA, ICAS and CIMA show no appetite for consolidation - so even without voting they have joined the "no" vote.

    CIPFA approved the merger but they have so little in common with ICAEW that any merger with them alone is totally pointless. In the unusual event that Government were to listen to the combined body it would be the same individuals who continued to make the comments.

    Throughout history, minorities, even individuals, have frequently been right (and of course, wrong).

    A free vote is just that - those who voted no did not break or make the rules which were laid down with good reason.

  15. Sir

    I refer to the comment that 'where student numbers exceed members there is a drop in standards'.

    I suggest that this is inaccurate.
    One has to consider that most ACCA and CIMA (I assume these are the bodies that are being referred to!)students train in industry/commerce and financial services. To an extent they are business trained accountants. Chartered bodies train their staff on the whole in practice. One can raise perhaps the argument that a practice background equips one with a superior skill set. I trained in a Big 4 firm (audit/tax/accounts preparation) but do not see any particular advantage outside the practice environment over business trained accountants.

    At any rate, the accountancy profession is hardly filled with the cleverest people - most have degrees in arts or business/commerce (I have a business degree!). Hardly the upper end of the IQ spectrum.

    As for the merger, the ICAEW were wrong to attempt same. I do not understand why they are going for a global perspective (albeit for financial reward). Leave this to ACCA. I congratulate ICAS on their strategy of remaining independent. There is nothing wrong with having 16,000 members. Outside the profession nobody cares. Accountants should spend more time on improving client services and increasing their own skillset by CPD.

    The bodies are best served by CCAB, a unified voice.

  16. Sir or Madam,

    I do not suggest; I tell you, it is accurate. Pass one at a time, now with 20 minutes reading time for CIMA papers.

    When I took the ICAEW exams, there was no choice of question and some were time-pressured, no referrals and (apart from the first morning) the exam started when everyone was in the corridor (it took five minutes to start in some instances).

  17. Sir

    As far as I was aware, CIMA final stage requires papers 3,6 and 9 to be attempted first time together before attempting TOPCIMA (perhaps a CIMA member can concurr). Of course you are correct about getting referrals, which many chartered institutes offer also when you may have one paper left. Not sure re ACCA. You are accurate on the 20 minutes pre reading time (only new to CIMA 2005 exams)- but so what?

    You are not seriously suggesting that professionalism or quality is based on pre exam reading time or passing papers one at a time? How?

    My point was not on the above but on a flawed observation that 'where student numbers exceed members standards fall'. How exactly? CIMA and ACCA train the vast majority of students in the bigger pool that is commerce/industry/financial services. Hence they will have more students. Chartered (ACA)is mainly practice driven training and a very small pool in comparison. Hence they have less students. A lot of CIMA/ACCA graduates complete the exams but do not take up financial roles as such but feel the need for some sort of qualification to enhance their financial skillset. They have neither the interest nor inclination to audit (big firms), tax plan or prepare accounts for small/medium businesses. And of those that do work as accountants, how do their exams (in view of fact that the syllabi overlap and many of their examiners are ICAEW trained academics) effect what is an acquired skill set from what one learns on a day to day basis and not from books/courses.Are they of a lesser standard to ICAEW - I suggest no. My boss is CIMA and brilliantly talented. A generator of significant commercial wealth and employment for hard working people of quality and ability (not just accountants!!).

    I have hired the lot (often I find MBA's much better) and it is their attitude, drive and motivation that determine their professionalism. Not exams they have passed! However I respect your opinion and indeed you are entitled to same.

    Well done Ken on saving the brand that is ICAEW.

    Kind regards.

  18. Sir,

    What are the enrty standards for ACCA and CIMA?

    So what is the calibre - there is no time bar - you may have to sit more than one paper at a time but you only have to pass one.

    Of course the reading time matters - at the extreme, all except 5 minutes, could be allocated to reading.

    So with a zero based entry standard, with few who speak or write English at an acceptable level, pass marks and marking of a pititiful standard (just work out why I am so sure before you respond), and most will pass !

    Just tell everyone about the other two changes just made to CIMA exams.

    What really counts is immagination and the ability use it well (but wide experience and a good mind help).

    Also, regards.


  20. I'm listening to the BBC news. The CSA (Child Support Agency) has just come in for yet another major slating.

    CIMA proudly proclaimed CSA as a valued Training Partner in their graduate advertising.

    I agree with the last post.

  21. Sir

    I believe that ACCA/CIMA recruit about 50% graduates and the balance I assume are school leavers, mature students etc. I am aware that ACCA graduates may need a degree from 2007 on for admission to membership.

    The ICAEW has a higher percentage of graduates (the ICAS take only graduates)although one can commence as a school leaver. The ICAI are the same with a high intake of graduates and the balance school leavers etc.

    Hence the entry standards, bar the Scots are the same. I do acknowledge the higher percentage of graduates in ICAEW though.

    I believe ACCA have a time bar restriction. Unsure re CIMA though.

    I still do not agree regarding your objection to reading time. It was never in my day either but I do not find any problem with it - although the world of academia might.

    I was under the impression that most people failed ACCA/CIMA exams as a result of a poor english standard, as is suggested from the respective accounting bodies pass rates published on their websites, not passed them as you suggest!. It is the British pass rates that bring up the average rate which is still very low. As a marker of these exams you should have at least got that right!

    I am not aware of the other two new CIMA exam rules, please enlighten me re same.

    Again, your arguments concentrate on exams and not how certain qualified persons of other bodies are of a poorer standard or lack professionalism.

    I for one would like to see a better argument than you put forward. In the real world of business and commerce your observations do not stand up.

    Re government and accounting (last post), true and fair view make strange bedfellows with public sector figures!


  22. Since you don't know a lot, I'll guess (without any disrespect intended) you are CIPFA.

    Get a couple of your MBAs to to an afternoon's solid research - then they can explain things to you.


  23. Sir,

    Someone has responded already - so I'll leave it there.

    I can, at least, agree with some of your points.

    Kind regards.

  24. Is that the best you can come up with? How disappointing!

    Kindest regards

  25. Sir

    Thanks for that. Best wishes and enjoy the weekend. By the way I am ACA!

    Kind regards.

  26. Ken,

    Would it be a good for all to give rank and number?

    CIMA Convict no. 54321

    PS I did actually enjoy the "ALL I HATE ..." comment.

  27. Standards:

    If O/A Levels are proved to be reducing in standard because large numbers pass does this mean that ICAEW's standards are lower because more students pass their exams than anyone else's?

    Large numbers of people who fail CIMA/ACCA do not speak English as a first language. Also, many have no time off for study, so pass simply by buying the books and self studying.

    Also, I recently saw an ICAS ad for a Higher ( A Levels, but possible to fail) student. So it appears that the Scottish Institute does not mind taking students from sources other than uni's.

    Finally, to the person who slagged off CIMA because of the CSA I thought I ought to point out that they have a number of CIPFA and ICAEW people working with them or as consultants. Proving yet again that it is the person that counts, not the qualification. After all, if only the qualification mattered we wouldn't have had all the audit failures that drag the profession through the mud.

  28. Re; CSA

    Consultants and highly paid qualifieds are in it for the money and only the money - What pride is there in working for a 5th rate organisation which can do nothing well?

    What do you really think a CIMA student could learn (apart from what not to do)?

  29. What you should have said is "large numbers that pass...".

    I do not criticise unfortunate members and students but I absolutely damn their institutes.

  30. ACCA have their own successful strategy & should be left out of all this rubbish. The last thing they need is a merger with ICAEW (or anyone else!)- they are more than successful competition - just look at the recruitment pages! Employers are more than happy with them, and bottom line that is what matters!