Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Confusion at The ICAEW

Whilst the ICAEW reels from the Durgan contract fiasco, its standing with other professional bodies has taken another public battering; as Des Hudson, CEO of ICAS, questioned the ICAEW's recruitment strategy.

He is quoted by Accountancy Age as saying:

"We were surprised by the strategy, with respect to the various qualifications."

He noted that by getting other accountants to take up the ICAEW qualification, the ICAEW was contradicting its previous strategy of merging with other professional bodies whilst trying to keep the qualifications distinct.


"To me there's confusion between their current and previous statements."

As John Prescott has found to his cost, slings and arrows can be survived - ridicule cannot. The leadership of the ICAEW are making themselves look ridiculous.

Durgan Not to Stand

It is reported that Graham Durgan will not stand for Presidency of the ICAEW next week.

This has yet to be confirmed by the ICAEW.

Had the ICAEW followed an open tendering process for the training contracts for the Chinese and Russian contracts, much of this fuss would have been avoided and Durgan might still have been able to stand for President.

The ICAEW needs to practice what it preaches when it comes to best business practice.

Assuming that Durgan is stepping aside, he has saved the ICAEW a large amount of embarassment; I wonder if others will follow his example?

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Backdoor Route To Membership

It seems that the backdoor route to membership of the ICAEW, via one exam for members of other bodies, has been exposed as the sham it is; namely a quick and dirty way of increasing the membership of the ICAEW by diluting the quality.

The Telegraph reported yesterday that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has been asked to intervene by CIMA, and investigate the backdoor entry system devised by Eric Anstee following the merger failure last year.

It seems that not only is the ICAEW intent on diluting the brand, and offering a backdoor qualification, they are also reportedly overstepping the bounds of ethics in respect of cold marketing the ICAEW to members of other bodies.

Another example of the ICAEW not practising what it preaches when it comes to ethics.

Maybe Council and the executive should take some time out to read the ethical guidelines of the ICAEW?

Charles Tilley, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima), is quoted in the Telegraph as saying:

"Both qualifications are high-quality but the Cima qualification is founded in business and the ICAEW one is founded in practice. Offering the qualification this way is not in the public interest.

The approach they are adopting, I question how professional that is.

I am aware of at least three of my members who have been cold-called on behalf of the ICAEW

I wonder how much more damage the Executive of the ICAEW will do to the brand value of our professional body and qualification, before the membership finally reacts and kicks them out?

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Those of you who wish to take lessons in the fine art of "winning friends and influencing people", and of building good working relationships with other professional bodies, may be well advised not to follow the example set by Eric Anstee CEO of the ICAEW.

That is if the report in today's Times is anything to go by.

It seems that the ICAEW is now trying to poach other institutes' members. Prompting Charles Tilley, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, to say:

"I question whether it is professional."

Size, in Anstee's view, is everything.

In my view, it is quality not size that matters.

However, the views of the membership of the ICAEW are ignored by the current "leadership"; as such my views, and your views, don't count.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Misrepresentation and Shabbiness

Today's Independent reports that the qualifications of the president-elect of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Graham Durgan, were misrepresented on his company's website.

Seemingly Durgan was being passed off, on the Emile Woolf International College website (a company which he owns 60% of), as having both LLB and FCA qualifications.

The only trouble is, according the The Independent, he is neither a bachelor of law nor a fellow of the ICAEW. He is in fact a bachelor of sciences, and an associate of the ICAEW.

I recall Durgan teaching me at BPP, back in the 1980's (he was very good), and do not understand why he is not an FCA; given that if you keep up your CPD etc, you become one after a defined period of time should you choose to apply.

This news comes hot on the heels of the report in yesterday's Independent that revealed that Durgan's company has been named as the "recommended supplier" of training, for the newly won ICAEW contracts to provide training to Russia and China.

It is reported that this could generate contracts worth £200,000 a year to EWI.

Not surprisingly the Independent notes that Durgan's senior role within the institute and EWI has fuelled concerns over potential conflict of interest.

The Independent quotes one member of the profession as saying:

"It's a bit shabby that he was allowed to pitch. If you want to be a commercial business, then don't be president...It's a bit grubby."

Durgan's spokesman is quoted as saying:

"During his deputy presidency, Graham has stepped away from any commercial decisions by the institute that could benefit his firms. During his presidency, he will play no active executive role in his businesses."

An ICAEW spokesman is quoted:

"Throughout the process, the deputy president declared a financial interest in EWI which had been approached to do the work. He was not involved in any way in the evaluation process."

They don't get it do they?

It is not just a question of being independent, it is a question of being seen to be independent.

That is drummed into you from day one of your training contract, it is lamentable that the ICAEW who spend so much time lecturing others about ethics and independence cannot practice what they preach.

The story gets worse, the ICAEW are reported to have described the agreements with EWI as "non-exclusive". Yet this is contradicted by CEO Eric Anstee, who is quoted in the Independent as saying:

"We do not envisage working with further training firms until the volume of students in each location builds".

Indeed, as if to rub further salt into the wounds, ATC International told the Independent that it was not asked by the ICAEW to pitch for its contract for Russia.

Correct me if I am wrong, but based on my experience running fraud investigations, audit departments and companies, open tendering is the bedrock of an ethical and well run business. This is another area that the ICAEW is fond to lecture the world on, yet fails to practice what it preaches.

It now seems that the ICAEW has realised that is has got itself embroiled in yet another mess, that could have been so easily avoided. They have told the media that no agreements with EWI have been signed, and that a committee of past presidents will look into the selection process and will report in the next few days.

The phrase "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted", springs to mind.

I assume that, depending on the level of outcry and damage to the brand that this sorry little tale produces, there will be some form of political fudge; ie Durgan will step aside, or the contract will be awarded to another supplier.

Too little, too late.

The damage has been done.

We should never have been placed in this position in the first place. The ICAEW claims that it is run by professionals, with industry and business experience. However, the leadership have succeeded yet again in damaging the brand value of our qualification.

This dismal story is another addition to the sorry tally of evidence, that has been building up over the past few months, that shows that the executive and council of the ICAEW are unfit to lead the ICAEW viz:
  • The leadership of the ICAEW were trounced for trying to bully us into merging with CIPFA.

  • Using the services of Media Strategy, a PR company that breached the Code of Practice of the Association of Professional Political Consultants which resigned its membership of that body rather than face an investigation.

  • Damaging the ICAEW's reputation by delaying the introduction of the new syllabus, and most importantly the ethics module, for 2006.

  • Wasting our money on a futile MORI poll asking us why we voted against the merger, don't they read or listen?

  • Angering and alienating accountants around the world by trying to push through a name change, that ended up being blocked by the Privy Council.
Individually these points are damning enough, yet put together they speak volumes about the quality of leadership at the helm of the ICAEW.

I ask the following of the membership:
  • When will we be rid of this shambolic leadership?

  • When will the ICAEW learn that it is here to serve the interests of the membership, not the other way around?

  • When will that Victorian anachronistic structure known as Council be removed from office?
Failure to address these issues will see the end of the ICAEW as a legitimate force, and respected brand, within the profession.

I don't want to see that happen, neither do the rest of the membership. The time for the membership to take control of the ICAEW is now.

I have voted against all of the proposals put forward by the ICAEW for the forthcoming AGM, as a protest about the way the ICAEW is being led.

I would recommend that, in order to send a clear signal to the leadership that we want change, others do the same.

If you cannot bring yourself to vote against all of the resolutions, then at least vote against the subscription rise (since it will only be wasted on yet another merger campaign next year), and the awarding of honourary FCA's (we are not a university).

The time for action is now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The ICAEW Annual Review

The ICAEW published its annual review for 2005 on May 8.

In it Eric Anstee talks about formalising the working relationship with CIPFA, he goes on to say:

"So we are exploring options for a closer working relationship with CIPFA on policy issues such as pensions as well as offering member and student benefits in learning and professional development.

We remain committed to the principle of consolidation of the UK profession in the long term

It is clear that the ICAEW is determined to try to push the merger through again. Lessons have not been learned.

The review also notes, as one of the ICAEW's achievements in 2005, the restructuring of the ACA and training framework. This is patently untrue, or let me say a gross exaggeration, the new syllabus which was due to be launched in 2006 was put back to 2007 becuase of internal problems within the ICAEW (see Chaos at The ICAEW).

Anstee goes on to say:

"We have begun exploring routes to qualification to increase access to the profession, setting an ambitious target of doubling student numbers by 2010.

Equally, we have looked at wider avenues of increasing membership, for example, with the membership and co-operation agreement with the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants announced in 2004.

We are continuing to build such partnerships with premier bodies in other key markets

I have made this point before, but it seems worthwhile making again, the size of the ICAEW is not the issue; it is the quality of the membership that is crucial to maintaining our brand value.

By opening the doors to other bodies, who do not have identical training methods or exam systems, the ICAEW are simply diluting our brand.

The ICAEW are seeking a 4% increase in subscriptions, given that they wasted over £1.4 million last year on the failed merger vote and that they are clearly seeking to try the same again in 2007, I have voted against the rise.

Monday, May 08, 2006

ICAEW Media Blitz

I read the various media placements from the ICAEW, published by Accountancy Age and Accountancy, over the last few days with interest. These placements were in the form of interviews with Eric Anstee (CEO of the ICAEW) and various other senior members of the ICAEW executive.

You will note that I have used the words placements. Although the articles were in the "form" of interviews, it is very clear by the timing and co-ordination that this is in fact part of a media campaign being waged by the ICAEW to improve their damaged image. There were no counterpoints presented, or indeed requested, by either Accountancy Age or Accountancy.

I think it fair to draw the following very general conclusions:

1 The ICAEW, by presenting other members of the executive, are trying to draw the sting from the regular criticisms leveled against Anstee that he is solely responsible for the merger debacle; and that the executive of the ICAEW is a one man band.

2 Anstee states categorically, when asked if the ICAEW will try another merger vote, "I hope so".

We can therefore expect to go through the whole expensive procedure again, before the end of next year.

3 The ICAEW will continue over the coming months to try to present a favourable media image. It is to be hoped that the media remember that there are two sides to the coin.