2019 predictions from the ICAS Executive Team

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By The ICAS Executive Team

21 January 2019

What does 2019 hold for the finance and accountancy profession? As the new year dawns, members of the ICAS Executive Team share their predictions for the future.

Bruce Cartwright CA, Chief Executive Officer

I look back on 2018 as a period of intense change and challenge for the profession. On a personal level, it has been a great privilege to take on the Chief Executive role at ICAS.

I joke that my apprenticeship for this role began when I started my CA training contract in 1986.

Despite being a member for all these years and, like many of you, contributing to various ICAS Boards it is only now that I am in post that I truly realise the global reach, impact and respect that ICAS achieves. How is this maintained?

By the very visible strong presence and good work of the CA membership in the business community supported by a passionate ICAS team.

The challenge to the profession is, however, very visible and we need and are responding to the demand for change.

What does the finance professional of tomorrow look like and how do we adapt our training to meet tomorrow’s needs?

In the short term we will be delivering a significantly changed syllabus commencing in 2019. Beyond that timeline we need to review how we learn as well as what we learn.

My prediction would be that with technology delivering data the focus will be on interpretation, and there is significant scope to enhance the value add our profession can deliver in terms of assurance.

The other significant challenge which we ignore at our peril is the erosion of public trust in our and other professions.

ICAS has and will continue to make a significant contribution to rebuilding trust where it has fallen.

We have welcomed and been a strong participant in the recent Independent Review of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Statutory Audit Services Market Study.

In addition to the regulatory and market discussions, we recognise the so-called “Audit Expectation Gap” remains a thorn in the side of rebuilding trust and my wish list for 2019 would be that the upcoming dialogue will get to the heart of this.

There is more to do but I believe there is a desire and recognition of the need to change that may not have been so evident in the past.

I will end my reflections and predictions on a real positive: my new role allows me to meet many of our CA trainees.

Their enthusiasm and aspiration to succeed not only in their professional lives but to contribute to wider society is very evident.

They are truly the lifeblood of our profession and I predict they will serve it well.

Mark Allison CA, Executive Director, Education

In 2019, the CA syllabus will be relaunched with a heavy emphasis on cyber, AI, data and digital content, and an equally sizeable change in areas around public trust, business acumen and behavioural skills.

This will be brought in progressively over three years, starting in 2019.

Exam questions on the CGT effect of a plumber owning a Ming vase may start to diminish, to be replaced with more questions that require a critical analysis of the judgements surrounding a valuation or forecast.

The ability of the members of ICAS to work outside these islands will come under sharp focus when the UK reaches the far side of Brexit.

This may not actually happen in 2019 or 2020, but the politicians will keep talking about it.

In the meantime, ICAS will try to ensure that we have recognition in place in all the major markets, with a particular concentration on the remaining EU, now that we have the USA agreement established.

The Apprenticeship Levy scheme in England will be under further scrutiny and there will be some high-profile problems with funding and who receives it.

Some university degrees in England will move to two years, and the gap between that model and a Scottish four-year honours degree will be stark.

University funding in England will be reviewed and the level of fees that can be charged will be reduced leading to closure of some courses.

The CA exams will continue to be at a Masters level and will not become easier, and the concentration on ethics dilemmas in the classroom will increase.

ICAS will announce at least one new qualification and designation and will still be looking to work with organisations seeking an innovative approach to developing their people. This may for the first time be outside Europe.

Michelle Mullen, Executive Director, Standards

2018 provided an early Christmas present, with the publication of the CMA proposals for increased choice in the audit market and the outcomes of Sir John Kingman’s review of the FRC.

You can appreciate that 2019 therefore got off to a very busy start for Standards, with submissions due to the BEIS Parliamentary Committee in respect of its consideration of the future of audit, and a response to the CMA on proposed remedies to increase choice.

The competition and regulatory reforms are part of a three-legged stool. ICAS has called for a holistic review of the scope of audit, corporate reporting and corporate governance.

The third aspect, the review of audit, has been entrusted to Sir Donald Brydon, and this will commence shortly. The importance of this review cannot be ignored – we all know what happens to two-legged stools.

In addition, the solutions need to complement one another. Public trust in business and the profession has been weakened by corporate failure.

We will not be able to eliminate the risk of company failures, and we do need to recognise that this is part of the life cycle of a company, as companies make poor decisions or fail to adapt to changing market forces.

However, we cannot ignore the widening gulf between the current scope of audit, and public and political expectations. 2019 presents a rare, and exciting opportunity for the audit profession, and the scope of audit to be re-defined for the future.

The policy teams will be busy on your behalf, ensuring that the voice of the profession is heard, but always with the public interest at the heart of what we do, and say.

For our firms and practitioners, the regulatory challenges remain strong. Practitioners are also facing their own challenges.

The future of the firm is changing, digital tax reforms are still pending and AML regulation and oversight is likely to continue to evolve, as the new oversight regulator matures, and the UK considers the outcomes of the 2018 review undertaken by the Financial Action Task Force.

ICAS is here to assist where we can in all aspects of practice, but I would encourage all practices to remain mindful of their AML obligations, not least because they are part of the first line of defence for the UK.

Closer to home, our regulatory community should see some significant changes in 2019, as we move to a digital offering, with all regulatory forms and returns being paperless. Feedback on these changes is welcome.

Let’s embrace a year of change together.

Carolyn Spencer, Executive Director, Customer Experience

2018 was a big year in the ICAS history with respect to change.

We are now standing on a new foundation which gives us endless opportunity to serve and deliver to our members, students and firms.

2019 will bring further change, starting with an intense focus on our varied customers.

We are creating a Channels team who will be the champions for members, students and firms. They will be a driving force within ICAS to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers.

Staff will be skilled in advising and connecting customers instantly. And following the implementation of new in-house systems, knowledge will be at their fingertips.

We will never forget we are a membership organisation.

ICAS will continue to work towards Digital Excellence and operate on the channels our customers prefer.

We have a diverse membership who expect choice, we will start to deliver that choice seamlessly.

For example, when a customer contacts ICAS they will receive the same high level of service whether they get in touch with the team via phone or web chat.

Security of data will remain a top priority. We are all aware of the impact that GDPR had in 2018, and I suspect this will intensify as customers gain a deeper understanding of their rights.

ICAS is fortunate that we are GDPR compliant, however we will not become complacent and will continue to care for our customers' data.

It will be another exciting year at ICAS and a year where our members, students and firms start seeing the difference in the day-to-day contact with ICAS.

There will no doubt be glitches along the way and we ask for patience, support and most of all feedback throughout.


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