New support for CA practices: Facing the Future Together initiative

practice team
By Alec Mackenzie

4 August 2015

Alec Mackenzie reports on the new 'Facing the Future Together' initiative from ICAS, giving CA practices the tools they need to adapt, innovate and evolve in changing times.

More than ever the success of CA practices is dependent upon not only maintaining professional standards but also the ability to adapt to the needs of clients.

As compliance work becomes increasingly competitive, and less valued, practice owners must in turn transform their businesses to provide higher value advisory and assurance services as well.

Firms are not alone in anticipating what lies ahead. Under the banner of the Facing the Future Together initiative, ICAS' Members in Practice Advisory Board (MiPAB) and ICAS staff have been working together to develop a series of measures to ensure they have the support they need.

Karen Scholes, who will be chairing the ICAS Practitioners' Conference on 9 September and is chair of MiPAB, says: "We looked at the challenges small and medium practices will face  and we have seen that a lot of what was our bread and butter work will change. With audit thresholds going up, for example, we will all do less of this work, and we need to be in a position to adapt.

"We're looking to ICAS to give us assistance as to how we should be adapting our practices to be more entrepreneurial, more knowledgeable about technologies, business development, and spotting opportunities for our clients."

Five key areas of support

ICAS' Practice Support Team is working with CAs in five key areas:

  1. Practice Development and Succession
  2. Personal Development
  3. Business Development
  4. Technology Development
  5. Resource Development

Each has its own objectives that address the issues practitioners face daily. In considering practice development for instance, ICAS will be assisting CA firms with staff progression by introducing "fit for the future" training, promoting the recruitment of students and graduates, and providing a preparation course for those contemplating going into practice.

CAs will also be supported in building succession into their businesses, going some way to reversing the current climate, where according to the Global Accounting Alliance, only three per cent of sole practitioners have a formal succession plan.

Skills and training

Members can take advantage of leadership and management CPD training events, while in the wider business community, ICAS will be promoting the benefits of using a CA practice and looking at new regulated services using CAs' skills and training.

Karen Scholes says: "ICAS will be getting out there and actively spreading the word of what it means to be a CA and the level of service we can provide. It's a mark of quality in everything we do and how we can be seen as trusted business advisers."

Focus on technology

Complementing the need to deliver added value for clients is an emphasis on identifying technology areas, such as cloud accounting, which are most likely to aid CA practices in managing their business and developing their service lines.

ICAS will, therefore, be providing advice and support regarding products, developing new partnerships and offers for CA practices, while assisting them in managing the risks associated with use of technology.

For Angus Cowie, a partner with Williamson & Dunn and a MiPAB member, the initiative is about opening up communication between ICAS and practitioners. He says: "It's reiterating to members what they can get from ICAS and to stop thinking of them as just a regulator or a last resort. The breadth of experience and information the practice support team have access to should be everyone's first port of call."

Find out more

Contact the ICAS Practice Support Team for more information about the Facing the Future Together initiative.

Karen Scholes is chairing the ICAS Practitioners' Conference on 9 September 2015 in Glasgow. The conference will help CAs grow their practice and develop their people.


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