Leadership to the fore at ICAS Conference

Anton Colella - ICAS Conference
By Robert Outram, The CA magazine

30 November 2015

The ICAS Conference saw the launch of The Power of One and a series of inspirational sessions with top CAs and other business leaders.

Personal responsibility in professional life is at the heart of the new ICAS ethical leadership initiative,The Power of One - announced by Chief Executive Anton Colella at the ICAS Conference in Glasgow on Friday.

The conference was the venue for the launch of The Power of One, which provides new resources and support for members on ethics, and sets out the ambition of ICAS to be a global leader in this field.

It focuses on the influence for good that an ethical individual can have in his or her organisation.

Anton said: “There is not a corporate failure today that does not have its roots in personal failure… ethics cannot be talked about simply in terms of an ethical code, a rule book, legislation or the requirements of regulators. We have more regulations now than you can shake a stick at, but we still have failures.”

Anton said that the ICAS motto “Quaere Verum” (“Seek the Truth”), which is now inscribed at the entrance to CA House, “…stands as a reminder of the purpose of our work and a touchstone of our members’ values”.

Doing the right thing is not always easy or without personal sacrifice, he added, and he said ICAS was proposing that the principle of “moral courage” should be added to the five existing ethical principles espoused by ICAS: objectivity; confidentiality; integrity; professional competence and care, and professional behaviour.

If one person stands up for the truth and exercises moral courage, with all the personal cost that goes with it… we want them to know that there are 21,000 others who are also standing up to be counted.  - Anton Colella

“Moral courage cannot be taught in a lecture,” he stressed, “It is something that will be led by example.”

Anton said: “if one person stands up for the truth and exercises moral courage, with all the personal cost that goes with it… we want them to know that there are 21,000 others who are also standing up to be counted.”

“Today, as we launch The Power of One,” he said, “We want to reaffirm ‘the power of many’.”

Also at the conference, Sir Brian Souter CA, co-founder of transport group Stagecoach and vice-president of ICAS, talked about some of the challenges and opportunities facing his business.

These included the rise of social media and how that is affecting customer behaviour, and the changing competitive environment, with the possibility that “disruptive” players might transform the public transport environment in the way that Uber has transformed taxi services.

He said: “We have goodwill, high customer satisfaction, and we’re providing wi-fi on our services; but we have some real challenges, we need to adjust and we need to adjust fast.”

Sir Brian also said that running entrepreneurial businesses requires attention paid to both “dynamics” – the people and ideas that drive the business” - and “mechanics” – the control systems, financial and otherwise. He said: “You need entrepreneurs and they need to be encouraged, but if you only have the dynamics without the mechanics, you will go off the rails.”

He added, however, that it is just as dangerous to neglect the dynamics and said: “Too many businesses today are run by ‘emperors’ rather than entrepreneurs. Emperors love mechanics; they are control freaks. Entrepreneurs are different; they are creative and they are willing to take risks, while emperors are all about risk avoidance.”

George Fairweather CA, CFO with global pharmacy and healthcare chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), gave valuable insights into the running of a $100bn turnover business that employs around 370,000 people.

He explained how the company’s values and “positive mindset” were essential to getting the people issues right and building a great leadership team. He added: “You have to appoint real leaders, and never duck taking the difficult decisions.”

He also explained how the group’s approach to integrated reporting means information that helps senior management to take decisions is presented in the same clear and legible format, without jargon, whether it concerns financial performance, market share, health and safety or anything else.

George also explained how WBA approaches decision-making and delegation, how financial control is exercised (“It’s about rules, not guidance”, he stressed) and how the group tackles its programme of acquisition and integration.

“The business lessons are all there [in the TV show] but they are submerged in a soup of entertainment. Are we proud of it? Yes, we are! - Nick Hewer.

Other speakers at the conference included Nick Hewer, former PR guru to Lord Sugar and his right hand man on the reality TV show, The Apprentice. Nick gave a colourful account of the rise of Lord Sugar’s business, Amstrad, and how they both got involved with The Apprentice.

He pointed out that the show has helped to raise interest in and awareness of business as a career. As he put it: “The business lessons are all there [in the TV show] but they are submerged in a soup of entertainment. Are we proud of it? Yes, we are!”

Becky Woodhouse CA, founder of the Pure Spa and Beauty chain, and Kirsty Dingwall CA, founder of specialist bakers Angelic Gluten Free, joined Sir Brian Souter for a workshop on “The Secrets of CA Entrepreneurs”.

Another workshop session, on “Secrets of the Non-executive” was presented by Alison Loudon CA, who has considerable experience on company and not-for-profit boards, and Kevin Lyon CA, a former director with private equity giant 3i, who has been a member of 25 boards.

Also at the Conference, KPMG senior manager Chris Walters explained how his firm is partnering with McLaren Applied Technologies to apply lessons from Formula One to the management and analysis of data in auditing. This, he said, was not only delivering greater efficiency and insight but also enabling audit to become more forward-looking.

The ICAS Conference was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow, in association with Wolters Kluwer. The other sponsors were BPP Professional Development, AGL Wealth Management, FreeAgent, IFB and Ward Wilson Associates.

CA Today will be featuring more highlights from the conference in the coming days.

In association with:


  • Business
  • Accountancy
  • The Power of One

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