Relishing the role

By Jann Brown

24 April 2014

Jann says she is proud and honoured to be taking over as ICAS president.

I am incredibly proud, honoured and excited to be taking over as president of ICAS for the next year. Every president is only the custodian of your Institute for a relatively small period of time. But every president wants to make a difference. The aim is to continue developing and improving ICAS. The outcome that I seek, like those who've gone before me, is to ensure that the Institute is in even better shape when I pass on the presidency to my successor.

I believe that accounting has never been more relevant. The public and the business community are looking to the profession to provide a sense of direction and safe anchorage after the stormy fallout from the financial crisis. This is particularly true for the audit profession and in the area of international tax. ICAS is uniquely placed to bring together companies, auditors, investors and regulators to make change happen.

For instance, we can play an important role getting annual reports and accounts back to where they are meant to be – a useful, clear and accessible assessment of company performance. I have been closely involved in some of ICAS' work in this area – including the recent consultation on management commentary Balanced and Reasonable.

We want to promote a framework for corporate reporting and assurance that meets the needs of the users, primarily the investment community, at a cost that is acceptable. This is complicated, of course, by the fact that there is a wide range of users, with potentially varying needs.

As only the third female president in the Institute's history – after Primrose McCabe (1994/95) and Isobel Sharp (2007/08) – you would not be surprised to learn that I take more than a passing interest in the changing demographic of the Institute's membership. Currently half of our students and around a third of our overall membership are women. ICAS and the profession need to adapt to ensure that we are attractive and relevant to them. Firms which do this well will ultimately have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining the high-quality accountants they need to run a successful and sustainable business.

During my presidency, I am also keen to see the Institute offer more and more mentoring between our members. Mentoring is something I believe in strongly. I currently take advice from many, including a younger mentor who among many things is helping me to understand social media and digital.

Mentoring can be of great value to CAs no matter where you are in your career – learning from those who've walked your path before you. Perhaps it's of greatest value when moving on to a new stage. That's exactly what I am doing, at the same time as taking on the ICAS presidency.

I have just announced I am retiring from my role as managing director and CFO of Cairn Energy. However, as that part of my career ends a new chapter opens. I have agreed to chair the audit committee at Wood Group. Cairn and Wood Group are both iconic success stories of the oil industry.

In my new challenges, I am more than happy to admit that I will seek advice and wise counsel from the distinguished CAs who have gone before me. One of the great values of ICAS is the wisdom, experience and quality of the CAs in our ranks. I don't believe any organisation in the world can rival these qualities and, believe me, most are more than willing to give their time to help the personal development of their fellow CAs.

There are many other issues on my presidential agenda. For example, how can we establish ICAS as a global leader in the application of business ethics? How can we promote the regulated and qualified CA compared with the unqualified accountant? For me this is essentially a consumer protection issue.

How can we promote our firms in a way that helps the consumer to understand the value we deliver in towns and cities across the UK? And how can we play a role in ensuring that the recovery is sustainable and the UK economy is rebalanced in a way that protects us from future shocks?

Last but not least, my presidency will span the 160th anniversary of the signing of the Royal Charter that began our journey as the world's first professional body of accountants. My task as president and the focus of those who follow me will be to continue to strive to ensure that ICAS is not just the first but also the best.


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