Inside ICAS: Mark Allison - Quality through Education
Mark Allison, ICAS Executive Director, Education explains his role at ICAS and the high standards behind a CA qualification.
A few years ago we were teaching an introductory accounting class and feeding back results of a mock exam. The class had done particularly poorly. One student, with a straight face, announced that it was not possible for him and the rest of the class to have done so poorly as they had all been on a firm’s internal training course where they had been told every day, to the soundtrack of Tina Turner, that they were “Simply the Best”.
ICAS is world-class – but how do we prove it?
If you read corporate strategy documents, including ICAS straplines, you will see much use made of superlatives. Can ICAS really claim that the CA Qualification is world-class, gold standard, premium, excellent or indeed “Simply the Best”?
ICAS has 20,000 members who work in over 100 countries and much of the activity of the ICAS Boards, Committees and Executive Team is based around the maintenance of quality. To ensure high standards of quality ICAS needs benchmarks to measure against.
My role as Executive Director of Education
One of the principal responsibilities I have as Executive Director, is to ensure that the CA qualification is benchmarked against and meets or exceeds all reasonable comparable standards. Firstly I need to find these standards, and then to ensure that the benchmarking is thorough and objective.
This is important because the CA qualification needs to travel with you, as future members, to wherever your career takes you. It would be distinctly unhelpful for you to arrive for a new job in Berlin, Hong Kong, or Toronto and find that the qualification you had worked so hard to achieve, was not recognised.
A commitment to quality
Over the years we have developed our understanding of what it means to be able to claim high quality standards. At the simplest level this revolves around the number of reviews and checks on technical material. And sometimes we have not made enough of those checks and annoying errors appear.
On the wider scale, however, we are one of the few Institutes in the world that reviews and changes its syllabus every year. We also update the underlying teaching materials and exams annually as well. This makes the content and assessment of the CA qualification current - not something that all Institutes can claim.
Some years ago ICAS brought in the position of lay members to monitor the activities of boards and committees. These individuals are independent of the staff, and the members, and cast their professional oversight on what we all do. A simple application of Good Corporate Governance practice perhaps, but also an opportunity for ICAS to learn from the best practices existing in other arenas.
We took this approach further in 2013 by becoming a credit rating and awarding body on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This puts the CA qualification, and its component parts, on a footing with other qualifications that you already have. To achieve recognition on the SCQF requires quality assurance procedures, with independence and objectivity in areas that caused ICAS to review and refine our processes. Look around and you will not find many other professional accountancy bodies having their qualification recognised on an independent national qualification framework.
Defining standards for the profession
Further afield in Europe, ICAS, and I was there as they say, was a founding member of the European Common Content Project. This provides a benchmark standard around Europe for professional accountancy qualifications incorporating bodies in Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, England, Ireland and Scotland. An ICAS view in such an initiative was not to accept a standard set by others but to take a leading part and to define the standard. That is something we still do 14 years later. We hope in the near future to expand this group to other European countries.
And it’s not just in Europe. Throughout the world we have a number of reciprocity agreements. These mean that the CA qualification is recognised formally by an Institute (and in some cases a government). To achieve such reciprocal agreements requires the setting up of an initial benchmark, and the measuring of a qualification against it. We have always taken a leading part in developing the benchmark then ensuring that the CA qualification matches it and in holding others to account to ensure their qualifications achieve the agreed standard.
And on other stages too we ensure we meet appropriate benchmarks. The UK Government through the Financial Reporting Council annually audits our qualification against the requirements of the Companies Act. The worldwide body of accountants, IFAC, regularly reviews the CA qualification against International Education Standards. One of my proudest achievements was, as Chairman of the International Accounting Education Standards Board, guiding the rewrite of those standards.
Simply the best? – well, quite probably, yes.
Thursday 12 January
On this day in 1915, the US House of Representatives rejected the proposal that women should get the right to vote. It was another five years before it was finally granted.
To put that in context, the US, like the UK (who only granted votes to women of certain economic and education status in 1918), is still to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of women’s rights to vote!
It is amazing to think how such a big change happened just last century, and even more amazing to think we will be witness to another historic event in just a few years – Brexit.
If you haven't had a chance to read it, check out this interesting article on UK SMEs finance expectations and the potential impact of Brexit by David Menzies, ICAS Director of Insolvency.
And on 17 January 2017, ICAS will be hosting a new breakfast event, ‘The Big Brexit Debate’ in Edinburgh, which is free to all students. The early morning discussion (concluding by 9.30am) will feature opposing views on what tactics should be used to secure the best deal for Britain, as well as what impact is being felt by the economy.
Today’s blog is about helping you start the year right; firstly, we look at the secrets behind public speaking, and how to command a room with purpose, before delving into the ongoing BHS liquidation matters, with key Afin concepts at work.
Last, but not least, we go inside directors’ responsibilities with lecturer Chris Cunnane – a must-read for Business Law students.
Some people can command control of a room when they speak, or deliver important presentations with such ease that you suspect they practice every weekend. In fact, everyone can learn these skills so read on to discover the secrets behind great public speaking and how to win over your audience.
BHS Liquidation: Afin concepts at work
by Jennifer Cloke, tutor
For students who have recently finished their studying for Advanced Finance, or are about to start it in the next few months, the case of BHS makes for very interesting reading!
The most recent revelations concentrate on the depth of the investigation by the company’s liquidators.
They particularly focus on the legal duties of the directors at the point of insolvency which (as module 2 of the AFIN course mentions) require their primary duty of care, once insolvent, to be to the creditors of the company, not the shareholders.
The Guardian (BHS liquidator pores over details of Green and Chappell property deals) mentions various provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986, as well as the risk faced by the directors of BHS of disqualification under the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986.
Further reading: Best Hope for Survival
Business Law is relevant throughout the CA qualification as well as your post-qualification career. Use our mnemonic to get back to basics on director’s responsibility, as explained by Chris Cunnane, Lecturer.
We bring the numbers and the heat of political debate together to shed light on how we can get the best deal for British business. We also hear views on what impact Brexit is having on the economy and inquire about the possibility of a different deal for Scotland and whether that is likely or not.
Monday 9 January
There was an interesting announcement last Thursday when the Bank of England claimed economists had suffered a 'Michael Fish' moment when predicting (or not predicting) the 2008 financial crash, and that Brexit predictions may be similarly askew.
The BoE Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, compared financial forecasts to the 'surprise' weather storm of 1987, when presenter Michael Fish downplayed the likelihood of it happening. Are weather predictions and financial predictions all that different?
Haldane suggested that there is a disconnect between politics and financial markets, and that this must be reconciled to avoid future surprises. What do you think?
How much do political 'scare' stories affect the markets or influence economists' decisions? How much should they influence these decisions? Join the conversation on Twitter or let us know on email@example.com.
In the blog today, we get January debt blues under control with our guide on how to make debt a thing of the past. Get inspired and work up the courage to finally cancel that gym membership you signed up for in 2015 and never attended!
Following on from our piece on getting ready for a new year of learning, we look at tools and techniques to become the best learner you can be, including memory tricks and ten ways to get the most out of any lecture or presentation.
And if you have not agreed a useful and achievable new year's resolution for yourself, then take a few minutes to absorb our five ways to get the most from your career for 2017 - these are resolutions you can stick to, and won't involve denying yourself junk food!
And finally; we spied two of our Edinburgh students competing in Pointless on BBC 1 – not only that, they won! Well done to Ruairidh and Emma who bagged the jackpot with their pointless answer of Percy Montgomery, an all-time high scorer in the Rugby Union world cup!
The idea of ‘contribution’ is a pivotal one in Business Management, and it actually features in nearly half of the BM modules! Let’s get back to basics with it.
As trainee CAs you will already have an advanced grasp of numbers and financial reports, but it’s possible to neglect your personal budgets; think about those medical staff who indulge in smoking – it’s always easier said than done!
Alarm clocks have replaced sleigh bells and most businesses are re-opening their doors this week. If you are looking to set your goals for 2017 but don't know where to start, here are a few ideas from CA Today.
It’s all very well to follow the good advice about being on time for class and eating a brain-food packed diet, but is there anything else you should be doing to improve your lifelong skills?
Thursday 5 January
Welcome back to a new year of the student blog!
There was an incredible 50,000+ web users accessing over 115,000+ blog pages over 2016, which is mighty impressive given that there are around 3,000 students across the UK!
All of this couldn’t have been possible without the input, feedback and contributions from you, our wonderful hard-working students, so take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back and reflect on how important you are to the ICAS family!
For our first edition to herald a fresh new year of conquering your studies (and other notable achievements), we summarise five tips for study success – erase those negative habits that may have previously hindered the immense computing power of your CA student brain, and look to build positive rewards for a job well done. Studying is always much easier with a possible chocolate bar at the end!
And if you ever felt you were a slave to your work week, then check out our feature on the 60-hour work week – find out how it has reduced across the world, and which cultures just can’t stay away from the office. Careful you don’t go ‘karoshi’ with your work commitments!
As we ease into the new year, it’s all too easy for previous worries to resurface after the holidays. You may need to move away from a relaxation frame of mind, but there’s no need to reduce the chilled-out factor. Here are quick-fire tips for starting your year right and with success in mind.
Ah, the 60-hour work week. How we crave time at our desks or endlessly travelling onwards to the next meeting, like a horizon that keeps slipping away. The bravado of boasting that you haven’t been in home in days or barely had time to eat is coming to an end, at least in a few countries...
Thursday 15 December 2016
This period of the year is often especially difficult in terms of efficiently managing money, and those few festivities after work with colleagues and family can suddenly turn into an all-out drive to empty your bank account before the presents are even bought.
Tight budgets all around are having a knock-on effect for UK companies, who have been revealed as requiring their staff to pay for own festive parties. The 3gem survey found that nearly half of their 1,000 respondents had to cough up the cash for Christmas, even if it was organised through their company. Around 30% of respondents said their business could foot the bill.
And as for the presents… new research by Citizens Advice shows that consumers who do not receive their deliveries of presents and gifts are left out of pocket to the tune of £148m when no compensation is offered. That’s roughly £30 per package, for around 4.8m delivery issues (estimated in 2015/16).
But have no fear: Money Saving Expert has produced 48 tips to survive the Christmas period with your savings intact with savvy schemes and unusual tips, and have also launched the Downshift Challenge – a new tool that allows you to calculate where to make savings on your branded supermarket shop. They’ve got a few other handy tools at your disposal also:
- Amazon discount finder – find the best deals on the site
- eBay deals mapper – locate and purchase in a short radius!
This is our last blog of the year, and we want to wish everyone a lovely, relaxing break. Well done to those who have tackled their exams – we look forward to seeing you in the new year for a fresh year of moving towards your CA qualification.
In our December farewell, we look at five festive reads for the holiday, the importance of confidentiality, and take office jargon to task.
We’re away to eat mince pies – happy holidays!
The Radio Times is packed with Christmas specials, but after a day or two, the relentless twinkles of TV might become too much to stomach. If you’re exhausted by all that jollity on the box, turn it off and curl up with a good book. Here’s our selection of winter-night reads for trainee CAs this year.
Your data is important, whether you are a big company, a new employee, or a private citizen. These are the reasons why confidentiality is so important in business; from information hygiene to insiders and what happens with your personal, sensitive information.
In your job and your studies, you are likely to be confronted with some sort of jargon, acronyms or specialised contractions that are pertinent to your role. We’ve produced our own glossary of ICAS abbreviations but what about the rest of it? Follow us into the world of murky linguistics.
Monday 12 December 2016
What a strange week that was!
We were still reeling from the suggestion from David Davis, the Brexit Secretary that the UK could pay a fee into the EU budget in exchange for access to the single market after Brexit, despite proposing Brexit so that the UK could avoid significantly paying towards a European Union.
The proposals would see the UK paying up to €5bn a year for access to the market, which is around €3.5bn less than what we currently pay.
Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin had something to say about this, however, as he claimed the following on Newsnight (06/12): “We’ve been very clear what the outlines are. We are leaving. We’re leaving the single market. We’re leaving the customs union.”
To leave or not to leave, to pay or not to pay, that is the conundrum. Here are the Guardian’s Top 20 reasons that Brexit is trickier than we thought. We shall see how it goes, now that MPs have voted to trigger article 50 by the end of March 2017.
There was a lighter side to the ongoing Brexit themes, however, when a UK resident decided to take Yorkshire Tea to task over the fact that… tea is not grown in Yorkshire.
In an extraordinary microcosm of Porter’s five forces model, the man ran a one-person campaign to get to the bottom of Yorkshire Tea’s production processes and challenge their Yorkshire crown as false advertising.
Tea fans who believed that most tea was grown on our cold and rainy island, need to look away now from the following tweet:
@2spikywwefans English Breakfast tea isn't grown in England either. We're sorry to be the ones to break this to you.— Yorkshire Tea (@YorkshireTea) December 5, 2016
The rest of Twitter joined in, to suggest that Scottish people came from Scotch eggs, and no-one really wanted to face the fact that Mars bars are not made on Mars.
Meanwhile, in today’s blog (grown in the UK), we go back to basics on non-controlling interests and summarise five festive films for the season, ahead of your winter break.
We also consider the office annoyances that rile colleagues and investigate the connection between reproduction rates and a buoyant economy.
This week’s featured back to basics is all about non-controlling interests (‘NCI’) from the FR consolidation modules. Students often ask: What are non-controlling interests and is there a way to remember if I am crediting or debiting it in a consolidation question?
Working in an office can be great fun, but it can be a challenge getting on with everyone around you. Especially if they chew so loudly, you cannot hear yourself think... we take a look at some of the most irritating office behaviours.
Around the developed world, people are living longer, and birth rates are falling. What does this mean for our society, our economy, and our families?
It’s the season of goodwill and peace to all people, but we also know it’s the season of snuggling on the sofa in a onesie with a box of sugar-overload and a good movie. Here’s our pick of films for festive trainee CAs looking to wind-down over the festive period.
Thursday 8 December 2016
Animal fat and products are hidden within many things, but the one place that most people did not expect, was within the new £5 notes.
Marshmallows, bottled juice and even some alcoholic products feature animal products (the latter using a form of gelatin produced from the swim bladders of freshwater fish), but few expected beef tallow scavenged from the floors of slaughterhouses.
The Bank of England confirmed that there is “a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes”; tallow being a substance made from animal fat that is also featured in some candles and soaps.
The news has angered vegetarians and some religious groups, who were unaware that they could be handling the substance in everyday transactions.
The new plastic fivers are now the subject of a petition to remove the note from circulation, less than four months since its introduction. What’s more, the bank has also announced that the new £10 and £20 notes will also feature the same tallow products.
The news could potentially force groups of people into moving to a digital economy, in order to avoid handling the notes, while a solution is found. The producers of plasticised Scottish banknotes have also admitted that there is a trace of tallow in the notes. The banks are now making moves to potentially replace the pellets.
The plasticised currency was introduced to reduce the number of notes being printed (plastic lasts longer than paper) as well as reducing manufacturing and transport processes – it must be an interesting job accounting for the money involved in producing and distributing money!
What are your thoughts? Tell us on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, in our animal-friendly blog, we look at a corporate governance and how to ensure that executive director pay remains fair, and continue our back to basics on the joys of costing for business management students.
And we have another instalment of our millennials series – find out more out about the generation who will be conquering the world in years to come.
In this article, ICAS tutor Ali Douglas takes a closer look at corporate governance and the methods that organisations can use to ensure that executive director pay remains both fair and consistent.
In the second part of our back to basics on costing, we delve into the other types of costing methods that are available to businesses (and explained in the CA qualification). This is a helpful look at methodologies for any business management refreshers.
Cyberslackers. Does it feel like that tagline fits with the millennial generation? Time and time again, there are complaints and jokes about, and at the expense of, Generation Y, who are portrayed as selfie-obsessed, self-entitled “cyberslackers”, but research shows that the complete opposite is true.
Monday 5 December 2016
We like to reference important periods and facts about history in the blog introduction, but recently, history is being made just about every day: in November, India decided to eradicate corruption by banning and withdrawing 500 and 1000 rupee notes (approximately worth £12 each), virtually overnight.
This ‘economic experiment’ occurred with four hours’ notice, resulting in huge queues at banks in the seventh-largest economy in the world. Since then, ordinary people and businesses have been hugely affected, as the move meant that 86% of the currency in circulation was now illegal tender.
One can only imagine the headache this will produce for accountants; the measure is designed to tackle tax evasion in a cash economy (90% of India’s transactions are in cash) as few people pay tax – in 2013 this was reported as 1% of the population contributing towards income tax. Even houses are bought in cash.
There is also a limit on the amount of cash that can be exchanged for the new notes – 4,500 rupees per transaction. Deposits that accrue to 250,000 rupees will be investigated by tax authorities, and proof of paid tax.
If you cannot prove that tax has been paid, then the authorities have the right to charge the full amount plus a 200% fine. It’s a monumental task and likely to affect smaller businesses and traders to a greater extent.
The move has resulted in some odd purchasing habits in the last-minute rush to offload cash. Some are purchasing gold or other valuables to turn their cash into assets, but oddly, it has also resulted in 100,000 iPhones being sold in three days.
Considering that there is around 0.034 grams of gold, 16 grams of copper, 0.35 grams of silver and 0.00034 grams of platinum in each mobile, it seems that people are accruing precious mineral wealth as well as status symbols.
Several thousand people have been demonstrating in a ‘day of rage’: "We are protesting against the undeclared financial emergency imposed by the government and the hardships people across the country are facing because of this illegal decision," said Manish Tiwari of the Congress party in an interview with the AFP news agency.
The actions may herald a move to digital payments, but there are fears that GDP will fall by 2%, thus. The rush to produce new notes has resulted in typos, printing errors and people aren’t too keen on the highlighter pink colouring. The defects now raise the risk of counterfeiting as they are being kept as legal tender.
India has no official national language due to the numerous languages spoken within the country, so some citizens were also less than pleased to find the new 2,000 rupee notes sporting Devanagari numerals – a Madurai resident in Tamil Nadu filed a public interest litigation calling for the notes to be rendered invalid as the language use violates the Indian constitution.
At the moment, the immediate benefit of this disruption seems to go to Apple and similar global vendors, who are cashing in on the ‘black money’ harvest.
What do you think of these moves? Will they tackle tax? Will it herald a move to the digital economy? While you ponder, check out today’s blog, where we bust office jargon, revisit the Autumn Statement, talk corporate governance and executive director pay, and tell you all you need to know about FRS 102 for Financial Reporting.
There are several topics that might come to mind when students think back to their good old Business Management (BM) Days. A straw poll of former BM students revealed that absorption and marginal costing still give some nightmares! Check out this handy Back to Basics for a refresher course.
Student conundrum: Within the Financial Reporting material, how much do I need to know about FRS 102 and how it might be examined?
CA Students are in the unique position of learning a curriculum that adjusts itself in response to government decisions; the recent Autumn Statement, which is now to be abolished, made several major announcements that will affect certain aspects of a chartered accountant’s knowledge in the years to come – find out what happened, and what it means.
Thursday 1 December 2016
Welcome to December! It’s now officially winter, and soon you will be getting away for a well-deserved Christmas and New Year break after a tough few weeks of exams.
It is also the start of the Santa Rally month, which is the colloquial name for the traditional surge in stock prices between Christmas and New Year’s Day. There is usually an injection of additional funds into the markets in January as well, due to trades that must be completed for accounting or tax reasons at the end of the year.
There are now promising signs that the stocks markets could be in a for a bumper year after all four market indexes closed at record highs.
"Anytime you get confirmation with all four indices getting record closes, that usually leads to additional buying," said Paul LaRosa, chief technician at Maxim Group.
“It just seems like money is flowing into this market. People are repositioning," explained Paul. “People are encouraged that more investment will come into the United States. Money will come from overseas. Regulation will be lifted. Right now, the light is green.”
This can be owed in part to Donald Trump’s promises to spend on infrastructure and further tax cuts for corporations and individuals, after a spate of overnight futures sell-offs. Only time will tell, but there is hope for buoyancy.
MarketWatch columnist Mark Hulbert has pointed out, however, that “brokers and analysts are rarely fazed by the absence of a strong statistical foundation, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that belief in the Santa Clause Rally persists.”
Meanwhile, in today’s blog we look at the positives of working for both large and small accountancy firms, with advice for the future. We continue our mortgage basics series with a look at borrowing, deposits, types of mortgages, and where to go for necessary advice when you decide to make that purchase.
We conclude with highly bookmarkable tax toolkits from HMRC (recently updated), which are great as supplementary material for studies as well as for use within the workplace.
Happy reading and stay warm!
The ICAS Education team have a wide range of experience to draw upon as they take you through the CA syllabus. Many of our tutors have worked for The Big Four, but also know what it’s like to work in medium and smaller sized firms as well.
In the second part of our feature on mastering the mortgage basics, we investigate all the kinds of mortgages that are available, where to get one and just how much deposit you should save.
Throughout your CA and ITP studies you will cover tax and tax returns. Many of you will also work in a role where you are performing tax calculations and completing returns for clients. Check out these toolkits by HMRC, useful for study and work!
American author and businessman Zig Ziglar said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could.”
You will have already put a huge effort and commitment into your time as a CA Student Member. Passing your exams and becoming an ICAS member will give your career the best start. However, you can give yourself a further hand up the ladder by finding a good mentor.
Monday 28 November 2016
Anyone with a love for numbers and symmetry will enjoy this fact: today is the 333rd day of the year, due to being a leap year, and there are now 33 days remaining until the end of the year!
Three is also the number:
- of dimensions we can perceive.
- that non-human mammals can count to (‘food’, ‘water’, also ‘my food’?).
- of phases for the moon.
- of harmony or completion - per Pythagoras who believed that numbers had celestial attributes, which he taught at his holistic, vegetarian school of maths.
- of levels in the CA qualification.
- of articles in today’s blog.
- of buses likely to turn up after waiting an hour.
Today we look at ten ways to beat your exam stress and revisit the 2016 changes to audit thresholds for different companies – how did they change and why?
We finish off with our guide to mastering mortgage basics for those students who are currently renting, and what all those different types of mortgages mean!
CA exams can be intense and stress can sometimes get the better of us; whether you are studying for TC, TPS or TPE, here are 10 ways you can keep the stress at bay.
The UK Government announced an increase in the audit exemption threshold at the beginning of 2016. It was confirmed that all companies classed as small for reporting requirements will also be exempt from audit. Find out how this relates to your learning and your type of workplace.
Home ownership is in decline, indeed The Guardian reported that home ownership in England was at its lowest level in 30 years; gone are the days of no deposit mortgages and lower prices, but when you have enough money saved, you then face the decision of tracker versus fixed, multiple interest rates and little explanation of how they work for your individual situation.
Thursday 24 November 2016
In 1962, on 24 November, the pre-cursor to most modern satirical news programmes – That Was the Week That Was – was first broadcast to a captivated audience amidst the ongoing Profumo Affair.
The programme lampooned the establishment and influenced the likes of Spitting Image and Have I Got News for You, as well as being cast as an influencing factor in the shock election success of the Labour Party in 1964.
In recent years, it’s seemed like whole plotlines of satirical programmes such as The Thick of It and Brass Eye have been played out across the headlines and within real-life political or media machinations, so it’s perhaps fitting that today’s blog looks at how high scandal runs all the way down to a chartered accountant’s work, and where ethical responsibilities lie.
We take a look at the accountant’s duties on money laundering (cut down from a mammoth 505 pages for you!), and a fascinating video taken from a 2002 Capitol Hill session on corporate responsibility and accountability for your extra-curricular viewing.
A special note of good luck to all those students who are receiving their TC exam results on Friday, and those who are about to sit them in the following weeks! If you want to keep fit while pulling those long hours at a desk, then check out our deskercise feature: simple and quick ways to keep circulation flowing and those brain cells pumping!
P.S It’s a month until Christmas Eve… just had to get that in there!
The law on anti-money laundering (AML) is contained in two main pieces of legislation – the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. For accountants in practice, there is also guidance from the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies issued in 2008. Between them, they amount to 505 pages, so here is a summary of your basic responsibilities as an accountant.
It’s exam-time, and as important as it is that you master the subjects necessary to become a chartered accountant, it’s just as important to stay healthy while you study. Your studyspace can also become your home gym, and these exercises are aimed at keeping you active while hitting the books!
A fascinating look back to 2002 at Capitol Hill in the US, when the Corporate Accountability Act was debated at the Senate Commerce Committee, with a look at Enron and associated companies which brought corporate responsibility and accounting scandals into a new light.
Monday 21 November 2016
Music-lovers and audiophiles can pin down the day they owe to recorded sound – November 21, 1877, when Thomas Edison announced his invention of the phonograph!
There had been several precursors to the phonograph (also known as a Gramophone), but Edison’s refined and reinvented the recording device for a wider audience, by adding the ability to playback the recorded sound.
The key to development is sometimes taking an existing idea and pushing it to the logical limits, and it’s upon this basis that a number of successful businesses and products have been launched. As a CA, you will be expected to find the end-solution to an issue or problem, so it helps to think in the same as Edison: find the limits and keep on looking for something that may have been missed.
This sentiment chimes well with our first feature of today’s blog; the seven priorities for the future financial services workforce – what will people need to know and how will they implement it? We also have a reminder on the TC content for your upcoming exams, as well as a visit to the realms of zero tax for our PoT students.
And for those of you who enjoyed our office politics feature, we’re back with our concluding part on why cooler heads prevail!
The workforce of the future will be increasingly versatile, mobile, digital and automated. To keep up and stay attractive, financial services organisations will need to rebuild trust with their workers, says PwC.
In the second part of our how-to feature on dealing with office politics, we look at the importance of networking, relationships and the value of mistakes for effective working styles with colleagues.
Tutor tip: Zero-rate tax
Principles of Taxation students will be aware of the method used to determine the VAT rating of goods and services using the Schedules in the VAT Act 1994. The tutor team are often asked to explain the logic behind allocating certain items to the reduced rate, zero rate or exempt groups.
This interesting article from the BBC sheds some light on the murky world of zero-rates of VAT.
For some of you, the TC exams are only a few weeks away, which means that many of you will be spending a lot of time at your desks revising. ICAS tutors have put together a series of Back to Basics guides to many of the key topic areas at TC.
Thursday 17 November 2016
Even before the shock election of businessman-turned-reality TV star Donald Trump to the office of US President last week, our financial markets were already facing turbulence.
The UK's Brexit vote, which took so many professional pollsters, pundits and papers by surprise, saw share prices and currencies facing record dips, with the pound plummeting in reaction to a political and economic world, which is increasingly impossible to predict.
Whether it's ongoing regional conflicts in the Middle East, uncertainty and instability within the Eurozone, declining oil prices, or epidemics like Ebola; anything that happens in the world can affect the world economy.
"Markets crave known facts and fret about variables, seeing potential risks in all unknowns," wrote Peter Goodman in the New York Times. "An enormous portion of the map is now draped in uncertainty, effectively impervious to calculation."
This week, The Telegraph warned of mass instability in the markets, and the threat of the end of an era of global economic co-operation. Following Trump's win, mortgage rates spiked in the USA as investors abandoned bonds for stocks - this was the opposite of what market analysts had predicted.
Trump's promises to cut tax will benefit corporations, hence the stock market remained optimistic while interest rates rose. These effects can be felt further afield, too - Mexico's peso fell sharply against the dollar, reflecting pessimism about future trade with the US, while the Japanese yen rose.
With investors flocking to traditional safe havens like gold, the long-term consequences of this instability are even harder to predict. For investors, it is often wise to grit one's teeth and ride out the storm - the massive 600 points wiped off the Dow Jones index post-Brexit have now, a few months later, been mostly regained.
While optimism might seem to be in short supply in our chaotic political landscape, as budding CAs, one thing is sure - we will need to keep our wits about us, and steel our nerves to deal with whatever comes next.
In today's blog, we bring you six top tips for presenting financial information - giving you the tools to keep your meetings dynamic, effective and full of energy. Elsewhere, we explore the notion of 'false economies' - why you sometimes pay more to get less, and how to shop smart to avoid paying hidden fees and charges. The world is unpredictable - arm yourself with knowledge!
Bring your meetings up to speed with our top tips for planning, communication and getting the best out of your colleagues.
The TC exams are only a few weeks away, which means that our TC students will be spending time revising. ICAS tutors have put together a series of Back to Basics guides on many of the key topic areas at TC for a helping hand.
Ever get the feeling you've been had? Always counting the last pennies in your pocket? You might have fallen into the trap of a false economy. We'll show you what to look out for and what to avoid!
Monday 14 November 2016
You may have picked up a Gillette razor today as part of your morning ablutions, but did you know that on this day in 1906, King Camp Gillette (his real name) first patented the inexpensive disposable safety razor?
He soon adopted the ‘razor and blades business model’, where an item is sold cheaply to increase the market. He was a man ahead of his time; after working at the Crown Cork and Seal Company in the 1890s, Gillette noted that the cork seals on bottles were discarded once opened, and believed he too could build a viable business on disposable products.
There were safety razors in existence at this time, but none used thin, stamped steel. The disposable razor was born!
Can you think of other products that have adapted to the disposable market? Where do you see this going in the future as markets now look to non-disposable items such as the KeepCup for coffee?
In today’s blog we take a look at how to prepare for office politics, the policies and procedures around money laundering, and a look back at the VW scandal and how it affected their business.
Navigating office politics can often feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. You can learn to deal with 'bad politics' in the workplace without allowing others to take unfair advantage of you. 'Good politics' meanwhile can help you to promote yourself to your managers and superiors, and further your aims within a business. Read our tips to help you prepare for the political aspects of working life.
All businesses must establish policies and procedures that create a culture in which relevant staff in the business are aware of their responsibilities under the UK anti-money laundering regime and where they understand what they are required to do if they suspect money laundering. Read on to find out more.
It’s Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement next Wednesday (23 November). But what are we expecting to be announced, and what would ICAS like to see change?
ICAS wrote to HM Treasury with its policy suggestions on the Autumn Statement last month. This included particular focus on HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative, devolution and tax policy, and the need for a tax regime that offers fewer opportunities for avoidance.
In this article by Donald Drysdale, you can find out more about the tax changes that are expected to be announced by The Chancellor and how it could impact CAs and the business world. Read on to find out more.
Thursday 10 November 2016
On this day in history, it is said the renowned encounter between Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone took place, when Henry happened upon David at Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa and uttered the phrase ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’
It might be fabled and perhaps unlikely to have happened in that manner, but nevertheless, Livingstone’s reputation preceded him due to his work as an anti-slavery advocate and bid to end the East African Arab-Swahili slave trade. He also played an important part of commercial expansion into the continent, so he truly was a man ahead of his time! *
We know that there are budding CAs amongst our students who will also lead great changes across the globe, so in a few years’ time, we expect to be writing about your own historical achievements on these very pages!
In today’s blog, we go inside the TPS exam panel for everything you need to know and visit the books that could change your life in one reading. We also have a great interview with Ruth Jakobsen CA, leading Strategic Finance and Business Development at Moneysupermarket.com.
*Bonus fact: Livingstone is the ancestor of one of our very own lecturers! Can you guess who?
Mark Allison, Executive Director, Education talks about the work that goes into creating the TPS examinations at ICAS, and how the papers are developed and reviewed.
It’s the time of year when many people feel inclined to curl up by the fire with a good book. Here are our recommendations to make your long, dark evenings and study downtime an enjoyable learning or self-improvement experience.
Moneysupermarket.com has grown into a widely-used resource and comparison site, putting power in the hands of British consumers and demystifying complicated financial products such as mortgages. Find out how former ICAS student Ruth Jakobsen got involved with developing their key businesses.
Monday 7 November
In today’s blog, we look at the ABCs of TPS pre-course work, complete with a handy infographic to download and print.
We also look at the two years since the independence referendum and all that has happened in tax matters – how familiar are you with SRIT and the impending use of devolved powers in Scotland? No matter where you live and work in the UK, devolved powers are likely to affect the way some of your clients operate.
TC students will see their November diet candidate instructions arriving this week, so check your inboxes and be sure to acknowledge that you have received them. Please contact us if you do not receive them by the end of the week.
And good luck to everyone sitting mocks and exams this week for TC – may the accounting force be with you!
Our guide to what you need to do before commencing TPS - in a few simple steps! There’s no getting away from the fact that you have quite a lot of work to tackle before you even get to the classroom. However, if you follow our three simple steps you’ll be able to organise your work and be prepared for your course.
Money laundering has one purpose - to turn the proceeds of crime into cash or property that looks legitimate and can be used without suspicion. Here are some of the most common ways this is achieved. Money laundering (or more accurately the rules on anti-money laundering!) are covered throughout your ICAS studies and so this article will be of interest to each and every one of you.
Two years ago, Scotland voted not to leave the UK: what have the subsequent 24 months meant for CAs and students?
Thursday 3 November
In today’s blog we explore new legislation to target money laundering and tax evasion, and hear about the important of career mentoring at all ages and stages of your CA career.
We also have practical tips for those who are keen to start househunting, including on how to save money and use your financial acumen as a CA Student Member.
Across the ICAS website this week there will be a special focus on money laundering and tighter regulations. Keep an eye out for the following content:
- Thursday: Addressing admin matters of policies and procedures, record keeping and training.
- Friday: The role of the Money Laundering Reporting Officer and the requirement to report to the National Crime Agency.
Lecturer Susan Harris is familiar with the househunting process having done so for her own property, and has gleaned fantastic tips for our students looking to get a foot on the ladder. Here’s where your accruing CA skills will also prove handy!
The Criminal Finances Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 13 October as a key element of one of the most significant changes to the UK's anti-money laundering and terrorist finance regime in over a decade. Find out more about these changes to the industry.
American author and businessman Zig Ziglar said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could.”
You will have already put a huge effort and commitment into your time as a CA Student Member. Passing your exams and becoming an ICAS member will give your career the best start. However, you can give yourself a further hand up the ladder by finding a good mentor.