Inside ICAS: Mark Allison - Quality through Education

Student writing on paper
Mark Allison By Mark Allison, Executive Director, Education

9 November 2015

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.

Independent recognition

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.

November 2017

Monday 20 November: Is there useful advice in The Apprentice?

With the latest series of BBC's The Apprentice well underway, we look at the three key lessons CA students can learn about business and career advancement from the show.

While the big personalities, comical tasks and amateur dramatics on the programme can make for sensationalist viewing, there are some valuable insights to be gained from watching the teams at work.

1. Make sure it all adds up

The moment that seasoned fans of The Apprentice most look forward to is generally the gruelling interview stage of the semi-final. Here, advisors to Lord Sugar gleefully rip apart embellished CVs, personality flaws and, crucially, the candidates' investment-seeking business plans.

Outlandish projected profit-margins and overly-optimistic KPIs are a frequent stumbling block for those who make it to this stage of the competition.

CAs, possessing a unique breadth of knowledge over business and finance, are unlikely to produce such spectacular discrepancies but should take these embarrassing moments as a reminder to always double and triple-check the numbers.

2. Take criticism under advisement

Failure to listen and take the comments of Lord Sugar and his aides on board is normally a quick path to the firing line for candidates. Many of the remarks made on the show border on a personal attack but, in real life scenarios, paying attention can pay off.

Graciously accepting constructive criticism is a key component in personal and professional development. Welcoming feedback will help you identify your weaknesses and improve your skills, quality of work, relationships and to better meet the expectations that others have of you.

3. Teamwork will win the day

While the aim of the game is for one person to walk away with the fateful words "You're hired!" ringing in their ears, failure to work well with their competitors has tripped up more than one candidate in the past.

The final candidates rely on returning teammates to help them win the final task. It pays, therefore, to have built good relationships throughout the process.

The same can be said for moving up the corporate ladder. Meeting career goals will always be that much harder without the support of the people around you.

Read the full article in CA Today.

Get in touch

Do you watch The Apprentice? Do you think it portrays the business world accurately? Tweet @ICAS_students on Twitter or email

If you're studying tax or looking for a refresher, visit our visual round-up of tax penalties and sanctions in today's blog. We also examine the case of Rio Tinto and the FCA for pertinent lessons in financial reporting, as well as offering our best advice for staying on top of information overload.

FR lessons from Rio Tinto

On 17 October 2017, the Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) fined the global mining group Rio Tinto plc £27,385,400 for failures in its 2012 half-year accounts. But what were those failures, why was such a fine necessary and are there any lessons for CA students?

Infographic: Tax penalties

We've put together an infographic showing the different penalties applied by HMRC and the levels of sanction for each breach of the regulations. This is important information for the Principles of Taxation and TPS Taxation courses.

Information overload? Here’s how to handle it

Do you have trouble remembering what you have studied after a long day of hitting the books? Is keeping track of your workload becoming overwhelming? You may be suffering from information overload.

Thursday 16 November: Pricing: A double-edged razor

When King Camp Gillette invented the disposable shaving razor in the 1870s, he also brought about a new method of pricing goods that still influences our purchases today.

In this segment of the BBC's 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy podcast, Tim Harford looks at how the 'razor and blade' business model (also known as 'switching costs') became an economic success.

The idea behind the system is to force the consumer into paying more than once for a product by making its function dependant on related purchases.

Tutor Lauren O'Brien said: "In TC BM module 15, we introduced the concept of pricing to you. It's an area that students generally take quite a keen interest in, as many of us (myself included!) like a bargain.

"But sometimes pricing can seem a little odd in practice, especially for related goods. Sometimes you are able to obtain the base product, a printer for example, relatively cheaply but subsequently pay more than expected to operate it by having to buy expensive printer cartridges.

"This idea is explored further in this podcast, though I’d recommend skipping to 2:30 for the pricing elements."

Listen now on the BBC iPlayer Radio or download for free on iTunes.

Get in touch

What other items do you buy that are priced on a two-part model? Have you ever thought about the implications? Tell us @ICAS_students on Twitter or email

In today's blog, we continue our summary of ordinary shares valuation and look at how best to use question practice as a study method. We also hear from tax expert Donald Drysdale on the legalities of the UK tax code.

Back to Basics: Valuation of Ordinary Shares (Part 2)

In the first part of our Back to Basics on ordinary shares, we looked at the four methods of calculation for buying and selling. Now we investigate a worked example using these methods and key points to remember.

Taxed by primary or secondary law?

Students of both Principles of Taxation and Business Law need to know the distinction between Primary and Secondary legislation. Both types of legislation are used in the UK tax code but the production process for each type varies considerably. In this article on, tax writer Donald Drysdale outlines the processes and asks when it might be considered appropriate to use each type of legislation.

Dos and don'ts of question practice

Practice questions are an essential part of your studies. Here’s how to get the most from using them for mocks or the real thing.

Monday 13 November: Three ways to plan for studying and working at home

CABLE days and flexible working policies can mean you get to stay at home to work. On paper it sounds great - no dress code, early commute or sad sandwich at lunchtime - but how do you stay focused outside of a class or office environment?

Remote working is a popular option for many modern workers but it can take some getting used to for those whose only experience in working at home is all-night cramming sessions during their university years. Here are our top tips for maintaining a professional work ethic, despite your surroundings.

1. Schedule your day

Block out your time to reflect a normal working day. Start in the morning, break for lunch, and finish in time for dinner. If you are studying, allocate the time you think you should need to each subject or task. Modules on CABLE have an estimated timing that you can use as a guide.

Sticking to the hours you give yourself will not only help keep you on task but encourage you to step away when you should.

2. Know what you want to achieve

Are you taking a day to catch up on that project? Do you have workshops due? Are there meetings you need to dial into?

Set your goals for a productive day and tick them off one by one. A day away from sit-in meetings and ad hoc requests from visitors to your desk can be a great opportunity to clear a backlog of work without distractions. Let your manager know what your priorities for the day will be so you don't get pulled away by emails or extra work.

3. Avoid other tasks

It may be tempting to use the time at home to do that pile of laundry or have your mum over for a cup of tea, but it can be all too easy to slip from a working day mentality to effectively taking a day off. Most things can wait until after you have achieved your goals and beat those deadlines.

In short, if you can't fit it into your lunch hour, don't do it until the work is done.

Get in touch

Do you find it difficult to work from home? Does it have a positive impact on your productivity? Tweet @ICAS_students on Twitter or email

Today's blog goes back to basics on valuing ordinary shares and takes a look at some of the useful resources available from HMRC. We also delve into how your commute may be stressing you out.

Back to Basics: Valuation of Ordinary Shares

Calculating the value of ordinary shares can be completed through four, clear methods for TPS students. In this instance, we will look at valuing ordinary shares as part of a transaction - when we are either buying or selling shares.

Consequences of your commute

It's not just your imagination - that hour of commuting every day is impacting your productivity and mental health, according to new research. Find out how an extended commute affected over 34,000 UK workers in just six months.

HMRC tax toolkits - a great student resource

Throughout your CA and ITP studies, you will cover tax and tax returns. Many of you will also be working within a role that requires tax calculations and completing returns for clients. You may not be aware that HMRC have a range of toolkits in relation to different taxes which you might find helpful for your studies or work.

Thursday 9 November: Bank brands beat out by broadband

Telecoms and energy companies outperform banks as the UK's most valuable brands, while technology giants dominate the global rankings.

The BrandZ Top 50 Most Valuable UK Brands 2017 report ranks companies by their estimated value, taking financial reports, consumer opinion and brand growth into account. In this first edition of the study, telecommunications brands occupy 32% of the top 50, including four places in the top 10.

The oil and gas sector also performed well with both Shell and BP appearing in the top five. Financial services brands account for 21% of the top 50 with a combined value of approximately £3.31bn. However, only two banks appear in the top 10.

Top 5 UK Brands: Estimated worth

  1. Vodaphone: £20,523m
  2. HSBC: £16,540m
  3. Shell: £13,901m
  4. BT: £10,701m
  5. BP: £8,546m

Introducing the report, CEO of WPP Store, EMEA & Asia, David Roth wrote: "Many of these are global brands, and reflect the UK’s role as a global centre for financial services and its historical role in energy exploration, as well as consumers’ current appetite for connectivity.

"In the midst of political turmoil at home and uncertainty over what Brexit might mean, it is worth remembering that the UK is globally renowned for the quality of its education, for democracy and fairness, decency and probity. At the same time, the country’s cosmopolitan nature has powered a reputation for embracing and fostering innovation."

The global version of the study reported that technology brands like Google, Apple and Microsoft are by far the most valuable on an international level, taking six places of the top 10.

Get in touch

Are you surprised by who has topped the UK's most valuable brands list? Who did you expect to see in the top 10? Tell us at @ICAS_students on Twitter or email

Today's blog goes over what counts as a conflict of interest and some useful career advice that may benefit your CA journey. We also offer our advice on how best to prepare for and use your mock exams and progress tests.

What is a conflict of interest?

Undeclared interests that may influence or corrupt professional decisions call into question the integrity and objectivity of an individual or organisation and directly contravenes the high ethical standards of the ICAS membership.

Five steps to mock exam success

Mock exams and progress tests are a key indicator of how well you understand and can communicate the material in your course. Ahead of the real exam, make sure you are using these opportunities to achieve your full potential.

TED Talk: The career advice you probably didn't get

Susan Colantuono, CEO of Leading Women, a management consulting firm seeking to close the 'leadership gender gap' through professional development programmes, presents this TED talk on the kinds of career advice you have probably not experienced.

Monday 6 November: Gambling with financial derivatives

If you gave someone a sum of money, and they agreed to pay you a larger one should a certain outcome happen in the future, you may be forgiven for thinking you're gambling. In fact, you're getting insurance.

In another episode of the BBC's 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy podcast, Tim Harford draws attention to the cultural correlation and systemic similarities between today's insurance market and games of chance.

The financial derivatives market, for example, is essentially built on contracts that allow two parties to bet on possibilities for things like the exchange rate or debt repayments. While intended to lower risk, the events surrounding the 2008 financial crisis showed these agreements to still be a gamble.

Tutor Rachel Norman commented: "This podcast looks briefly at the history of the insurance industry. Module 14 of the TC Finance course discusses key concepts, terminology and regulation within the current UK insurance industry and, although the content of the podcast is not examinable, it may provide a useful background to interested students.

"The latter part discusses financial derivatives and compares these with gambling. Derivatives are not discussed until the TPS Advanced Finance course (Modules 21 and 22), where they are covered from a hedging or risk-reduction perspective rather than a perspective of gambling or speculation. It is important to note that the same derivative instruments can be used for either purpose, depending on exactly how they are traded."

Listen now on the BBC iPlayer Radio or download for free on iTunes.

Get in touch

Do you find the history of our economy interesting? What do you think we can learn from the past? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Today's blog features some tutor advice on understanding Assurance and Business Systems as well as our top tips for taking notes. We also hear from author and Oxford lecturer Daniel Susskind about the future of the accountancy sector.

Top 10 ABS tips

Our tutors share tips for Assurance and Business Systems on day one of class or revision day, but they are useful for everyone sitting ABS. Use these advice gems to get ahead in class and studies.

Five ways to take notes

It’s time to take your note-taking skills to the next level. Investigate and experiment with these five methods for yourself, as well as specialist easy-to-read fonts for people with dyslexia.

To transform or conform: The future of accountancy

Oxford lecturer and co-author of The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, Daniel Susskind tells us what tomorrow holds for accountancy.

Thursday 2 November: Five lessons in leadership

ICAS One Young CA 2017 Jonny Jacobs attended the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia, and now he shares the lessons he will take forward in his life.

"The political, social and economic past of Colombia made it the perfect location for One Young World 2017," explained Jonny.

"Not only to reflect on the past but also to discuss and plan how best to tackle today’s most pressing global issues. Finance professionals are incredibly well placed to do this as we operate all over the world and in every area of business. I'm grateful to have had this opportunity and to take away these important lessons."

1. Everyone has a voice

Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and former seventh Secretary-General to the UN, said in his keynote speech: "You are never too young to lead, act and take charge where you can."

He shared his experiences of peace negotiations and explained how the best leaders are the best listeners. On the final day of the Summit, he advocated establishing common trust between parties, being fully inclusive, and giving everyone a voice. For me, these traits are needed in business to drive significant change.

2. Having a clear purpose is vital

Knowing what drives us is incredibly important and when we are clear on our purpose, great things can happen. However, a reported 87% of employees are not engaged in their jobs - the work for us as leaders is to inspire a sense of pride and purpose in others.

3. Leaders create leaders

After a presentation from a young leader not speaking in his first language, I turned to a fellow delegate and commented how proud and impressed I was that he did that in front of 1,500 people. The delegate replied: "I’m proud of the senior executive who encouraged him to do it."

Our teams often reflect our own style. In that moment, I learnt something I won’t forget.

4. Happiness leads to success

The Mayor of Bogotá focussed on something close to my heart: maintaining happiness. I am a great believer that people operate at their best when they are happy.

Despite the belief that performance peaks during times of high stress, it's difficult to sustain long-term. In my team, we monitor the happiness index and ask a couple of simple questions: How happy are you? How can we make you happier?

5. Mistakes are not failures

I’m a big believer in personal growth, both for individuals and for high-performing teams. The best development arises from overcoming mistakes, gaining experiences, or asking challenging questions. Companies that create the right culture to foster these opportunities will easily see the rewards.

Read the full article on CA Today.

Get in touch

Why do you think global events like One Young World are important? Will you enter or nominate someone to be One Young CA after you qualify? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Today's blog considers how effective team off-site days can actually be and we talk to CAs around the world about the global reach of the qualification. We also give you the details of some upcoming ICAS events that CA students can attend for free.

On-site vs off-site meetings

Most professionals will attend a company or departmental all-day planning or strategy meeting at some point in their career. It's common for these days to be held in a location away from the office, but is that always the right call? Our infographic weighs up the pros and cons.

Events coming soon

Success and the City: Meet London's emerging business leaders

On 16 November, CA students in London have the opportunity to hear from leading CAs of the business world, including One Young CA Jonny Jacobs, Managing Director of A.R.P. Capital Partners Raj Patel CA, and Head of Investor Relations at Heineken Sonya Ghobrial CA.

ICAS London Winter Social

The ICAS Winter Social, bringing CAs and students together for an evening of networking and conversation, takes place on 11 January 2018 at the Trapeze Bar in London.

Please note: If you are a new student and interested in attending, please register by emailing Jess Date

Why the CA qualification is not just Scottish

ICAS has a rich history as the oldest professional accounting body in the world and we are proud of our Scottish heritage. However, our ever-expanding diverse membership has proven that we are not limited by it.

October 2017

Monday 30 October: The surprising history of banking

Where did banking begin? Is it a tale as old as time? BBC presenter Tim Harford explores the origins of modern banking in this podcast.

When thinking of the first banks, if you've ever had the inclination to do so, the idea likely conjures images of dusty parchment ledgers and archaic scales weighing coins. The reality, however, is a little more intriguing, as this episode of the BBC's 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy illustrates.

From Templar Knights to Fleet Street, find out where modern banking started and how it has impacted the world.

Listen now on the BBC iPlayer Radio or download for free on iTunes.

Get in touch

Did you know about the history of banks? Are there any other podcasts you would recommend to fellow CA students? Contact or tweet us @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, we look at some of the trends, topics and stereotypes affecting young people today as we investigate the myths about millennials and anxiety-prompting life events. We also revisit the Pomodoro technique, explaining how you can slice up your day into tomato slices of productivity.

Millennials: It's all myth

They’re here, they’re qualifying, and they’re the future: Alex Burden reports on the myths surrounding Millennials (Generation Y), and what traditions will be revived by this generation of CAs.

How to be productive in 25 mins

Have you ever wanted to get more out of your day? Are you easily distracted or do you find it hard to concentrate on one task at a time? Then try the Pomodoro technique!

Life's biggest stressors revealed

Research from The Physiological Society has revealed that women are more likely to feel anxiety over change and a promotion at work has the least potential to stress you out.

Thursday 26 October: CPI is up - what does this mean for consumers?

The UK's Consumer Prices Index (CPI) hit 3% for the first time in five years, spelling out good news... for state pensioners, and question-raising for the Bank of England.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for September 2017 show the 12-month inflation rates of CPI and CPI, including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH), at their highest point since April 2012.

ONS Head of Inflation Mike Prestwood told the BBC: "Food prices and a range of transport costs helped to push up inflation in September. These effects were partly offset by clothing prices that rose less strongly than this time last year."

This data will affect state pensions in the UK from April 2018 because September rates are used as the benchmark for the guaranteed basic pension 'triple-lock' guidelines. Currently, the full state pension is worth £159.55 per week - this is expected to rise to £164.

Inflation above 2% has the potential to prompt higher interest rates in order to balance price stability and could mean an interest rate rise from the Bank of England. However, if the Monetary Policy Committee decides on such a change next month, key economic indicators like mortgage prices will also go up in response and overall economic activity could lessen.

View infographic

Get in touch

Do you think the Bank of England should raise interest rates? Is the uptick in inflation a good or bad thing for the economy overall? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Are you ready for your TPE exam? Today's blog features last-minute reminders and prompters on improving your business writing skills, the key changes in terminology you need to know, and essential answers for all those pressing questions you have about exam day.

Six tips for better business writing for TPE

A successful CA must have excellent communication skills; one of our TPE examiners looks at how better business writing can improve your performance in the TPE exam.

What you need to know about TPE exams

We speak to the Examinations Manager, Hayley Reid, about the most common questions related to the TPE exam, including what you should take into the exam, appropriate ID, and how you will receive your exam results.

Revised TPE terminology

Are you sitting or re-sitting TPE in 2017? Find out how TPE terminology has been revised to ensure the qualification remains relevant for accounting profession needs.

Monday 23 October: Gender pay gaps, generation rent, and general advice for the TPE exam

Women in the UK have effectively been working for free this past week, thanks to the gender pay gap. And it isn't about to get better.

A new report from Expert Market, using data from Eurostat, has shown the gender pay gap in the UK to be around 21% per annum, meaning that a male worker could potentially have earned the equivalent of a female counterpart's full year of pay by 15 October.

This places the UK as one of the worst countries in Europe for pay equality with a gap well above the 17% average.

Adelle Kehoe, Senior Manager at Expert Market, commented: “This study brings the devastating effects of the gender pay gap into clear focus. It is absolutely astonishing that in the 21st century women are still suffering such financial penalties merely because of their gender. I hope this report encourages women across Europe to continue to campaign for gender equality in the workplace and in society as a whole.”

Staffmetrix also recently published a study that revealed the gender pay gap grows to 31% for finance professionals, according to data from the government’s gender pay gap registry. While this is concerning, it is important to note that less than 1% of the firms required to publish this information by 4 April have submitted their reports to the registry, and more positive news could be due to arrive.

ICAS Head of Taxation (Scottish Taxes, Employment and ICAS Tax Community) Justine Riccomini wrote an analysis earlier this year of the various financial disadvantages women may experience during the course of their careers.

Get in touch

Do you have an open discussion wage policy at work? Do you think equal pay is an issue for CAs? Get in touch on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Are you ready for your TPE exam? Today's blog covers what you can and cannot bring to the room along with some advice from previous high-performers. We've also put together an infographic that might help you make up your mind on whether to join the property ladder.

Infographic: Buy vs Rent

Is it time to invest in a new home? Will you be better off if you do? Here are some of the factors you should consider before choosing between buying or renting a property, with a handy infographic guide.

Golden advice for students from the TPE prizewinners

Are you looking for inspiration ahead of the TPE exam? Alex Burden speaks to our previous TPE prize winners on their awards, what it meant to them, and what it takes to achieve top accolades.

What to take into your TPE exam

To assist you in deciding what material you should take into the examination we have prepared a guide, which includes frequently asked questions. This is provided as part of the pre-course material when you attend TPE classes. It is accessed through your CABLE workspace.

Thursday 19 October: How paperclips can teach a lot about business

Have you ever wanted to run a paperclip business? A simple in-browser click game gives you the chance to try out your business acumen and experience the evolution of automation and AI first hand.

Reported across the internet as an addictive exercise in redundancy, Paperclips requires the player to simply press a button to produce stationery, using up wire supplies and measuring productivity versus demand. You can adjust the price of your product to try and boost your profits or get rid of stock but, mostly, you just click a button.

However, as the game progresses, you are offered a tool that automates the creation of paperclips. Subsequently, software that will order wire supplies as you begin to run low also comes online. At a certain point, you go from being a paperclip manufacturer to the manager of an AI system.

While the game satirically extends this situation to the point of hyperbole (your AI may or may not be hypnotising customers and trying to transform Earth into a paperclip factory), it does force you to consider what the future of manufacturing and a wider consumer economy dominated by AI may look like.

The threat of automation to human workers was highlighted by the President of the World Bank earlier this month, urging countries to invest in education and 'human capital' to combat the imminent loss of low-skill job positions.

CAs are unlikely to be under threat, given their expansive and highly-qualified skillset, but the implications for businesses of the future are certainly interesting.

Try Paperclips for yourself.

Get in touch

Are you worried about automation and AI? Do you think it will be a good thing in the long run? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Keeping with the theme of business knowledge and planning, today's blog revisits some tutor advice on good commercial awareness. We also have a refresher on using the CABLE platform and show how you can work on your leadership skills by watching your favourite TV show!

Improving your commercial awareness in five steps

During block one of TPE classes, we introduced you to commercial awareness as part of your studies. This is a key requirement of a good and competent CA in order to provide value-added business advice.

Top tips for using CABLE

CABLE is the online learning tool designed to guide you through course material. Nena and Roddy from the ICAS CABLE team bring you their top tips for getting the most from this great resource.

Are there leadership lessons in Game of Thrones?

Leadership lessons can be found in unexpected places. The top TV hit, Game of Thrones, portrays a collection of families trying to fight their way to the ruling seat, but amongst the fiction lies some truthful advice for leaders.

Monday 16 October: How does human behaviour influence economics?

The 2017 Nobel Prize equivalent in Economics has been awarded to Professor Richard Thaler - a leading authority in behavioural economics and, more importantly, a former co-star of Selena Gomez!

Professor Thaler's work examines how human behaviour influences financial decision-making and the wider economy as a whole. For example, he is well-known for coining the term 'nudge theory' to explain the influence of small interactions and subtle manipulations pushing individuals into what seem to be gut-reactions, but are actually the result of clever marketing or behavioural influence.

According to the Nobel committee: "By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, [Professor Thaler] has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes."

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is not technically a 'Nobel Prize' but carries much of the same prestige and is often considered the highest honour in the field.

Professor Thaler is one of the more well-known recipients of the award, having co-authored several of the most popular economics books of recent years, including Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness and Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.

In 2015, he made a cameo appearance in The Big Short, a film following four finance workers as they try to profit from the 2008 economic crisis before it happens. Professor Thaler briefly explains the 'hot hand fallacy' concept to the audience in a scene alongside former Disney star Selena Gomez, illustrating the impact behavioural psychology can have on financial decisions.

Professor Thaler on the 'hot hand fallacy'

Get in touch

What is your opinion on behavioural economics? Do you think human psychology has a big impact on the financial world, or is it all about the numbers? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Today's blog focusses on TPE as we turn the spotlight on business issues - refresh your knowledge on product recall case studies with input from your tutors. We also consider the future of regulation as more digital tools emerge in the sector to support compliance activities.

TPE in practice: Product recalls

Are you familiar with how to analyse business issues and what you should look out for in terms of skills practice?

Why chocolate puns matter to TPE and TC students

“All publicity is good publicity” – it’s a phrase that’s often used, but it doesn’t always hold true. For example, the newspaper headlines in 2016 were full of puns relating to Mars chocolate, “Mars barred” being one of the most striking.

What is RegTech?

Regulation understanding and adherence is a key component of a CAs expertise and of the financial sector as a whole. Now it has joined the ever-expanding list of specialisms getting a technological makeover with the rise of 'RegTech'.

Thursday 12 October: MoneyBox on tax and changes

How much has tax changed in 40 years? Do the same challenges face accountants today as in 1977? The BBC's Money Box podcast offers a unique opportunity to reflect on how far the profession has come and what has remained the same.

Sir William Pile, Chairman of the Board of the Inland Revenue (now HMRC), was the first ever interviewee featured on Money Box when the show originally aired on BBC Radio 4. He spoke to presenters Louise Botting and Peter Hobday about the impact of inflation, simplifying the complexities of assessment and the public perception of the taxman.

Listen to a panel of experts discuss Sir William's point of view and compare today's issues in accounting.

Available on the BBC website and for free download on iTunes.

Get in touch

What do you think has been the biggest development in tax in the last 40 years? Will Making Tax Digital change the landscape entirely? Tell us your thoughts at or on Twitter @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, your tutors offer their advice for getting the most out of the resources on CABLE. We also round up some handy apps for CA students and reflect on the leadership lessons for the future we took away from the ICAS Young Leaders Summit in September.

Top 5 apps for students

We round up the best five apps for CA students - from apps that help you stay focused while studying, to a handy guide to accounting terms.

10 tips for online learning

How well do you work with CABLE? The online learning platform is integral to your CA studies but could you be using its resources more effectively? Your tutors share their top tips for making the most of CABLE.

Five things we learnt about next generation leadership

Traditional skills are no longer enough to succeed as a leader in this new world. In the Young Leaders Summit Lightning Session on Next Gen Leadership Skills, we heard on how global mindsets, technological savvy and business agility should be harnessed for current and future generations to realise potential.

Monday 9 October: The Monarch collapse explained in numbers

Monarch Airlines entered administration last week after 50 years of business for the UK travel company. What factors drove the financial strain that grounded Monarch's planes for good?

Monarch infographic

Get in touch

Have you lost out on a holiday with Monarch? What do you think big company collapses mean for the wider economy? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Today's blog is all about getting you in the right mindset. We talk to tutors about the importance of mental health while gearing up for exams, investigate how best to handle workplace hierarchies and attitudes, and get geared up for TPE.

Eight quick tips to conquer the TPE exam

You have done the study work and practiced your case studies, but what about tackling the TPE exam on the day? TPE level controller Cat Devaney shares her timely advice on how to tackle questions and pick up extra marks.

How to prepare for office politics

Many young people find themselves unprepared for office politics, according to a study by the Co-op. A surprisingly high 54% of those surveyed said that they were not prepared for, or as informed as they would like to be, about how to handle politics in the workplace.

Caring for your mental health

More students and young adults than ever are reporting mental health issues, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). To help manage the stress of exams and everyday life, your tutors share some advice on coping with academic pressure.

Thursday 5 October: Do you aim to be a CFO after qualification?

In a recent article in The CA magazine, Editor Robert Outram talked to CFOs about what actions can be taken for others looking to apply for this role. Ian Swanson CA, CFO with Delicato Family Vineyards in Napa, California, believes that soft skills are crucial:

“Up to this role you were a technical adviser adding to the business discussions. As CFO you are playing a leading role in the business discussions, with an expertise in finance. You are no longer leading with your technical skills; those are just the lens you use to manage and direct the business,” Ian explained.

The nine essential steps

EY’s Finance Forte study, based on interviews with CFOs, identified nine key steps for CFOs to take, to ensure they are prepared for the challenges of the role at group level. They are:

1.  Gain a breadth of finance experience.

2.  Develop commercial insight.

3.  Seek out M&A experience.

4.  Obtain a balance of traditional and non-traditional skills, including the “soft skills” of building relationships with colleagues and external stakeholders.

5.  Develop leadership skills.

6.  Get international exposure.

7.  Gain experience of finance transformation initiatives.

8.  Gain exposure to the markets and stakeholders.

9.  Build effective relationships with the board.

Get in touch

Do you already know what role you will aim for after qualification? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email about your aims for the future, and how you hope to achieve them.

In today's blog, we tackle how to improve your learning style in a large class and hear from ICAS President, Sir Brian Souter, on how valuable the CA qualification is, at all stages of your career. We also continue this week's look at building health with an examination of nootropics (vitamins, supplements, and the much riskier 'smart' drugs), reflecting on their rise amongst professionals.

The rise of 'smart' drugs

Cognitive-enhancing drugs have hit the headlines as the new way to tackle work and study with an unstoppable zest. But what are they, and what do they do?

How to tackle learning in a large class for success

Our class sizes vary throughout the country, but each individual is sure to have a preferred learning style and setting to make the most out of their time - here are our tips for taking on any learning environment, whether it's with ICAS or in-house company training.

Sir Brian Souter on the CA value 

In this short video, discover why Sir Brian Souter, ICAS President, and Stagecoach Co-Founder believes the CA Qualification provides life-long value and can be used in your career at any stage.

Monday 1 October: How are you coping with the Uber ban in London?

Transport for London recently announced that they will not be renewing the taxi app's licence, due to not meeting the standards of passenger safety.

Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, responded: “By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.”

Further stories emerged later in the week, announcing that Uber would try to overturn a ruling on granting employee rights to drivers, by insisting the company practices do not fall under the 'gig economy' due to their position as an 'agent' for drivers. If the rights were to be enforced, the troubled company would need to pay minimum wage and holidays to their drivers.

Uber lawyers said: “The driver is in no sense in an employment relationship. Rather, Uber acts as the driver’s agent, in referring passengers to him … for [which] it receives payment [for] each trip.”

The situation brings a whole host of business and employment issues to the fore, and offers food for thought for any emerging start-ups on how to manage contractual arrangements and guarantee the safety of consumers (or a due responsibility to anyone using their service or product); important for any budding entrepreneur to keep in mind!

Get in touch

How do you travel between work and home? Will the ban affect you? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email

In today's blog, we feature a look at non-controlling interests in our Back to Basics series for Financial Reporting students, take a quick look at how to start preparing for the TPE exam (it's never too early!), and emphasise the importance of a good rest to keep a healthy head on your shoulders. Happy studying and snoozing!

Eight quick tips to prepare for the TPE exam

Success is just around the corner for our students and we know that you will do your utmost to achieve your qualification at every turn. If you have finished block 2 of TPE then take some time to digest these tutor tips by Level Controller Cat Devaney on how to prepare for the exam.

Sleep for a healthy life

A recent study has revealed that sleep deprivation can result in Alzheimer's disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes, but a 24-hour society and increasing sleep problems mean that we have left behind our established patterns and filled the market with energy-boosting products. Try these five tips for a better rest.

Back to Basics: Non-controlling interests

We go back to basics on 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? Ally Millar, FR subject controller explains.


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