April update from the Office Bearer team
The highlights of an unexpected year for the 2020/21 ICAS office bearers.
Catherine Burnet CA, ICAS President
I want to share my thanks with ICAS members, including fellow office bearers Indy and Bruce, and the ICAS staff for a fantastic year as President. Unexpectedly, the pandemic meant I became the first “virtual” President. Before it escalated and lockdowns began, we did a lot of planning around how the year might look. That had to be revisited very quickly and adapted to make it as effective as possible from home.
I had two main priorities for my year as President. Internally, I wanted to drive our strategy around education and the way we support the skills of current and future CAs. That took on a life of its own during Covid as everything moved online. We achieved a lot here, from being one of few professional bodies to maintain our exam timetable to taking members’ CPD fully online. Our support for the next generation of CAs is more vital than ever. Students and younger members are understandably nervous at having potentially missed out on a year of coaching and office-based learning. We must take steps to help them navigate the early stages of their career.
Externally, I was keen to focus on member engagement, including with members who have been less active in the past. Of course, that now had to be done remotely. This included my regular video updates, explaining our priorities and activities – vital when I couldn’t be out on the road. For me, one of the main successes is that, whether through Zoom or Teams, I spoke to as wide a variety of members as possible, spanning the entire globe. The success of the inaugural CA Summit is a great example of ICAS’ international reach.
As restrictions are lifted, let’s look to combine the best elements of the “old normal” with the lessons learned during the new. We have improved the way we discuss areas such as equality and sustainability. ICAS has made great strides in diversity and inclusion, consulting with members of all backgrounds and making their voices heard in the public arena. As CAs, it is crucial we reflect the society we work in, building trust in our profession for generations to come.
Bruce Pritchard CA, ICAS Deputy President
This year was completely dominated by the pandemic, but ICAS members rose to the challenge and demonstrated the best of their skills. Even in these difficult months, CAs have proved their well-earned reputation as determined and conscientious businesspeople.
One of the real privileges of serving as Deputy President has been meeting ICAS members from all over the world. The digital age meant the pandemic could only separate us physically and, in some ways, it created new opportunities for us to connect. ICAS ran a busy webinar schedule during 2020 and feedback has been incredibly positive. The level of creativity from the ICAS team and guest speakers has been quite phenomenal.
The past year has been difficult for members and students alike. The pandemic placed pressure on wellbeing by blurring personal and professional boundaries and posing new challenges to both. As CAs, we take our responsibility to advise clients seriously, and I know it has been tough for many of our members to see well-run businesses come under strain. But it has been encouraging, as always, to see the skills and talents of CAs in real time, mitigating the pandemic’s worst effects and successfully assisting many clients in receiving government support.
Work will look quite different when offices reopen. A hybrid, combining home and office, looks likely. I’ve spoken to members anxious about the office’s pressures and fast pace. This is a priority area for ICAS and we’ll provide support wherever we can. One of the great lessons of the past year is that flexibility is key – we each have a different way of working that brings out our best performance.
The future of ICAS depends on members. I encourage all CAs to get involved. I can vouch for the benefits of doing so. The breadth of experience and knowledge at any one of our boards and committees is significant, and you’ll meet the most fascinating people.
Indy Hothi CA, ICAS Vice President
One of my top priorities as Vice President has been helping ICAS’ journey in the digital spaces. During lockdown, we launched a podcast series and the discussions around mental health, in particular, helped us approach business from a more holistic angle. I was also delighted to interview young members on the podcast, as their experiences during the pandemic will shape the way we do business and progress as a society.
At a macro level, ICAS has a big role to play in driving the business agenda on sustainability. It will be the key issue of our time, just as digital disruption was in recent decades. The CA Summit in October 2020 highlighted that ICAS can be a leader in this area, and we have a big role to play, particularly in changes around financial reporting.
It has been encouraging to witness the progress we’ve made in equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) – and the hiring of dedicated ED&I Manager, Ian Bettison, earlier this year was a milestone. The relaunch of the ED&I Committee in late 2020, in particular, provides a way for members to discuss these issues, even when they may not feel comfortable doing so with their employer. To me, the two key values that drive the work of ICAS are boldness and authenticity. That includes demonstrating leadership but also being honest about the journey we are on as an organisation – and it has been a privilege to be part of that journey.