ICAS CEO, Bruce Cartwright CA, on ICAS' global influence as a membership body
ICAS works at a global scale to influence the direction of accounting and provide value to members in all locations. CEO Bruce Cartwright CA maps it out
ICAS as an organisation began with a small footprint in Scotland back in 1854 – a heritage we’re proud to celebrate. Since then, that footprint has grown to an international and global scale. That global influence takes two forms in practice. First, we work with many international accounting bodies to enhance our work and the value it offers members. Second, 2,800 of our members live and work in 91 countries outside the UK. Our members are our best ambassadors – and those living abroad are an important community of professionals bonded by their CA qualification and ICAS membership.
ICAS is primarily an educator, training the next generation of CAs to perform at the highest standard. But we also have an important role in influencing policy at home and abroad. Our remit to act in the public interest entails sharing our expertise with government, regulators and standard setters – helping to guide decision-making to support the smooth functioning of business and ensuring the accounting profession continues to provide value.
The scope of our policy influence has grown alongside our global footprint, with the development of international accounting standards more closely aligning accountants and businesses worldwide. We’re now seeing that journey enter a second phase, as sustainability and other forms of non-financial reporting frameworks aim to achieve standardisation and widespread adoption. At such a critical moment for the profession, it’s important that membership bodies continue to share expertise with one another, helping to identify global solutions to global challenges.
ICAS’ international reach is important for individual members, too. The gradual standardisation of accounting has made professional qualifications increasingly portable, offering opportunities for CAs to take their skills anywhere. It is one of the reasons why many of us chose to enter the profession. And ICAS has a responsibility to support those members taking the road, and flight, less travelled. Our international networks are an important way to stay in touch, while also sharing best practice internationally.
Our global partnerships are a valuable way of sharing our expertise, while enabling ICAS to benefit from that of other member bodies. Key to that is our membership of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), which represents a huge 1.8 million chartered accountants across 15 member bodies – from Scotland to Singapore, from Malawi to India.
CAW meets regularly to discuss the key issues facing the profession, exploring how the member bodies can work together to tackle them, and coordinating campaigns to promote the work and influence of chartered accountants. Our Difference Makers campaign, celebrating the importance of accountants in all sectors, was launched following the success of a similar initiative in Australia.
The various member bodies also take the lead on different workstreams, then come together to share actions and strategies. In particular, ICAS and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand are currently leading on a project to identify ways of strengthening trust and ethics in the profession. It’s about articulating to society, and our stakeholders, why our work is important and why people should trust it. We recognise the profession, particularly those in audit, has reputational challenges to address – and it’s important we showcase the value that CAs bring to businesses, the economy and wider society. And that work will soon be disseminated across the CAW member bodies.
Membership of CAW opens up new content and resources for our members, too. Its newsletter brings updates and thought leadership directly to your inbox, including a podcast series that has featured ICAS members Indy Hothi CA, Mufseen Miah CA and David Nussbaum CA. And ICAS members can use the CAW member network logo because of our membership.
As well as the global challenges we all face, the world has become a smaller place through the technology available at our fingertips. It means we at ICAS can easily stay in touch with our members living abroad and engage with them in creative ways. In particular, our annual conference, CA Summit, is held digitally and across three days because it allows as many people as possible to join.
It’s important that there are also opportunities for members to physically meet, too, especially after the past two years. Events held by our international networks are critical to enabling these local communities of ICAS members to build relationships. Whether you’re in New York or Melbourne, you have an instant community available thanks to your CA qualification and ICAS membership. And I know from personal experience that these events are incredibly useful – they invariably end with an exchange of business cards and new ideas for creative and productive collaboration.
ICAS acts as a facilitator for members in this way – we help them to keep up to date with us and with each other. Every member who comes to one of our events – or volunteers on one of our boards or committees – has the valuable opportunity to share their voice and influence our direction.
We take great care to listen to our members – who have wide-ranging and detailed areas of experience – and we’re stronger because of it. Your expertise builds our expertise – and that influences the direction of the profession as a whole for the better.