ICAS President Bruce Pritchard CA on the future for CAs
In his final column as ICAS President, Bruce Pritchard CA charts a path forward for accountancy through the challenges and opportunities that await
Earlier this year, ICAS launched its Finance+ insight series, examining the six most important topics influencing the work of CAs, now and in the future. Having travelled the UK meeting ICAS members this year as President, as well as virtual meetings spanning the globe, I’m confident the Finance+ series addresses the big topics influencing the direction of our profession.
Trust in accountancy is essential. To strengthen it, we must continue to demonstrate ethical behaviour – and educate our colleagues and the public on what we do as CAs. We must be proactive, striving for continuous improvement to stay ahead of individual instances of poor judgement. We need to be on the front foot, especially as corporate reporting grows in scope and moves beyond the numbers.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Diversity is not some mere box-ticking exercise. It has to be in the DNA of the profession. We’re not there yet: to get to a place where diversity is embraced as part of everything we do, we need to ensure there is a strong pipeline of talent that reflects the society around us. ICAS must play its part in making accountancy welcoming to all, offering real opportunities for people to join the profession. It’s why the work of the ICAS Foundation is so vital – and I encourage members to get involved.
It’s been encouraging to see the profession move from fearing technology to truly embracing it. Digitalisation will not put CAs out of work – it will create new opportunities for us to demonstrate our value. But we must remain vigilant about how we integrate technology into our working lives and, crucially, how it informs our decisions. As CAs we can play a role in managing the development of technology so we remain in control. There is no substitute for good business process management.
At the start of my career, no one talked about mental health. People only acknowledged the subject when something went badly wrong. Matters shouldn’t need to reach crisis point for workplaces to get involved. We’re in the midst of seeing that evolution happen in business. Mental health advocacy has enabled people to talk more freely about their experiences and seek help if necessary. There is a moral as well as a professional obligation for businesses and other organisations to make sure CAs feel supported. ICAS has made great strides here, launching a three-year strategy that puts mental fitness at the top of the agenda.
Sustainability is another critical area that melds both business and social responsibilities. As CAs, we can use our skillsets to support firms’ transition to a greener way of doing business, especially as new regulation arrives thick and fast. Taking on forms of sustainability and non-financial reporting will mean a shift in what the CA does. And, tapping into that issue of strengthening trust again, we need to take everyone on the journey, staying educated about the work we perform and understanding the numbers and advice we present.
Professional development and leadership
Professional development means equipping yourself with the skills to pursue the career that is right for you. That’s why being part of a membership organisation is crucial. ICAS offers a great variety of formal and informal training resources, supporting members at all stages of their careers. We’re all bonded by qualifying as CAs but, as the “passport to business” tagline suggests, the career opportunities are endless. That will keep us in good stead as the world evolves.
I prepare to pass on the baton with the profession in a good place. There are significant challenges ahead, but during the past year I have seen countless examples of the tenacity and talent that define what it means to be a CA. I am optimistic we have the resilience, agility and skill to ensure that accountancy will grow and thrive long into the future.