ICAS President: Ready. Set. Recovery
ICAS President Bruce Pritchard CA tells Laurence Eastham how ICAS will use the lessons of the pandemic for the betterment of business – and how members can get involved.
The new financial year brings with it a newly elected ICAS President, Bruce Pritchard CA. Of course, the election at ICAS’ AGM in April followed an unpredictable, often tumultuous, year for all. And having served as Deputy President during the pandemic, Pritchard is well placed to understand ICAS members’ evolving needs. In fact, it is that experience of the past 12 months that has strengthened his belief that the body he now leads is a force for stability and progress.
“What we’ve shown as an institute and as a profession is that we can respond more rapidly to change than we may have thought,” Pritchard explains. “And that dynamism – that evolutionary skill – is something we need to keep working on. The profession will continue to evolve alongside the economy, and we need to be right at the heart of that.”
Pritchard aims to channel that dynamism into two core themes for the year ahead: embedding sustainability and agility at the heart of ICAS as an organisation, and engaging with government and regulators for the benefit of members and the business community.
“We need to keep it simple this year at ICAS,” he summarises. “We’ve come through an unprecedented time. And, as an institute, we need to be cognisant of what we can do practically to help. We need to ensure we are fit for purpose in the ‘new normal’ – whatever that phrase turns out to mean – as a guiding light in the profession, doing what we can to influence policymaking and provide leadership.”
The public interest mandate of ICAS is especially important to Pritchard. With the worst of the pandemic appearing to be behind us – and the attention of government turning from survival to recovery – there is a clear opportunity to amplify the voice of CAs and shape the debate about the future of business.
“It’s important that we remain able to influence government policy as we enter a period of recovery. ICAS can make sure there is relevance and realism to what’s being proposed,” says Pritchard. “We must continue to provide the training and ongoing professional development that allows our members to service the broader business community, helping to shape the recovery from the advisory perspective.”
Empowering members to perform their best, guiding their employer and clients through the recovery, also requires agility. ICAS was one of few professional bodies to maintain its examinations schedule during the pandemic, shifting to an online system for the toughest months. A similar digital-first approach to training and events ensured members had sources of community and professional development for months of lockdown and remote working. Pritchard hopes a hybrid format, combining the best of online and offline activity, will enable ICAS and members to face the future with confidence.
“One of the things we’ve seen clearly through the pandemic is how technology influences our lives,” says Pritchard, who as CEO of Liminal BioSciences, knows the importance of keeping pace with innovation. “ICAS will need to continually embrace technology and smart ways of working and learning. How do we leverage technology to make our lives more efficient and use our time to its best advantage? Technology will remain a key focus for us post-Covid.”
Role of a lifetime
Pritchard’s election as President is his latest role in more than 20 years of service with the institute. Qualifying with Pannell Kerr Forster in 1996, he joined ICAS Council the following year, answering a call in CA magazine that aimed to recruit younger members. Subsequent roles have included Chair of both the England and Wales area committee and the members board, and membership of the oversight board and remuneration committee. Pritchard encourages all members to get involved and share their voices.
“First and foremost, we are a membership body. We exist to serve members,” he says. “It’s very important that members feel empowered and enabled to provide feedback. There are multiple channels, whether it’s through local area networks, boards and committees or more direct contact. Members should always feel that they are able to get in touch with the institute and express their opinion.
“We also have to reflect our membership base – who they are and what they do. If you look at the demographics of our members today, the institute is much more diverse than it was when I qualified and first joined Council. It’s really important that we reflect that diversity as much as possible in our boards and committees. It’s all about making sure that ICAS remains relevant to members in all our guises.”
Reflecting on his own experience of volunteering with ICAS, Pritchard advocates involvement as a way for CAs to build both skills and network, especially for younger members. In particular, he credits joining ICAS Council at the beginning of his career with broadening his exposure to business in general, which preceded his eventual leap from practice to industry.
“Volunteering here gave me the opportunity to see how other businesses operated from the inside, doing something different to the day job,” he explains. “And networking is always a big part of a professional career. You never know when you’ll need a sounding board or someone with life experience to share. Throughout my ICAS career, I’ve had the chance to meet CAs from different walks of life that I may otherwise have not met.”
Accountancy runs in the family, too. His wife Tricia is an ICAS member – they met during training and celebrate 24 years of marriage this year – and their eldest daughter is studying accountancy at the University of Aberdeen. The family is based in Hertfordshire, where Pritchard has been working since the beginning of the pandemic, close to Liminal BioSciences’ Cambridge office. Pritchard became CEO of the Canada-headquartered company in November 2020 after nearly 15 years there. That means he’s taken on leadership roles for both his employer and ICAS within a few months of each other – he couldn’t have picked a more extraordinary time to have done so.
Find out how you can get involved at icas.com/members/get-involved