ICAS Foundation: A meeting of minds on the importance of giving back
The ICAS Foundation’s newest trustee is Ryan McVey, a foundation graduate who completes his CA training later this year. His appointment coincides with Norman Murray CBE CA FRSE, ICAS Past President, taking over as board Chair. They meet to discuss the importance of board diversity and the rewards of giving back
Norman Murray CBE CA FRSE:
I’ve had a long career in accounting and business and I’ve always felt it’s important to give back. I was involved with ICAS Council for a long time before becoming President and I see these pro bono roles as two-way. There’s a lot I can put into the ICAS Foundation in terms of experience, governance and helping to raise funds. But I get to see the difference in opportunity we’re creating for young people who benefit from the foundation — not just going through university, but then getting good jobs with well-respected firms.
I graduated in 2019 with a first-class degree in accountancy from Glasgow Caledonian University before joining Grant Thornton as a commercial audit associate. On leaving school, I’d been torn between an apprenticeship and higher education. My teachers helped me understand the options, and my family were always incredibly supportive, but university probably wasn’t the most obvious option for someone from a working-class background. Being the first in the family to attend university, I found it profoundly difficult as I couldn’t draw from family experiences.
In the second year of my degree, I was made aware of the ICAS Foundation. It was at this point I started to really see the benefits of the first-hand experience of having contacts within the industry. My confidence grew immediately and I saw tangible rewards, with my grades improving massively. Coming from a low-income family, the financial assistance from the foundation was immensely important, particularly as this allowed me to concentrate more on my studies. However, equally as important was the mentoring experience I was fortunate enough to receive. I was mentored by Chris Docherty CA – also an ICAS Foundation trustee. Chris was pivotal when it came to applying for internships and graduate roles and was a fantastic source of help with university projects. Ultimately, the ICAS Foundation opened up so many doors for me that otherwise may have been shut.
NM You’re the youngest trustee and the first ICAS Foundation student around the table and that’s something we wanted when we got to this stage. The board is made up of an interesting group, not all of whom are CAs, which helps us get to the right routes forward. You’re vital to the mix – you can help a great deal in the debates that need to be had, from the bursary panel to mentoring students. Your perspective from your age and stage can help us make decisions in all things – and, in return, the role will give you valuable board experience at an early stage in your career.
RM: For me, it’s also about helping the ICAS Foundation to become even more prominent in the coming years. We’re at a point where the attainment gap in Scotland is at its highest on record, and the foundation’s work is pivotal to challenging this. Social mobility is a massive issue, as are rising costs of education. The foundation helps eradicate those barriers to entry, giving people like me that first step into the profession. Nobody should be starved of an opportunity because of their background, and this is a way of helping the profession to be as diverse as it can be – which is important for those who would like to pursue a career in accountancy, but also because research shows that a diverse workforce is a more productive workforce.
NM: That makes me extremely proud to be both a contributor to the ICAS Foundation and a trustee, giving people opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. You are a product of that, but equally on the other side, we need to be able to raise the money and to attract the mentors to do this work. You’ve seen the funding side and you’ve seen the mentoring side, but as a trustee you will see the totality of it from a personal level.
I’d envisage us always having a foundation graduate trustee around the table from now on, with the unique skillsets they bring. We currently give 30–35 bursaries a year. We’d like to increase that, but to do so we need to look at the funding we’ve got and the quality of students coming through. Getting that right every year is part of a longer-term strategy to keep building the ICAS Foundation, which is now in its tenth year. So, when Ryan, the other trustees and I sit down this year to look at the strategy for the next 10 years, it will be about how it will still be sustainable and continuing to develop even when we’re no longer trustees.
The ICAS Foundation is a registered Scottish charity No SC034836
To find out more visit the ICAS Foundation website.