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All ICAEW members are expected to undertake whatever action necessary to keep up to date. The current system of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) recommends using a points system as a guide to assessing CPE achievement. An hour of structured CPE training earns three points and an hour’s unstructured CPE earns one point. A reasonable target is about 150 points a year.

Under the proposed Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system, on which the ICAEW is consulting this summer, all members will be expected to conduct their own personal assessment – identifying issues such as the challenges they face in their role, the expectations that others have of them and the actions they have taken to address those challenges. “FDs are doing this all the time because they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs if they didn’t,” says Anna Coen, ICAEW director of policy and development for education and training.

The ICAEW will guide members on how to meet what’s expected of them, but it won’t be prescriptive. Members should do whatever suits them, says Coen. “It could be implementing changes in the business, going to a workshop, membership of the ASB – it could be all kinds of things.”

FDs, for example, may be wrestling with the implications of the Higgs and Smith reports. They may have read about the implications, implemented new procedures and assessed the impact in terms of compliance. Such actions indicate they are fulfilling the expectations of someone in their role.

The Institute wants to encourage the sharing of experiences between members.

It plans to include examples on its website of the actions members are taking in response to different challenges, such as new legislation. “We want the support to live in terms of the experiences of our members,” says Coen. “Finance directors of smaller companies can be quite isolated. Being able to exchange ideas and information is important to them.”

Under the proposed new system, all members will be required to declare annually that they have completed the CPD process. But what about monitoring compliance?

The Institute currently monitors the CPE achievements of certain members, such as those in audit. However, it is now consulting on whether monitoring should if the experiences of our members,” says Coen. “Finance directors of smaller companies can be quite isolated. Being able to exchange ideas and information is important to them.”

Under the proposed new system, all members will be required to declare annually that they have completed the CPD process. But what about monitoring compliance?

The Institute currently monitors the CPE achievements of certain members, such as those in audit. However, it is now consulting on whether monitoring should ioyer performance appraisal systems, so if a member receives a positive appraisal, that would support CPD compliance.

In the unlikely event that an FD isn’t aware of key issues – say, Sarbanes-Oxley for a UK company with a US listing – then the ICAEW might suggest a review in a few months’ time to see what the FD had done to correct the situation. However, the more typical outcome is expected to be that FDs have taken certain appropriate actions, but not thought of others.

The monitoring experience is therefore being promoted as more a learning opportunity than a test.

Not all FDs are ICAEW members. Some belong to CIMA which, like the ICAEW, expects its members to keep up to date for their role, but doesn’t generally prescribe how. However, CIMA is looking at its CPD process, too, partly in the light of a consultation document from the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) on mandatory CPD.

“The accounting profession has suffered somewhat post-Enron,” says Charles Tilley, CIMA chief executive. “There’s a general need from the public for standards of financial presentation, disclosure and integrity to move up a gear. With the post-Enron situation, plus the IFAC considerations, we are (considering) what is appropriate policy. Whatever policy changes we make, it is important to ensure the CPD is relevant to our members and the public.”

If the ICAEW’s system works as proposed, it should be in the best interests of FDs, who could benefit from shared experiences, improved support for personal development and an enhanced reputation. Coen says, “Your reputation is based not only on what you do, but on what the other members do, too.”