This magazine usually leaves matters of accountancy institute politics to other newspapers, such as our sister title, Accountancy Age. The reason for doing so is simple: financial directors have little interest in the Ruritanian politics that take place inside marbled halls. The real business of being an FD is so much more fascinating. Indeed, in our experience, the overwhelming majority of accountants in business – FDs included – cannot name the head of their own accountancy institute. They don’t lose much sleep over this gap in their knowledge, either. That isn’t to say that an accountancy qualification – of whatever flavour – is irrelevant. Indeed, despite a decade of talk about the changing role of the FD and the need for a skills base that is far beyond that traditionally provided by a beancounter’s training, our own survey in June showed how more than 80% of the group FDs in the UK’s leading 100 companies are qualified accountants. But, as columnist Peter Williams discussed last month, the problem is that, while the qualification may be a much-prized thing, the institutes themselves are less precious to the average FD. So it strikes us that the merger proposal which ACCA fired over the heads of the leadership of CIMA and CIPFA is an idea that may suit one or more of the institutes more than the members themselves. A bringing together of the three “non-national” institutes is, on the face of it, the logical extension of a historical trend that goes back to the days when there were more than a dozen accountancy bodies. But members must ask whether a mega-ACCA would not be such an unwieldy beast that it would require an internal divisionalisation. Competitive pressures between public sector, private sector and private practice accountants might then merely be internalised within one body, not unlike a sackful of ferrets. Size in itself is irrelevant here, despite ACCA’s boastful aim of creating the largest accountancy institute in Europe. Nor does it really matter if there are half a dozen institutes, for their members all have different roles and different needs. These will not be better served by trying to merge marbled halls.
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