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EDITOR’S LETTER – If apathy wins, then the ICAEW loses.

This being our 15th anniversary year we’ve spent quite a lot of time looking at our own back issues. You won’t need to be convinced that it’s been fascinating reading. But sometimes, the most interesting things are the things that we didn’t write. For example, even though accounting standards have grown to the size of small textbooks, nobody is saying that the growing complexity of financial reporting outweighs the FD’s need to adapt to new technology, implement new financial performance metrics, develop broad-based management and communication skills, heighten industry awareness, acquire leadership qualities – in short, add value rather than merely measure it. So it looks to us as though some small-town, small-minded general practitioner chartered accountants would rather push their beloved Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales over the cliffs at Beachy Head, than allow an examination regime that enables trainees to study corporate finance or information technology or whatever. Worse, the vast majority of members neglected to vote at all on the syllabus issue. Of course, the ICAEW does not exist solely to cater for the needs of the Big Five, which have been pushing for “electives”. But neither does the ICAEW have monopoly rights over the flow of qualified accountants into the business world. Barely half the FTSE-100 FDs are English chartereds these days – and that proportion seems certain to fall further. At the ICAEW conference on 22 June, GlaxoWellcome FD John Coombe made it clear that it probably wasn’t right for the institute to continue to “churn out auditors”. At Richmond Events’ FD Forum on the P&O ship Arcadia two days later, 300 FDs talked about adding value, IT, innovation, e-businesses, communication skills – and (off the record) about the lack of real value from their auditors. The contrast between the ICAEW’s small firm members and the client side couldn’t be more stark.

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