Friday, 10 July 2009

Is it time for a small business accountancy qualification?

I'm reading the latest issue of Accountancy magazine, which is published by the ICAEW.

In it, there's an article called "Future Stars" which briefly looks at the careers and aspirations of "11 accountants from business, practice and the civil service, whose career achievements indicate they have the potential to be future leaders of the profession".

I'm impressed that of these 11 accountants, only 4 are men, the rest are women, given that an earlier article in that magazine says that in 2008 less than 25% of chartered accountants were women.

I'm also awed by what some of them have achieved. One of the women scored 100% in one of her ACA exams. That's gobsmacking.

But what I'm not so sure about is that these are all big business accountants. They're from practices such as PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, BDO Stoy Hayward, E&Y. And multinational businesses and government departments.

And it makes me remember how, when I did my own exams, very little of what I learnt, particularly in the later stages, had any relevance to my job. The small business clients I dealt with would have known little, and cared less, about hedge funds, the present value of future cashflows, blah blah blah.

Is it time for a qualification that's tailored to small businesses, that focuses on issues that are relevant to individuals? It'd have been far more useful to me to learn how to run a payroll and learn about the various different kinds of statutory parents' pay available, for example, than to learn how to do merger and acquisition accounting.

But if that qualification were introduced, would the stuffier ACAs out there see it as a "poor relation"?

One letter-writer to this month's Accountancy has been scathing about the ICAEW's "fast-track" membership scheme for CIPFAs, ACCAs and CIMAs, who can be admitted to the ICAEW by certifying their experience.

She says:
Since I did three or more years of intensive study, tough invigilated exams and wide-ranging on-the-job training I feel that my qualification is being rather seriously undermined.
Now I know nothing of CIPFA. But I've known ACCAs and did actually start my training doing CIMA. And those latter two qualifications both require "intensive study", "tough invigilated exams" and "wide-ranging on-the-job training". You can't become an ACCA or a CIMA without a great deal of blood, sweat and tears, any more than you can become an ACA.

The letter-writer goes on to say:
I do not wish to devalue the high-quality CIPFA, CIMA and ACCA qualifications.
I'm sorry, but it seems to me that's exactly what she is doing - making them out to be "poor relations" to the ACA.

So if that's the prevailing attitude amongst ACAs and FCAs to members of other accounting bodies, then I can't see a small business accounting qualification being seen as any other than an extremely "poor relation".

So much though I think it would be an excellent idea, I can't see it happening.

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