New ICAEW president calls for profession to rebuild trust

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Trust in the accountancy profession must be re-established through action, Mark Spofforth, new ICAEW president, has said in his inaugural speech

Mark Spofforth and ICAEW president Clive Parritt

Speaking at Chartered Accountants’ Hall at the Presidents' lunch this afternoon, Spofforth said that trust is fundamental to a well-run economy and a properly functioning society.  He urged the profession to rebuild the public’s trust through acting professionally and ethically.

Spofforth said: “The public’s confidence in the professions has been reduced. This trend must be reversed. The accountancy profession must work hard to do so and demonstrate that it deserves people’s trust. We must show understanding and respond to concerns. We must focus on doing what we are trained to do – and do it well.”

He also called for the focus of audit reform to be on improvements that will promote trust; on developing the audit service, not adding to the audit process. The full speech is here.

“We need both rules and principles-based ethical standards for auditors to determine which non-audit services can be offered alongside audit, for example. Over-regulation, however, could be detrimental to judgement, replacing it with box-ticking, which could result in talent being discouraged from joining the profession,” he said.

Mark, who comes from a family of several generations of accountants, takes on the role as ICAEW’s president for a year, having been elected by ICAEW’s Council.

He is a senior partner with Spofforths in Sussex and has worked as a general practitioner for 30 years, qualifying as an ICAEW chartered accountant in 1982.  He is also a former chairman of the council of the ICAEW and has served as deputy chairman of the International Accounting Education Standards Board.

His focus for the period in office will be on trust, simplification of accounts and deregulation.

Martyn Jones, national audit technical partner at Deloitte, takes on the role as deputy president and Arthur Bailey, consultant with Begbies Traynor Group and Chairman of Stafford Railway Building Society, becomes vice president.

Read economia’s interview with the new president 


Helen Roxburgh

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  • Comment by Disgruntled from Essex

    From his own remarks I can only surmise that the President mixes with firms whose credibility may have suffered but the individual members in business and the particular firms in practice which I deal with have no such problems. It does appear that the professional qualification I worked hard to obtain all those years ago has been damaged by members or firms known to the President. If that is so I look forward to reading of suitable fines and exclusions in the near future. What was the Institute doing during the time this apparent damage was being caused?

  • Comment by michael mcgough

    A good start would be a return to basic accounting principles eg 1)banks should writeoff/down bad debts not arry hem forward 2)ditto local authorities should write off recognised losses on investments 3)the ICAEW should be more vocal about the ECA qualifying the EU Accounts and the qualification of the accounts of Govt. Depts

  • Comment by Retired

    Until issues like the demise of Anglo-Irish bank are properly dealt with by the profession, I'm afraid that the informed public will continue to view corporate audits as a legally-enforced irrelevancy. Ernst and Young signed accounts for y/e 2008 showing profits of approx E800m at the same time as the markets had deemed their shares virtually worthless. Not to mention the mind-boggling breaches of corporate governance by specified directors. A CARB investigation is a model of foot-dragging and prevarication. I suspect we'll have tinkering around the edges whilst conveniently ignoring the real issues.

  • Comment by North East Accountant

    Hope he manages to get some degulation. A Practice Assurance Roadshow booklet I received in October 2005 stated "QAD recognise that many firms are currectly subject to regulatory overload" Got worse in last 7 years. Not holding breath that the pace of regulation will slacken!

  • Comment by David

    Being in a smaller practice, I would hope that my clients trust me to act for them professionally and ethically, otherwise they would move to another firm. What needs to be tackled at grass roots level is the loss of clients to the unqualifieds, who can undercut us at every opportunity due to their lack of regulation/training/insurance - I don't feel our Institute does enough to help us as it is generally overseen by members from the top tier firms, who are seemingly unaffected by this even in recessionary times. Other professions are able to restrict the use of their names including solicitors, veterinary surgeons, dentists and hairdressers, why can anyone still call themselves an accountant?

  • Comment by Anonymous

    And the most important step in that direction would be to drop the "ICAEW" and "Economia" nonsense and go back to being "Charterd Accountants", which is the profession I thought I had joined when I qualified (in the same year as Spofforth, coincidentally)!

  • Comment by Jonathan

    Who is Mr Spofford aiming his comments at? All of my clients trust me or they would have taken their business elsewhere! Still very nice to see the president comes from a smaller practice (well a top 70 practice anyway)

  • Comment by Anonymous

    The implication from this is that we chartered accountants have NOT been acting professionally and ethically, and this has eroded the public's trust in us. As someone who prides themself on being honest and ethical (as do the vast majority of A/FCAs) I frankly resent this strongly, and would suggest that a better way to regain the public's trust might be for Mr Spofforth to detail specific examples of such behaviour and show (a) how the Institute has disciplined those responsible and (b) what measures the Institute has put in place to prevent such acts occurring again... ...unless this is too difficult for him??

  • Comment by Anonymous

    Or in other words "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" Trust has never been eroded between general practitioners and their clients. That is all about personal relationships. Trust only comes into question when putting the spotlight on the national firms. The opening speech focuses on this lack of trust and on audit reform (nowadays mostly the territory of the national firms). So basically the institute is going to continue to scratch the backs of the big firms and ignore the majority who actually help to drive the economy. At least we know where we stand.

  • Comment by Anonymous

    Agree. The Institute has a job to do to establish trust and one of the first things that need to be changed is to end the situation where someone unqualified can call themselves 'Finance Director' of a company. Finance Directors MUST have accounting qualifications (change the law). All too often large (often public) companies are announcing profit warnings because of mistakes in basic bookkeeping or arithmetic! eg Supergroup How can the public have trust and confidence when we allow this sort of nonsense to happen? Get on the case!