If one person influenced me more than any other in my life, it was my father. It was he who opened my eyes to the joys of chartered accountancy and it was at his suggestion that I became involved with ICAEW affairs, first at district society level and then on to council. “Once you get into the institute,” he said, “you can do anything and go as high as you like.”
At the time I admit I had a good laugh. But how right he was. Getting involved not only meant I was in a position to influence how the profession developed but I have met some fascinating fellow chartered accountants along the way. I was also privileged to sit in on debates between such luminaries as Brian Currie and Chris Swinson, both former ICAEW presidents and two of the brightest people I have ever come across.
We need views from the grassroots just as much as from large firms and companies
Brian was responsible for establishing the principles-based approach to ethical standards while Chris helped create our regulatory framework. I remember being at a meeting where they were sitting opposite each other. It was like watching a tennis match at Wimbledon – I was open-mouthed looking from one to the other as the argument went on.
What got me thinking about all this was the announcement of the impending institute council elections. This year there will be elections in 16 UK constituencies and we are starting work to roll out elections in our international regions with the largest concentrations of members in future years.
Many of you will have received a notice about this and I would urge you to think seriously about getting involved. I know it’s hard to give up the time, especially at the smaller end of the market, and the economic climate doesn’t help. But it really is an opportunity to help shape the future of the institute and the profession when much of what we do is under threat. We need views from the grassroots just as much as from large firms and companies.
Our overall aim is for council to be as representative as possible. We want every member to be able to look at council and recognise at least one person on it who understands where they are coming from and is rooting for them.
But council’s brief is wider than members’ interests: it is also charged with carrying out the institute’s public interest remit. And we want to ensure that members have an input into those important debates that will affect the profession and the environment in which it works in the years to come.
Mark Spofforth is president of ICAEW