He formally took over from last year’s president, general practitioner Mark Spofforth at the ICAEW council meeting this morning, and will head up the Institute until June 2014.
Fellow officeholders include Arthur Bailey, non-executive director and a consultant to Begbies Traynor, who is now deputy president, and Andrew Ratcliffe, an audit partner at PwC, who joins as vice president.
Jones is taking as his theme for the year the public benefit, a concept that he learned back in the 1970s from one of the profession’s greatest luminaries, Henry Benson.
Speaking at the president’s inaugural lunch at Chartered Accountants Hall, Jones described being summoned to the Bank of England to discuss the banking crisis and being told in no uncertain terms that the profession should serve the public benefit.
Lord Benson – whose definition of the criteria that make a professional body is still quoted today – told him, “If you serve your own self-interest, you will fail. But if you provide benefit for the public you will succeed individually and collectively as a profession.”
Jones said that he thought the definition needed updating for today’s business environment. “Today we already apply Lord Benson's nine criteria to the varied aspects of ICAEW's work in the context of today’s society," he said.
“A feature of the criteria is that the rules and standards need to be for the benefit of the public and not for the private advantage of the members. I think there need to be four more criteria: giving recognition to the application of principles; proportionality, particularly for SMEs; a membership which is diverse and widely accessible; and the importance of making sound judgments.”
Jones echoed the view put forward by Michael Izza, ICAEW chief executive, that there is no room for aggressive tax avoidance in the profession.
"We recognise the importance of individuals and companies paying the right amount of tax," he said. "Our view is that there is no room in our profession for aggressive tax avoidance and we have told our members that their ethical framework does not allow them to take part in artificial schemes.
He also placed emphasis on the need for the profession to keep attracting new talent and to be as diverse as possible.
"We are trying to attract the very best young people, regardless of background. Our members firms include the largest and most admired graduate employers, and with the firms we are creating more opportunities for talented non-graduates to enter the profession via higher apprenticeships and other routes. "
Until he retired from Deloitte last year, Jones was national audit technical partner.