17 Jul 2015 08:38am

From the top: staying relevant

New president Andrew Ratcliffe on how chartered accountancy can stay relevant to the public interest

When Zayn Malik announced he was leaving One Direction, Noel Gallagher – he of Oasis fame – came up with some perceptive advice in Rolling Stone. “Get a good accountant,” he said, “as life is very long.” So what should good accountants be doing today?

Although the general election is long past, the manifesto we launched beforehand, Big Ideas from 1.5m Businesses, is still relevant as a plan of action for what we as chartered accountants can do to help chart an ambitious course towards long-term sustainable prosperity for the UK.

Our manifesto was full of ideas on how to stimulate economic growth, strengthen public sector financial management, relieve the burden on business of our complex tax system and restore trust in good corporate behaviour. ICAEW is working hard to ensure that these recommendations are not forgotten. We have written to new chief secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands, recommending a comprehensive financial review that considers managing the public sector’s income, expenditure and balance sheet together, as well as using the Whole of Government Accounts as the primary source for strategic public policy planning.

We have urged the government to hold the EU referendum as soon as possible to reduce the uncertainty that is preventing many businesses from capital investment. And we are working on our response to the changes in the public’s interpretation of legitimate tax behaviour – a defining issue for us over the next few years.

Our manifesto was also about ensuring that people’s skills are relevant to the changing needs of the economy. We want every child to leave school equipped with skills for work and we want to see work experience restored to the school curriculum. We are doing our bit: through Access Accountancy, our work experience scheme that targets disadvantaged students, the ACA apprenticeship routes and the BASE game which this year was the largest ever, involving 3,500 students from 400 schools. I helped to judge the recent final in Birmingham – an inspiring and exhausting experience.

I spoke to the BASE finalists after the competition about how gaining our qualification is not an end in itself, but the start of being a professional and living by our code of ethics: integrity, objectivity, competence, confidentiality and maintaining our reputation by continually developing ICAEW to ensure it stays relevant to the public interest it serves.

I will do everything I can to champion the professionalism that is the “what” and the “how” of being a good chartered accountant.