Consultative Meetings for Practitioners
Pat Delbridge summarises the findings of the latest round of consultative meetings for practitioners.
Each autumn a series of consultative meetings for practitioners are held under the auspices of the ACCA Practitioners Network. These take the form of lunches around the country and provide a valuable insight into causes of concern as well as feedback on specific issues, and helping to shape future strategy.
Now in their third year, these lunches were held in Bristol, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and Walsall in September 2003. In identifying practitioners to invite to these lunches, the Practitioners Network Panel was mindful to invite sole practitioners or partners in 2-3 partner practices who do not already feed back to ACCA through other channels such as regional members networks. These were felt to be representative of practitioners who would not otherwise have contact with ACCA. Common themes and regional variations identified over the course of the lunches are highlighted below.
Audit related issues
The increase in the audit exemption threshold was welcomed by some participants. They did not feel that overall fee income would be significantly affected despite the fact that they would lose most of their audit clients, apart from charities. However, most of the participants stated that they would keep their audit registration as it would allow for flexibility and provide opportunities.
The participants felt that the main implication of an increase in the threshold would be the re-positioning that would be made possible for unqualified accountants. Unqualified accountants would then be able to provide services to clients with a turnover below £5.6m and would be less distinct from qualified accountants in the eyes of the public.
A further implication is that as most of ACCAs practices would be left with only one or two audit clients, audit training for staff would be difficult with resulting implications for staff retention and succession planning. The concept of audit consortia for training purposes was well received by the participants.
Most of ACCAs practices offer value-added services but many only offer them where a specific client need is identified. Some practices are too busy to identify the clients that might benefit but those that do offer additional services are doing so proactively. At the 2002 lunches, it was noted that practitioners were not offering value-added services in general. The 2003 lunches indicate that more practices are offering such services.
There is a high level of awareness of the impending money laundering legislation but there are regional variations in the degree of concern that this legislation is causing. ACCA will be producing detailed guidance for its practitioners which will address some of the misconceptions that are held.
Quality Checked Seal
Awareness of the Quality Checked Seal is much higher now than it was 12 months ago but there is still some opposition from practitioners. Many practitioners believe that it is intended purely as a marketing tool but there is a growing awareness of its benefits as a best practice tool.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
There are regional variations with regard to CPD but more practitioners are asking for courses to be held during working hours rather than in evenings or on weekends. The Saturday conferences remain popular but a significant number of practitioners resent losing personal time to CPD. There was support for the mandatory CPD proposals at all venues.
In general, competition was not considered to be a particular concern from any particular quarter. All of the practices receive plenty of referral work and undertake minimal marketing. However, there were strong feelings that ACCA should actively promote the ACCA qualification, or at least the value of qualified accountants via advertising campaigns. It was also felt that ACCA should lobby the Government to require all holding themselves out as accountants to hold PII.
If you are interested in participating in a consultative meeting in 2004, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat Delbridge Practice Adviser, ACCA UK