Accountants threaten boycott of ICA exam

July 16, 1999

One of the top five accountancy firms has threatened to find its own training arrangements if the Institute of Chartered Accountants does not reconsider its "one-size-fits-all" qualification, writes Bibi Berki.

Members of the institute voted narrowly against introducing specialisation in entrance examinations, or "electives", a month ago.

Accountancy firm KPMG said it was disappointed with the vote and would look into working with other associations, particularly the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland.

Now accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has joined the row, saying the institute must come up with an alternative to meet its needs. The firm said that compulsory study for an audit licence is not vital for most of its annual 4,200 trainees.

Partner Peter Wyman said: "If the institute does not come up with the goods, then we will be giving serious consideration to other options."

Such "options" include finding a compulsory relevant paper for everyone to sit or designing a qualification for those people who want to be chartered accountants and will not need auditing licences. This could involve deals with other insitutions such as business schools and colleges.

Mr Wyman said: "It has got to happen quickly. If by the end of this calendar year the institute is unable to say to members: 'This is the direction we are moving in', then you will find firms like mine saying: 'Sorry, but we cannot wait any longer'."

He said it would be easier for the firm to stick to the institute's ACA qualification, "provided it does what we want it to do".

Mr Wyman acknowledged that the institute was modernising its qualification. "Huge changes have been made that are going a long way towards meeting the needs of firms, but they are still asking firms to train people in areas that are irrelevant because it is one-size-fits-all."

Brian Chiplin, executive director of education and training at the institute, said a vote on electives would not go before the members again.

"PwC is looking at the whole set of skills they need and we are talking with them about how our qualifications meet their needs," he said.

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