In my opinion, however, the institute faces greater challenges. The demise of self-regulation means the role of the institute is threatened - indeed the future of accountancy as an independent profession. The institute, in its royal charter, has five main objectives. These are to advance the theory and practice of accountancy; recruit, educate and train members; preserve the independence of accountants; maintain high standards of practice and professional conduct; and advance the profession of accountancy in relation to public practice, commerce and public service. Today, the institute is being squeezed on at least two counts. First, its innovative training proposals, designed to ensure chartered accountants have the range of business and financial skills to meet challenges of the future, were rejected by its members. This has opened the door to the Big Five and others to provide their own brand of accountancy training. If the institute fails to resolve this issue, then its role as educator must be in doubt. Second, the new regulatory regime means the end of self-regulation. While the new bodies will provide transparency and independence the industry is seeking, it removes the ethical role the institute has performed for over a century. The Securities and Investment Board suffered the same fate and was folded into the Financial Services Authority. It could be a step towards the establishment of another government-regulated industry and the loss of the independence of the profession itself. The institute faces losing, or at best seeing the dilution of, its role as an educator and regulator. Therefore, it remains to be seen what relevant role the institute can develop for itself and its members. That is indeed a challenge. - Peter Douglas is national managing partner at HLB Kidsons.
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