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“Trust tops agenda” says new ICAEW Vice President

Ahead of taking up the responsibilities of ICAEW Vice President next year, Julia Penny talks to London Accountant about the importance of trust, sustainability, diversity and technology to the chartered accountancy profession.

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Julia Penny

December 2019

Julia Penny, currently a London member of ICAEW Council, has been elected to serve as Vice President of the institute in June next year, a move that will mean she becomes ICAEW President for 2022/23.

Penny, an independent audit and accountancy lecturer and consultant, recognises that her period in office will come at a time of great change and challenge for the chartered accountancy profession. Regulatory and market reform is set to radically shake up the profession, while the ongoing debate over the future of audit, what it does and what it could do, continues.

Restoring trust in our profession is at the top of the agenda,” Penny says. “You have to look and think about whether there is more that we can do to make sure that people understand their responsibilities and act accordingly. I’m particularly concerned about ethical dilemmas – we all come across these, but we need to make sure we make the right decisions.

Penny notes that the profession is not just about audit and that there are many ICAEW Chartered Accountants at the very top of business. But above all, she acknowledges that the UK itself is facing significant change: “We need to be stronger than ever and show that we are a good place to do business.

Sustainability will also be high up on Penny’s to-do list. “There has been a big shift in the gears,” she says, “and I’m excited about how our members can have an important role in helping business to be sustainable. Consumers expect this, and most organisations now recognise it is good for business.

There is also the impact that rapid technological change will have on the profession and wider business. “It is key that accountants ensure they stay relevant and look at how we use technology to do our jobs better.

Finally, there is the ongoing need to improve the diversity of and access to the profession. “We have made significant progress, but stereotypes can still be reinforced. We get better answers when we have a wider input.

Like many previous ICAEW office holders, Penny began her involvement with the institute as a volunteer at the district society level (Thames Valley in her case). She sat on the Society’s main committee as well as the Technical Advisory Committee (an involvement she continues today). Later, she was elected to the ICAEW Council as a London member. As such, she is a firm believer in the important role that volunteers have to play in the running of the institute, alongside the ICAEW’s own members of staff.

It should be easy for those that want to, to get involved,” she says. “We are all contributing, and success lies in bringing everyone with you.

Of course, it is not lost on Penny that she will be only the fourth ICAEW President when she assumes the position in in 2022, following in the footsteps of Baroness Noakes, Hilary Lindsay and Fiona Wilkinson. “I look forward to the time when it isn’t relevant, perhaps when we have three female office holders in a row,” she says.

Either way, Penny remains passionate about her profession and about the institute, and what it means to its members.

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