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Rising to the challenge posed by COVID-19

Viresh Paul, Chair of the local Area Society Committee, stresses the importance of fresh thinking and agility in responding to the challenges of the pandemic and delivering a new CPD series.

Viresh Paul

December 2020

What would you do?

The local ICAEW members, who are the backbone of the area societies,were too busy looking after their clients who were desperate for their help  due to  the pandemic.  The CPD courses they could have attended, even if they had the time, had been cancelled due to the lockdown and then the strict social distancing rules.  There was a grave danger that the majority of the area societies and groups that had served the local ICAEW members, were on the verge of extinction due to a drop in the numbers of those prepared to volunteer on the committees, which organised the events for their fellow members of ICAEW.

The ASDAC committee (Area Societies Development and Communications Committee) made up of the chairs of the LSCA area societies and groups, of which I happened to be the Chair for the second year, faced this predicament early this year.

Clearly, some fresh thinking was needed.  We had to be responsive, agile and find a solution.  We were also aware that there were other cohorts we had not served adequately – namely the younger members and members in business.  Covid-19, for all the problems it had created, had at least shown up one silver lining:  our members had overnight discovered zoom and live webinars and were now possibly more open to the idea of having CPD delivered to them - as long as it was to the point and relevant to their diverse needs.  The icing on the cake, so to speak, would be if it was delivered free to the members of LSCA.

Thus was born, the “London Area Societies 2021 Series”.

We will launch this on the 08th  December with a live webinar entitled “Networking in a Digital World” which should appeal to practitioners, younger members and members in Business.  It will be presented by Eve Tomlinson (who is an Academy trainer) and will run from 12:50 to 2:00pm.

This will then be followed in January by Sophie Wales (ICAEW) who will talk about “Ethics around Covid”.  In February, we have lined up a speaker from Catax who will talk about “The 5 tax reliefs that Businesses don’t know about”.

There is a full year’s monthly programme all lined up to take us to the end of 2021, when we will be in a position to assess how well it has worked (or not) and then plan ahead if required.  All webinars take place at lunchtime, will hopefully be recorded, and be available to all ICAEW members in London for free.

From the LSCA Area Societies and Groups point of view:

  • This close cooperation achieves the prime objective of ASDAC - to co-ordinate activities between the Branch and Area Societies, the LSCA, and the London Region.
  • This shows we are an agile organisation – we have adopted live webinars as fast as anyone else
  • We are in tune to the needs of most, if not all, members – especially members in business, the younger members and especially the smaller practitioners who may, feel somewhat neglected
  • We have become cost effective – instead of area societies calling for financial support from LSCA (as they are entitled to, if unable to fend for themselves) we have set up a CPD programme at a very little cost to LSCA.
  • Area Societies and Groups can henceforth focus on organising – when permitted – more social events (like dinners or drinks receptions) to bring together local ICAEW members and leave the CPD (if they so wish) to the ASDAC committee.

One other advantage, which may or not materialise, is that this venture could possibly – by reaching out to a wider membership base – cultivate a proactive involvement in local area societies, which have suffered from a lack of interest to the extent that they have not enough members to make up even a committee.

We have ensured that the webinars do not conflict in content or otherwise with the offering of the Institute. Our aim is to augment the ICAEW offering and reach out to possibly those sectors that may feel that they have not been catered for adequately. At the end of the day, the success of our series will depend upon the numbers attending and from my point of view it will have served its purpose even if it rekindles interest and the involvement of more members of ICAEW in local area societies. 

So do try to promote this series to your colleagues and other ICAEW members. As I have said, these webinars are free to members and and a number of these events may be sponsored but that should not take away from the quality of the speakers we have selected or the subjects which we feel will appeal to a wide group of chartered accountants.

As chair of the committee I would like to record with appreciation the input provided by the various local area society and group chairs and other members of LSCA in putting this programme together.  These members at the coalface know exactly what they and their colleagues need in terms of CPD.  In addition, we all owe a big vote of thanks to the Regional Director Harpreet and her team of Veronica and Marie who have been most helpful in coordinating this program, organising speakers and will be responsible for managing the output.

Viresh Paul

Deputy President. LSCA and Chair of ASDAC

London Accountant

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