My first such event was a tea in Bristol. I walked to the venue past – coincidentally – the church hall on Whiteladies Road where I sat my final exams back in 1985. In my talk (speech is too grand a word), I reflected on how the profession had changed since I qualified and where the ACA had taken me in my career. It prompted some of our guests to share their own stories. Some had spent their professional lives in practice, some in industry; some had pursued their careers locally while others had worked overseas. Some were still actively involved with charities, with public service. All had fascinating stories to tell and I recalled a strapline ICAEW used a few years ago, ‘no ordinary business minds’. These were, indeed, no ordinary business minds.
In Sydney last November, I had lunch with another group of Life Members. Most had pursued careers a long way from where they sat their own final exams. Again, they shared stories about their professional and personal lives – and again, I was struck by the variety of paths they had taken and by their enthusiasm for leading full and active lives. All were immensely proud of their qualification.
I have hosted other events at Chartered Accountants’ Hall and elsewhere. At all of them I have heard stories of amazingly varied careers. Anyone who thinks of chartered accountants as a single stereotype should meet these people: they are anything but stereotypes.
Last month, I hosted a lunch in Vancouver (I was there on holiday and the opportunity to meet members was one I didn’t want to miss). Around a dozen Life Members attended. They had begun their lives in Hong Kong, China, Mauritius, Singapore, Canada and the UK. Again, they had different stories to tell about their careers, but all were still active: several still skied, one was studying sub-Saharan African literature and one had recently taken up scuba diving with what I can only describe as single-minded determination.
Some organisations refer to ‘retired members’. We do not and for good reason. The passion and enthusiasm I have encountered, the pride in our shared qualification, the zest for life has been there at every event I have hosted.
What lives our Life Members have had – and what lives still lie ahead.