- Will Holt, Managing Director, Education and Training, ICAEW
- Bani Lamba, Data Analytics and Tech Manager, ICAEW
- Suren Thiru, Director, Economies, ICAEW
Philippa Lamb: Hello and welcome back to the Insights podcast. I am Philippa Lamb with the month’s accountancy news. Now, today we’re looking at how ICAEW members can apply for dual membership with CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. We’ll also be flagging the key points from this year’s Cyber Security Awareness Month, and hearing the latest from ICAEW’s economies campaign. With us remotely today, Will Holt, ICAEW’s Managing Director of Education and Training, Bani Lamba, Data Analytics and Tech Manager, and Suren Thiru, Economies Director.
Now, if you are a recently qualified ACA or CIPFA accountant, there is good news: you can now take a new accelerated route to dual membership of both institutes. Will, what’s the idea here? Why has ICAEW made this happen?
Will Holt: This has been done for a number of reasons, partly to reflect the fact that we are working more closely with CIPFA and intend to do so in the future. But the real reason for doing this, for both professional bodies, is to help foster and improve the portability of the respective qualifications. So we believe by launching this dual membership scheme that both CIPFA and ICAEW members will benefit from a wider set of career possibilities, both in the private and the public sector.
PL: So you’re looking to foster greater collaboration and a movement presumably between the public and private sectors?
WH: Absolutely. I think it’s more important than ever that our members have the flexibility to move into different career sets and different career specialisms. And we believe that this dual membership programme, along with our Pathways routes for more experienced members, will be an additional way to facilitate that.
PL: Okay. Now obviously, there are some limitations, aren’t there?
WH: There are a few. So I think the important one just to probably emphasise is the fact that this pathway, the dual membership and pathways routes do not give individuals statutory audit rights or public audit rights. These are regulated areas, so they will require additional qualifications from the respective bodies, and that falls under the regulation of the FRC.
PL: Got it. Okay, but both institutes have agreed to combine their online resources. And there’s other alignment, isn’t there?
WH: Absolutely. This really brings together the best of both worlds. So, by joining both bodies, we will effectively combine our resources in terms of members disciplinary schemes; they will become aligned. And an equally core benefit, I guess, for CIPFA members, in addition to ICAEW members, is that they will have access to the wonderful facilities that we have here at Chartered Accountants’ Hall in London.
PL: Now just to be clear, who exactly is eligible here?
WH: So, for ICAEW or CIPFA members with less than five years’ experience, they will need to complete and pass an examination. So in the case of CIPFA members who wish to join ICAEW, that would be our corporate reporting module. And for ICAEW members who would like to join CIPFA with less than five years’ experience, they would pass CIPFA’s public sector financial reporting module. The other thing just to quickly say is that the additional step is a statement of intent. Now, a statement of intent is really an additional assessment of experience. So it’s not assessed under exam conditions and it’s really just reflective of the experience that members from both sets of bodies will have picked up while they were training and in their first years of being newly qualified.
PL: Now, is this just UK members?
WH: No, it’s for anyone who has come through what we would call the normal education and training routes from both bodies. So if you qualified through the normal CIPFA examination process, then you would be eligible irrespective of where you are. And equally, if you’re an ICAEW member, and you’ve come through our normal education and training route, the ACA qualification, then you’re also eligible to join CIPFA via this pathway.
PL: Now, what about people who aren’t recently qualified people, with more than five years’ experience?
WH: Yes, so if you have more than five years post-qualified experience, then you can apply through a slightly different mechanism that reflects your seniority and experience. So in the case of CIPFA members who wish to join ICAEW, you can come through our Pathways programme, which would require an examination or assessment of experience. Again, that’s not sat under invigilated conditions and you are joined up that way. And equally for ICAEW members wishing to join CIPFA there is a similar pathway to join the other professional body. So it’s a slightly different process for those with more than five years’ experience.
PL: Now I know there’s more information about this on the website, and we’ll link to that in the show notes, but just before we finish up on this, Will, if listeners are thinking, you know, this sounds like something they’d like to do, when can they apply? And how exactly do they do that?
WH: On our website. There is a page now and I think the link to that webpage is in the notes of the show.
PL: We’ll put it in the show notes, yeah.
WH: Excellent. Thank you. And there is an expression of interest form, you can fill that in. And we will contact you shortly with details about how to register.
PL: Do we know what the fees might be yet, Will?
WH: That’s still being worked out. There are a few elements. So for Pathways, I think because that’s an existing programme. So for CIPFA members wishing to join Pathways, the application fee is £300. And there’s a similar arrangement in place for ICAEW members wishing to join CIPFA. For those with less than five years’ experience, this is a brand new route, so we will be able to publish pricing information in the very near future.
PL: Thank you very much indeed, Will.
WH: Thank you so much.
PL: Now, you may or may not have realised that October was the 20th annual Cyber Security Awareness Month. Bani, just remind us why cybersecurity is so very important to ICAEW and members.
Bani Lamba: So finance functions and CFOs often oversee and manage critical aspects of a business. For example, they might look after the control environment where cybersecurity controls will be important; compliance with industry regulations; and also setting and approving budgets, which may also include setting a cyber security budget, too. Our members are experts in finance, but having an understanding of cyber risk regulations and the relevant threats is also important for our members to really lead their organisations and businesses in a world that’s become more prone to cyber attacks. As you mentioned, last month was also the 20th anniversary of global Cyber Security Awareness Month. And that, I guess, has us reflecting on how things have changed over the last few decades.
PL: Do you want to give me some of the headlines from this year’s awareness month?
BL: So the Cyber Breaches Survey, which was conducted by the government and published earlier this year found a decline in engagement in cyber security from smaller businesses. Now, this might be attributed to the cost-of-living crisis. But it might be a mistake to also believe that smaller organisations won’t be targeted, because criminals often see smaller and medium-sized businesses as the back door to accessing wider supply chains.
PL: Yeah, we’ve touched on this on the podcast before, actually. So the sense is that people are generally underestimating the risk still?
BL: That’s right. And that might be a mistake, because the same survey also found that almost a third of medium-sized businesses had experienced some sort of cyber crime in the last 12 months, so the risk is still there.
PL: And of course, there are new and emerging threats – as there always are – to stay on top of. I’m guessing generative AI is changing the nature of threats?
BL: So we’ve all heard about how generative AI is changing the way we work and live, but it’s also being exploited for malicious purposes. So cyber criminals can now use this technology to compose more convincing phishing emails. So whereas in the past phishing emails would be easy to tell and spot because of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, now criminals can use generative AI to compose perfect emails in the target’s native language. And that’s just one example. Criminals are also using generative AI to craft malware, too, so it’s really changing cyber threats.
PL: Now, tell me how your team marked Cyber Security Month this year.
BL: So we have been publishing new guidance on the ICAEW website. This does include guidance and more information on the impact of generative AI on cybersecurity as well. This is a topic about which we’ve received a lot of interest from members. The ICAEW Cybersecurity Awareness Month hub also collects all of our latest advice and resources on how members can stay safe and secure in one place. And it’s all free to use.
PL: And we’ll link to that in the show notes, Bani, so that people can find it. Now tell me how do you generally help members to keep on top of cyber security because obviously it’s a fast-paced, fast-evolving issue for everyone.
BL: Our team publishes a round-up every month, which shares updates on emerging and developing risks. Again, this is freely available on the ICAEW website.
PL: The awareness month, it’s over now, but there is an upcoming event isn’t there, that members can sign up for?
BL: So the ICAEW is hosting an evening lecture on data privacy and how emerging tech is affecting that with the UK Information Commissioner on 6 November. The event is in person and free to attend. And you can also sign up on the ICAEW website.
PL: That’s really helpful. Thanks so much, Bani.
BL: Thank you.
PL: Now, Suren, you’re a real regular on the podcasts lately, and that is because the ICAEW Economies campaign is continuing apace. What’s new?
Suren Thiru: Well, you’re quite right. We’re well into the start of the campaign now. And last time, I was talking about theme one of productivity investment. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve launched a second theme, which is all about the labour market. Now everyone knows the two big issues facing the UK market are a lack of people to fill jobs, but also skill shortages as well. Businesses across the country, all sectors, report that, so we’ve done a bit of a deep dive, looking at what are some of the big issues, but also more to the point, what are some of the solutions to these issues. So a couple of things you can look at. We launched a film speaking to a number of businesses, including Amdaris, which is a tech company based in Bristol, and Hiut Denim, a jeans-making company based in Cardigan, Wales, who among their customers include Meghan Markle. So that’s a really interesting film. And we’ve just launched a podcast as well, which includes a number of interesting speakers, including Daniel Lucy, Director, HR Research and Consulting, Institute for Employment Studies.
PL: Yes. Now all of this is on the Resilience and Renewal hub, isn’t it? And the film following the two companies is great. I’ve watched it myself, and it is absolutely fascinating. I’d highly recommend it. And yeah, the podcast, that’s from our In Focus series, and it’s about expanding and upskilling the workforce, that one, isn’t it? Now, the final theme is launching very soon, isn’t it?
ST: Yep. So the final theme has an international flavour to it, looking at how can we harness international trade and look at some of the issues globally around global supply chains, which of course was a big issue during COVID, and some of the challenges we’ve seen with the high inflation over the last year or so. That’s launching on 8th November. Again, just like the first two themes, it’ll have an interesting film, looking at a couple of businesses. One is called Paragraf, which is a tech company that makes semiconductors. Another one is Ian Mcleod Distillers, a family firm of distilleries, based in Scotland. And then we talk about some of the opportunities or some challenges around trading overseas.
PL: Yes, because the distillers, as I’ve watched these two films, the distillers, obviously they’ve had a global market for some time, but Paragraf, this graphene business, they’re quite new to it, aren’t they?
ST: That’s right. And one of the interesting aspects of the film is that they talk about some of the opportunities around international trade, because international trade is quite a difficult thing to do. That’s why only 10% of UK businesses actually trade overseas. But of course, with huge difficulties always come huge rewards as well. Because what we typically find is that those businesses who trade overseas are typically more productive as a business and find more interesting ways to innovate as a business; they do better and have better outcomes than those who don’t trade overseas.
PL: And there’s quite a lot from both of them about how to do it and how to make it work well, isn’t there?
ST: Yes, that’s right, they look at some of the practical approaches to trading overseas. One of the key aspects they demonstrate is how important accountants are as central business advisers. And what we often find is that accountants are often the first port of call when a business is looking to export because they’re really trusted advisers on looking at their business, also looking at those opportunities overseas.
PL: Yeah, and you can really hear that in that film. Because the accountants attached to both businesses are absolutely central to the whole process, aren’t they? Of, you know, tapping into those overseas markets, and they have really good stuff to say about it, so well worth a watch. But that is not the end of the campaign, is it?
ST: No, we’re very much at the start of it. And this is a really important period going into next year, when ICAEW and the broader profession needs to be at the forefront of key policy discussions as we move forward to the general election, possibly in spring next year. So we’ll be using a number of themes that come out from this campaign, and some of the policy initiatives as well, to try and drive real change in the economy but also to highlight the role that business and also the accountancy profession more widely can play in driving that change.
PL: And are the contents all built around ICAEW policy goals? How are you using the campaign in your own work as Economies Director?
ST: One of the key objectives in my role is to place ICAEW and the wider profession as the key voice on the UK economy and on business issues, because accountants are still trusted advisers in business, so they have real-world, on-the-ground experience across all regions, all sets of economies, about what’s going on. So we get really excellent intel and information data from members across the country that helps us to inform policymakers, but also the wider public key stakeholders who are wondering what is going on at the moment in the economy. But also, more importantly, how to deal with some of the longstanding issues such as weak productivity, such as skill shortages.
PL: And the ICAEW Business Competence Monitor plays into this content, doesn’t it? And I think the results for Q3 have just been released, haven’t they? Can you give us the headlines on those?
ST: Yeah, unsurprisingly they’re showing pretty a weak picture. We’re seeing business confidence halve in the third quarter. I think beneath the headline things, there are some really concerning elements to it. What we’ve seen is domestic sales growth among businesses slowing quite sharply. We’re also seeing other indicators of wider economic activity, like employment growth, slowing as well. And I think what we’re seeing at the moment in our data is the wider impact in interest rises that we’ve seen since 2021. There is good news, though I expect inflation to fall sharply over the next year, which is good news, but I think what we’re likely to see is concerns of inflation start to be overtaken by concerns about the wider economy, and how and whether or not we may drop into recession at some point.
PL: Now, I’m guessing you’ve had quite a big response to this campaign from the members and beyond?
ST: Yes, very much so. The videos that we’ve launched so far have met a lot of interest. We’ve had 10s of 1000s of people putting them on things like LinkedIn and on other social media channels as well. There’s a lot of interest there. And that’s really important to this campaign; it’s about engaging people in some of these big topics. When we often think about productivity – weak business investment, skills shortages – it almost seems like a 30,000-foot view. But what’s really important is that we get members really engaged in this subject, we look at what the practical solutions are to some of these issues.
PL: Well, on that, if listeners haven’t got involved already, how can they do that?
ST: The information is available on the website and there’s a specific hub called Resilience and Renewal. And there’s also a number of interesting events coming up, most notably, the ICAEW Regions Economic Summit, which is taking place on 9 November. It’s a virtual summit, and the keynote speaker there is Huw Pill, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, who’s going to be giving an update on what’s happening, the wider economy. It’s also a regional breakout room. So yeah, we’re talking about the macro picture, the overall picture with Huw, but then we’re going to talk about some of regional local issues as well through that summit.
PL: Sounds great. Thanks very much, Suren.
ST: Thank you.
PL: Thanks, Suren, and thanks again to Will and Bani for their briefings. The show notes for this episode contain lots more information on the topics we discussed along with the links that I talked about. So do take a look at those if you’d like to dig deeper. Join us later in the month for November’s In Focus podcast. After that, I’ll be taking a break as we pause our regular episodes to bring you two podcasts recorded at COP28 in Dubai, as it happens. The ICAEW team will be there keeping a close eye on everything being discussed and, crucially, what those discussions and decisions mean for accountancy. Do not miss those two. Thanks for being with us.