You’re setting up a new business, you’ve thought about your structure, and you know how to apply for a Practising Certificate and register with ICAEW. What next for compliance? And how can ICAEW support you?
“Once a firm or member is set up and registered with us, it’s not the end of it,” says Janet Hartas, Senior Manager, Quality Assurance, ICAEW. “They need to have mechanisms within the practice to consider whether they’re continuing to comply with everything they need to do, and to think about whether there are changes in the practice they need to tell us about.”
She describes this as being “compliance-oriented or minded”. In larger firms, for example, there might be a designated compliance manager. “Things are constantly changing and moving forward in the world of regulation,” she says. “And that’s where firms can sometimes go wrong.”
Firms and individuals that don’t keep ICAEW informed – such as about changes to the composition of a firm, or a move into a new regulated area – could be putting their licence at risk or even be liable for financial penalties that could sit on their disciplinary record.
All registered firms are subject to formal Quality Assurance Department (QAD) monitoring reviews to ensure they are complying with the Practice Assurance Regulations and standards, as well as with requirements for the statutory regulated areas (such as audit), and the ICAEW Code of Ethics.
To aid monitoring between these reviews, ICAEW also asks firms to complete an annual return. However, you shouldn’t wait until the return is due to submit information on changes. “Tell us when things change,” stresses Elaine Griffiths, Director of Regulatory Practice and Policy at ICAEW.
“Tell us everything from the start and then keep us informed throughout the year, not just on the annual return.” For example, if a firm fails to notify changes to its structure within 10 business days, it will in breach of the Practice Assurance Regulations.
To help members and firms keep up with regulatory changes, ICAEW provides support and updates via regulatory and conduct e-newsletters and LinkedIn, online guidance and webinars, and technical advice services, including helplines.
QAD also contacts new firms about six months after start-up. “We ask them to watch our fundamentals webinar,” explains Hartas. “And then a reviewer calls and chats to them. It’s a great opportunity to explore with the firm what it’s doing, and to talk through areas of compliance it might not have thought about.” “We contact about 300 firms a year in this way,” she says. “So there’s an opportunity very early on to say, for example: ‘You might need a probate licence, so have a look at this guidance.’ It’s a useful touchpoint for firms once they’ve gone through the initial setup.”
In future articles, we will look at how what you need to do to comply with requirements if you decide your firm will be working in specific regulated areas, including audit, probate, investment business and insolvency.