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ICAEW’s role as an improvement regulator

Strengthening trust in the profession

Our role as an improvement regulator is to strengthen trust in ICAEW Chartered Accountants and firms. We do this by enabling, evaluating and enforcing the highest standards in the profession.

Our regulatory and conduct role

  • authorise ICAEW firms, members and affiliates to undertake work regulated by law: audit, local audit, investment business, insolvency and probate;
  • support the highest professional standards in general accountancy practice through our Practice Assurance scheme;
  • provide robust anti-money laundering supervision and monitoring;
  • monitor ICAEW firms and insolvency practitioners to ensure they operate correctly and to the highest standards;
  • investigate complaints and hold ICAEW firms and members to account where they fall short of standards;
  • respond and comment on proposed changes to the law and regulation; and
  • educate through guidance and advice to help stakeholders comply with laws, regulations and professional standards.

Independent governance

ICAEW’s improvement regulator work is carried out by the Professional Standards Department (PSD). We supervise and monitor over 12,000 firms and 840 insolvency practitioners (IPs). On behalf of ICAEW, PSD undertakes the responsibilities of a regulator under statute in the areas of audit, insolvency, investment business, anti-money laundering and legal services. We also monitor compliance with the ICAEW Practice Assurance scheme.

ICAEW’s regulatory and disciplinary roles are separated from ICAEW’s other activities to provide assurance to the public that all regulatory and disciplinary decisions are made objectively and without any influence from the representative functions within the Institute. Therefore, all work carried out by PSD is overseen by the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB).

Our work in areas regulated by law (audit, anti-money laundering, local audit, investment business, insolvency and probate) is monitored by oversight bodies including the Financial Reporting Council’s conduct committee, the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA), the Insolvency Service, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), OPBAS, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Legal Services Board (LSB).

In the same way as we monitor the work of our members, students, affiliate and firms, these oversight bodies monitor our work to ensure we maintain the highest standards in our regulation. Our oversight regulators carry out regular onsite inspections, selecting files for review and publish reports about the quality of our work.

The independent regulatory and disciplinary committees monitor compliance with the regulatory requirements of firms and IPs. They consider QAD’s monitoring reports and can order firms/IPs to take remedial actions or, where work is very poor, they will consider withdrawing licences or registrations.

Oversight structure

A diagram of the oversight of ICAEW’s regulatory and conduct functions.

Oversight structure of ICAEW's regulatory and conduct functions

Our strategy: enable, evaluate, enforce

Our mission as an improvement regulator is to strengthen trust and protect the public by

  • Enabling
  • Evaluating; and
  • Enforcing the highest standards in the profession

In fulfilling the 3Es, we ensure ICAEW supervised firms, IPs, ICAEW Chartered Accountants and students uphold the highest standards and act in the public interest.

Our regulatory work: the stats

ICAEW is*:

  • The largest recognised supervisory body (RSB) and recognised qualifying body (RQB) for statutory audit in the UK. There are 2,299 firms and 6,692 responsible individuals registered with us under the Companies Act 2006.
  • The largest recognised supervisory body (RSB) for local audit in England. We have 10 firms and 100 key audit partners registered under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
  • The largest insolvency regulator in the UK. We license over 830 insolvency practitioners (out of a total UK population of 1,541) as a recognised professional body (RPB) under the Insolvency Act 1986.
  • A designated professional body (DPB) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (and previously a recognised professional body under the Financial Services Act 1986). We license 1,785 firms to undertake exempt regulated activities under this Act.
  • A supervisory body recognised by HM Treasury for the purposes of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, dealing with around 11,000 firms.
  • An approved regulator and licensing authority for probate under the Legal Services Act 2007. Over 350 firms are accredited by ICAEW to carry out this reserved legal activity.


  • More than 290 firms are accredited to perform ATOL returns work under the ICAEW Licensed Practice scheme for ATOL Reporting Accountant work. This was set up in 2016 after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gave approval for ICAEW to license, register and monitor firms which perform ATOL returns work.
  • Our Practice Assurance scheme provides ICAEW members working in practice with a framework of principles-based quality assurance standards. We monitor around 12,000 firms to ensure they comply with the Practice Assurance standards.

* Data is correct as at 31 December 2022.

Responding to consultations

As an improvement regulator, the Professional Standards Department (PSD) will initiate and respond to consultations on issues that relate to our regulatory responsibilities. This includes specific regulatory issues or matter that relate solely to regulation. We invite the views of the ICAEW members and the individuals and firms regulated/supervised by ICAEW, consumers of accountancy services and other stakeholders.

Why use a regulated ICAEW Chartered Accountant

If you are seeking accountancy advice, you want to be reassured your accountant has the appropriate education, experience and qualifications to provide high quality independent advice and services – after all, you wouldn’t go to an unqualified or unregulated doctor for medical advice. If you select an unqualified or unregulated accountant to handle your finances or tax work, you may have nowhere to turn if there are problems with the quality of their advice, their conduct or their standards of service. This is where ICAEW, ICAEW Chartered Accountants and ICAEW firms can help.

To check if your accountant is an ICAEW member or the firm is supervised by ICAEW, you can use the Find an ICAEW Chartered Accountant or Firm Directory service.

You can also check if there are any disciplinary decisions against a member or firm by using the ICAEW Disciplinary Database and access information about disciplinary hearings.

Make a complaint

If things go wrong, we can help. We act in the public interest and it is part of our role to strive to ensure ICAEW Chartered Accountants and ICAEW supervised/regulated firms act with integrity and undertake work correctly and to the highest standards. If your accountant is registered with us and their work falls short, you can make a complaint to ICAEW. Remember we can only get involved in your complaint if the individual, student or firm is regulated by ICAEW.


We are committed to diversity in the chartered accountancy profession, within our regulatory and disciplinary committees and in PSD. We believe the profession, and our own organisation, does best when it reflects the society we serve. The ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB)’s terms of reference require the board to take account of inclusion and diversity in relation to its activities.

We encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds to apply for vacancies within PSD, the IRB and the regulatory and disciplinary committees and we try to promote recruitment from under-represented communities.

We pay ICAEW Chartered Accountants who serve on certain committees to encourage volunteers from smaller practices who may face an economic impact by giving their time to serve on a committee. Regulatory committee training includes a specific diversity focus.

All probate firms are required to monitor diversity and we report the outcome of that monitoring publicly. We will continue to focus on diversity.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2030, ICAEW will be acknowledged as having made a leading contribution over many years to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and promote peace and prosperity around the world, by having mobilised its own expertise and influence, and that of its members and partners, to analyse, articulate and address the economic and business challenges.

PSD contributes to the systematic creation of sustainable economies by encouraging our members and firms to operate under the SDGs.

We aim to maximise the use of staff’s sustainability days to support a vast variety of charitable work. We continuously form and maintain relationships with charities and support these wherever possible.

We champion ICAEW’s £100,000 social mobility fund which is used by the Milton Keynes Community Foundation (MKCF) to support projects which improve social mobility in the black communities. These projects provide support and inspiration to those with aspiration and ability but are disadvantaged. Initiatives will include life skills development particularly relating to finance and business and encouraging further studies such as professional qualifications and peer group learning.

Latest news

Latest news

There are three ways to keep up to date with all the latest regulatory and conduct news from the ICAEW Professional Standards Department:

Latest resources for firms

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