On 1 June 2021, I completed five years leading the Professional Standards Department, having originally joined ICAEW as Professional Conduct Department Director in January 2014. I was reflecting with colleagues on just how much has changed during that time in the work we have done. To put everything in some context, on 1 June 2016:
- Only two meetings of the new ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) had taken place – they've now had 26 more with a lot more subcommittee meetings.
- The IRB didn’t have – as it does now – its own independent appointment committee.
- No-one had heard of OPBAS or ARGA.
- There were no Fitness to Practise Regulations, no fixed penalty notice process, no ability to settle matters after the Investigation Committee had referred to Tribunal and no ability to fast-track serious criminal conviction complaints directly to Tribunal.
- The highest disciplinary fine was £250,000 – the highest fine is now £1,000,000.
- While we had some outsourcing contracts for quality assurance work, this was not as diverse and wide-ranging as its current assurance work in the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean and for all sorts of public bodies and other institutes in the UK.
- We had only just signed the first global licence for the use of ICAEW’s first training film, False Assurance (and a second was not in contemplation) and we had no idea both films would be subtitled in over 20 languages and used all around the world regularly still in 2021!
And I had no inkling that I would end up in the High Court twice in the following years; (unsuccessfully) bringing a judicial review action against the Lord Chancellor for rejecting our application to be authorised to regulate all other legal services and then later (successfully) defending an application brought against ICAEW by the administrators of Comet for interfering with a liquidation.
One other change which has been made during the last five years is to provide the Investigation Committee with a right to challenge a Disciplinary Tribunal decision dismissing a complaint against a member if it considered the decision to be flawed and if it considers it in the public interest to challenge the decision. In May this year, an Appeal Panel heard the first such appeal in ICAEW’s history and reversed the Tribunal decision to reject a complaint that the member had acted dishonestly. The ruling has not been published yet as the Appeal Panel has remitted the matter to a differently-constituted Tribunal to impose a sanction. The challenge was made in the public interest.
I believe this whole episode (and a number of the other changes mentioned above) demonstrates that the way in which ICAEW operates now, and has done for some time, runs contrary to the mistrust attributed by some to ‘self-regulatory regimes’.
While we will continue to shape how we operate during 2021 in accordance with the latest government advice, we are currently planning from 1 September 2021 to return to our pre-COVID 19 review practices, including onsite reviews. When our scheduling team contacts you to confirm the review date, they will tell you whether the review will be onsite or desk-based. If an onsite visit is not possible because you have not yet returned to your office, our scheduling team will discuss whether we can carry out a remote visit instead.
I’m pleased to say we are now in a position to publish the feedback which we are receiving from firms/IPs in respect of the conduct of Quality Assurance reviews. All firms and IPs are asked to complete a survey anonymously after their review. We use the findings from these surveys to support the continuous improvement of our monitoring processes and procedures. The feedback is received and compiled by an independent survey company. I’m really pleased that the latest results show that 89% were very satisfied with the management of the monitoring process and 96% were very satisfied with the technical competence of the ICAEW reviewer.
We are receiving an unprecedented number of applications for regulated areas of work (audit, local public audit, probate and estate administration, insolvency, DPB Investment Business, consumer credit). Due to the comprehensive checks we need to make, please allow 8-12 weeks for your application to be processed (affiliate applications 4-6 weeks). The Regulatory Support team is here to help. If your firm is restructuring or you have a deadline in mind, please contact us as early as possible in the process.
Submitting a suspicious activity report (SAR) is much more than a routine compliance obligation. We extend our thanks to Martin Cox, Head of Engagement, Communications and Risk Management at the UK Financial Intelligence Unit for his time speaking with us about the critical role ICAEW firms and members play in piecing together information that can protect vulnerable people and bring criminals to justice.
The hardening market for professional indemnity insurance (PII) has led to significant hikes in premiums, or even refusals of cover, as insurers become increasingly picky about the risks they will insure. ICAEW’s Sarah-Jane Owen, PII and Regulatory Manager, and Claire Phillips, Secretary, PII Committee, provide guidance on what this means for renewals and what can you do to secure sufficient cover at a reasonable cost. The key message to our firms is whatever your areas of business must prepare well and early for renewal.
If you are thinking about starting a new firm or moving into a new area of practice, this new series of articles will be of interest. We look at what you need to know when entering the regulatory space for the first time and how the ICAEW Professional Standards Quality Assurance and Regulatory Practice teams can support you.
Read the report for hints and tips on how to avoid the current, most common issues we see during monitoring reviews. Particularly useful if you have an upcoming monitoring review.
The Disciplinary Update for this month is now also available and as usual, I am going to encourage you to take a few minutes to read through a summary of the type of conduct which has led in recent times to disciplinary records for some ICAEW members and firms and to make a mental note not to replicate any such conduct. While the names of members and firms are not included in the summary, further details of all of the conduct issues mentioned can be found on the link provided on that page.
As always, we welcome your feedback. Please let us know if there is anything you’d like to see included in a future issue of Regulatory & Conduct News or on our new Regulation & Conduct LinkedIn page.
Duncan Wiggetts, Chief Officer, Professional Standards