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Regulation and conduct through difficult times

Author: ICAEW

Published: 27 Apr 2021

The recently published ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) Annual Report 2020 highlights the hard work and efforts to maintain minimal disruption to ICAEW’s regulatory and disciplinary work, despite the most unusual of years. We talk to Michael Caplan QC, Chair of the IRB about its latest annual report and the role of the IRB.

The primary objective of the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) is to ensure that ICAEW's regulatory and disciplinary work (undertaken by ICAEW’s Professional Standards Department) is carried out in the public interest and to provide assurance to government, oversight regulators, and members of the public that each task is carried out independently and objectively.

“The IRB’s primary consideration in all its decisions is that of the public, how is this going to affect or benefit the public,” explains Caplan.

As with all ICAEW disciplinary and conduct committees, at least 50% of the IRB’s serving members are non-accountants and the remainder are ICAEW Chartered Accountants. “This combination of technical experts and lay representatives ensures a broad range of views and insights while keeping the public interest at the centre of the IRB’s work.”

Caplan goes on to explain that there is also a wider objective at the heart of the IRB’s work. “Our quest is to promote and maintain the highest professional standards among ICAEW members and firms and for ICAEW to act, and be seen to act, as an improvement regulator. The work of the ICAEW Professional Standards Department (PSD) is central to this.”

“The writing of our annual report gives us time to reflect on the previous year, and it’s certainly been a year for reflection. Operationally, despite the many challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic and the multiple lockdowns, we have been delighted to see how the PSD has adapted and responded.”

“You will read in the PSD operational report (pages 5-8 of the IRB Annual Report 2020) that the PSD was able to move all of its functions smoothly online which has resulted in minimal disruption to regulatory and disciplinary work. They have achieved a balance between being sympathetic to difficulties being experienced by members and firms due to the lockdown and the expectations of ICAEW members and firms to maintain the same high professional standards.”

For the Board, Caplan has been particularly pleased to see the results of some of the changes made by the IRB in previous years coming to fruition. The key areas of focus for the IRB included supervising the implementation of its anti-money laundering strategy; improving consistency in the reporting of misconduct by firms by issuing new guidance which clearly defines what is considered to be in the public interest; and improving communication and awareness of its work and that of the PSD.

“I’d like to express my thanks for the members of the IRB who committed additional time during 2020 to respond to the unique circumstances impacting ICAEW’s regulatory and disciplinary work and the PSD for their outputs despite the challenging circumstances.”

The IRB Annual Report 2020 is available to read in full at icaew.com/irb.