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Supportive scepticism

Author: Professional Standards Department

Published: 12 Apr 2023

In our interview with Angela Foyle, the IRB's newest member, she tells us why experience on the ground brings a useful perspective to regulation and talks about some of the challenges ahead.

Angela, who is currently Head of Risk Management and Economic Crime at BDO Global Office, joined the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) in January this year. She told us about her professional background in taxation and anti-money laundering (AML) and her experience of resuming practice after a career break. She also described how non-executive roles and committee work have supported her personal and career development.

An added benefit of joining professional groups and committees has been the chance to provide constructive input into the rules, regulations and guidance that affect her working life and the wider profession.

"So, for example, I've got involved in drafting the AML guidance for the accountancy sector, and in discussing other guidance that might be useful to the profession in the area of economic crime," she says.

"I've also enjoyed working in government groups," she adds. "I've worked as an accounting representative on the Suspicious Activity Reporting Strategic Reform Board and on the Public Private Steering Group led by HM Treasury, the Home Office and UK Finance.

"It offers the ability to put forward the perspective of those of us who are accountants in practice, whether this is shaping the law, the practice or the economic crime plan," she explains. "It's having that feeling that you have some part to play in making things work better for everyone."

Why the IRB?

This sense of contributing to 'making things work better' is also part of why she was interested in serving on the IRB. "Given the close relationship that I've had with the regulatory side in some of the government work, it was a sensible next step," she explains.

As a former Money Laundering Reporting Officer at BDO, she also has practical experience of being the person on the ground responsible for complying with regulatory requirements, and for explaining to colleagues why these requirements are so important and necessary.

"Having that experience on the ground, where you're effectively the person trying to be the compliance professional for your firm, you develop quite a degree of empathy with the role of the supervisors and some of the challenges they face," she says.

"Obviously, for the regulator, they're at a different level," she adds. "But it's always that question of making sure that people understand the purpose of what you're trying to achieve, and why regulations need to be followed. It's also understanding some of the challenges and being prepared to adapt your approach so that it becomes more effective. Because if people can understand it and it fits with what they do, they're far more likely to comply."

"And ultimately we're all trying to get to the same goal, which is effectiveness of supervision," she stresses.

Scrutiny and detail

It's early days, but Angela is already getting a feel for the IRB's culture and approach. "The thing that has been very impressive is the level of detail that colleagues, particularly those who are lay members, have grasped," she says. "And also, the level of scrutiny and questioning that comes out in each meeting."

She notes, more specifically, how both the practitioners and lay members are putting forward their views and saying: 'Well, okay, but is this really the best way to approach it?' Or: 'I've looked at this, and I'm slightly concerned about that aspect.'

"It's not that this surprised me," she says. "But it was something that is welcome and positive to see."

Looking forward, she acknowledges the challenges presented by the fast-changing, regulatory landscape, including the reform of insolvency regulation, audit reform plans, and ongoing changes to regulations designed to combat money laundering and economic crime.

"There's a big agenda for ICAEW's Professional Standards Department and a big agenda for the IRB," she says. "And I think we will need to adapt to that and also be able to manage all of these different agendas in the most efficient way."

Effective challenge

Moving on to her personal contribution to the IRB, she's keen to bring an element of challenge, particularly in those areas where she has expertise.

"It's about being able to feel that we are effective," she says. "That the way we're designing the oversight programme – not just for AML, but in other areas as well – is the best way in which it could be achieved."

"We're in a period of change. I'd like to be able to assist in ensuring that our supervisory team can meet the challenges they will face and that, as a board, we are giving them support, but also effective challenge – bringing that element of supportive scepticism."

"It's also really important to show that the IRB is independent, provides effective scrutiny and has that mindset of questioning and challenging constructively going forward. Because showing that independence will be critical in facing down some of the challenges."

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