Earlier this year, I attended a focus group meeting for ACCA members working in public practice in Manchester. We were a mixture of charity auditors, tax specialists, and general practitioners, but we all had common issues relating to Brexit, HMRC, and Making Tax Digital, recruitment difficulties, regulation and ethics.
The focus group was far more than simply a talking-shop. It enabled practitioners to share perspectives on real and current issues challenging practices of all sizes. Due to the small size of the focus group, we had the chance to put our views across in a close setting. While there was a basic format and structure to the discussion, we could influence the course and direction of conversation to get answers to questions we had.
The benefit of the focus group for me personally was that I could receive insight on issues facing not only my firm but also others, change my views on certain issues, and reaffirm my view on other issues. I could compare strategies and approaches to issues and take this back to my practice to mull over with colleagues and put actions in place where required.
Such focus groups provide a benefit to ACCA and therefore its membership as practitioners on the ground are providing feedback on the real and current issues that practices face. ACCA can then use this information to influence the areas of support and professional content it provides to its members.
We discussed contemporary issues concerning:
Economy and trade – issues pertaining to the local economy and trade concerning practice areas of actual and potential growth or decline.
Technology and the future of the profession – the technological capabilities of our practices and the burning issue of Making Tax Digital (MTD). It was evident that we practitioners rely heavily on outsourced software providers, and have few internal IT resources, this certainly being the case for the small to medium practitioner.
Human capital - the supply of human resources. We found that there was a market gap between trainees and qualifieds in respect of supply. This meant that newly qualified accountants were generally seeking greater starting pay exceeding indexation than what would have been the case, say, five years ago. We felt this had generally occurred due to past reliance of supply on the Big4 taking on mass numbers but they had cut back on training during the latest recession. As a result, small and medium practices are having to find fees to cover these additional human capital costs.
ACCA – how ACCA can support practitioners. I think sometimes ACCA is not our initial 'go to' for professional advice - rather we tend to go to private sector services. However, it was highlighted that valuable ACCA resources are available.
ACCA ran 24 such focus groups across the country for different sectors attended by nearly 200 members. It has collated the feedback and already run one webinar providing a high-level overview of the issues raised by members.
A second webinar on 13 October will look at what ACCA can and will do in response to the feedback received. You can register for the October webinar and listen to the first webinar on demand by using this link - http://bit.ly/2uafPdY
Continue the discussion
What do you think about the issues highlighted by Ryan? Continue the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the ‘comments’ section under Ryan’s post on LinkedIn.