In the media

19 December 2017

Katherine Ritchie CA on Young Professionals Day

The first Accountancy Europe Young Professionals Day took place in December, gathering together young professional accountants from all over Europe to discuss common issues. December 2017 saw 30 attendees gather in Auderghem, Belgium to represent a variety of European accountancy institutes from 14 countries. The aim was to discuss what accountancy institutes can do for young professionals, and how the profession can attract members in an ever evolving world.

What is Accountancy Europe?
Accountancy Europe unites 50 professional organisations from 37 countries that represent one million professional accountants, auditors, and advisors. Accountancy Europe, formerly the Federation of European Accountants (FEE), has recently undergone a rebrand in which the logo and strategy really emphasises what it stands for:

    • Accountants, advisors, auditors
    • Umbrella for accounting bodies
    • A voice for accountants
    • People count

They have a number of really important roles, including: influencing legislators, regulators and standard setters, helping Professionals shape the future and facilitating cooperation amongst members. The latter two were the main focuses of the day – how can we work collaboratively and leverage best practices across Europe to keep the profession relevant and attractive for young professionals, and how can Accountancy Europe help drive this initiative?

What do accountants do?
A good starting point for our discussion was common understanding of what accountants do: Accountants, auditors, and advisors work in diverse capacities: in accountancy firms of all sizes, large and small businesses, governments, non-profit organisations, education, etc. Their expertise spreads widely in areas such as finance, corporate social responsibility, statutory audit, tax and financial advice, HR and legal services, assurance services, and consultancy.

Inspiration from the CEO
The CEO of Accounting Europe, Olivier Boutellis-Taft introduced the concept of creative thinking and how important it is to have the end goal in mind i.e. we have to evolve our thinking as there are a wealth of opportunities out there to grab if we change.

He used two quotes which were poignant for me:

1. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford

Olivier’s interpretation of this is that Henry Ford heard that his customers wanted to get from A to B in a faster way than by horses and hence Henry Ford, not only had a good idea, but more importantly created a solution for his customers’ needs. Our role as accountants is to find solutions.

2. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” JFK

Olivier’s second quote challenged us to all do something for our institute, if we have ideas and want change we should look to influence.

My takeaways from the event

Listening to how well other institutes have engaged young professionals, ICAS is doing a lot to drive higher engagement with our younger members e.g. establishing a Young Leaders Board, hosting the ICAS Young Leaders Summit, Summer / Winter socials, etc. Like the other institutes, we are on a journey. Accountancy Europe encourages all accountants to challenge and propose adaptations to our institute and firms to appeal and be relevant to younger generations.

My main take away – I was in a room of auditors, tax advisors, coaches, entrepreneurs, CFOs, etc… Similar to listening to stories at the ICAS Young Leader Summit, the CA qualification really does give us a well-rounded education that enables so many opportunities.

Whilst we all appreciate the technical training, the softer skills are really desirable for millennials and are something that can be common grounding across the different accounting bodies.

Questions for my fellow CAs
In a changing environment with geostrategic struggles, civil society mutation, environmental depletion and technology revolution, how do we as a profession keep up? Will there be an Uber or Airbnb of accounting?

Source: ICAS

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