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AGN International rebranding

After a little over a year as AGN International CEO and a lot of groundwork covered, Malcolm Ward meets with International Accounting bulletin to announce the association's rebranding as the starting point of a new strategy to take the organisation to new heights.

"Any incoming CEO will probably make the same remark, and that is, there was quite a bit more to do than I thought," Ward says reflecting on the first year of his tenure as CEO of AGN International. "And I think our first six months we had a lot of basics to fix, we moved out from Wimbledon where we had a large and frankly not particularly pleasant office, [...] we needed to get all of our systems up into the cloud and all this sort of things."

Even though it is not particularly exciting it is a lot of work he continues, the association also did a lot of work in ensuring that its members records were updated. "And really in that whole mix, there was rebranding."

While people tend to focus on the logo when talking about branding, Ward says the most important is the organisation's new moto which defines AGN's focus. "'Excellent connected individual.' Is something I devised shortly after joining," he says. "So excellence is at the heart of what we do and there is whole raft of things behind that, not just me saying let's be excellent, so we are going to publish a transparency report later this year as far as I'm aware we're going to be the first association to do that. "

The second aspect of the moto, connected, refers to the usual description of associations as loose organisations. "If you are trying to find what an association is, it's all in the negative, and if you pick the IFAC ethical guide one of the things it actually says is 'loose association'," he says. "And I can't see that, I'm thinking there isn't something loose about our members, these are strong relationships over many years, these people are every bit as connected as my old place and in some way more."

Finally the 'individual' part, he explains is an antidote to the polish corporate image where particularly in big networks things are very much standardised, people have to act in a certain way, wear specific clothes for work, with the wordings always carefully crafted, and you have to follow a set of procedures. "We are quite different to that, we are real three dimensional and professional people you actually want to do business with," he says.

Is the rebranding a way to counter the negative image to which associations are often linked to I ask. "I think one of the big issues is associations are incredibly poor about getting across to the market what we really are," he responds. "All of the accounting industry, and I do mean all, is kind of defined by networks."

However he says AGN is not in the global audit space and have no intention of entering it. Going forward he sees three areas of focus for the organisation. First continue the work to ensure AGN is "a lean organisation focused on high standards and great services". Second is to help drive member's revenues through for example trainings, and creation of sector groups. And finally improve practice performance with a focus on talent attraction and retention.

"Associations need to have scale, so do not rule out that something else might happen during that period, scale, scale is important," he says.

Asked if he is hinting at anything in the pipeline, he replies: "We have strength in the USA, in Europe, we are pretty good in Asia Pacific, I'd like to be bigger in Africa and I'd like to be stronger in central and south America. There are some dots there that maybe could be joined, but we'll see."

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