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February 25, 2013

Comment: All in the same boat

The decision to put a lifeboat, against the background of a stormy sea, on the cover of this month’s magazine was not perhaps as bleak a choice of metaphor as it might at first seem.

Certainly, the idea of choppy waters and stormy skies is not too far off the mark – previous iterations of this editor’s letter and the pages that follow have run through the challenges facing the profession often enough for that to be clear. But what’s perhaps not stressed often enough is that, like the inhabitants of a lifeboat, firms are increasingly of a mind to stick together and pool their competencies in order to ride out the storm as a community, no matter how intense competition may be between them.

The much-covered debates over competition and concentration in the audit market may appear to divide the global accounting profession completely. However, at a recent International Accounting Bulletin round table, 16 senior industry experts, from global firm leaders to institute heads, sent out a very clear message: regardless of differences of opinion, the profession needs to stand united on some issues, particularly the preservation of the value of audit services in the face of fee pressure, and the protection of the profession’s reputation.

The original brief of the round table had been to talk about risks to the profession, from macroeconomic concerns to liability to regulatory risk. However as the debate kicked off, attendees raised their own concerns and a heated discussion emerged over the relationship between regulators and the profession, the changing role of the auditor, and the problem of ever-decreasing fees. While there is a tendency to think of the industry as being starkly and dichotomously divided along the lines of firm size, the contrasting impression from the round table was of an industry that has as many different structures – and commensurate needs and priorities – as it has participants.

With this variety pointed out, the differences of opinion that come up in debates about market concentration pale in comparison to the importance of issues on which all firms can find common ground.

As the profession finds itself in the firing line of regulators, governments and the media, leaders believe they do have a common interest to protect, and the big question that needs to be answered is how to go about doing so. To find out what firm leaders think of that, read the full coverage from the round table..

IAB Awards shortlist revealedWith only a couple of weeks until the IAB 2013 Awards a shortlist has now been revealed.

The independent judging panel of Sue Almond (ACCA), Jane Howard (Wragge&Co) and Sir David Tweedie (ICAS) have reviewed with care all the nominations received and have shortlisted the best entries.

This year the quality of nominations far exceeded those for last year’s inaugural awards, and the competition in categories such as Association of the Year, Sustainable Firm of the Year and Social Media Champion of the Year looks to be intense. The winners will be announced at our awards ceremony in London 14 March – I hope to see you there.

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