A lack of international standards is still among the top concerns for networks and associations keen to grow their global reach while maintaining high quality standards throughout, according to industry leaders attending IAB’s 2015 World Survey round table at the end of January in London.

Many of the fourteen global industry leaders attending the round table said they found themselves trapped between the desire to expand their reach and the need to monitor and maintain quality in their new additions.

Nexia International’s chief executive Kevin Arnold said: "We all have the need to be represented in developing markets, because that’s where our firms and clients want to be, but the difficulty for mid-tier networks is that there just aren’t firms of the quality you want there."

Issues in quality are seldom limited to individual firms, added Antea chairman and Auren International president Antoni Gómez.
"The problem that we sometimes face is countries’ standards," he explained. "Even firms exhibiting top quality by the country’s standards are far away from what we understand as good standards."

For networks and associations, firm displaying such characteristics are more than a challenge, they are a risk, according to the industry leaders.

Geneva Group International (GGI) chief executive officer Michael Reiss von Filski said he would often rather his association had no member in a certain territory, than one that did not live up to the organisation’s standards.
"Every now and then we have to consider that our organisation is only as strong as its weakest firm," he added.

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Despite continuing challenges, however, the attendees said they not only recognised the importance of having a presence in many emerging countries, but believed the global profession should take an active role in fostering standards in less developed economies.

ACCA chief executive Helen Brand said she believed the profession has "a huge amount" to contribute and her thoughts were echoed by Forum of Firms Transnational Auditors Committee chair Wally Gregory: "It’s the regulatory framework, it’s the skills, it’s the training, as well as the skills gap, which require investment."

Despite being costly and lengthy, such an effort could bring a lasting effect on the governance of the industry, according to the leaders present.

"I do think over time we will start to see greater diversity around this table," concluded Crowe Horwath International chief executive officer Kevin McGrath.



Read the full World Survey 2015 Round Table report on International Accounting Bulletin here.