The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is a professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports chartered accountants and students around the world. At the end of 2020, it has over 189,000 members and students in 147 countries. The ICAEW was established by royal charter in 1880.
|Predecessor||Incorporated Society of Liverpool Accountants, Institute of Accountants in London and three others|
|Formation||11 May 1880|
|Legal status||Chartered body|
The Institute is a member of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), formed in 1974 by the major accountancy professional bodies in the UK and Ireland. The fragmented nature of the accountancy profession in the UK is in part due to the absence of any legal requirement for an accountant to be a member of one of the many Institutes, as the term accountant does not have legal protection. However, a person must belong to the ICAEW, ICAS or CAI to hold themselves out as a chartered accountant in the UK (although there are other chartered bodies of British qualified accountants whose members are likewise authorised to conduct restricted work such as auditing).
The Institute is also a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), an international network of accountancy bodies which represents over 1.8 million members and students in more than 190 countries.
The ICAEW has two offices in the United Kingdom; at their headquarters, Chartered Accountants' Hall in Moorgate, London and in Central Milton Keynes at the Hub:MK complex. It also has offices in Belgium (Europe Region), China (Greater China Region), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (Middle East, Africa and South East Asia Region).
Until the mid-nineteenth century, the role of accountants in England and Wales was restricted to that of bookkeepers, in that accountants merely maintained records of what other business people had purchased and sold. However, with the growth of the limited liability company and large scale manufacturing and logistic in Victorian Britain, a demand was created for more technically proficient accountants to deal with the increasing complexity of accounting transactions dealing with depreciation of assets, inventory valuation and the Companies legislation being introduced.
To improve their status and combat criticism of low standards, accountants in the cities of Britain formed professional bodies. The ICAEW was formed from the five of these associations that existed in England prior to its establishment by Royal Charter in May 1880.
The headquarters of the Institute, Chartered Accountants' Hall, in the City of London, which was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by John Belcher and built by Colls & Sons, was completed in 1892. It is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Victorian Baroque architecture. Sir William Whitfield designed the 1964–70 extension and new entrance.
In 1948, the institute received a Supplemental Charter. In 1957, the ICAEW merged with the Society of Incorporated Accountants (founded in 1885 as the Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors).
In 2019, as part of their celebration of 100 years of women being able to work as Chartered Accountants, ICAEW published a booklet on 100 years of women in Chartered Accountancy and launched a campaign to collect the stories of women members in chartered accountancy. In 2020, ICAEW announced the commissioning of a blue plaque in honour their first female member Mary Harris Smith.
In order to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, it is necessary to achieve the ACA qualification.
The ACA comprises four core elements that must be successfully completed. These are; practical work experience, ethics and professional scepticism; accountancy, finance and business modules; and professional development.
There are 15 exams which have recently become computer based, spread across the Certificate level (first round), the Professional level (second round), and the Advanced level (third and final round). The Certificate level exams consist of mostly multiple-choice questions. Results of the Certificate level exams are provided to candidates within 24 hours of sitting the exams, as the marking of such exams is largely automated. Certificate level exams can be sat throughout the year at dedicated test centres. The Professional and Advanced level exams are long-form written exams (performed in computer software) consisting of 2.5-4 hour examinations, each with up to a handful of long questions. Results of Professional and Advanced level exams are provided to candidates some several weeks after sitting the exams, and are published online (previously in the Financial Times), although candidates can choose to remain anonymous and have their name excluded from publishing. All of the Certificate level exams are closed book. The Professional level exams are a mixture of fully open book, fully closed book, or permitting approved texts (such as IFRS publications or tax tables). All of the Advanced level exams are fully open book.
The ICAEW awards prizes to high-scoring candidates in the ACA exams, including the Certificate level since 2018. There are subject-specific prizes for the best performance in a particular exam, and annual prizes for the highest marks across all the exams for a particular level. The subject-specific prizes can be awarded multiple times per year, reflecting the multiple sittings of exams each year; for the Professional level, there are 3-4 sittings per year for each exam, whilst for the Advanced level, there are 2 sittings per year for each exam. Prizes can be awarded jointly to multiple candidates.
Some members of professional accountancy bodies within the European Union are eligible to apply for ICAEW membership under either the Statutory Audit Directive or the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (RPQ) Directive.
In 2010, the ICAEW introduced its "Pathways to Membership" programme, which allows fully qualified members from certain professional bodies to apply for membership based on their experience.
There are also various other routes to membership, including reciprocal arrangements, advanced credit arrangements and common content arrangements with other professional accountancy bodies around the world.
Members have the designation ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) or FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant) after their name.
Fellowship is intended to designate those who have achieved a higher level of professional experience. It is awarded on application, and at no additional cost, to those members who have attained at least ten years of membership and who, at the date of application, have complied with the Institute's requirements on continuing professional development in the preceding three years and have no outstanding disciplinary charges against them.
As an improvement regulator, ICAEW works to protect the public by making sure ICAEW Chartered Accountants, firms that are regulated by ICAEW and students studying with ICAEW maintain the highest standards of professional competency and conduct. An improvement regulator works to educate as well as monitor the quality of its firms and members’ work and enforce change (change can include restrictions, penalties, exclusion from membership or from working in a regulated area) when needed. To ensure impartiality, the regulatory and disciplinary roles of ICAEW are carried out by a separate department, the Professional Standards Department. All of this work is overseen by several layers of independent governance; an independent board, the (IRB) and regulatory and disciplinary committees (at least half of each board must be lay members (non-accountants)) and oversight bodies including the Financial Reporting Council and the Insolvency Service.
The ICAEW has seven faculties, each run by an in-house team working together with members who are experts in their particular sector:
The Tax Faculty was the first to be formed in 1990; The monthly TAXline publication started in 1991, and an annual Technical Review (now Tax Planning) was first published in October 1992. The Tax Faculty joined the Confédération Fiscale Européenne (CFE) in 2001.
The Institute has 25 district societies across the UK, the largest of which is the London Society of Chartered Accountants (LSCA) with over 38,000 members. The LSCA was instrumental in the formation of the influential Hundred Group of finance directors.