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What the Duke of Edinburgh's crash can teach accountants about CPD

23rd Jan 2019
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Prince Philip

Readers might wonder what Prince Philip and maintaining a professional qualification have in common.

If the speculation by the Prince’s biographer Giles Brandreth is correct, His Royal Highness started driving over 80 years ago and has probably never passed the driving test.

This might have been of no consequence had an accident not occurred just outside the Sandringham Estate last week.

According to news reports, the 97-year-old Royal’s vehicle crashed into a car containing two women and a baby. He suffered no great injury but one of the women broke either an arm or wrist, which has been played down but was still very serious for the victim. Nobody has even tried to attribute blame, although from the comments of an eyewitness it might have been easy to do so.

What has any of this got to do with the world of accountancy? On the face of it, nothing at all. However, if one cares to dig beneath the surface, there are some interesting parallels.

Whether the Prince of Wales passed a driving test at around the start of World War II or didn’t, it seems unlikely that he has faced any kind of testing or training of his road skills since. At most, he might have been obliged to undergo an occasional eye test.

Far be it from me to make a disparaging statement but is it really safe for somebody not far short of their century to drive at all, particularly when nobody has checked out their mental or physical capabilities for doing so?

This is the link. Anyone qualified to work in the field of accountancy must, by definition, have passed some pretty stringent examinations at some point, although this could also be half a century or more in the past. They can still practice at 97 too.

However, they are required to comply with CPD requirements, obliging them to do some reading, attend training sessions or otherwise maintain a degree of knowledge of their areas of purported expertise.

Is this good enough? Having worked with large firms in a specialised tax field for the vast majority of his career, this writer was always able to tap into advice from experienced colleagues in areas in which he was no expert, receive top-level training on a regular basis and enjoy access to an incredible databank of research materials.

Even so, at best he was well qualified to advise in a very narrow space, competent to do so in a much wider field and indisputably dangerous for example if asked to give an opinion regarding inheritance tax or VAT, let alone accounting or auditing.

Those who work as general practitioners are expected to have deep knowledge of every aspect of an accountant’s trade and nowadays, this is nigh on impossible. To make matters worse, legislation and guidance change on a regular basis meaning that even if someone was on top of things in 2016, by now their knowledge could be fatally flawed.

As far as I can tell, this potential danger rarely causes disasters. However, just as I would advocate that Prince Philip should be obliged to sit a driving test before getting behind the wheel on a public road again, one might wonder whether accountants should periodically be asked to go through some kind of more rigorous training to ensure their competence or possibly even sit an exam every decade or two.

Having said that, as far as this columnist is aware, doctors, lawyers and other professionals who must have exactly the same issues are also able to practice unfettered and untested for decades after what some might regard as their sell-by dates.

My guess is that almost everybody reading this column was delighted when they sat their final professional exam and would never wish to do so again. However, if the profession wishes to maintain its reputation and standards at a time when scandals like Patisserie Valerie are raising embarrassing questions, this could become standard practice at some point in the future.


Replies (3)

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Neil Armitage
By Neil Armitage
25th Jan 2019 10:12

I think it teaches us all if you've got enough money and privilege the consequences of not being compliant with prevailing legislation are invariably trivial.

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By Michael C Feltham
25th Jan 2019 11:22

"At most, he might have been obliged to undergo an occasional eye test."

At the Prince's age any competent ocular expert would recommend six monthly tests for Glaucoma, etc.

Driving Test: fat lot of use the current test is! Judging by the reckless manner in which 20 year olds drive today!

CPD: much of this is simple attendance and box ticking; what real use it is?

For those practitioners who really wish to expand their knowledge base, then they select perhaps three critical topics and bone up on these in their own time.

A majority of CPD is simply for the benefit of Professional Bodies, in order they can crow: "Aren't we doing well! We are the best!" Rather the same as Thatcher's NHS when a seriously ill patient in A&E was pestered by some silly girlie dipstick with a clipboard asking dumb questions for a dumber survey, which was subsequently - after massaging - used to "Prove" how well the NHS was doing thanks to Thatcher's best attempts to destroy it!

SMPs need a much simpler and more focused skill-set, in order to address the middle rump of the SME market and its challenges and pitfalls.

Worth remembering - always - the majority of those in public practice are sole or two partner practitioners; irrespective of qualifications.

Mark Spofforth's Small Practioners Committee (which represented the majority of ICAEW practising members) published a small book, "2005 The Road Ahead". Not that the ICAEW took much notice! My wife worked for them at HQ in Moorgate in the small practitioner's group, at the end of her City career. Despite forming a MAJORITY of members and thus contributing a majority of ICAEW fee income, they were treated as the poor relations...

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Replying to Michael C Feltham:
By carnmores
26th Jan 2019 10:15

Quelle surprise

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