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Membership of accountancy bodies continues to grow

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The number of members of seven UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) accountancy bodies have grown to over 380,000. But the talent pool could become more shallow in the coming years as the number of students entering the profession decreased by 2.1% last year. 

27th Jul 2021
Editor AccountingWEB
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The profession continues to grow, as the latest FRC key facts and trends in accountancy 2021 report reveals that the seven UK and ROI accountancy bodies had an annual growth rate of 2.1% from 2016 to 2020. But a fall in students last year, likely driven by the pandemic, could have a knock effect for accountancy firms.  

Analysis of professional bodies

The combined size of members for the seven UK and ROI accountancy bodies featured in the report (ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW, CAI, ICAS, AIA) is 381,441.

ICAEW can still claim the biggest membership at 133,332, but ACCA is not far behind at 103,293 members, and at its current compound growth rate of 3.3% it is well above the average growth of 2.1%. The next biggest accountancy body was CIMA with 84,539 members. 

Members in UK and ROI

ACCA also surged ahead of the ICAEW in the number of students. Last year 76,208 students in the UK and ROI chose to study ACCA. ICAEW lagged behind the ACCA’s student intake, with the Institute reporting 23,309 students, while CIMA has 47,904. 

In total 60,863 students are looking to gain membership to one of the seven professional bodies. But the number of students has actually decreased over the past year by 2.1%.  

Members and students in the UK and ROI

The AAT’s intake of students also dipped to 48,362 - a 4.5% decrease on the 2019-2020 numbers. The report doesn’t speculate the reasons behind the drop in the students across the professional bodies, but the pandemic could likely be the culprit for putting a pause on accounting students’ education plans.  

The profession last struggled with a talent crisis after the financial crash in 2008 led to big accountancy firms cutting back on the training. Early signs from the FRC report show that the dip in students last year could lead to a shallow talent pool in the coming years. 

Professional body income

Unsurprisingly, considering the high intake of members and students, ACCA earns the highest amount out of the professional bodies at £223m in 2020, while ICAEW also experienced a continuous increase in its income at £136m. 

While these two accountancy bodies were the highest earners, ICAS was found to earn the highest average income per member and student at £695 per individual. On the other scale, CIMA and AIA saw their income fall between 2016 and 2020, down 0.1% and 3.0%, respectively.

Diversity in accountancy

The professional bodies have also made efforts to focus on the diversity of their workforce and attracting members and students from all backgrounds. 

Since 2016, for example, all accountancy firms have increased the number of female members worldwide. The ACCA has the highest percentage of female members and students (60%).  

Female students in UK

The data shows that the future gender balance in the profession may become more equal. The report finds that 50% of students are female, which is greater than the overall percentage of female members (37%). 

Meanwhile, the report examined the number of female leaders in manager, director and partner role at PIE audit firms. While firms of all sizes had women in managerial positions, there was still a lack of women at partner level. The firms with over 200 to 2,000 employees reported having 21.5% of women in partner level roles and 34.5% at director level positions.  

Diversity in accountancy

Meanwhile, firms with over 2,000 employees had the highest percentages of BAME individuals at manager (15.5%) and director levels (9.4%). But clearly as the graph above demonstrates, more needs to be done to make partner level within firms more diverse across gender, BAME, disabled and LGBT+. 

Diversity within the profession continues to be an important yardstick for the majority of professional bodies. Six of the seven accountancy bodies featured in the report stated that they collect data on the age, race and gender of their members and students. While four accountancy bodies monitor disability data of their students. 

Replies (7)

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By GR
27th Jul 2021 19:58

Sooner or later (I would say over the next 10 - 15 years) the number of accountancy students (and members) will start to fall as and when automation/robotization/artificial intelligence takes over. Any 18 year old accountancy student who thinks they will still be an accountant at age 68 is being extremely optimistic.

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By jon_griffey
29th Jul 2021 09:39

They were saying this 35 years ago when I entered the profession. Every year the tax system gets more complex and clients become ever more complex and so seasoned accountants are required more than ever. What is true is that much of the junior work has gone - casting cashbooks, ETB, bound ledgers, vouching, ticking bank statements etc. It is very difficult to train juniors these days without this nuts and bolts work for them to do - they almost need to come in at a more senior level with an understanding of TB's etc.

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By Jones99
28th Jul 2021 06:44

It takes progressive stances on global issues to ensure accountancy as a profession continues to grow in reputation and influence.

https://www.krogerfeed.net/

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FirstTab
By FirstTab
28th Jul 2021 13:00

If I had known about CIOT, I would not have wasted my time with ACCA.

Anyone considering working a small practice don't bother, go straight to tax. That is where the value is. Not accounting standards and management/HR speak.

Both as a body and as a qualification it is of no value to me. The only small positive is marketing value.

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By Hart59
02nd Aug 2021 10:18

It takes progressive stances on global issues to ensure accountancy as a profession continues to grow in reputation and influence.

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Replying to Hart59:
FirstTab
By FirstTab
02nd Aug 2021 10:24

This is of zero benefit to me.

I rather, they reduce my sub and remain as they are and not grow further.

Accountancy bodies are well established now. They no longer need to promote themselves and grow. Better spend the budget on being relevant to members who have no influence.

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By Hart59
03rd Aug 2021 05:22

Hart59 wrote:

It takes progressive stances on global issues to ensure accountancy as a profession continues to grow in reputation and influence.

https://www.mygroundbiz.us/

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